Neighborly Garden News
Mosquitoes are buzzing; be on the defense!
Researchers have attributed human exploration over centuries, and continued global expansion of travel and trade for introducing new species of mosquitoes to areas where they never were before. These foreign mosquito species have arrived carrying the infectious diseases with them. Contributing to the migration of mosquitoes is the warming of our planet. Areas that were limited to colonization by tropical mosquito species are now poised to allow them to thrive. In addition, warmer temperatures can speed up the time it takes for the mosquito to mature into a biting adult. Warmer climate also accelerates the time between when a biting mosquito picks up a disease organism, and then becomes infectious, according to Dr. Oliver Brady, an assistant professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. The Aedes aegypti mosquito transmits Dengue, Zika, and Chikingunya. One species variant is considered an ‘urban mosquito’; it likes to live in cities. Dengue, also known as ‘break-bone fever’, will infect 100 million people worldwide each year, and contribute to 10,000 deaths. The latest study published in the Journal of Microbiology predicts a very significant expansion of this disease in the southeastern United States, South/Central America, and the Caribbean in the coming years. With so many people traveling internationally every day, you can see how it may be possible to contract a mosquito borne illness without actually living in these regions.
Blood filled female mosquito
A few mosquito facts: only the female mosquito bites, she requires a blood meal to nourish her eggs. Mosquitoes will bite anyone, she does not favor women over men, or brunettes over blonds. Mosquitoes are drawn to certain odors, like perfumes, and sweat. They prefer type O blood over other types. Female mosquitoes utilize a series of mouth parts to simultaneously inject an anticoagulant into her bite, and suck your blood in the shortest time possible to avoid detection, and a possible smack. Mosquitoes can drink 3x their body-weight in blood. There are 3,500 species of mosquito in the world. Scientists have developed methods to create sterile mosquitoes, in order to reduce their populations.
West Nile Virus transmission cycle
Even though we are considered low risk for EEE and West Nile Virus in our region of MA, counties in the eastern part of our state are at higher risk. This being said, mosquitoes have recently tested positive for West Nile Virus in Hadley, MA (Franklin County, western MA). Prevention is the key element in protecting yourself, and your family from mosquitoes. Female mosquitoes lay their eggs in water, and the larvae require water to mature into flying insects. Eliminating standing water throughout your yard can prevent thousands of mosquitoes, as females lay hundreds of eggs at a time in as little as an ounce of water. Drill holes in trash and recycling containers so water will drain. Remove clogs of leaves in gutters to promote drainage. Be sure to aerate ornamental ponds, or add a few hungry fish. If you don’t already change the water in your birdbath every few days, step up the water changes. Check around your yard for areas of poor drainage/standing water and take measures to correct them. Mosquitoes are more active at dawn and dusk. Wear protective clothing; long sleeves and long pants, and use a mosquito repellent. A word of caution about repellents, DEET is not recommended for children under 2 months old, and oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be applied to children under 3 years old, permethrin products should not be applied directly to the skin, they are for clothing and outdoor gear only; as per MASS.gov website. For more information about repellents and mosquito prevention in MA please use this link: https://www.mass.gov/service-details/mosquito-repellents
CSL&D is pleased to announce the promotion of Dan Lamontagne to Operations & Project Manager.
Dan joined the Countryside Landscape and Design team in 2018 as a Project Manager. He has since been promoted with the added role as our new Operations Manager in July 2019.
As Operations Manager, he will facilitate the coordination and use of all resources, including labor, equipment, and materials, to ensure efficient use, and also actively participate in development and refinement of departmental best practices.
With Dan’s knowledge and experience, he will continue to ensure that the high standards and workmanship of CSL&D are always met.
September’s ‘to-do’ list:
Get a handle on next year’s weeds now! Some of the worst offenders set seeds and propagate in the fall. Ragweed, the main culprit during allergy season, sets millions of dust like seeds that can remain dormant in the soil for decades! Goldenrod has been found to not be the offender for allergies as we once thought it was. Some species of Goldenrod are grown as ornamental perennials. During late fall you may notice many bees and wasps congregating on Goldenrod flowers, it is an essential source of pollen and nectar after many other flowering plants have faded.
Don’t delay, order your spring blooming bulbs now, and plan to plant them as soon as they arrive. Planting spring bulbs is a fun and easy activity to do with kids or seniors. Most bulbs are good sized and easy to handle, and don’t require a formal layout. Many gardening guides suggest you casually toss the bulbs in groupings; and just plant them where they land for a natural look. Sunny, well drained areas work best for most bulbs. It’s very cheerful, after the long winter, to see the shoots sprout and bloom; when everything else is bare.
