Our Horticulture Specialist Jolene Wallace is working hard to adapt to the ongoing COVID-19 situation. At this time, Jolene will continue to answer your yard and gardening questions, but she will be doing so from home. In lieu of bringing samples into the office, please email her good, clear, photos of whatever is concerning you. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Do you have spruce trees that look like mine? Brown/orange needles at the tips of the branches? This is winter burn, caused by harsh temperatures, winter winds, even sun damage as it reflects off snow.
Don’t be too anxious to cut off this damage. If there are buds at the end of the branches that are not damaged and are beginning to swell, the spruce may very well put out new growth to cover the damaged areas. You may not notice for a few weeks yet.
My spruce has been hit by winter burn almost every year, on the side facing south. The photos below show the damage, a close up of some of the tips, and arrows pointing to new buds.
Give your tree a change to recover. If you have trees or shrubs other than spruce that are showing damage send me photos and I will try to determine their chances of recovery. Rhododendrons are frequently damaged and it shows up on the edges of the leaves.
This is a picture I took of lichen on an old split rail fence between my house and my neighbors. You may know that I love lichens and this is one of my favorites. It’s called British Soldier Lichen.
Lichens are fascinating life forms.There are 3600 species of lichens in North America, many just outside your door.The three main types are Foliose, Fruticose, and Crustose.
Foliose lichens have 2 distinct sides; a top and a bottom.They may be shaped like small lettuce leaves, or be bumpy.
Fruticose are often hair-like, shrubby, or upright and cup-like. They may have branches that tangle up with each other.
Crustose are crusty. You may find a crusty crustose lichen on a boulder or on the soil. They are often colorful; yellow, orange, red, gray, or green.
Lichens are an indicator of air quality. They are able to absorb pollutants and lichens on your trees usually indicate you have healthy air. LICHENS ON TREES DO NOT HARM THE TREE.
A Lichen is made up of fungus and algae.The fungus forms fruiting bodies and produces spores.The algae is responsible for photosynthesis. Without both parts of this symbiotic relationship there are no lichen.
On a nice day, walk around and see how many kinds of lichens you find.
Did you know that only the male Ruby-Throated Hummingbird has a ruby throat? It’s true but not unexpected as with most birds the male is more colorful than the female.
According to Hummingbird Central, our hummers are on their way. This organization uses reports of sightings by people like us to track where the earliest of the arrivals are.The link below is very useful to see how close they are getting to us but as a general rule you can expect them by Mother’s Day.
If you feed hummers make sure your feeder is sparkling clean. A sugar water mixture is made by boiling one cup of water and dissolving one-quarter cup of table sugar in it. Cool, then fill, and hang. Red food coloring is not necessary. If you have a flock of hummers that come to your feeder you can use 4 cups of water to one cup of sugar, but change it before it becomes cloudy. A smaller amount means less waste for me.
A hummer was sighted in New Jersey on March 28, so it won’t be long now!
I want to add one thing to my post yesterday about the Jumping Worms.These worms are transferred from one location to another via mulch, soil, transplants, plant or tree purchases, or those given to you by friends or neighbors. If you are bringing anything into your landscape that could harbor these worms, you want to check it thoroughly. You may not find adult worms right now, because they die with our cold winter temperatures. However, the egg cocoons do not and are very small, 1-3 mm as are the newly hatched worms.
On a much lighter note, I put together some nature inspired craft projects you probably have supplies for in your home. If you have kids, or grand-kids, haul out whatever could be used and let them use their imagination. Coffee filters, pipe cleaners, paints, markers, crayons, paper plates, bits of wrapping paper or tissue paper etc.
If you, or an older child hand sew, try the bunnies at the bottom of the page.
Photo Credit: Harvard University
Yesterday, I was watching very plump robins gobbling up worms that had come up onto my patio in the rain. It occurred to me that since we are close to the time we start working our soil that you should be aware of an invasive worm that is being found in the North Country. They are known as jumping worms and they could be a serious problem for our forests and landscapes. I have seen these in action therefore I know they are in Clinton County.
Please check out the links to the fact-sheet and video below. Comments or questions should be addressed to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Excerpt from Cornell University Cooperative Extension Columbia & Greene Counties
The “Jumping Worm”, (Amynthas spp.), is an invasive earthworm native to East Asia. It may also be known as crazy worm, Alabama jumper and snake worm. Currently the extent of the Jumping Worm’s presence in New York State is unknown. However, because the worms reproduce and spread rapidly and have the potential to cause significant environmental damage, it is critical to identify areas of infestation.
What is their impact? Jumping Worms change the soil structure by disrupting the natural decomposition of leaf litter on the forest floor. They turn good soil into grainy, dry worm castings (excrement) that cannot support the understory plants of our forests. Other plants, animals and fungi disappear because the understory community can no longer support them. Jumping Worms in residential and urban areas can also cause harm to ornamental plantings and turf.
Jumping Worms have a voracious appetite, speedy life cycle and a competitive edge. In fact, in areas with Jumping Worms there are no other species of earthworm. They can cause long term damage to the forests of New York which are already under pressure from other invasive insects, plants, pathogens and diseases.
