Nature abhors a garden.
- Michael Pollan
Blog entries categorized under what's bugging me now
After a long break, Hurricane Sandy has inspired me to blog again. At 2:30 in the afternoon on Monday, October 29, we heard a loud thud. My husband and I thought it might be a fallen tree. Sure enough, though the storm in full had not even reached us yet, a large oak had toppled from the hillside onto our main shrub border along the driveway. Its root ball had come out of the ground, exposing the rock it had grown around.
Miraculously, my beloved Magnolia was spared. The oak barely brushed past it as it landed across the smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria), then the Chamaecyparus, the Winterberry (Ilex verticillata), the iron arbor with Clematis and Rose vines, a new PJM Rhododendron and finally, the fabulous Limelight Hydrangea.
This was a shrub border I created from nothing along the edge of my driveway. After a dozen years, it was just maturing to the point that it held together, obscuring the view of the lawn beyond. Now, with the exception of a small Chamaecyparus and a Blue Mound Pine, it is history.
It is heart-wrenching. But I also realize how lucky I am. My home and my family are safe. I have this blog as a release for my frustration. And--after some serious clean-up--the devastated border presents a nearly blank canvas for replanting. Plus, the lost oak will open up my yard to a great deal more sunshine than it had before. I’ll have to watch the light and reevaluate what plantings will work in this location. It is a whole new opportunity for gardening, and I will document it here.
Tags: garden opportunity, Rhododendron PJM, Winterberry, Ilex verticillata, Cotinus Coggygria, Smokebush, Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Crippsii Aurea', shrub border, Oak tree, Hurricane Sandy
I’ve been pleased with how lush and healthy my Andromedas (Pieris japonica) are this season. I have three different groupings of them, and all have generous new growth and are draped profusely with the buds for next spring’s blooms. All except one, that is.
Suddenly, 3 or 4 days ago, I noticed a dead branch tip. On closer inspection, I found that the entire center of the shrub was droopy and beginning to yellow. When I walked around behind it, I could see a surprisingly large pile of what I can only identify as sawdust. This had to be the frass left behind by a borer. Ugh.
Borers are bad news. And why would they suddenly attack a bush that has been thriving all year? They are probably the larva of the Clearwing Moth (Synanthedon rhododendri) or Rhododendron Borer, which also attack Azaleas and Pieris.
I immediately bought a product from Bonide (www.bonide.com) called Borer-Miner Killer. Attaching a sprayer bottle to the hose and setting it to 1 tablespoon per gallon, I sprayed thoroughly—the tops and undersides of the leaves and stems, not only of the affected Pieris, but also the two on either side of it.
Tags: prune damaged wood, Bonide, Borer-Miner Killer, Synanthedon rhododendri, Azalea, Rhododendron Borer, Rhododendrons, Andromeda, Pieris japonica, Pieris
Although I was unable to see any entry holes, I pruned back to the base of the plant, removing all the branches that looked sick. This took the center out of the bush, but it is my only hope of putting a stop to the damage. When I examined the cut branch, it did not have a visible hole in it. But it did have an area of dark, dead wood at its base.
I’ll keep you posted on the Andromeda’s progress.
What has happened to the Impatiens this year? Mine never flourished and filled out as well as they usually do. And after several drenching downpours two weeks ago, they lost most of their leaves and look as though they are done for the season. I know I’m not alone. My gardening friends Jill and Mia have both expressed concern about the poor performance of their Impatiens this summer.
I’m talking about the common Impatiens walleriana which I’ve grown every year since I can remember, and they are usually trouble-free and lush. They only require that you not let them dry out. I’ve been feeding and watering mine regularly, both in the ground and in several planters. I do notice that those in the planters have fared a bit better than those in the garden beds.
I do not see any evidence of insects or fungus, just leaves yellowing and dropping. I wondered if it could be the unusually hot summer season we’re having. But these are tropical plants, which should be used to more heat than we have in Connecticut. Then I thought the problem might be too much water, because my plants definitely declined immediately after a series of heavy rainstorms. Again, these are plants that prefer moist soil; they originate in the rainy tropics.
