Saturday, December 10, 2016

Cape Cod Region (Barnstable)
The month started off on a chilly note, with a low of 30° F on the morning of the 1st. Milder weather soon made a comeback and for the beginning of the month temperatures averaged in the low to mid 50s with overnight lows in the 30s. Colder weather returned for the last two weeks of the month, with more seasonable temperatures in the 30s and lows in the upper 20s. However, the month finished on a mild note, reaching 58° F on 11/29! In some areas, geraniums are still in bloom outside, as well as some landscape roses! Some much needed rain fell during the month but often it was only in the tenths of an inch. The Cape did receive 0.71” on 11/15 and then a good drenching of 1.59” on 11/29.
Pests/Problems: Winter moth adults were first observed on the evening of 11/14 but numbers were low. A larger emergence began the week of 11/21 and continues as of this report. Adult deer ticks are still active. Rabbits continue to browse on the remaining green vegetation and they are grazing on lawns.

Friday, October 7, 2016

October 7th

Thank you to U Mass for the updates Cape Cod Region (Barnstable)
General Conditions: The weather pattern changed completely for this reporting period. A stubborn low pressure area has hung around long enough to keep the skies cloudy, temperatures on the cool side, and damp days the norm. Semi blue skies returned on October 5th, with the forecast for partially sunny, cool days and nights for the next few days. The Cape has actually received a decent amount of precipitation, with 0.81” falling on 9/30 and 1.25 falling on 10/1. Other damp days have added amounts in hundredths of an inch at a time. Dormant lawns are starting to green up. Fall asters are in bloom and garden chrysanthemums are everywhere. There is little in the way of fall color so far, with the exception of some native red maples.
Pests/Problems: With the return of cooler temperatures and some adequate precipitation, lawns are greening up and areas that have been killed by the prolonged drought are evident. It is getting somewhat late to reseed lawns, although if temperatures remain in the 60s for several weeks, some grasses may become established before soil temperatures drop too low. Sodding may be a more successful way to correct damaged lawns. For more information, go to For the rest of the landscape, while the recent rain is appreciated, it hasn’t broken the drought. Continue to water the landscape, especially all newly planted material. It is especially important to have broadleaved evergreens go into winter well hydrated.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

October 5th

Pruning and Ladder Safety

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In 2016, many trees, especially oaks, were partially, if not fully, defoliated from feeding by gypsy moth caterpillars in many areas of Massachusetts. Usually, with sufficient rainfall, these trees would produce a second flush of growth and resume growing. However, the growing season of 2016 turned out to be one of the warmest and driest on record with rainfall way below average and watering bans imposed in many towns and cities in the commonwealth. Many of the defoliated trees put out minimal second growth and many of the remaining trees were drought stressed and weakened, making them more susceptible to secondary attacks from borers and disease.
Fall is the time of year to evaluate trees that may be dead or so weakened that they may not survive, and to determine if they need to be removed or pruned to remove deadwood or weakened limbs. Doing this before hurricane season and winter storms may help to avoid potential damage to your property from falling trees and branches.
Evaluating possible hazard trees and taking steps to eliminate or modify the hazard is one of the landscape tasks done in the fall. Many people think nothing of getting on a ladder, or roof, to prune a tree without taking the necessary safety precautions, not realizing or even thinking about the possibility of what might happen. Everyone thinks, “that won’t happen to me” but as we have often been told, “that is why they call them accidents”; they are not planned.
We have shared in past issues of the Hort Notes newsletter, cautionary stories about several gardeners who suffered horrific accidents while pruning. One slid off a roof while pruning overhanging tree branches, and the other fell off a ladder while pruning a tree. Both suffered broken bones, had lengthy recuperations, and were lucky to be alive. Both had undertaken their pruning alone and had difficulty reaching a phone to call 911. The gardener who fell off the roof faced the possibility of a life-threatening infection due to the amount of dirt and plant debris that had entered her broken leg wound while crawling around the yard to enter the house to call for help. Unfortunately, months later, that gardener subsequently had to have her leg amputated below the knee due to the wound infection following the accident. She reported that the accident happened quickly, she did not have her phone with to her call 911, and no one knew she was on the roof pruning.
While these reports may be the exception, it drives home the point that accidents do happen and that many of these accidents can hopefully be avoided if certain precautions are met.
Evaluating trees that are hazardous, may have deadwood, or have branches that are overhanging roofs, gutters, and utility lines is a proactive measure, especially when we look back to the amounts of snow, ice and wind that have occurred over past winters and the high winds and rain that often occur in the fall. The damage to trees from those storms and the subsequent damage to property, and possible loss of power, justifies and reinforces the need to be proactive in removing hazard trees, branches, etc. and to develop a plan to do so.
Dr. Dennis Ryan, University of Massachusetts, advises when it comes to pruning trees, “Safety first. Everyone thinks that they will not be the victim of a pruning accident. Unfortunately, many people have been proven wrong.” In a 2010 article in Hort Notes, Dr. Ryan reported that “the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recorded more than 164,000 emergency room-treated injuries in the United States relating to ladders”. Since the possibility of crippling accidents or deaths resulting from the “unwise” decision to prune a tree from a roof or ladder exists, he offers the following advice: “If when pruning a tree, you feel the need to lift the second foot off the ground, it is then time to call in a Massachusetts Certified Arborist (MCA), who has compensation and liability insurance. Many people do not realize that they may be held liable if someone is injured on their property while performing work, like pruning trees”. That is why it is important, when removing trees or large branches, that the work is done by someone who is trained, experienced, follows safety procedures, uses safety equipment, and carries the proper insurance.
  • If you use a ladder, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission offers the following safety precautions to help prevent ladder injuries.
  • Make sure the weight your ladder is supporting does not exceed its maximum load rating (user plus materials). There should only be one person on the ladder at a time.
  • Use a ladder that is the proper length for the job. Proper length is a minimum of 3 feet extending over the roof line or working surface. The three top rungs of a straight, single or extension ladder should not be stood on.
  • Straight, single or extension ladders should be set up at about a 75-degree angle.
  • All metal ladders should have slip-resistant feet.
  • Metal ladders will conduct electricity. Use a wooden or fiberglass ladder in the vicinity of power lines or electrical equipment. Do not let a ladder made from any material contact live electric wires.
  • Be sure all locks on extension ladders are properly engaged.
  • The ground under the ladder should be level and firm. Large flat wooden boards braced under the ladder can level a ladder on uneven ground or soft ground.
  • A good practice is to have a helper hold the bottom of the ladder.
  • Do not place a ladder in front of a door that is not locked, blocked or guarded.
  • Keep your body centered between the rails of the ladder at all times. Do not lean too far to the side while working.
  • Do not use a ladder for any purpose other than that for which it was intended.
  • Do not step on the top step, bucket shelf, or attempt to climb or stand on the rear section of a stepladder.
  • Never leave a raised ladder unattended.
  • Follow use instruction labels on ladders.
Besides practicing ladder safety, other good practices when using a ladder (pruning, cleaning gutters, putting up holiday lights, painting trim, etc.) are to carry a phone, especially if working alone and, better yet, to have someone with you to steady the ladder or call for help. Not all aspects of using a ladder pose threats to life and limb, but it is best to be prepared.
If you are in doubt about the possible hazards for the job, contact a licensed and insured professional and have him or her do the job.
Deborah C. Swanson

