Neighborly Garden News
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Plant a native tree this fall, for you and nature!
Wasn’t it hot this summer? One way to help beat the heat and cool your home is by planting shade producing trees in strategic areas. It is always 10 degrees cooler inside my home during the summer, due to the mature shade trees planted to screen out the afternoon sun. Planting a tree can be one of life’s great pleasures; marking the years as it spreads and grows. Planting an attractive tree can increase the value of your property, and benefit your community. Native trees are more likely to thrive in your local conditions with minimal care after the first few years of establishment. They will also provide the necessary food and shelter for regional wildlife that exotic trees often can’t.
If you’re thinking of planting a new tree, consider that hundreds of varieties of ornamental trees are species that have evolved here in North America. These natives have survived and thrived for thousands of years during extreme climatic conditions. Most have learned to cope with our local pests and diseases, and are still here to prove their ability to adapt.
‘Sugar Maple’, Acer saccharum, is the most recognized tree for fall color in the northeast. It is a sturdy, long-lived, and very desirable tree. Did you know that the ‘Red Maple’, Acer rubrum, grows from northern New England all the way to south Florida? It’s pretty amazing considering the drastically different climates. Within each genus of trees it is possible to find one suited for your growing conditions.
Oaks, Quercus spp, are considered the national tree of the United States. It is said we plant an Oak for our children to enjoy, but the ‘Chinkapin Oak’, Quercus muehlenbergii, for instance is relatively fast growing; will grow 20’ in 10 years. Of the 100 species of oaks in the US and Canada, there is great diversity within this genus. The ‘Scarlet Oak’, Quercus coccinea, turns a vivid red in the fall, and would rival the showiest Maple; the leaves can persist for up to 4 weeks. Quercus bicolor, ‘Swamp White Oak’ prefers moist acid soil, like in a bog, very worthwhile for naturalizing in wet areas. Planting an Oak will invite a host of wildlife to your yard, as they are an indispensible source of food for many different kinds of animals.
Our native Birch trees, Betula spp, are graceful and fast growing shade trees. They are considered hardier to the stresses of our climate than imported Birches. Many Birches are tolerant of wet soils, The ‘River Birch’, Betula nigra, actually prefers it. They are valued for their interesting bark color and textures, as well as their attractive fall leaf color. So many people admire the ‘Paper Birch’, Betula papyrifera for its chalk-white bark, and graceful shimmering leaves. It has a reputation for being difficult to transplant; but in reality it is just not adaptable to growing conditions other than those found in its native environment. It wants the rare combination of well-drained, yet deep and moist soil. It will not adapt to hot and dry conditions, without stressing the tree. When the plant gets stressed, it becomes highly susceptible to insect infestation due to its weakened condition. Decline of the tree, and death of branches can take months or years, and it is sad to watch. Consult with our professionals at Countryside Landscape & Design, for help in choosing the right native tree for your yard.
September’s ‘to-do’ list
As I begin writing this newsletter, we are being beset upon by tropical storm Henri. This storm is like a second punch, after the soaking we received from tropical storm Grace, adding another point towards this being a ‘wild weather’ summer. We’ve got four more weeks of summer, and I’m a little sad to see the end of our growing season, it seems to have flown by all-too-quickly. Make the most of the last few precious weeks; plan to plant some spring blooming bulbs this fall, begin transplanting those plants you were thinking of moving, divide and transplant your outsized perennials. Early fall is a great time to do transplanting, and planting of new trees and shrubs. The cooler temperatures and more consistent rainfall is a boon for optimal root development, without the plant expending energy to put out leaves.
Continue to prune out dead, damaged, or diseased wood, from your trees, shrubs and roses. Resist performing a hard pruning now; it’s getting late in the growing season for new growth to harden off before freezing weather. Some plants may benefit from a fall fertilizer application; as the roots continue to grow, and store food, even as the leaves drop. After a summer of heavy storms it’s important to assess the soundness and stability of trees on your property. Pruning or cabling a risky branch ahead of time will save you from major problems in the future.
If you’ve had problems with crabgrass, you can take steps to minimize its spread for next year. Crabgrass is an annual grass, so it will set seeds and then die at the first frost. You can help curb crabgrass by not allowing the seeds to drop back onto your lawn. Usually we recommend allowing grass clippings to recycle back into the turf, but if you have had crabgrass, don’t let the clippings with potential seeds to remain on the lawn. Instead compost them in your hot compost pile, or put them in the deep woods, far from your lawn.