How are your Impatiens this season? Can you shed any light on their sorry state? Or are yours spectacular?!?! I’d love to know either way.
Tags: Summer, gardening in zone 6, Gardening in New England, gardening in the Northeast, CT gardening, Annuals, shade gardening, shade annuals, impatiens walleriana, impatiens
The honeymoon is over. Yes, that heavenly period in early spring when all around us produces bright, perfect new growth—glossy leaves, plump buds, flawless blossoms—is at an end. Now it’s time to collect our combat gear and prepare to do battle with the myriad forces that are determined to undermine the beauty of our gardens.
Insects, slugs, rodents, fungi…they’ve all come out to feast on the sweet, tender vegetation we have nurtured. Everyone I talk to has complaints. Jill’s crabapple (Malus species) has been decimated by the winter moth caterpillar (Operophtera brumata) that is prevalent this year. Pat is inundated with snails. Bonnie and I both have lungwort (Pulmonaria) that looks like Swiss cheese thanks to the slugs. A woodchuck is nipping the tops off my coneflowers, and a squirrel is dining on my sweet potato vine (Ipomea batata).
It happens every year, and I guess I hope every year that this time it won’t. It’s only when damage has been done that I take action. For me this year, the slugs have been the worst. With several weeks of off and on rain, they are plentiful and hungry. Besides the lungwort, they’ve chewed on my day lily foliage, lamium, hostas and phlox. So off I go with a large container of Slug Magic (www.bonide.com) to sprinkle on the ground around the bases of all these plants. This is just one brand name; the key ingredient to look for is iron phosphate. Iron phosphate should take care of the snails, too, though I haven’t had them in my garden—yet. One consolation is that the lungwort foliage can be cut back and will renew itself quickly with fresh new leaves.
Tags: Malus, crabapple, late winter, early spring, fungi, rodents, insects, snails, Operophtera brumata, winter moth caterpillar, Ipomea, Sweet potato vine, Lungwort, Slug Magic, Hostas, Lamium, day lily, iron phosphate, Phlox divaricata, Critter Ridder, woodchuck, squirrel damage, squirrels, Safer, Bonide, Globe thistle, Echinops ritro, Echinacea, Coneflower, Bacillus thuringiensis, Bt, Neem oil, Spinosad, slugs
Next, I head out with Critter Ridder (www.havahart.com) to sprinkle around the coneflowers (Echinacea) and other plants favored by the woodchucks and squirrels. The woodchuck seems to like fuzzy and prickly foliage, including Globe Thistle (Echinops ritro).
As for the winter moth caterpillar, according to Jill it can be sprayed with Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), a biological insecticide available from Bonide, Safer and other companies) when it is newly hatched. Later, as the little “loopers” swing on their silken strands, Spinosad (from Monterey at www.montereylawngarden.com , Green Light at www.greenlightco.com and others) and Neem oil (from Monterey or from Garden Safe at www.Lowes.com) are organic options. The other approach would be to spray susceptible trees (such as crabapple, maple, oak and fruit trees) with dormant oil (from Bonide and more) in late winter to smother the eggs.
The main thing, I guess, is to accept that these challenges are business as usual in the garden and I should anticipate them every year. These remedies are effective and the key is to apply them promptly at the first sign of trouble. It's all part of nature’s plan, and gardening will never be about perfection!
With great excitement last fall I bought and planted 50 Camassia (C. quamash) bulbs. This is a North American native I’ve wanted for years—one of the few bulbs besides narcissus that is said to like partial shade.
What a pleasure this spring to watch the decorative slivers of variegated foliage sprout up in the two locations I had selected! One group I planted at the edge of my driveway in front of a lacecap hydrangea which faces south but receives bright dappled sunlight through the trees. The other batch went in front of my bird bath, facing east but exposed to strong midday sun.
My anticipation swelled as I watched buds form. But by the time they began to develop flower heads, I knew I had a problem. The slender stems began to bow and bend under the weight. What I had now was the disappointment of floppy stems and blossoms lying on the ground. Not the display I had hoped for at all.