Sunday, July 31, 2016

General Conditions: The Dog Days of summer certainly have arrived! Dog day, or Annual, cicadas are buzzing in trees and full sized, green katydids are beginning to appear. The Cape has had a long stretch of hot and humid weather since the last report. Daytime highs are generally in the upper 80s F with a few 90+ F days recorded in Marstons Mills. Dew points are usually in the upper 60’s to low 70’s, making it quite uncomfortable to work outside. Along with the heat and humidity, it is abnormally dry. Only 0.17” has been recorded in the rain gauge in Marstons Mills and 0.41” in the rain gauge at the County Farm in Barnstable. Both readings were recorded overnight of the 22nd/23rd. While most of the rest of the state is classified as being in a moderate drought, the Cape is classified as Abnormally Dry. It sure seems like a drought, with many landscape plants flagging in the heat of the day. Perennials in bloom include CoreopsisEchinacea cultivars and hybrids, and Liatris. Panicle hydrangea cultivars are in full bloom. Swallowtail butterflies, both the Eastern tiger swallowtail and the Black swallowtail, are providing a show of beauty in the garden. Monarch butterflies are just beginning to show up.
Pests/Problems: Drought stress is showing up on many landscape plants. Brown tips and margins of foliage is a good indicator of water stress. Both perennials and shrubs are flagging in the heat of the day in full sun landscapes. Unirrigated turf is totally brown in many sunny areas. Plants should be water deeply with approximately 1” of water twice a week, if possible.
Hibiscus sawfly larvae are still around! Fresh feeding has been observed on several perennial Hibiscus. Apparently eggs are laid all summer so continue to monitor for this pest. This is generally considered to be a pest in southern states but it has now become a problem here in southern New England. The Connecticut Ag. Experiment Station has a fact sheet for further information on this pest:
The flight of male gypsy moths is winding down and egg laying will also soon be over. Tumbling flower beetles can be seen feeding on pollen on roses and perennials. These small, oddly shaped beetles are harmless. Japanese beetles are out and feeding on a variety of annuals, perennials, roses, and several fruit such as raspberries and grapes. Oriental beetles are active, as are Asiatic garden beetles. Cutworms, plant hoppers, leaf hoppers, mites, and aphids are active.
Powdery mildew is now more visible on susceptible Phlox, Beebalm, and Evening primrose. Black spot is active on susceptible roses that are subject to overhead irrigation. Slime mold has been observed on bark mulch in irrigated beds.

