Neighborly Garden News
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Keep on the Lookout for the Spotted Lanternfly!
Pest Alert: Spotted Lanternfly Detected in Three New Massachusetts Communities
The invasive spotted lanternfly (SLF) has recently been confirmed in both Hampden and Worcester Counties in Holyoke, Agawam, and Southborough, MA. These finds represent three newly established populations of this insect, which are in addition to those known previously in Fitchburg, Shrewsbury, Worcester, and Springfield, MA. It is very important to remain vigilant for any signs of the insect, or any of its life stages.
Information for homeowners can be found here
Spotted Lanternfly management for professionals here
Lycorma delicatula was first discovered in Berks County, PA during the 2014 growing season. Most likely it was brought in from China on a shipping container. Spotted Lanternflies can travel in several ways; they can grip tightly to any surface and may inadvertently be transported by vehicular movement. The females will lay an egg mass that looks a lot like a mud smear, and travel disguised in this way too, on any hard surface. The immature nymphs can travel much farther than immatures of other species of insects, typical insect nymphs travel at most 5-10 ft, but Lanternfly nymphs can travel upwards of 150 ft. Lanternflies are a type of plant hopper, but much larger and faster than the native plant hoppers in our region. If you poke an adult, you will observe how fast and far they can travel. Like native plant hoppers they feed on plant sap using a specialized piercing and sucking mouthpart, like a straw, to suck out the plant’s sap.
Spotted Lanternfly adult showing hindwings
Spotted Lanternfly preferred species of tree is a type of invasive species brought to the USA decades ago called the ‘Tree of Heaven’ (Ailanthus altissima) but will feed on almost any of species of native and non-native tree. It is particularly worrisome for orchardists, vineyards, and woodlots throughout the infected areas, as these plants can’t recover from the intense predation from Lanternflies. Researchers from Penn State Department of Agriculture predict billions of dollars in damage. New York State is in the direct path for invasion, as it shares a border with PA, and is renowned for its fruit, and wine production among other crops. Spotted lanternfly is a plant stressor, which when combined with other biotic or abiotic plant stresses, may contribute to significant damage to their host plants. However, some hosts (grapes, tree-of-heaven, maple, black walnut) may be at more risk than others. Feeding damage can also result in yield loss or quality reduction of agricultural crops.
Spotted Lanternfly adults at rest-not showing hindwings
There have been advances to combat this pest. Combined efforts from Cornell and Penn State research labs have developed a bio-pesticide that is being aggressively tested right now in Montgomery County, PA. The study, published in ‘The Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences’, utilized two naturally occurring fungi (Batkoa major and Beauveria bassiana) found to kill Lanternfly nymphs. The EPA approved pesticide has been found to kill 50% of the nymphs treated, said Dave Biddinger, a research professor of entomology at Penn State. The US Dept of Agriculture beneficial insects’ introduction research unit, located in Newark, Delaware, is working on testing the Spotted Lanternflies natural enemy; a tiny predatory wasp Dryinus browni. Adult female wasps lay eggs inside Lanternfly nymphs, the wasp eggs hatch and the immature wasps eat their way through the parasitized Lanternfly nymph until they mature into a new adult wasp. This method of insect control is a well-established way to utilize a pest’s natural predator to reduce pest populations without using chemicals. In this case, scientists must be cautious before releasing a non-native insect into our country, to avoid any repercussions in years to come.
Spotted Lanternfly egg mass-if discovered remove immediately and destroy
In the meantime, we should inspect our plant purchases very carefully; many plant products are shipped from nurseries out of state. If you travel to known infested areas, respect their quarantine advisories, and don’t bring any restricted material across state or county lines. Learn to identify the Spotted Lanternfly in the various life stages, including the egg mass. If you see something, please report it to
1-888-4BADFLY or to https://massnrc.org/pests/slfreport.aspx
October’s to-do list
Welcome Autumn! I can’t remember gardening through a more challenging summer than this one was. Other than a few plants, just about everything else in our veggie garden died from the excessive rain. The unusual weather seemed to affect the bloom cycles of many reliable summer plants. Neighbors in Deerfield reported their lilacs in full bloom last week. The few veggies of ours that did make it through; I’m grateful to have some winter squash, basil, and a few cherry tomatoes. As I begin to write this month’s newsletter, we are on day three of another bout of soaking rain. Our weather has suddenly cooled down, leaves have a tinge of fall color to them, and the change of seasons make me feel optimistic about a better growing year for 2024. I’ve begun planting a new perennial/pollinator garden in the bed I’ve been working on since the spring. I’m thinking ahead of how pretty it will look mid-summer next year. No hard feelings 2023, but I have already moved on to next year.
Fall is the optimal time for planting, and transplanting, shrubs, trees, and perennials. The ground temperature stays warm, even as our air temperature drops, setting up great conditions for root growth. Plants already headed into dormancy, won’t need to divert energy into leaf development, and will establish new roots in the weeks before the ground freezes. Plan on providing any newly planted plants with supplemental water up to the time they drop their leaves and the ground freezes, usually late November.
Garden clean-ups are an especially important step this year to help keep plants disease free. Many plants have been affected with leaf issues due to our very wet summer. It is recommended not to compost any infected plant material. Instead, remove any organic debris from plants with symptoms of fungal or bacterial problems; and bag them for disposal. Overwintering fungal spores from diseased leaves can contribute to reinfection in your garden next growing season.
The heavy rains we experienced this summer may have promoted a temporary leaching of soil nutrients. You can help revitalize your soil over the dormant season by adding a layer of compost, and chopped leaves. Nature and the worms will break it all down come next spring. Fall is also the optimal time to add lime to your garden beds. The freeze/thaw action of the soil structure will naturally distribute the lime over winter.