Tags: organic gardening, gardening in the Northeast, gardening in zone 6, CT gardening, Gardening in New England, Lewis & Clark, blue flowers, native plants, naturalizing, shade gardening, partial shade, bulbs, Camassia quamash, Camassia
Every bulb did grow and flower, and the blossoms are striking—stars of true, soft blue with dramatic yellow stamens for contrast. But the impact is lost when they are lying on the ground. The only possible explanation for the flimsy stems is a lack of sufficient sun. Yet another failure for the shade gardener. I don’t know why these bulbs are rated for partial sun. I will have to dig them up and likely give them away to the owner of a sunny patch.
If you have that sunny patch, Camassia is hardy in Zones 4 to 10 and likes moist, well-drained soil. It makes a statement in a mass and can be naturalized in the lawn. Native Americans used to cook and eat the bulbs, and the Lewis & Clark expedition depended on them for nutrition.
This young growing season has already been a roller coaster ride. After a mild winter, the hyper-early spring seemed too good to be true. And it was. Two weeks of summerlike days in March ended abruptly when a powerful north wind blew in, bringing temperatures in the teens and a hard frost Monday night. I didn’t worry so much about the daffodils and the forsythia, the hellebores and the andromedas. Those are tough, early spring bloomers suited to the extremes of March.
Not so the Hyacinths that are already in full bloom and the Rose and Clematis vines that have burst out eagerly thanks to days in the high 70s. I feared their tender new growth couldn’t tolerate a real freeze. Which brought me out in the wind, hands stiff with cold, rigging tarps and burlap to insulate my babies. Those that were small enough I covered with empty buckets, weighed down with rock.
I was actually frightened. The wind gusts were banging trees together, branches clanking and groaning above me as I frantically tried to tie burlap around my newly sprouting clematis. It was a scene straight out of A Room with a View, where Lucy and Mrs. Honeychurch hustled to tie up the roses before a storm—only much less picturesque.
Did it work? It did help. The hyacinth and clematis beneath the buckets were unharmed. The rose and clematis that I wrapped with burlap came through fine. Only two clematis, over which I wrangled a tarp, suffered. The wind had ripped the tarp from beneath a large rock, exposing these vines to the wind and frost. In the morning, they had limp and broken tips. Overall, the damage was minor.
Hydrangea leaves (new baby ones) did show signs of frost in the morning. At first burnished with bronze, many have now shriveled and turned brown. Will this cause them to drop? Will the buds formed on last year’s wood be viable this summer? I will be watching anxiously.
The blooms which had already begun on the PJM rhododendrons will be short-lived, I expect, as will the Forsythia blossoms that weathered the extremes. The Andromedas (Pieris) and Hellebores are unfazed, but the daffodils seem to be hanging their heads. And hardy Geraniums which are fully leafed out have burned looking, crispy edges.
This is a first in my experience as a gardener. Never before have I seen plants so far along so early, followed by such a severe drop in temperature. Thursday, though it reached about 50 degrees, the sky darkened at midday. A sudden cloudburst was accompanied by thunder, and for a few moments the rain was mixed with hail! It’s a dramatic start to this gardening year—what will hit us next?
Tags: gardening in zone 6, Gardening in New England, gardening in the Northeast, frost, Hydrangea, Hydrangea macrophylla, Pieris, daffodils, hardy Geranium, Hyacinth, Rose, Clematis, forsythia, Andromedas, Hellebores, spring flowers, Spring
Now with the snow nearly gone and the perspective of 5 days since the Nor’easter, I am even more devastated by the condition of my garden. There’s no power yet, but I did manage to take some pictures. And I called the insurance agent, who told me that as long as there was no damage to the house, we have no claim. Surprise.
My graceful witch hazel (above) is split in two places. It will have to be cut back to its base.(You can still see the lovely yellow color it sported even in this lackluster fall. The oak, below, is just one of many that lost a large section of its crown.
It is difficult even to assess the damage because every walkway is blocked by downed limbs. Looking up, I see tree after tree with gaping holes in their canopies, and branches dangle upside down. Looking down, the lawn is strewn with debris from 25-foot limbs to torn leaves. Shrubs, hedges and perennials are broken and contorted by either the weight of the snow or the fallen wood or both. This is no small clean-up project. This calls for a cherry picker, a chainsaw and a hard hat.