Friday, June 24, 2016

June 24th 2016

Regional Notes

HideCape Cod Region (Barnstable)
General Conditions: The weather for this reporting period has been lovely: clear, sunny, mild, and dry. In fact, it has been too dry for a while now. Unirrigated landscape plants are wilting in the mid-day sun. A line of thunderstorms brought some relief early Tuesday (June 21) morning but the rain gauge in Marstons Mills only recorded 0.46” while the weather station in Barnstable recorded 0.35”, not really enough to help plants that are newly planted or unirrigated. Many shrubs are flowering, including Rugosa rose, Mock orange, early Bigleaf hydrangeas that survived the winter, and Mountain laurel. Stella D’Oro daylilies are beginning to bloom and Peachleaf Bellflower (Campanula persicifolia) is in full bloom, along with Astrantia. Unirrigated lawns are turning brown.
Pests/Problems: Lack of adequate rainfall is certainly becoming an issue. Some towns are initiating summer water bans and some new plantings have been observed to be struggling with lack of irrigation, which is so important for good establishment of landscape plants, especially annuals with small root balls that dry out quickly.
Gypsy moth caterpillars are getting quite large. Most observed are either 5th or 6th instar, although some 3rds and 4ths can be found. There are pockets of complete defoliation in Dennis along Rt. 134. Large caterpillars were observed stripping spruce needles as the adjacent oaks were defoliated. Brewster, Harwich, Yarmouth, Centerville, Marstons Mills and Mashpee also have areas of total defoliation. I suspect Sandwich and Falmouth will also have areas of defoliation, although I haven’t personally observed it. Caterpillars were also seen feeding on white pine needles. The caterpillars will begin to pupate within the next week or two.
Second generation Lily leaf beetle adults are active and nymphs are feeding on true lily foliage. Rose slug sawfly has ended but Hibiscus sawfly larvae are turning perennial Hibiscus leaves to lace. Aphids, spittlebugs, leafhoppers, plant hoppers, earwigs, and spider mites are active. Asiatic garden beetles are up and feeding at night. June beetles are flying into screens at night.
A leaf spot has been observed on ‘Arnold Promise’ witch hazel.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Selecting the Right Landscape Mulch

Best mulches for trees and shrubs:

1. Wood chip mulch: Wood chips make excellent mulch. They are good for moisture retention, weed control, and they resist compaction. Wood chip mulches are also slow decomposers and thus supply nutrients slowly to the system. However, wood chip mulches tend to lose color quickly, making them less appealing for highly visible areas.
2. Bark much: Bark mulches are made from the byproducts of soft wood logs such as pine, fir, and cypress, or hardwood logs such hickory, oak and elm. They are available as shredded bark or nuggets. Bark mulches from mature softwood trees such as pine and fir decompose more slowly than hardwood bark mulches because they contain high levels of lignin, waxes and tannins. Hardwood bark mulches contain high levels of cellulose, so they decompose more rapidly.
3. Pine needles: Pine needles make excellent mulch. They decompose slowly and resist compaction, allow water to easily seep through, and also prevent weed seed germination. Although they are a byproduct of trees that prefer acid soil, they do not substantially change the pH of the soil if applied in only a 2 to 3 inch layer.
4. Stone or gravel mulch: Stone or gravel mulches can be used around trees and shrubs for weed control. These do not degrade and therefore don’t need to be replenished. They are good for weed control and water permeability, but they do not improve the soil. Apply layers about 1 inch deep.
Mulches come in different colors. The color does not matter to the plants, and is only for aesthetic purposes. There is no evidence that dyes used in coloring mulches are toxic. However if planning to use colored wood mulches, it is important to know the supplier and the source of wood used to make the mulch. Avoid mulches from recycled wood if it includes pressure treated wood (this mulch could be contaminated with chromated copper arsenate).
Don’t pile mulch around the trunk of trees. Keep mulch back at least 6 inches from the tree trunk and spread a uniform layer 2 to 3 inches deep in a wide band approximately 3 times the diameter of the rootball, and tapering to 1- 2 inches over the rootball. Mulch piled up against the trunk may cause bark decay and may create entry points for insects or disease organisms. Mulch piled against the trunk may also provide a refuge for rodents, such as voles, which may then feed on and girdle the bark. Avoid "volcano mulching" where mulch is placed high around the base of the tree trunk and resembles a volcano.


Most perennials benefit from summer mulching. Summer mulching helps preserve soil moisture and reduces soil temperature. Cold hardy perennials also benefit from mulching during the winter to prevent alternate freezing and thawing of soil which may heave the plants out of the ground and expose them to drying. Straw, hay, wood shavings, shredded leaves, and pine needles are appropriate mulch materials for perennials. Spread a uniform layer of 2 to 3 inches deep on perennial beds.

Vegetable and annual flower beds

Vegetable and annual flower beds benefit from mulching. Mulches help conserve moisture and reduce weed problems. Straw makes the best mulch for vegetable and annual flower beds as the straw is largely decomposed at the end of the season. Straw suppresses weeds, conserves moisture and insulates well.
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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Pics from last season.

Here are some pictures from last season and one from a hedge started in February to show the differance over this year as it is reclaimed.