Neighborly Garden News
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Plant a Raspberry patch for gourmet quality fruit!
July is National Berry month! Raspberries, in my experience, are easier to grow and even more bountiful than blueberries. Raspberries are a shrub belonging to the Rosaceae family, in the genus Rubus. Not only are raspberries perfect for picking and eating straight off the bush, but they’re also wonderful in jams, pies and tarts, or smoothies and drinks. Plus, fresh raspberries are an excellent source of antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, and minerals to support a healthy immune system. Additionally, they are delicious! Homemade raspberry sorbet is just one of my favorite ways to enjoy the berries. They don’t ship well, so having your own berry patch will reward you with many quarts of berries to use, freeze or share with family.
There are two types of raspberries, both with their own specific requirements for growing: Summer-fruiting raspberries are more common, developing their fruit on last year’s growth. They bear one crop per season, in mid-summer. Ever-bearing raspberries (also called fall-bearing or autumn-bearing) produce berries on new canes, grown this year (ready in late summer/fall) as well as the one-year-old canes from the previous season (ready in July)
Prelude Summer-bearing raspberry
We grow ever-bearing raspberries, and it allows for an extra-long harvest period, and many quarts of berries. All raspberries are self-fertile, so you only need one bush to produce fruit. Bees love raspberry flowers; this makes them a good addition to a pollinator garden. Newly planted raspberries will start producing fruit a year after planting. Raspberries grow best in a sunny location, but unlike many fruits, they will also grow successfully in a partially shaded spot. However: the more sun, the more fruit! The planting site should have rich and well-drained soil, good air circulation, and shelter from strong wind. Raspberries require yearly pruning to grow well. Summer bearing berries may be cut down to the ground right after harvesting them. Everbearing raspberries are pruned in early spring; cutting back the year-old canes to about 12 inches above the trellis support and removing the older canes entirely as these will be dead (grey not brown or green in color * see image below) new canes for the fall crop will sprout alongside the year-old canes in early May.
Living raspberry cane on left vs. dead on the right
Mulching is important throughout the season to conserve moisture and suffocate weeds. Keep a thick layer of mulch always surrounding plants. Water one inch per week from spring until after harvest. Regular watering is better than infrequent deep soaking. Keep your raspberry bushes tidy by digging up any “suckers” or canes that grow well away from the rows; if you don’t dig them up, they’ll draw nutrients away, and you’ll have less berries next year. If you wish, you can replant the suckers, and you’ll have new plants! Dig them up, set them in a fresh area of prepared ground, and water them after planting.
Caroline Ever-bearing raspberry
Raspberries will benefit from a yearly application of a couple of inches of compost or aged manure. It is important to provide a trellis support system to keep the fruit held up off the ground; the weight of the fruit laden canes may bend over without support. One of our local to Western MA farms is renown for their production of very high-quality fruit plants for sale:
Nourse Farms: https://www.noursefarms.com/
July’s to-do list
I’m feeling thankful to have a minute to sit back and enjoy viewing my porch and backyard, after finally getting everything planted. According to the weather statistics from Umass Extension Services, last month was particularly cool and mostly cloudy. In the Valley, I noticed many plants making new growth after the cold snap on May 18th. Luckily, we have blueberries set on our bushes, but many farms locally have been wiped out. Still, the cool weather has been great for planting, and I hope everyone has been able to get their projects accomplished. Western MA keeps teetering on the edge of dry/abnormally dry according to the drought monitor. As of today, we’ve already had 2 named tropical storms in the Atlantic. I think we should be prepared for any extreme as we move into the summer.
I believe it was because of the unusually warm winter we’ve had a population explosion of chipmunks at our home. I’ve been invaded by hordes of these ground dwelling squirrels. I could live with their cute scurrying around if they didn’t have a taste for rosebuds. They bravely scramble up the thorny branches and eat each bud. So, I have had to resort to the bucket trap method. It 100% works. If you have problems with chipmunks, you can view the method here: https://www.trap-anything.com/homemade-chipmunk-trap.html As of this writing I have successfully trapped 16 chipmunks, and 6 mice!