If you think some of your garden beds did not perform as expected, a soil test may be in order. Something as simple as a pH test; to check soil acidity, can save you from wondering why your garden isn’t growing well. September is the perfect time to apply lime in order to raise the soil pH. The action of soil freezing and thawing, as well as rain and snow accumulation, will aid the lime to incorporate into the soil.
If you want annuals to self-seed, stop deadheading in September. Annual Poppies, Zinnias, Sunflowers, and more will drop their seeds and (most likely) come back next year. Leave the spent flowers of Echinacea, Sedum, Grasses, and Clematis alone to provide habitat and food for birds over the winter months. These blooms also add texture and interest to the winter garden.
Start cleaning up plants as they fade. Cut back any perennial that is diseased or that has started to turn yellow, including Daylilies, Iris, Peonies, Bee Balm, etc. Dig up/divide Daylilies, Iris, Hostas, and Phlox in September if they have become overcrowded or outgrown the space.
The more you accomplish in the September garden means less for the early spring when you’re busy with the long list of to-dos to wake your garden up for the season. If you’re thinking of adding a pollinator garden to your landscape, try to prep the area and get as much planted as you can this fall. You can clear out weeds and grass by smothering them; let time and winter work for you this year. Use old flattened cardboard and thick layers of newspaper to cover the area you want to become the new bed. Moisten the paper or cardboard, and pin it down, or use rocks to hold it in place. Come springtime, and you’ll be ready for planting the new bed.
Need help with the fall garden chores? Want to get those weeds out once and for all? Contact our office to schedule your fall clean-up. email@example.com (413) 458-5586
Beat those nasty weeds!
One person’s weed is someone else’s flower. Or, a weed is a flower growing where it’s not wanted. Whatever your take on these old adages is, there are some weeds that are truly awful and should be removed without any question. Two important ideas; timing can be important in eradication efforts. Each weed has its own life-cycle, and knowing when the best time to fight it is important. Second, knowledge is power against weeds; learn to identify your weeds, so you know best how to eradicate it.
Be persistent in your efforts; just one course of weeding in a growing season will have little effect on the population. It will be like you never weeded at all. During the peak of summer plants are growing so fast; with weeds growing even faster, they will be taller than your perennials and veggies in no time at all. In my garden, even after diligently weeding all summer long, when I replanted my raised beds after the first harvest, hundreds of weeds sprouted from seemingly nowhere!
Chemical herbicides should be used as an adjunct to your weeding program, and not be the sole method of eliminating weeds. In some instances, like around edibles, I choose not to use chemicals at all. Typically herbicides are used in a focused approach to handle tough to manage weeds, like poison ivy. If you do choose to apply herbicides, be sure to use the correct product and follow all the label directions.
The most invasive weed in the world, according to the World Conservation Union, is Fallopia japonica commonly known as Japanese Knotweed or Japanese Bamboo. It can withstand temperatures to minus 32 degrees, and will spread by rhizomes up to 9’ deep into the ground, and 25’ horizontally. Keep on chopping it back to weaken the root system, and then smother it with a thick mulch, and or tarp. Unfortunately this may turn into a multiyear task, as it is incredibly resilient. To be most effective, herbicide is best applied in the fall to cut down plants. Another approach to Japanese Knotweed is to eat it. The newly emerged spring shoots are eaten very much like asparagus; steamed and spread with sweet butter, or baked into a quiche or frittata, yum! With persistence, your efforts and appetite will pay off, and the plant will decline and die.
Japanese Knotweed in bloom
Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia) produces millions of dust-like seeds that are spread by wind, and is the cause of most allergy symptoms, and not Goldenrod as we had originally thought. Ragweed is also not a good neighbor to nearby plants, as it is considered to be allelopathic. Allelopathic plants exude noxious chemicals through their roots that can harm other plants; other examples are Walnut trees, which can kill susceptible plants growing within their root zone. Now that I am familiar with Ragweed, I see it growing and blooming all along the roadsides around my hometown. Be prepared to mow Ragweed down, pull it out or behead it before it can set seed.
