Neighborly Garden News
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Massachusetts has pollinators aplenty, but they need your help!
When we think about pollinators, bees and butterflies immediately come to mind. You may not know that other animals and insects have a hand in pollinating, and many are represented here in MA.
Honeybees are not native to the US, but still play a huge role in commercial pollination. Our most familiar native bee is the bumble bee (family Bombus). A bumble bee likes to feed on clover, and you can help them by planting a patch of it. Both red and white clover will grow in our region. Other types of MA bees are carpenter bees, (family Xylocopa) sweat bees (family Halictidae) and mining bees (family Andrenidae). Most of the lesser known bees are not at all aggressive, and rarely ever sting. Wasps are also considered pollinators, not as efficient as the bee, but they will transport pollen as they visit flowers to feed on nectar. A wasp’s larger benefit is their constant hunting for insect prey, which helps keep insect populations in check.
Sweat Bee pollinating a Coreopsis
Bumblebee pollinating a Sea Holly
A butterfly is considered second only to the bee in its pollinating efficiency, but did you know that moths also pollinate plants, but mainly at night. A moth’s hairy body contributes to its pollinating ability Moths out-number the population of butterflies, and are also further divided into their own sub-order, Frenatae. Planting a ‘moon garden’ of white and light colored fragrant flowers will help attract moths. Moths particularly favor tubular flowers, like Nicotiana, Petunia, Calibrachoa, Moonflower, Phlox, and Hosta.
Moths pollinate at night
Hummingbirds are the primary bird species for pollination in the US. In our area the native hummingbird is the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. These busy, tiny birds, transfer pollen as it sticks to their face-feathers and beak. They are attracted to brightly colored, nodding, tubular flowers. They love Lantanas, Salvias, Phlox, Columbine, Honeysuckles, and Cardinal flower, to name a few. If you plant groups of these flowers, they will visit your garden frequently, and you need not bother with a fancy feeder.
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (female)
Certain animals and insects have perfected the art of mimicry as a survival tactic, and I would challenge the casual observer to tell them apart from their ‘real’ counterparts. Two flies native to MA have that mastered. The Flower fly mimics a wasp (family Syrphidae) so it will look scary and not get eaten. The Bee fly (family Bombyliidae) looks just like a bumble bee, and probably fools its predators most of the time. Both mimics are fuzzy enough insects to do a decent job transferring pollen, even without the pollen carrying leg baskets that real bees have.
A bee mimic-the Hoverfly
Beetles are some of our planets oldest known pollinators. Their remains have been found preserved with the flowers and pollen they lived on millions of years ago. It seems reasonable that beetles would prefer to pollinate the living descendents of ancient plant species. In Massachusetts beetles are responsible for pollinating native Magnolias, and the yellow-flowered water lily; they will also pollinate Sassafras, Paw-Paw (Asimina triloba), and Sweet Shrub (Calycanthus floridus).
Creating a haven for pollinator’s means planning for a more diverse yard. Planting native flowers and trees and shrubs, in addition to your imported plants, will attract a wider group of pollinators. Try to leave a portion of your outdoor space a little wild; for the wildlife. Let us make this our new mantra- “Leave it wild, for the Wildlife”.
June’s ‘to-do’ list
This month would be a good time to sort through your accumulation of garden chemicals, and re-assess how necessary they really are. Can a pollinator friendly alternative be used? Are there any more effective cultural methods to achieve your end result? New ideas and methods are always being updated; the UMASS website has up-to-the-minute advice for the home gardener.
The latest bulletin from the Umass Extension service warns about the above average tick population this season. According to the CDC, May and June are the peak months for Lyme disease infections. Countryside uses the product ‘Tick Free’, which is 100% organic and very effective for eradicating ticks in your yard, and garden; yet completely safe for people, pets, and beneficial non-target insects. Please contact our spray program manager, Scott Higley, for details: email@example.com
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 2 growing seasons should be given supplemental water, and all trees and shrubs will benefit from watering during times of heat and drought. Plants do their best with consistent watering. According to the US Drought Monitor, MA is experiencing a moderate drought. Don’t wait for your plants to show signs of dehydration. Any recently planted trees and shrubs will be severely impacted without supplemental watering. If there has been scant rainfall, you should provide additional water to older or stressed plants too. Trees react slowly to their environment, and may not show symptoms of damage from drought stress for 1 or 2 seasons.
It’s not too late to start a veggie garden! Starter plants are available online or at your local nurseries usually through early July. Tomatoes and basil will thrive in pots set in a sunny location, if you just want to start small. Replace cool season plants such as; pansies, daffodils, spinach and early lettuce, with warm season annualsand veggies. Basil, beans, zinnias, marigolds and morning glory vines are all hot weather plants. Staggered sowing of lettuce throughout the season will give you continuous harvests. You can even grow your lettuce in a pot!
Stake tall perennials now, to support their bountiful blooms later. A quick summer thunder squall can flatten the plants you’ve been pampering all spring in a few minutes.
Cut back early spring perennials that have gone by, for a second flush of blooms. Perennial geraniums, Nepeta (catmint) and Salvia (ornamental sage) 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. Bulb foliage should be allowed to fade naturally; allowing the bulb to benefit from the nutrition the leaves provide it. You can safely cut or mow the bulb foliageafter June 30th.