Beneath this broken limb, which tore apart a pine in its fall, there used to be a split rail fence. Not much left of it now.
The lawn is barely walkable with all the debris (below), but I am heartened by the fact that my new magnolia was spared (at left of picture)!
We probably won’t know the full impact of this storm until what remains leafs out next spring.
Tags: snow in October, CT gardening, Magnolia grandiflora, pine, oak, witch hazel, organic gardening, perennials, tree damage, shrubs, Noreaster
Well, the Nor’easter of October 29 made Tropical Storm Irene look like a lady. We were hit with more than a foot of heavy, wet snow on trees that are still wearing their leaves. (Leaves that, by the way, never gave the fall show we usually enjoy.)
Tags: CT gardening, gardening in the Northeast, storm damage, cracked limbs, broken branches, snow in October, snow, Nor'easter
The power went out at 5:05 pm on Saturday evening and we awoke to a surreal winter landscape this morning. This has no resemblance to the familiar winter wonderland where bare trees are iced in white and the sky peeks through bright blue.
Not only were all the trees and shrubs weighed down, many bent over double, laden with shelves of snow, but the combination of foliage and snow obscured our view of the sky. The canopy was opaque.
And the damage was wrenching. Major branches of oaks, maples, hickories, dogwoods and pines are broken, dropped, dangling in the wind. Mature shrubs like rhododendrons, laurels, boxwood, hydrangeas, hollies and forsythia are all bent, distorted and cracked. With the heavy snow coverage it is impossible to know what harm was done nearer the ground. One bright spot? My precious Magnolia grandiflora seems to be intact!
Just to get out of the driveway, we had to saw and drag 6 or 8 substantial limbs out of the way. Our all-wheel-drive Subaru made it to the road and into Manhattan, where there is no evidence of a storm at all. I can write from here, but won’t have any photos until I can return to the scene. For now, I can only wait for the snow to melt and the power to return. And then the assessment and the real clean-up can begin.
I find Chip and Dale as cute as the next person, but chipmunks can be surprisingly destructive in the garden. My yard seems to be ideal chipmunk habitat. They love the protection that rock provides, both the labyrinths within stone walls and the dry roofs formed by rocky outcroppings. The holes and burrows dug by chipmunks frequently disturb my plants and expose roots to the air. Some areas of my yard are simply off limits to me for planting, because no matter what I plant it is dug up, broken or exposed.
I had a trouble area near my kitchen where the combination of chipmunk burrows and shade resulted in patchy, unattractive planting beds. This spring I decided to solve the dilemma by turning the area into a rustic stone patio. The soil was dug out to three inches deep and replaced with stone dust and irregular garden rock. I planted the edges with shrubs and perennials and it looked pretty all summer.
Suddenly, in the last two weeks, I am finding holes dug into the stone dust between the rocks. Thinking it was squirrels nosing around for seed or acorns, I refilled the cavities with more stone dust, tamping it down firmly. I sprinkled Critter Ridder over all the repaired areas. The next morning, the holes were back. Each day there is another hole in the patio. And my beloved Guacamole Hostas have been destroyed. Even a 10-year-old Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum odoratum) was completely uprooted.
It is hard to believe that those cute little chipmunks are capable of digging through the heavy, gritty stone dust and doing so much damage. But based on my knowledge of my yard and its inhabitants, I feel confident that they are the culprits. I presume that they are preparing for the winter, excavating numerous routes in and out of their burrows.
I look the other way when Chip and Dale make holes at the bases of all my boulders and tunnel next to plantings, but I draw the line when they start digging up my patio and perennials. What can I do short of paving the patio with cement?
Tags: New England gardening, stone patio, Solomon's Seal, Polygonatum odoratum, Hostas, perennials, Critter Ridder, PRONewEngland.org, chipmunk damage, squirrels, Chipmunks, Coyote urine, dried blood, organic gardening
A visit to PRONewEngland.org suggests using dried blood or Coyote urine as a deterrent. PRONewEngland.org (PRO for Pest Resources Online) is a helpful website that rounds up pest information from the Universities of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. I’m trying the dried blood and will keep you posted! Have you had this problem? Do you have a solution? Please share your experience.