For entire factsheet go to http://ccecolumbiagreene.org/resources/cce-jumping-worm-fact-sheet
To see how the snake worm moves go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrGnUFDXuyQ
Now that it’s spring, more or less anyway, there are some things you can start in your garden. The cool season crops as they’re called, are peas, lettuce, radish, turnip, parsley, endive, spinach, onions, and rhubarb.These seeds can be planted as soon as the ground can be worked or mid-April.Our last average frost date is May 5, so don’t plant all your seeds at once. By doing successive planting, every 2-3 weeks or so, you will have a succession of these cold-hardy vegetables to harvest for as long as the weather cooperates. Planting cool season vegetables in the heat of summer may result in bolting, sending up seed stalks. Plant in early spring and enjoy fresh veggies.
If you like mixed greens, or spring greens as they’re called in the market, plant mixed variety lettuce seeds. I especially like mesclun lettuce. I plant it in a container on my porch, with drainage holes of course, and move it to the driveway during the day so it gets sun, and back on the porch in the late afternoon to protect it from possible frost. To harvest, cut just above the ground so it continues to produce.
I was walking around my yard this morning to see if my bulbs and perennials were coming out of dormancy, when what did I find? Creeping Charlie! Lots of it. Creeping Charlie goes by various names and is a ground-hugging perennial weed that spreads via seed, rhizomes, and vine-like stems that root where the nodes touch the ground. This might lead you to think that it spreads rapidly and is difficult to eradicate, and you would be correct. Although it stays low to the ground and produces a cute purple flower, if you don’t want it to take over your lawn or flower beds, pull it when it first shows up. If you can’t keep after it, you could choose to use an herbicide on it but that’s not easy either, as it takes numerous treatments.The other option is, in the words of Amy Ivy, “Learn to love it.”
Some of you may be out and about enjoying a walk around your property or a hike in wooded areas.The solitude, sights, and sounds of nature are soothing in this challenging time. As you follow the guidelines for being out of your home, one danger you may not have considered is the danger of tick bites.
The greatest risk of being bitten exists in the spring, summer, and fall. However, adult females may be out searching for a host any time winter temperatures are above freezing. Adult ticks can winter over in leaf litter and debris.When it’s above 32 degrees, they may begin looking for a blood meal. Questing is when a tick climbs about knee-high onto foliage and waits for a host to brush against it. It doesn’t much care if it’s an animal or person.
You won’t see the tick as they are very small.Take precautions and do a thorough tick check when you get home. If you need instructions, let me know.
Do you know what phenology is? Not to be confused with phrenology, the reading of bumps on the head, phenology is nature’s way of telling us when to do things in our garden. This technique has been used by gardeners for generations. Perhaps it is not completely accurate, but it is a guideline we should take notice of. Because our plants and trees respond to the temperature and the length of days, we should be ready to plant when we see some of the following:
When you see forsythia in bloom you might want to plant peas. When the flowers wane is the best time to use a pre-emergent for crabgrass, if you find it necessary. When lilacs begin to leaf out it’s a good time for lettuce, beets, and other cool season crops.
Nature offers signs and one you might want to be especially mindful of, is: when morning glories begin to climb, watch out for Japanese Beetles!
I have tulips and daffodils coming up. Not a lot, but enough to make me think it might be spring. They’ve been hit by frost, and now, snow. I know from past experience that although the two inches of growth that is visible may discolor, the plants will be all right. By the time they grow out and begin to flower you can cut off any unsightly leaf tops, or not, as you choose. Never fear, if the bulbs haven’t been eaten during the winter, you will have your beautiful blooms.
If you have a chance to walk around your yard before it snows again, keep an eye out for these nasty looking grayish patches. This is snow mold. Because snow serves to insulate what’s underneath it, your soil didn’t freeze before a heavy load of snow covered it. These are perfect conditions for the growth of snow mold.
Snow mold is fungus that survived the winter under a blanket of snow, especially areas where it drifted into high piles. Don’t worry, most grass will come back unless the crown has been killed. If this happens, you will want to overseed in the spring.
Preventing tick bites and the prospect for disease should be a goal in every community.
There are more ticks in more places than ever before, and this is increasing the public health impact of tick transmitted disease.
There's never been a greater need for tick bite protection and tick-borne disease prevention.
Below you will find some goals, facts and a resource link to help obtain the most pertinent and accurate information available.
Tick Resource Information: https://nysipm.cornell.edu/whats-bugging-you/ticks/
Slide 1: Our Goals.
1. To recognize deer ticks and understand the health threat they can pose.
2. Steps to take to protect yourself from ticks.
3. Lyme disease signs and symptoms.
Slide 2: Tick Facts
Slide 3: New York State Integrated Pest Management: Don't Get Ticked NY
Research based information from the Center for Disease Control, NY Department of Health, Cornell University and other research Universities of the North East.
Tick Resource Information: https://nysipm.cornell.edu/whats-bugging-you/ticks/
Last updated April 6, 2020