Countryside Corner; Neighborly Garden News
The truth about mulch
There are many rumors and half truths about what happens to the soil after applying mulch. I have heard about this for as long as I’ve been in the landscape business; without giving away my age! The myth is: that applying mulch will starve your plants of nutrients. The truth is; not really.
The biological process of decomposition requires two main nutrients; carbon and nitrogen. Mulch materials; wood chips, straw, ground bark, etc. are considered to be high in carbon content, but low in nitrogen (for those who compost, brown VS green materials). As soil microorganism’s breakdown this carbon rich material, they need extra nitrogen to fuel the process. Microorganisms seek nitrogen from the soil, and have adapted to be more efficient than plants at accessing the soil nitrogen. As the decomposition process unfolds, soil microorganisms die and the nitrogen within their cells is released back into the soil. This is Nature’s method for recycling.
This scenario is true for high carbon material mixed into the soil. When we apply mulch on top of the ground, decomposition mostly occurs in the thin layer where the mulch touches the soil surface, and proceeds very slowly. So slowly that a state of stasis is achieved where nitrogen is released at the same rate as it is being taken up. Plants are ‘happy’ soil microbes are ‘happy’. Here’s one caveat: if you use ground bark mulch, be sure to use natural, undyed varieties. Bark mulch with hues of red, black, green or even blue, have all been processed and dyed with chemicals. The bark mulch is sourced from recycled wood scraps, construction and demolition waste, and can be contaminated with an array of industrial substances. I don’t know what they are, but I have seen the results to plants that seem to be sensitive; and it’s not pretty. I wouldn’t want these chemicals leaching out into my yard after each rain.
Applying a layer of good organic mulch will help insulate and protect plant roots in both summer and winter. Mulch helps to conserve soil moisture, and prevent erosion; allowing water to gently seep into the ground instead of running off. A mulch layer also acts like a barrier to soil borne organisms spread via water splashing up onto plants. Many leaf spot diseases are spread in this way; if foliar leaf spots have been a problem, try using a mulch barrier to prevent spores from spreading onto plant tissues (like Rose Black Spot, for example). Mulch can also help keep weeds from sprouting into your garden beds, and suppress any weed seeds already there. As the mulch ages and decomposes back into the soil, it will add hummus to enrich and feed the soil residents, which help maintain the vitality and health of our plants.
Countryside offers double ground spruce-hemlock-pine compost that is very aromatic and contains no dyes.
June’s ‘to-do’ list:
Our gardens require a minimum of one inch of water per week (best to invest in a rain gauge), whether it’s from Nature or our hose. Woody plants installed during the last season should be given supplemental water, and all trees and shrubs will benefit from watering during times of heat and drought. Damage from drought stress will often show up 1-2 seasons after the stress occurred.
Now is the best time to prune and shape your spring flowering trees and shrubs; right after bloom time. This allows them to form buds through the growing season for next year’s bloom. Examples are: Forsythia, Lilac, Azalea, and Magnolia. July 4th is considered the last safe date to prune Lilacs before they set flower buds for next season.
Prune and shape evergreens once the new growth ages to a darker green color. If the plant is very overgrown, better results will be achieved with gradual trimming rather than a drastic cut. Pruning too much growth risks killing the entire branch. Unsure how much you can safely prune? Countryside offers professional pruning services and summer shearing.
According to the CDC, May and June are the peak months for Lyme disease infections. Countryside utilizes ‘Tick Free’, which is a 100% organic product; very effective for eradicating ticks, yet completely safe for people, pets, and beneficial non-target insects. Please contact our spray program manager, Herb Severs, for details.
Japanese beetles will be back during the first week of July. We recommend a two-pronged approach for their control; weekly applications of a contact insecticide, to target the emerging adults, and a systemic product applied to the soil that will control the larvae. Their favorite plants include roses, hydrangeas, and fruit trees and shrubs, and they are very efficient at destroying these lovely plants.
Cut back early spring perennials that have gone by, for a second flush of blooms. Geraniums, Nepeta and Salvia are but a few perennials that will bloom multiple times following a good ‘haircut’. They may look awkward at first, but soon will push out new leaves and shoots for their second coming.
Need an extra hand with weeding, and garden chores? We can do the ‘dirty work’ so you don’t have to. Visit our Service Calendar on our website: CountrysideLandscape.net to see the services recommended for this month.
Be on the defense for ticks!
