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Posts Tagged ‘Pests’

purple crocus in snow

After a record-breaking winter of snow, many Boston-area gardeners and homeowners are wondering what they will find when the snow and ice melt. Here’s a glimpse into what you can expect for spring 2015, and how to repair winter damage in the landscape:

  1. Hardscape cracks – Paved surfaces like driveways, walks and patios may have cracked concrete and popped up paving stones. Pavers and stones can easily be re-leveled, but concrete may need to be patched or replaced. If you are replacing a driveway or walkway, consider using concrete pavers, which are easy to shovel and to repair after winter. And if you’ve had it with the snow blower, invest in a snow-melting radiant heat system under your paving — works for concrete, brick, and pavers!
  2. Frost heaving – Newly-installed plants can heave out of the ground if left unmulched, so make sure to replant these to their correct depth as soon as the ground can be worked. Water regularly to compensate for root loss due to exposure.
  3. Salt damage – De-icing salts from roads and walkways burn the leaves and needles of nearby evergreens. Prune out any serious damage, and provide extra water to these plants in spring, as salt accumulated in the root zones may cause ongoing dehydration.
  4. Broken branches – Heavy snow from roofs and shoveling damaged many shrubs and even the lower branches of small trees. Prune broken branches back to the nearest branch union, making it easier for plants to recover.
  5. Winter burn – Unless covered by a protective layer of snow, evergreen plants such as rhododendrons and boxwoods can be damaged by cold, dry winter winds. Often, leaves die while the branch remains viable, so observe plants for new growth, then prune out any dead branches.
  6. Lawn damage – Lawns and plant roots were well-insulated by the snow, which should minimize cold damage. However, the snow made a nice burrow for voles and other small mammals, leaving holes in lawns and nibbling the bases of woody plants. Edges of lawns may also have been harmed by salt and plow trucks. Plan to rake out clumps, add compost, and reseed bare areas in spring, but wait for late summer for complete lawn renovations.
  7. Weeds – Moist conditions from melting snow combines with warming spring temperatures are going to create perfect germination conditions for weed seeds, so consider applying an organic preemergent such as corn gluten to minimize the number of weeds in the lawn. Mowing high and overseeding regularly are also important to inhibit weeds.
  8. Insects – The extreme cold may reduce hemlock wooly adelgid, but will not have a significant impact on winter moth, so schedule treatments as normal for maples, crab apples, and other favorite foods of winter moth caterpillars. Also, ticks thrive after winters of heavy snow, so use good gardening practices to keep ticks out of the yard, and begin checking yourself and your children as soon as snow melts and temperatures are above freezing.
  9. Bulbs & Perennials – Friends have asked, “Will my spring bulbs still bloom when they’re covered by 2′ of snow?” Yes! Bulbs respond to light and temperature, so even early bloomers like snowdrops and crocuses will stay “asleep” until uncovered and exposed to warmer spring air temperatures. Likewise, perennials will thrive after a winter well-insulated under the snow. Before new growth starts to emerge from the ground, cut back the messy crowns of grasses, coneflowers, and other plants that you may have left standing in fall to provide winter interest.
  10. It’s all just a mess! – Squashed plants, lumpy lawn, rubbish poking out of melting snow… We know. Breathe. A proper spring clean-up, some grass seed and a fresh coat of mulch are going to make everything look 100% better. Add some pots of pansies and narcissus, and you’ll be ready for spring!

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Mid summer is the true test of your landscape’s heath. Are layered planting beds, mulch, and turf thick enough to shade and cool the soil, withstanding drought and out-competing weeds, or are pests proliferating? If pests are getting the better of your lawn or garden, here are emergency and long-term solutions:

  • Crabgrass is an annual weed that grows from
    crabgrass in lawn

    Crabgrass may be the only green thing in the August lawn

    seed each year. It loves hot, dry weather, and picks up steam just as fussier lawn grasses are giving up. It will take advantages of bare patches, especially hot areas by paved driveways and walkways.

    • Quick fix: Hand-pull or spot treat with an organic herbicide. Cover bare areas immediately with sod.
    • Management: Mow high – 3″ or more – from spring on. Taller grass shades the soil and keeps it cool, minimizing germination of weed seeds. Overseed any bare patches in fall, and fertilize with corn gluten in spring, which has been shown to have some pre-emergent benefits.

New Japanese Knotweed shoots look similar to asparagus

  • Japanese Knotweed is a perennial weed on the invasive list in Massachusetts.  It can spread by seed, but it also  develops a deep root system and will resprout from root pieces left in the soil.  Eradication usually requires several seasons, even with the use of chemical herbicides.
    • Quick fix: Cut or mow repeatedly to keep from flowering and spreading. Cutting also weakens the plant by keeping it from photosynthesizing (making food for itself).
    • Management: Timing is everything.  Do your final mow/cut in late June.  Allow plants to resprout until early August.  Then, when the plant is at its weakest after flowering, cut to 12″ and inject trunks with organic herbicide.  Repeat for 3-5 seasons.
Japanese beetle damage in lawn

Damage caused by digging predators in search of grubs

  • Grubsare the larval lifestage of certain insects, including Japanese beetles.  They feed on plant roots, including the roots of turf grass.  With serious infestations, predators digging for the grubs may do more damage than the insects themselves.
    • Quick fix: Application of beneficial nematodes (tiny worms that attack the grubs) in mid-late August can substantially reduce populations. Read label instructions carefully or hire a trained applicator.
    • Management: A healthy lawn maintained organically can withstand a few grubs, whereas a stressed lawn will show damage quickly.  Mow high, water deeply but infrequently, fertilize organically.  Note that synthetic pesticide treatments for grubs tend to also reduce the numbers of beneficial soil life and predators, so may hurt the lawn more than they help.

