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Horticulture Blog March 2020

March 31st: Jumping Worms

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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: jmw442@cornell.edu

-Jolene

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

March 30th

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.

-Jolene

Mesclun Lettuce

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March 27th

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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.”

-Jolene

March 26th

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.

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March 25th: Phenology

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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!

-Jolene

March 24th: Tulips

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.

March 23rd: Snow Mold

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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.

-Jolene

March 19th: Ticks

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.

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Tick Resource Information: https://nysipm.cornell.edu/whats-bugging-you/ticks/

ALT TEXT:

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

  • Ticks don't fly, jump or blow around with the wind.
  • They are small, patient and amazing in their capacity to locate their host/prey.
  • Their sole purpose is to propagate their species and unknowingly pass diseases to the hosts they feed on.
  • They don't feed often, but when they do, they can acquire the disease from one host (generally an animal) and pass it to another animal or human at a later feeding.

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/