Ragweed in bloom
Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) is an example of a very showy perennial that is also a noxious weed. Up until very recently, it was sold in garden centers and online plant catalogs. The cultivar that was marketed as sterile, turned out not to be so. Perhaps this helped spread it so far around the US? It spreads via seeds and underground stems at a rate exceeding one foot per year. Purple Loosestrife creates very dense stands of plants that crowd out native plants essential for wildlife, particularly in wetlands and moist locations. In late summer it is so apparent how far this invasive has spread, there are vast purple fields of it almost everywhere you travel. I live across from wetlands in Deerfield, and it always escapes across the state road into my garden. No matter how attractive the flowers are, I pull it out!
Purple Loosestrife invading wetlands
Oriental Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) like many invasive plants, was formally grown as an ornamental plant. The vigorous vines can rapidly grow to 60 feet tall, and will sprawl over any tree or shrub in its path. It can kill by shading out any plant growing beneath it, and strangle mature trees by girdling them with its thick trunk. Oriental Bittersweet can even topple trees by the sheer weight of its mass; it does get that big. Its main method of distribution is via its attractive red fruit. Birds love the berries and will disperse the seeds far and wide. The seeds can remain viable for a long time and sprout well in low light, so anywhere they fall, they are likely to grow. American Bittersweet, (Celastrus scandens) a less vigorous native vine, is also being crowded out by this non-native invader. Your best method is to pull and cut down the vines, in combination with applying a systemic herbicide in the spring. Dispose of any fruit far from your garden, so there will be less chance of them sprouting on your property.
Oriental Bittersweet vines claiming a tree
Need a hand with those tough weeds? Please contact Scott Higley to advise you on the best strategy.
firstname.lastname@example.org or call: (413) 458-5586
Thinking of spring 2022 may seem impractical, but spring blooming bulbs need to be planted months ahead of their actual bloom time. Daffodils have so many variations of color and form; I don’t think you could ever grow tired of them, and all varieties of daffodils are naturally deer and rodent proof. Moles are not the culprits in the case of bulbs being eaten overwinter; the real bandits are voles and mice. I steer clear of tulips and crocus, for this reason, these bulbs are too attractive to rodents over the winter. Many other varieties of spring flowering bulbs are deer and rodent proof as well, and are very easy to plant. Rule of thumb for planting depth is: 3 times the width of the bulb is the correct depth of the planting hole, for any fall planted bulb.
Allium Schubertii, is an ornamental onion; creates an explosion of lavender colored fireworks! Alliums bloom in early summer, and are very cold hardy. Schubertii bulbs grow to 18 inches tall, and need full sun, and good drainage, they are excellent candidates to dry for flower arrangements. All bulbs in the Allium family are naturally deer and rodent resistant.
Galanthus nivalis is the extra early blooming snowdrop. These hardy bulbs are also in the amaryllis family, and deer and rodent proof. Snowdrops reproduce abundantly, and you will soon have drifts of them in your garden. They will grow in sun or part shade, particularly attractive as a groundcover under deciduous trees. Snowdrops will grow 6-8 inches tall and you should space them 16 bulbs per square ft.
Snowdrops will spread delightfully
Camassia or Wild Hyacinth is a US native that is naturally deer and rodent resistant. Camassia produces upright racemes of 2 inch star shaped flowers in shades of ivory, blue and purple. They typically bloom after daffodils, and before our summer perennials start their show. The Wild Hyacinth will naturalize and multiply when they are in a favorable location; full to partial sun and they prefer soil that is on the moist side, but not in standing water. Will grow 24-30 inches tall depending on the variety.
Narcissi is the genera of bulbs we call Daffodils – the amount of varieties of this garden staple is astounding, there are literally hundreds of cultivars in an array of shapes, heights, and colors. Fortunately for us all Narcissi are naturally deer and rodent resistant. Narcissi will bloom from early April through June, depending on the variety. Daffodils like full sun to partial shade, and well drained soil. The height can vary widely; there are true miniatures that range from 6-8 inches tall, and large cupped varieties that can grow to 16-24 inches tall. Daffodil ‘Pipit’ has an unusual colored flower; it is yellow with a white cup-known as a reverse bi-color. Very fragrant and floriferous, this variety produces 2-3 flowers per stem. Pipit will grow 14-16 inches tall.