I’m going to be planting my garlic within the next few weeks. Garlic was one of the few crops we were able to harvest this year, and it will keep in my pantry until the next crop is ready in July ’24. Plant garlic now for next summer’s harvest. Sow garlic cloves 1-2” deep, spacing them 6” apart. They may sprout a few green leaves before winter sets in, this is normal, and won’t affect next year’s crop. Mulch the row with a few inches of chopped leaves or straw to keep the garlic cloves protected from thaws and freezes. Fresh garlic has a juiciness and flavor not found in supermarket garlic.
It’s time to think about deer fencing, if you have used this service to protect your gardens from deer browsing through the winter. Populations of deer have been on the rise as conditions have been favorable for their expansion. When winter arrives, they often search for food in small herds, and will eat just about any available green plant material. Please contact our office for more information about how to protect your landscape from browsing deer.
Don’t wait-Last call for spring and summer flowering bulbs; we only have about 4-6 weeks before the ground freezes, and that is just enough time for new bulbs to set down roots. You know you’ll love seeing the cheery blooms next spring! As a rule of thumb, bulbs should be planted at a depth equal to 3 times their diameter. If you’ve never planted bulbs before, you can safely experiment with any kind of daffodil. They are pretty much deer-proof, rodent-proof, and fool-proof.
Need a hand with fall clean-up? Thinking about screening out the deer this winter? Give our office a call to schedule your fall and winter services: (413) 458-5586 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Feed your veggie garden this fall, for healthier produce next season!
Feeding the soil in the fall means plants will have immediate access to nutrients when they start growing in spring. Fall is a great time to make efforts to fertilize your veggie garden and replace nutrients into the soil for the next growing season. Keeping nutrient levels high is an important task, it is important to feed the soil throughout the year.
Growing crops will deplete the soil, and heavy rains can also leach nutrients from the garden soil. That is why supplemental fertilization is recommended and utilizing crop rotation methods, to allow some crops to replace lost nutrients. Fertilizing in the fall will allow the nutrients to remain in the soil over the winter. This can also save you time in the spring and promote earlier harvests next season.
Fertilizing veggie gardens in the fall will also benefit any late season crops and any perennial herbs that you may have planted. In the fall, plants shift their energy from top growth to root development in order to produce higher concentrations of sugars that help them resist freezing over the winter. By supporting plant roots, ensures a healthier plant next spring.
Ground left empty and fallow over winter can leach essential nutrients and become eroded. It is helpful to cover beds with mulch or with cover crops that are specifically grown to add back nutrients. Mulching the veggie garden beds with a thick layer of chopped leaves, straw, compost, or other chopped organic matter can help stop soil freezing, prevent erosion, and be incorporated into the soil by worms to boost fertility.
Your ideal time for feeding your veggie garden is before the ground freezes, early to mid-October. Unlike other times of the year, fresh manure can be mixed into the soil in the fall and will be ready and suitable for planting the following spring. This method isn’t recommended during the growing season because the manure will be too ‘hot’ and cause damage to plant roots. The long winter helps to reduce this problem by leaching away excess nutrients. Typically, fresh manure is aged 6 months or more before being used for plants. Keeping a level amount of nutrients is important for any kitchen garden, and any soil type. Fertile soil can be the difference between having an okay garden vs. having a great garden.
Fall is when our native grasses really stand out. Cooler weather and shorter days bring out their outstanding fall colors and cause the inflorescence (grass flower) to elongate and bloom. The benefit of using native grasses is that they are host plants to pollinators; many species of butterflies and moths utilize native grasses as a food source for adults and larvae. Native grasses are naturally drought tolerant and can be used to stabilize erosion prone areas.
Eragrostis spectabilis ‘Purple Love Grass’ is a low growing tufted grass, that sends up a large inflorescence or airy panicles in the fall, creating a lovely purple haze above the dense green foliage. Leaf blades turn reddish bronze in the fall. Grows 18-24” tall x 24-36” spread, requires full sun.
‘Purple Love Grass’
Deschampsia cespitosa ‘Tufted Hair Grass’ is a cool season grass, that will do most of its growing in the spring and early fall. Narrow, finely textured, leaves are topped with delicately branched flower clusters in late summer. One of the few grasses that will grow in moist soil and part shade; grows 2-3’ tall x 2’ wide.
‘Tufted Hair Grass’
Panicum virgatum ‘Switch Grass’ is considered a ‘warm season’ grass and will lend itself to informal and formal gardens. Its very upright habit can start out as a clump, but gradually expands its rhizomes to colonize sizeable areas. It grows best with heat, sun, and poor soil. Roots may reach a depth of ten feet or more. It is important to leave 8” of stubble after fall clean up, to provide insulation over the winter. Height can vary among the many beautiful cultivars. Grows up to 6’ tall x 3’ wide, depending on the variety.
Schizachyrium scoparium ‘Little Bluestem’ has dramatic deep red to burgundy fall leaf colors. The flowers have a silvery fluffy look to them and will persist through winter. It is often used to transition between formal areas to informal or naturalized areas. Summer leaf color is bluish green. This ‘warm season’ grass is a clump forming variety, and good for attracting wildlife. Grows 2-3’ tall, prefers dry conditions and full sun.
Sorghastrum nutans ‘Indian Grass’ Yellow Indian grass is a tall, bunching sod-forming native grass, 3-8 ft tall. Indian Grass develops broad blue-green blades and a large, plume-like, soft, golden-brown seed head. This showy ‘warm season’ perennial grass has outstanding fall colors in deep orange to purple. Sorghastrum nutans is an underused native grass with a somewhat metallic golden sheen to its flowering parts.