Right here. Right now. The invaders are mounting their attack. Along the roadsides, in every uncultivated lot, on the edges of my own property, invasive plants are preparing to let loose their seeds. By the millions. Now is the time to act in defense. A quick swipe with a scythe or a pass with the weed whacker or mower—or, simple pulling—can nullify new generations of invasives like Black Swallowwort and Japanese Stilt Grass.
Both plants are bright, leafy green and noticeably vigorous. They both tolerate sun and shade and a wide range of soil types and outcompete the native plants around them.
Black Swallowwort (Cynanchum nigrum, a/k/a climbing milkweed), is a profuse twiner from Europe that entangles itself among other plants; keep an eye out for its curling stems. This vine has just formed its many long, narrow seed pods. When the seeds inside ripen and disperse, they float on silky tufts similar to those of Milkweed. Cut them off now, before this happens.
The Stilt Grass (Microstegium vimineum) from Japan spreads aggressively, and is about to set seed now in Southwestern Connecticut. The grass is noticeable because it occurs in surprisingly robust, healthy clumps. An annual, it is easy to pull in small patches. For large swaths, get out the machinery!
The time is now to assault the next generation.
Tags: invasive plants, shade gardening, organic gardening, Southwestern Connecticut, Microstegium vimineum, Cynanchum nigrum, Japanese Stilt Grass, Black Swallowwort
I woke up this morning to find the sweet potato vines (Ipomea) in my deck containers had been stripped of their leaves overnight. And the leaves were left lying there. What critter would want to do such gratuitous damage?
I read on a GardenWeb Shade Gardening forum (http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/shade/?3143) that another gardener found the same damage to her Pulmonaria (Lungwort) plants. Does anyone know who would be doing this?
I suspect it is squirrels because they are very active in my yard, especially now, while they are preparing for the winter. Would they be collecting leaves to line their nests? But why leave so many on the ground? I'd love to hear from anyone who has a solution to this mystery.
UPDATE My latest theory is that the culprit is a cat. I haven't witnessed it in action, but I did see a neighborhood cat in the yard. And I know they like to "play" with plants. Anyone else have this problem?
Tags: shade gardening, organic gardening, Ipomea, Sweet potato vine, squirrel damage, GardenWeb, Pulmonaria, Lungwort
Tags: Lee, Hurricane Irene, hurricane in CT, CT gardening, CT, Fairfield County, Lilyturf, Hostas, Dahlias, Lamb's Ears, sanitation in gardening, iron phosphate, Slug Magic, Sluggo, copper, diatomaceous earth, slugs
Irene brought over 6 inches of rain to our part of Fairfield County, CT, and the remnants of Lee dumped another 5-1/2 inches only a week later. Wet? You bet! And it’s party time for slugs. Although they are always around, they are more evident in wet and muggy weather. Since they live in the debris on the soil, they are especially happy now, among the soggy fallen leaves from the recent storms.
Besides seeing these shell-less “snails” and their silvery trails of slime here and there in the yard, I find the leaves and stems of certain plants laced with holes—even shredded. Slugs are especially fond of Hostas, but they attack many other plants including Lamb’s Ears (Stachys byzantine), Dahlias, and Lilyturf (Liriope). Since they have just about finished producing new leaves for this season, the damage done will be evident till a hard frost. The best option is to get the slugs before they get you.
Gardening organically encourages various natural predators such as toads, frogs and ground beetles. If you use beneficial nematodes in your lawn, they will also go after slugs. Sanitation is key, as always. Dead plant matter accumulating on the soil surface provides perfect camouflage for the slugs.
A traditional, earth-friendly slug solution is to set small dishes of beer at soil level around the base of susceptible plants. Do this late afternoon or early evening before the slugs become active. They will be attracted to the yeast in the beer and drown trying to drink it. (Probably happy.) I’ve used scallop shells saved from dinner to hold the beer—they look more natural and are about the right size and depth. The beer method is effective, but the next morning one is obliged to collect the dishes and dispose of the casualties.