If spot treatment is not enough for your lawn, keep in mind that mid-August through September is the ideal time to establish a new organic lawn.

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Are your crabapple and maple trees looking like Swiss cheese? Tiny green winter moth caterpillars are the likely culprit.

Winter moth caterpillars feed on a wide variety of plants, but their favorites include maples (including Japanese maples), oaks, blueberries, apples, linden, ash, and horse chestnut. They also feed on roses and some perennials.  If you have had damage on trees in recent years, it’s important to treat early to prevent weakening the trees. Another benefit of early treatment is that eggs can be treated with dormant oil spray, which is a less-toxic alternative to some of the insecticides used to treat caterpillars once they have hatched. Treatment can begin as soon as the temperature is above 45 degrees, and likely to stay above freezing for a couple of days.

Winter Moth Damage on Maple LeavesWinter moth damage usually starts while buds are still closed, in late March-mid April.  This time is particularly critical for blueberries and other fruit trees, because damaged flower buds mean no fruit.  When leaves emerge, the caterpillars continue feeding, and damage to leaves continues through May.  By late May, when most people notice that their maple leaves are full of holes, it is too late to treat the caterpillars, which are on their way to becoming adult moths.

If you are noticing damage in late spring, put a note in your calendar to seek treatment early next spring, before the next generation of eggs hatches out.

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This summer, I posted about what we’re doing to prevent the spread of Asian Long-horned Beetle infestations, and what homeowners can do.  Now that tree-pruning season is upon us, here’s an update.

The City of Boston now has a more complete management strategy, which should save everyone headaches and money:

  1. Check to see if you’re in the quarantine zone by entering in your address here.
  2. When pruning, have branches* cut to manageable lengths (3′ max.) and bundle with string.
  3. Put branches out separate from plant debris on your regular yard waste collection day.

*Remember, this is for all uninfested branches.  If you suspect an infestation, call 1-866-702-9938 or go to the State’s website to report it, but do not dispose of the wood.

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If you’re in the Boston area, you’ve already heard about the discovery at Faulkner Hospital of six trees infested with the Asian Longhorned Beetle.  Yesterday, our managers and crew leaders attended a briefing by the USDA to learn about how the problem is being addressed in the landcare industry.

What Can We Do?

Our crews will be monitoring the properties we serve throughout the Boston area, and will be contacting the USDA if we see signs of infestation.  In addition, we will be observing new regulations within the quarantine zone established by the USDA and Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR).  We do not expect these rules to disrupt our customers’ experience of service.  We will be able to continue tree pruning and removal in the regulated area, but will need to chip all uninfested wood on-site before removal.  Trunks and stumps too large for chipping will require special disposal permits.  Landscapers cannot remove infested trees or wood.

What Can You Do?

Do not move wood or brush >1/2″ in diameter from your property.  Contact a trained landscaper for chipping and removal.  If you need firewood when camping this summer, buy from sources local to the campsite, rather then transporting firewood.

Monitor for signs of the beetles, which are generally active July-October.

  • Adult beetles – 3/4″-1 1/2″ long; long antennae with white bands;  shiny black body with bright white spots
  • Perfectly round 3/8″  exit holes (a little smaller than a dime) in host trees, often with sawdust below or divets in bark nearby
  • White sap oozing from exit holes

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On Friday I heard a commotion at my office window.  There was a bird flapping persistently against the corner of the window.  On closer inspection, we found a swarm of ladybugs at a crack in the wall, and the bird had stationed itself there for its own private buffet.

A lot of folks in the Boston area noticed ladybugs swarming after last week’s early snow and cold weather.  This is normal, as ladybugs look for winter shelter as the weather cools.  Large, light-colored objects (like the sunny south side of a building) attract them, and they make their way in through cracks, vents, and gaps around windows and doors.

Ladybug incursions don’t pose any threat — they do not breed or eat over the winter — but they can be a nuisance.  Prevent entry by putting mesh over vents, sealing cracks, and weatherstripping.  Maybe you’ll enjoy a decrease in home heating costs, too!  Once inside, you can also vacuum up the bugs, but be warned that they can release a staining, foul-smelling liquid when threatened.

For detailed info, including how to catch and release the insects inspring, see this Fact Sheet.

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The Asian Longhorned Beetle Outreach and Survey Project needs volunteers to receive training about ALB and other forest pests. The “Train the Trainer” session provides tools you need to teach others and protect your neighborhood from this invasive pest!

  • The ability to recognize the beetle and tree damage caused by it
  • Tips to distinguish ALB from similar species and to recognize when tree damage is not caused by ALB
  • Copies of various outreach materials and other cool ALB gear to distribute to the people you will be training
  • Access to beetle specimens and damaged wood for your own training sessions
  • The latest information on the infestation in Worcester

Boston session: UMass Boston, McCormack Building, 1st Floor, Room 318

August 11th, 6pm-8pm

email jennifer.forman-orth @ state.ma.us, or call 617-626-1735.  Stay updated with ALB Outreach’s Facebook Page.

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