Neighborly Garden News
Keep on the lookout for the Spotted Lanternfly!
The Spotted Lanternfly continues to wreak havoc across the state of Pennsylvania. Residents of Philadelphia have been battling this invasive pest through the summer, as they have been swarming through the city. I have written about this insect previously, but we must continue to be on high alert for any signs that the insect has taken hold in MA; it is a very serious and destructive insect invader.
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 have the ability to grip tightly to any surface, and may be 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 life stages
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 from 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 Dept 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 Lanternflies feeding on Ailanthus tree
Lanternfly adults feeding
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.
Lanternfly nymph infected with biopesticide fungi
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 PA, respect their quarantine advisories, and don’t bring any restricted material across state 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 online: https://massnrc.org/pests/slfreport.aspx
October’s ‘to-do’ list:
Our growing season is finished for this year; how did your garden grow? I’d say it was an uneventful growing season, with no real extremes, as in previous seasons. I hope everyone was able to enjoy their gardens and yards, and benefited from the fairly even weather and rainfall. Our major task in the fall is to cleanup all the plant debris, and fallen leaves. This accomplishes several objectives: helps to suppress plant diseases that would lie dormant overwinter; only to re-infect come spring, and minimize springtime tasks for next season, when there are so many more chores beckoning. Clearing away spent plants also discourages rodents from moving in, and making nests under the dead plants.Reduce winter damage caused by gnawing mammals on stems or trunks with hardware cloth (a kind of wire screening) to keep mice, voles and rabbits from gnawing the bark. If Deer browsing has been a problem, there are several very effective approaches to managing them. Please contact Scott Higley for more information: Scott@countrysidelandscape.net
If you grow a veggie garden, I hope you will try to grow your own garlic. It is very easy, and homegrown garlic is far superior to grocery store garlic for cooking. Garlic should be planted now for harvesting next summer. It usually is ready to harvest by mid-to-late July, and you still have plenty of time to replant that empty bed with another veggie, like lettuce or beets. Sow garlic cloves 1-2” deep, spacing them 6” apart. They may sprout a few greens 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 over the winter.
Keep mowing your lawn until it stops growing. Make your final cut of the season short; so long grass won’t compact down under the weight of snow and ice, and smother the roots. Be sure to winterize your lawnmower and garden tools, good tools are worth taking care of to extend their usefulness.
Get ready for bird feeder season by cleaning out your feeders with hot soapy water, and be sure to rinse very well. Try and leave a few seeds heads on flowers and ornamental grasses to feed finches and other small seed eaters. The seed heads and leaves provide much needed winter interest too. Leaving foliage intact on ornamental grass also acts to insulate the crowns and offers a bit more winter protection.
Falling leaves mean it’s time to clean out your gutters before winter. Clogged gutters can create ice dams (frozen blocks of ice that prevent your gutters from free-flow) over the winter. Frozen gutters often lead to leaky roofs and big headaches down the road.
Mature trees and shrubs have different requirements than newly planted or juvenile plants. To enhance the root system, and promote longevity we recommend a fall deep feeding. This special formulation has a balanced concentration of phosphoric acid and potash; to help your plants through our tough winters, and a healthy long life. If you have recently planted or transplanted trees or shrubs (within the last 3 growing seasons) be sure to give them supplemental water through the fall, especially if we continue to have dry weather. If you are interested in deep feeding, contact our specialist Scott Higley: Scott@countrysidelandscape.net
Plan on collecting at least some of the leaves to be shredded and composted into leaf mold, a free alternative to peat moss, it is a superb soil additive that will increase the water holding capacity of your soil. You can also use your shredded leaves to insulate borderline hardy plants; surround the plant with a wire fencing ‘cage’, then fill the caged area with your shredded leaves up over the top of the branches.
You can still plant spring blooming bulbs. They actually prefer cooler soil temperatures to initiate root development. As a general 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
Tips to improve your patio and garden space:
Now that leaves have fallen, and garden chores aren’t beckoning; you may find you actually have some spare time to assess your yard. If gardens stayed the same year after year, we would not need to think about tweaking our outdoor spaces. Most gardens are not static, and the plants we grow do change and shift over time. I can easily see the young trees I planted ten years ago bear no resemblance to their former selves. I don’t plan on removing them, or drastically pruning them, but I will reconsider how I utilize the outdoor space I have created.1. Consider your positive features. Every outdoor space has it’s ‘sweet spot’, try and look for your yard’s power position. You may have a fabulous view, or a terrific swimming pool and patio area. Highlight these areas by aligning your seating with a view towards these special places. Even if a nearby structure casts a long shadow, embrace the shade and create a soothing shade garden offering a respite from the busy world with comfy seating.
2. Make your backyard a place you want to escape to. Hang a hammock between two trees, or on an unused corner of a porch to create a simple hideaway. Create a gathering space, like a fire pit, for entertaining into the cooler months, or use heat lamps to extend your outdoor season well into fall. Build a treehouse that both kids and adults can use as a secret hangout.
3. Improve your gardens ambiance. Adding lighting will change the way your garden looks at night. Something as simple as a string a lights along the railing of the stairs, or an upward facing light at the base of your favorite tree, can add a dramatic touch. Discreet lights along a pathway will beckon your guests to follow along.
4. Don’t forget the audio. With the latest Bluetooth technology, having our favorite tunes to listen is as easy as buying an outdoor speaker. There are many weatherproof types to choose from; some are even disguised as flower pots! If there is distracting noise, you’d rather mask, think about installing a water feature, so all you’ll hear is the sound of trickling water. A bird bath bubbler would help your feathered friends and create a soothing sound at the same time.
5. Add a tree to bring everything together. The right tree can become the focal point of your outdoor space. Think about what you’d like to gain from the new tree. Would one that is multi-stemmed and spreading, and provide a privacy screen work for you? Or perhaps you’d want something with multiple season interest; flowers in spring, fruit in summer, and beautiful fall foliage? Maybe the best choice is something showy, but a dwarf specimen, to fit in your compact area. Taking the time to visit outdoor display gardens helps visualize what a tree will look like in your space. Consulting with your landscape professional is always a good choice, because they already know the soil and climate conditions you are working with.
Enjoy the ‘downtime’ fall and winter provides for gardeners. Now is our time to kick back for a while and relax; take stock of our past growing season, and plan for next year. Soon enough all the beautiful plant catalogs will start showing up in our mail and inboxes, and we can start the process of gardening again in 2020.
Fall is when our native grasses really stand out. Cooler weather and shorter days bring out their outstanding fall colors, and cause the inflorescence 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.
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.
Deschampsia cespitosa ‘Golden Dew’ in fall
Panicum virgatum ‘Switch Grass’ is considered a ‘warm season’ grass, and will lend itself to informal and formal gardens. It’s 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.
Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’
Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’ in fall
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.
Schizachyrium scoparium ‘The Blues’
Schizachyrium scoparium in fall
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.
Sorghastrum nutans in fall