Any product containing iron phosphate (Sluggo, Slug Magic, etc.) will kill the slimy guys if spread around the plant’s base. Again, the goal is to sprinkle this before they’ve done their chewing. Spreading diatomaceous earth on the soil around the plants is another option, thanks to its jagged texture. These do not require clean-up the day after, but they will lose effectiveness if they get too wet. So the sprinkling must be repeated depending on how rainy the weather is (similar to spraying deer repellents).
Finally, bands of copper can be set in the soil to form a ring around the plant base. The slugs will not cross the copper barrier. I have not tried this yet, but it may be a long-term solution for the most susceptible plants.
Have you tried the copper bands, or any other effective slug deterrent? Please share your experience and any tips on technique!
The results are in! And definitely unexpected. I’m talking about the soil test I submitted for my sick Microbiota decussata (see blog post from August 19th). The tests done by the Department of Plant Science at the University of Connecticut revealed that my soil pH is too high. Although it is slightly acidic, 6.6 with 7 being neutral, for evergreen shrubs it should be even lower. The solution to this is to add Sulfur (1/2 to 1 lb. per 100 square feet) or Aluminum Sulfate (3 to 6 lbs. per 100 square feet).
The soil is also lower than desirable in Potassium which is important for plant hardiness and resistance to disease. To amend this, I will add potash (1/2 to 1 lb. per 100 square feet or greensand (4 lbs. per 100 square feet).
The Soil Laboratory also recommends additional Nitrogen for my soil. It says that needle-leaved evergreens require from ½ to 1 lb. of Nitrogen per 1000 square feet each year. This can be supplied by either 8.3 lbs. of bloodmeal, 17 lbs. of cottonseed meal, 3.5 lbs. of high nitrogen lawn fertilizer, or 2.2 lbs. of urea.
Surprising to me is the fact that my soil is excessively high in Calcium, Magnesium and Phosphorus. This tells me that while I will add Nitrogen, I don’t want to use a “balanced” fertilizer that contains these macronutrients. Fall is the best time to fertilize, so I will spread the Nitrogen and Potassium amendments this month and report back with the status of my shrub, hoping that it will no longer be sad!
In the meantime, if you have sickly plants, go to http://www.cag.uconn.edu/plsc/plsc/public.html and get your soil tested.
Tags: soil pH, Magnesium, Calcium, Potassium, Nitrogen, soil test, soil nutrients, University of Connecticut, Siberian Cypress, acidic soil, Microbiota decussata
We’re still here. After 3 days of breathless build-up to a hurricane described as “catastrophic” and “devastating,” Irene reached Connecticut as a tropical storm overnight Saturday. The wind gusted, they said, to 35 or 40 mph in our area. It didn’t seem to be the extreme storm we were led to expect.
But the power went out about 5 am on Sunday morning (8/27). We had prepared. We’d collected about 12 gallons of water, batteries, an oil lantern, sterno, canned foods and an ice-filled cooler. Outside, we had moved and secured all the potted plants and decor.
Waking to no power and a blustery rainstorm, we managed to wash from a bowl as the settlers did, and from a cooler we enjoyed iced coffee and untoasted bagels.
Outside the windows, natural litter was everywhere. Twigs and nuts and torn leaves covered every surface. We had some sizable branches down, but nothing destructive. The shrubs and perennials withstood Irene fairly well with the exception of the tallest—the 4-foot blue cardinal flowers, the globe thistle and the coneflowers were all leaning at 45 degrees.
When the rain let up and the worst was over Sunday afternoon, we ventured out to assess the damage. That’s when we saw a medium sized tree that had keeled over, uprooted from the saturated ground in the woods below our house. Luckily it did not fall on anything significant. Several fallen branches had breached our deer fence, which required some repair.
Our neighbors fared worse, losing some major trees. The roads were blocked in all directions and an electrical transformer had been knocked to the ground in a tangle of wires by a very large tree falling across the intersection.While the wind certainly had torn and battered trees, in our area the worst problem seems to be the trees that came up out of the ground, roots and all, because of the wet summer we've had.