Now that your garden is planted, don’t let up on weeding. With the extra hours of sunlight plants are getting right now, everything is surging with new growth; weeds are programmed to take advantage of this and will shoot up and overwhelm your plants quickly if not removed. I’m investing in a type of scuffle hoe, called a skidger, which is pointed and sharpened on both sides so it will cut as you push/pull. Good for getting between rows. Many annual weeds will begin to set seeds soon, so it is important to keep up with weeding chores; to prevent the next cycle of weeds.
Please don’t rely on rain for watering newly planted trees and shrubs. It is usually not enough to get down to the root zone. Invest in a few rain gauges and place them around your garden beds, to check how much rain/ irrigation really is reaching your plants. One inch/week is optimal. It is critical for the long-term health of recently (within the last three years) planted trees and shrubs to have consistent water during their active growth cycle. Drought stress is a factor in trees and shrubs eventually failing to thrive. Drought stress can weaken the plant, allowing it to be susceptible to disease or pests.
Are slugs becoming a nuisance? A home-made slug solution that works is: 9 parts water to 1 part household ammonia. Spray on the affected plants just at dusk before the slugs emerge for their nightly feed. When they touch this solution, they will vanish! Be on the look-out for mosquito hangouts! Besides being annoying and persistent, mosquitoes can be infectious agents of some very nasty diseases. They will breed in very small amounts of standing water, so be aware of plant saucers, watering jugs, kids sand buckets etc. anything that may be holding water and providing a home to these pests.
Don’t let your basil go to flower! Keep the plants pinched to encourage them to fill out. It’s very easy to preserve your extra basil. I like to puree’ chopped fresh basil in a little extra virgin olive oil to create a paste; I freeze it into portions to use all through the winter.
Need and hand with weeding and pest control? Send us an email firstname.lastname@example.org or call today! (413) 458-5586
Keep on the lookout for the Spotted Lanternfly!
Spotted Lanternfly: (Lycorma delicatula, SLF) is a non-native, invasive insect that feeds on over 103 species of plants, including many trees and shrubs that are important in our landscapes. It overwinters as an egg mass, which the adult female insect lays on just about any flat surface. Currently, the only established populations of spotted lanternfly in Massachusetts are in Fitchburg, Shrewsbury, Worcester, and Springfield MA. (Shrewsbury, MA in January 2022, Springfield, MA in August 2022, Worcester, MA in September 2022)
Spotted Lanternfly, immatures and adults
The adults and immatures of this species damage host plants by feeding on sap from stems, leaves, and the trunks of trees. In the springtime (late May – mid June), nymphs (immatures) are found on smaller plants and vines and new growth of trees and shrubs. Third and fourth instar (a phase between two periods of molting in the development of an insect larva) nymphs migrate to the preferred tree species (*see below) and are observed feeding on trunks and branches. Trees may be found with sap weeping from the wounds caused by the insect’s feeding. The sugary secretions (excrement) created by this insect may coat the host plant, later leading to the growth of sooty mold. Insects such as wasps, hornets, bees, and ants may also be attracted to the sugary waste created by the lanternflies, or sap weeping from open wounds in the host plant. By August in Massachusetts, the activity of the swarming wasps and bees that are feeding on the droppings is often easier to spot than the lanternflies themselves. Host plants have been described as giving off a fermented odor when this insect is present.