The black-legged tick, also known as the deer tick, is known to carry several human diseases, including Lyme disease (LD). This species of tick requires 2 years to complete its life cycle. The black-legged tick has 3 feeding stages larvae, nymph and adult. The risk period for humans is May through July, during the nymph and larval stages of tick development, when the immature ticks are very difficult to see. Adult ticks may also be infective, so there is a risk of a getting infected from a tick bite all year long.
The positive news is that the tick must be attached for at least 24 hours to transmit LD. It is very important to remove the tick immediately and save the specimen for identification. Be aware of early symptoms of LD: circular red rash at the bite, chills, fever, fatigue and joint pain. Please consult your doctor if you suspect an infection.
Unfortunately, there is no direct correlation between harsh winters and diminished tick populations. However, researchers from Canada have theorized that the warming environment has caused a dramatic increase in the tick population by speeding up their life-cycle. Long-range forecasts based on climate predictions see a 2-5 times increase in tick reproduction in Canada, and up to twice as much in the United States. The EPA has included the incidences of Lyme disease infection as one of the indicators of a warming climate. The CDC has shown that the rate of infection from LD in the US has more than doubled since 1991, going from 3.74 people infected per 100,000 to 8.6 people per 100,000 in 2013.
Deer are hosts to the adult ticks, but do not infect the ticks with LD. White footed mice, other small rodents, and some birds carry the infection and pass it onto the ticks feeding on them. When the ticks seek their next meal, they can pass LD onto you or your pet.
Countryside uses a 100% organic product called Tick Free. This product is completely safe for beneficial, non-target insects, reptiles and amphibians. It has an added benefit of controlling fleas, stink bugs, and spiders, and repelling snakes. The product may be sprayed directly onto brushy areas or lawns, anywhere there is activity. Tick Free used in combination with the highly rated Damminix Tick tubes, a perimeter control system, will provide the most protection for you, your family and pets.
Please call our spray program manager, Herb Severs for more tick information, or to schedule a free ‘Tick Check-up’.
June is the month of the Rose. In years gone by, roses were not repeat bloomers; termed remontant. We could only savor their fragrance and beauty for a few short weeks. Modern breeding has given us thousands of variations, yet a rose is a rose is a rose. My favorite kinds of roses are the ones that will live through our New England winters. The last few years have been awful for my rose collection; devoured by voles and chipmunks, every flower destroyed by midges. As a true testament to the rose’s enduring nature, this year, after A LOT of care and maintenance, they are all in bud and about to bloom.
Some of my recommendations:
Rosa ‘Blanc Double de Coubert’ was the first to bloom this year, on June 1st. This is a very hardy hybrid ‘rugosa’ type rose; pure white, and incredibly fragrant. “Blanc de Coubert’ is a tough plant, tolerant of drought, wind, and salt-spray. Grows to 4-6′ tall, responds very well to hard pruning in the early spring, so can be managed to stay compact if desired.
Rosa ‘Aloha’ grows as a tall shrub, but can also be trained to a trellis or pillar. The exceptionally fragrant, rich warm-pink blooms have an heirloom look, but will bloom continuously. Grows very vigorously to 5’ tall or more. This rose has thick strong stems, making it good for cutting.
Rosa ‘Knock-out Sunny’ has garnered more questions and compliments when this rose has been blooming in Countryside’s display gardens. ‘Sunny’ is soft yellow color that will compliment almost any design. The ‘Knock-Out’ variety of rose is available in six different color variations, and is a good sturdy rose that has disease resistance, blooms continuously, and needs minimal pruning. Upright growing to 3’ tall.
Rosa ‘At Last’ is a new introduction, which I saw displayed at the MANTS trade show last spring 2017; and was gifted a plant to trial in my garden that summer. It is shrub type landscaping rose, having the same easy care attributes as others in this class, ‘At Last’s’ benefit is that it is being marketed as the first really fragrant rose, with the low maintenance feature bred into it. Cupped, soft-apricot flowers produced in continuous waves of bloom. Grows 30-36” tall.
Rosa ‘Claire Austin’ was a cast-off rose that I adopted, and has turned out to be a great addition to the rose garden. This rose is one of the David Austin bred hybrid ‘English’ roses, developed to have characteristics of old fashioned heirlooms, but with modern genetics. English hybrids have improved disease resistance, fragrant, and more prolific flowers, growing into a gracefully shaped shrub. Creamy-white with pink tints, and very fragrant, grows 3’ tall.