By Monday some of the roads were opened and we raked the worst of the debris from the yard. The electric blower sure would have been handy! Since our water comes from a well, we have no water without power. Pouring buckets of water to flush the toilet wears thin very soon. Ice and water disappear quickly, unlike the dark evenings without media or sufficient light for reading.
As I write this, it is Friday, September 2nd, and we are still in the dark! Six full days and nights of major disruption. The one bright spot is the town’s support system. Via email (when precious batteries were still good) and street signs, the town alerted residents of the availability of water, plumbing, and electricity for charging electronics at the community center and town hall. As its name denotes, the community center has served as a gathering place for “displaced” neighbors, offering them a chance to socialize and commiserate, a chance to freshen up and connect with the outside world. This facility has been a lifeline for many.
The power company predicted our power would be restored by 5:30 pm Tuesday. Tuesday came and went. Then they changed their estimate to TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 6!!! Now the estimate has shifted again, to tonight, Friday, at 7:15. We’ll see…
PS Our power was at last restored midday on Saturday the 3rd of September. Better than Tuesday....
Tags: CT gardening, Hurricane Irene, power outage, hurricane in CT
It’s the old story of the squeaky wheel getting the grease—or soil test. I have at least a dozen Siberian Cypress (Microbiota decussata). This is a truly beautiful and hardy, maintenance-free evergreen that spreads horizontally but stays low to the ground. Its branches arch gracefully, carrying lightly filigreed green foliage that turns bronze in the winter. This plant is happy in the shade, on a slope, in mediocre soil. And its name tells you this guy is tough—it actually survives in Siberia.
Then it should grow in my yard, right? Well, for the most part it does. And so easily that I may have taken it for granted. But lately, several of my Microbiota have begun to turn yellow and die back. One is actually dead. So it’s time for a soil test.
I suspect that the sickly specimens are suffering from soil that is too rich in organic matter and doesn’t drain or dry out fast enough. The plants on my dry slope are thriving, but those in a flat bed with amended soil are struggling.
So, I went to University of Connecticut’s website to find out how to get a soil sample tested. At www.cag.uconn.edu/plsc/soiltest/newsite/sampling.php are instructions. By clicking on the “PDF” link under “Home Grounds/Landscape” I reached the key two pages. The first page is the form to print, fill out and send with the sample. The second page explains how to take the sample and how to send it in.
I slipped my soil knife (see go-to gear) straight down into the soil in five or six places around each sick Cypress. This brought up a thin slice of the soil from about 6 inches down up to the surface. I collected a cup or more of these slices in a baggie and stirred it around. Then I labeled the baggie with a name for the area from which it was taken. Today I will mail it to UConn with my $8 check and await the results. I’ll keep you posted.
Soil tests I’ve had done in the past have been very helpful and often surprising. My big regret here is that I neglected to write about the Microbiota decussata until it was in trouble. Overall, it is a worry-free and underused shrub.
Tags: University of Connecticut, soil test, Microbiota decussata, Siberian Cypress
Tags: Sweet potato vine, slugs, bugs, insecticidal soap, Slug Magic, iron phosphate, container gardening, garden pests, CT gardening, New England gardening, organic gardening, Summer, Ipomea
I’ve used Sweet Potato Vines (Ipomea) in my summer containers for years. With their heart-shaped leaves of either lime or burgundy, they add great color with a dramatic trailing effect. They are easy to grow in sun or part shade, and, if anything, they have been too vigorous and tend to dominate the plantings. This year, however, they have had a slow start and now look more like Swiss Cheese than Sweet Potatoes!
At first, I assumed there was an insect eating the holes in their leaves; the lime color seemed to be preferred by the predator. I sprayed thoroughly with insecticidal soap which I have found to be generally very effective at stopping insect damage. When new holes continued to appear, I thought, Aha!, it’s slugs! So, I sprinkled the soil in the containers with Slug Magic, an iron phosphate-based slug control. This seems to have prevented new leaves in some of the containers from being eaten, but others are still being devoured.
Do you have Ipomea vines in your summer plantings? Have you had this problem? Have you solved it? I’d love to hear from anyone who has a solution that will turn my Swiss Cheese back into Sweet Potatoes. Thanks!