Save your summer flowering bulbs by storing them overwinter until next spring. Lift the tubers or bulbs before the first frost knocks then down, and prepare them for storage by allowing them to dry for a week or two in a dry and shady location. Dahlias and tuberous Begonias don’t like to completely dry out, so they will need to be stored in slightly damp peat-moss over winter. Gladioli and cannas may be stored in mesh bags (like used onion bags) so they maintain good air circulation, to prevent them rotting through our long winters.
Gradually acclimate your houseplants back to indoor life. Move them onto a porch to simulate the lower light of indoors. Scrub the pots, and be sure to rinse off the foliage to knock off any clinging insects. You may need to re-pot houseplants that have outgrown their containers. Final step; spray the plants with Safer’s soap or other general purpose insecticide to kill any lingering pests.
Don’t be alarmed if you see browning of the interior needles/foliage of evergreen trees and shrubs during the fall. Autumn is the time evergreens will periodically shed their older needles that have begun to lose their ability to photosynthesize. This is nature’s way of ‘lightening the load’ so to speak, and preserving the integrity of the plant.
If you’ve had problems with crabgrass, you can take steps to minimize its spread for next year. Crabgrass is an annual grass, so it will set seeds and then die at the first frost. You can help curb crabgrass by not allowing the seeds to drop back onto your lawn. Usually we recommend allowing grass clippings to recycle back into the turf, but if you have had crabgrass, don’t let the clippings with potential seeds to remain on the lawn. Instead compost them in your hot compost pile, or put them in the deep woods, far from your lawn.
If you think some of your garden beds did not perform as expected, a soil test may be in order. Something as simple as a pH test; to check soil acidity, can save you from wondering why your garden isn’t growing well. September is the perfect time to apply lime in order to raise the soil pH. The action of soil freezing and thawing, as well as rain and snow accumulation, will aid the lime to incorporate into the soil.
Early fall is the time mice will be looking for winter homes, and bringing their germs and insects with them. In the Northeast, the White Footed mouse is the reservoir for the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. Lyme disease is contracted when Blacklegged ticks feed on infected mice, then bite people. We utilize Damminix tick tubes to rely on the natural nesting instincts of mice to deliver tick controlling insecticide directly to the host animal and the ticks it infects. Biodegradable cardboard tubes are filled with permethrin treated cotton. Mice will collect the treated cotton for their bedding; the permethrin from the cotton is released onto the mouse’s fur, ticks that feed on the mice are exposed to the insecticide and killed before they can spread Lyme disease to you, your family and pets. Please contact our Damminix specialist, Scott Higley, for more information. Scott@countrysidelandscape.net
Develop a weed strategy
Be persistent in your efforts; just one course of weeding in a growing season will have little effect on the population. It will be like you never weeded at all. During the peak of summer plants are growing so fast; with weeds growing even faster, they will be towering over your perennials and veggies in no time at all. In my garden, even after diligently weeding all summer long, when I replanted my raised beds after the first harvest, hundreds of weeds sprouted from seemingly nowhere! Chemical herbicides should be used as an adjunct to your weeding program, and not be the sole method of eliminating weeds. In some instances, like around edibles, I choose not to use chemicals at all. Typically herbicides are used in a focused approach to handle tough to manage weeds, like poison ivy. If you do choose to apply herbicides, be sure to use the correct product and follow all the label directions.
The most invasive weed in the world, according to the World Conservation Union, is Fallopia japonica commonly known as Japanese Knotweed or Japanese Bamboo. It can withstand temperatures to minus 32 degrees, and will spread by rhizomes up to 9’ deep into the ground, and 25’ horizontally. Keep on chopping it back to weaken the root system, and then smother it with a thick mulch, and or tarp. Unfortunately this may turn into a multiyear task, as it is incredibly resilient. It is found that when herbicide is applied in the fall to cut down plants, it is the most effective. Another approach to Japanese Knotweed is to eat it. The newly emerged spring shoots are eaten very much like asparagus; steamed and spread with sweet butter, or baked into a quiche or frittata, yum! With persistence, your efforts and appetite will pay off, and the plant will decline and die.
Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica) in bloom
Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica) edible shoots
Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia) produces millions of dust-like seeds that are spread by wind, and is the cause of most allergy symptoms, and not Goldenrod as we had originally thought. Ragweed is also not a good neighbor to nearby plants, as it is considered to be allelopathic. Allelopathic plants exude noxious chemicals through their roots that can harm other plants; other examples are Walnut trees, which can kill susceptible plants growing within their root zone. Now that I am familiar with Ragweed, I see it growing and blooming all along the roadsides around my hometown. Be prepared to mow Ragweed down, pull it out or behead it before it can set seed.
Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia) in bloom
Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) is an example of a very showy perennial that is also a noxious weed. Up until very recently, it was sold in garden centers and online plant catalogs. The cultivar that was marketed as sterile, turned out not to be so. Perhaps this helped spread it so far around the US? It spreads via seeds and underground stems at a rate exceeding one foot per year. Purple Loosestrife creates very dense stands of plants that crowd out native plants essential for wildlife, particularly in wetlands and moist locations. In late summer it is so apparent how far this invasive has spread, there are vast purple fields of it almost everywhere you travel. I live across from the wetlands in Deerfield, and it always escapes across the state road into my garden. No matter how attractive the flowers are, I pull it out!
Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) is very invasive
Oriental Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) like many invasive plants, was formally grown as an ornamental plant. The vigorous vines can rapidly grow to 60 feet tall, and will sprawl over any tree or shrub in its path. It can kill by shading out any plant growing beneath it, and strangle mature trees by girdling them with its thick trunk. Oriental Bittersweet can even topple trees by the sheer weight of its mass; it does get that big. Its main method of distribution is via its attractive red fruit. Birds love the berries and will disperse the seeds far and wide. The seeds can remain viable for a long time and sprout well in low light, so anywhere they fall, they are likely to grow. American Bittersweet, (Celastrus scandens) a less vigorous native vine, is also being crowded out by this non-native invader. Your best method is to pull and cut down the vines, in combination with applying a systemic herbicide in the spring. Dispose of any fruit far from your garden, so there will be less chance of them sprouting on your property.
Oriental Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) strangling a tree
Oriental Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) leaves and fruit
Need a hand with those tough weeds? Email Scott Higley, our Application Specialist, to advise you on the best strategy. Scott@countrysidelandscape.net
Fall is on the way, with an abundance of harvested fall fruit and vegetables, along with dramatic changes in our gardens. Many plants are beginning their descent into winter, but others are gearing up for a last blast of color before the growing season ends. With a little planning, you can have a fresh burst of color in your yard with some of these spectacular fall accent plants.
Viburnum nudum ‘Brandywine’ The native Smooth Witherod Viburnum has very lustrous dark green leaves in summer. It blooms heavily in early summer followed by green fruit that quickly turns pink, finally finishing an electric blue. Fruit clusters are a mix of pink and blue throughout the growing season. Leaves turn a deep burgundy color in the fall. Grows 6’ wide x 6’ tall, and will happily grow in full sun to partial shade. V. nudum is not fussy about soil, and is resistant to deer browsing.
Viburnum nudum ‘Brandywine’ in fall
Spiraea thunbergii ‘Ogon’ the Willow leaved Spiraea holds its golden leaves until very late in the season, and would be a real eye catching beacon of golden light in your fall garden. ‘Ogon’ blooms with dainty white flower clusters before leaves emerge in the spring. This deer resistant shrub has arching branches, and grows 5’ wide X 5’ tall. ‘Ogon’ prefers full sun, but will tolerate some shade too.
Spiraea thunbergii ‘Ogon’ fall foliage colors
Andropogon gerardii ‘Red October’ Big Bluestem is a dramatic native prairie grass that turns brilliant scarlet red at the first hint of frost. Native ornamental grasses offer many advantages in the garden; food and shelter for birds and mammals, and interesting views through all seasons. Big Bluestem prefers, and grows best, in poor, dry soil. Grows 5-6’ tall, and requires full sun.
Andropogon gerardii ‘Red October’
Itea virginica ‘Henry’s Garnet’ the native Sweetspire shrub, has so much to offer the gardener. Very fragrant white flowers bloom from late spring into summer. As autumn approaches, the leaves change from green to sizzling ruby red and scarlet. Itea virginica prefers consistently moist soil, and full to partial sun conditions. ‘Henry’s Garnet’ Sweetspire grows 3’ tall x 5’ wide. If you are seeking to replace non-native plants such as ‘burning bush’ (Euonymus alata) sweetspire is a good candidate to replicate the intense red foliage of that invasive shrub.
Itea virginica ‘Henry’s Garnet’ during spring bloom
Itea virginica ‘Henry’s Garnet’ fall foliage colors
Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Desert Plains’ fountain grass is a show stopper during all seasons of growth. This ornamental grass thrives in direct sun. The leaf tips begin turning deep red by mid-summer, when the plumes of bottlebrush flowers emerge purple-pink in color. The whole plant turns shades of red, gold and orange during the fall. ‘Desert Plains’ fountain grass grows 4’ wide x 4’ tall.
Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Desert Plains’