Besides the long list of tree varieties that the adult SLF will feed on, there is a shorter list of *preferred species for the adult and immature insects to congregate on: Black Walnut, Butternut, Red Maple, River Birch, Silver Maple, Staghorn Sumac, wild and cultivated Grapes, and Willows. With the likelihood of SLF spreading to other areas of MA, it is important to learn how to identify them:
A helpful guide for homeowners here:
Currently there are no natural enemies or biological control agents that have been identified as reducing or able to reduce populations of the Spotted Lanternfly in the United States. Researchers are currently surveying the native range of this insect in search of a suitable biocontrol organism that is specific to the spotted lanternfly. If you suspect you have seen a SLF, please report your sighting here:
Early summer is the start of hydrangea season, here in MA. Some may say a New England garden is not complete without some species of hydrangea. We do in fact have native species of hydrangea that we use as landscape plants; the smooth hydrangea, H. arborescens, and the Oakleaf hydrangea, H. quercifolia. Most other species originate from Japan and China, and they are wonderful additions to any garden, make good cut flowers for the vase or dried arrangements.
Hydrangea quercifolia-Oakleaf Hydrangea is an outstanding plant for multi-seasonal interest. The large, dark-green lobed leaves do resemble an Oak leaf, fall leaf colors are a blend of purple and red and create a nice fall show. In winter the bark has an interesting texture and reveals colors of cinnamon and tan as it peels off. Blooming begins in late June with creamy white flower heads up to 12 inches long that bloom all summer long, finally blushing pink as cool weather sets in during late summer. There is a wide variation in size depending on the cultivar; from dwarf size, 4-6 ft (to) 8 ft tall X 6-8 ft wide. Likes full sun or partial shade, prefers consistently moist soil.
Oakleaf Hydrangea in bloom
Oakleaf Hydrangea fall leaf color
Hydrangea arborescens-Smooth Hydrangea is one of the first hydrangeas to bloom each season. H. arborescens is very adaptable to sun or shady conditions. Flowers start out green and quickly turn pure white, although there is also a pink flowered cultivar too! If spent flowers are removed, it’s also possible to get a second flush of bloom. Cut down to 6 inches tall in late winter and fertilize in early spring to begin the cycle again. Grows wider than tall, good for groupings; 3-5 ft tall X 5 ft wide.
‘Invincibelle Spirit’ Pink Smooth Hydrangea
‘Annabelle’ White Smooth Hydrangea
Hydrangea paniculata- ‘Grandiflora’ Peegee Hydrangea is available in so many forms it is hard to choose just one to write about. Their flowers can look like lacy bundles, or pillars of hundreds of florets. They all begin blooming in pure white, but some varieties will rapidly change color to bright pink, or combinations of pink and white flowers (H. paniculata ‘Vanilla-Strawberry’). A popular cultivar, Limelight, is known for its huge flower heads that are a startling klieg light-bright luminous greenish white. Another aspect of this species is it can be grown as a single trunk tree, in addition to the typical multi-stemmed shrub. Considered to be the most adaptable of the hydrangea species, tolerates any soil type except boggy ground. Considerable range in mature sizes depending on the cultivar, 3-15 ft tall X 5-20 ft wide.
‘Vanilla Strawberry’ Peegee Hydrangea
‘Limelight’ Peegee Hydrangea
Hydrangea macrophylla-Bigleaf Hydrangea is a very showy plant when in bloom. The bright blue and pink flower colors command attention in the garden. The flowers grow in two forms: the lacecap variety with large sterile flowers growing around a circle of smaller fertile flowers, and the Hortensia type, having large sepals formed into a large, rounded mass of florets. This species is particularly tolerant of salt spray and is useful in seaside gardens. Culturally, H. macrophylla will bloom on ‘old’ or second year growth, so don’t prune them until right after they flower, and only to shape the plant. Newer cultivars have been bred with increased cold tolerance, but they would benefit from some protection from winter winds. Flowers can last for 4-6 weeks or longer depending on the temperature, and gradually change colors through the blooming period. It is true that soil acidity will affect the flower colors, more acid=blue flowers, more alkaline=pink flowers. Prefers sun or partial shade and consistently moist soil. Grows 3-6 ft tall X 6 ft wide at maturity.
Lacecap Bigleaf Hydrangea
‘Endless Summer’ Bigleaf Hydrangea