First you’ll notice holes in the leaves. A closer look reveals sooty black particles on leaves and stems. The plant looks dirty. Turn the leaves over, and you will find bright red beetles about 1/4-inch long on the underside. They are unmistakable when you find them—-these beetles are as shiny and red as a fire truck.You can pick them off individually (with gloved hands, I hope) and crush them. Keep an eye out for them regularly.
They were found far & wide last summer, and the problem is that they can over-winter in the soil or plant debris and resume eating your lilies again this season. For a significant infestation, you may want to spray with Spinosad. This is an ecologically safe insecticide.
The lily leaf beetles (Lilioceris lilii) will be found on the underside of a leaf or on the stem, and often in the crotch where leaf & stem meet, so it is important to spray thoroughly and coat all surfaces of the plant, especially the less visible undersides, before they decimate your lily plants. One good thing is that they do not go after daylilies.
Tags: garden pests, lily leaf beetle, Lilioceris lilli, Spring, red beetle
May 16, 2011
The rodent saga continues…I now have eyewitness confirmation that it was a squirrel chewing and tearing at the emerging leaves of my hosta. Can anyone corroborate this behavior? I do not believe he was actually eating the plant: I am sure he was punishing me because I have stopped filling the birdfeeder for the season.
On Friday, my Globemaster Alliums looked great, developing plump, promising buds. On Saturday, 3 of them were slumped over, with limp, pale foliage. Only one thing I know can cause such a swift and dramatic demise of a plant. Sure enough, when I gave a gentle tug on a sagging stalk, it came right out of the ground into my hand. No roots remained at the base. A vole, the first evidence I’ve had this year, had been to dinner.
This surprised me because Alliums are members of the garlic family and share that odor. Deer avoid them and I thought other critters would have a similar distaste. Not so the Vole.
Also on Saturday I discovered what the Woodchuck had been up to. Many of my lovely Virginia Bluebells were removed from their stalks—leaf and blossom--and one cluster was even crushed flat by his weight. As in past years, woodchucks love the bluebells as well as the pulmonaria (lungwort), Echinops ritro (globe thistle) and the echinacea (coneflowers). This is another example of nature’s perversity (or, depending on your perspective, balance). The lungwort have fuzz-covered leaves that would repel deer; the Echinops are covered with both fuzz and bristles; and the coneflowers are aromatic herbs, which deer also avoid. Not so the woodchuck! He loves what the deer leave behind.
I have sprinkled the targeted plants generously with Critter Ridder, a granular repellent made with hot pepper. Last year it worked beautifully to keep the woodchuck away. A sprinkling is effective for about 1 month, as directed on the package. I don’t know yet if it works with voles.Rodents!
Have you had similar problems? Do you have solutions? Please chime in!
Rodents. Ugh! Little did I know when I moved onto this rocky ledge that it was the Garden of Eden for rodents. They just love the masses of rock and the proximity to the woods. Chipmunks construct lovely dry subterranean condos beneath the rock and often at the base of my perennials. Moles tunnel across the lawn in their quest for the grubs and then the Voles traverse the tunnels until they locate some nice, juicy roots to devour.
The Squirrels have outsmarted every trick I’ve tried to keep them off the birdfeeder—hot pepper (they must be Mexican; they love it!), Squirrel-proof feeder designs, baffles, you name it. And if I don’t refill the feeder that they empty in 48 hours or less, they come to my glass door and chide me for my poor hospitality. Which is why I believe that the destruction of my beautiful, big blue hosta (H. sieboldiana var. elegans) was deliberate revenge by a Squirrel.
I haven’t even mentioned the Woodchuck who sauntered across my deck yesterday. But he’s a story for another day.
If you look at my photos and have any insights or recommendations, I would be grateful.
This photo from May 1 shows the remains of a once impressive hosta near my birdfeeder. I think Squirrels did this to send me a message!
This perfectly round, 2-3 inch hole at the base of an emerging grass plant is the work of a Chipmunk, I believe.
The tunnel across lawn leading to a hole became visible in March when the snow cover melted. This is the mark of a vole.