Now is the best time to prune and shape your spring flowering trees and shrubs;right after their bloom time. This allows them to form buds through the growing season for next year’s bloom. Examples to prune now are: Forsythia, Lilac, Azalea, and Magnolia. July 4th is considered the last safe date to prune Common Lilacs before they set flower buds for next season.
Insect, weed, and fungal pests will increase with the approach of summer. Monitor your plants by checking under the leaves and looking for signs of infestation: yellowing leaves, and leaf spots or holes, and flowers that fail to open fully are some recognizable symptoms of pests.
Need an extra hand with weeding, and garden chores? Countryside can do the ‘heavy lifting’ so you don’t have to. Please call our office: (413) 458-5586 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Grow a ‘greener’ lawn!
Growing a lush green lawn is no longer a compromise between organic vs. traditional growing methods. The latest methods of turf management combine elements of both practices, to promote optimal growth for a healthy lawn.
We now know that there is a huge web of life beneath our feet that is critical for the health of organisms living in the soil. ‘Feeding the soil, and not just the plant’ is a basic tenet of organic lawn care. Maintaining a healthy lawn, by modifying cultural practices, allows you to transition to a less chemically dependent lawn.
The most important change you can make to encourage a greener, healthier lawn is to raise the mower blade height to 4″. This additional height will encourage the grass to make deeper root growth, a very important advantage during periods of drought. Making a higher cut allows the grass to grow tall enough to shade any thin or bare patches, discouraging weeds and crabgrass from sneaking in. Leaving the grass clippings to decompose naturally will add beneficial nutrients back into the soil, as well as boosting organic material within the soil structure. The organic material provides a food source, and will nourish the beneficial microbes that live in the soil.
The predominant soil in our area has a base of clay or gravel, without containing much organic material. This type of soil has little if any water holding capacity, and will harden to a cement-like texture during prolonged dry spells. To help with this problem, it is recommended to aerate the lawn and then apply compost as a top-dressing. These practices will help reduce soil compaction, and increase the water holding capacity of the soil. This would also be the prime time to over-seed a thin lawn. The aeration and compost topdressing promotes new root growth.
The thin soils in our area make frequent watering of lawns through dry periods a necessity. Problems with the lawn’s ‘biosphere’ occur when the grass plant becomes stressed. Lack of water, low fertility, incorrect pH, are all conditions considered stressful to the grass plant. Plant pathogens; insects, fungi and viruses take advantage of this and invade when the grass becomes weakened and thus susceptible.
Weeds are always the last word in any lawn discussion. As you transition to a reduced chemical lawn you may have a few weeds, until the grass fills in. Weeds are often indicator plants of adverse soil conditions. Certain weed species prefer to grow in low fertility, dry or compacted types of soil. For example, crabgrass will grow and thrive in soils depleted of nutrients; dandelions and burdocks use their substantial taproots to seek out water in highly compacted soil. But, fortunately that large taproot also helps to break up the hardened soil as it grows. As your soil becomes more enriched and the grass invigorated, the weeds will naturally be pushed out.
Need help growing a greener lawn? Give our lawn specialists a call (413) 458-5586 or drop them an email: email@example.com
June is the month of the Rose. In years gone by, roses had only one bloom cycle and did not repeat or stay in bloom consistently. 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. The last few years have been awful for my rose collection. Insect pests and voracious rodents have made caring for them a real challenge. My favorite kinds of roses are the ones that will live through our New England winters. Here are a few recommended new roses for 2021:
Rose ‘Sunset Horizon’– The attractive blooms that start bright yellow and fade to deep pink/cherry red. Its flower size is quite large when fully open with a very slight fragrance. Has a bushy, upright habit and is extremely disease resistant. Growing on its own roots makes this a very hardy rose. Grows 3-4ft tall X 3ft wide.
Rose ‘Sunset Horizon’
Rose ‘Perfume Factory’– Just like the name implies, Perfume Factory has a very strong fragrance of spice & fruit. The blooms are a lovely magenta with lavender coloring. Growing one blossom to a stem makes them perfect cut flowers for any arrangement. Has an upright, bushy habit with stunning green foliage and is disease resistant. Grows 5ft tall X 3-4ft wide.
Rose ‘Perfume Factory’
Rose ‘Knockout Petite’– The Petite Knock Out Rose is the first miniature Knock Out Rose available! It has the same flower power and easy care as others in the family, but in an adorable, petite size. Plant in decorative containers for your porch or patio, or in mass for a dramatic pop of color! Knockout Petite has a beautiful bright red color, a very slight fragrance and is extremely disease resistant. Grows 18in tall X 18in wide.
Rose ‘Knockout Petite’
Rose ‘Fun in the Sun’– The colors of this rose are inspired by everything that a day having fun in the sun should be. This rose produces beautiful full double blooms on its upright, bushy habit next to its rich green foliage. Has a strong fruity/spicy fragrance and is extremely disease resistant. Also considered an English type rose, with its large, full, old-fashioned blooms and very strong fragrance. Grows 5ft tall X 3ft wide.
Rose ‘Fun in the Sun’
Rose ‘Enchanted Peace’– A compact, disease resistant, bi-colored rose. It has a delicious fragrance and works well in containers or beds. Its bloom color contrasts beautifully against its dark green, very glossy foliage. Has a moderate to strong fragrance and is extremely disease resistant. Grows 5 ft tall X 3ft wide.
Rose ‘Enchanted Peace’