Monday, March 1, 2010

First Signs of Spring

Welcome March and the first signs of spring! What, you don't believe me? I promise the signs are there -early bulbs are working their way up through the mud and leaf debris, Witch-hazel (Hamamelis) is blooming, and Pieris buds are swelling. If you haven’t seen the signs yet, here are some things to look for and a few tips to get spring jumping in your garden:

The last month has been very wet and windy, so start by checking your trees, large shrubs and any garden walls or fences for damage. As go about your early spring clean up tasks try to avoid the soggy areas. Excessive traffic on a wet lawn and garden beds can cause poor aeration and root damage.

Check your houseplants for bugs; inspect the underside of leaves and any stalks for outbreaks of aphids, mealy bugs and spider mites. A simple shower with a mild soap can often stop these pests before they flourish and a stronger treatment is needed.Fertilize your emerging bulbs. If you did not get to it last fall, work a few spoonfuls of bulb fertilizer into the top 2” of soil around the emerging bulbs. Be careful not to damage the new growth.

Start your vegetable garden by sowing indoors the seeds of broccoli, cauliflower, and lettuce; but wait until late March to start your peppers, eggplant and tomatoes. If you have limited garden space, many varieties of these veggies can be grown in large pots on a sunny Patio or Deck.

Sharpen, oil and replace as necessary your garden tools before you need to use them. Hopefully you are more diligent than I, who in wandering around this morning discovered a trowel and some pruning shears hiding in the beds. The shears are beyond help, but the trowel just needs a little cleaning and it will be fine. And don’t forget to sharpen the blades of your lawnmower too!

Consider increasing your shrub border and reducing lawn area. A well-designed shrub border can provide 4-season interest with less maintenance and less water us than a typical lawn.

Check your Hemlocks (Tsuga canadensis and Tsuga caroliniana) for the wooly adelgid. Look along the underside of branches for fluffy white matter. These are the eggs. If you find some on your trees you can treat with Horticultural oils (which are safe for humans and wildlife) on dry days when the weather is over 45’, or consult a certified arborist.

Thank you to everyone who has sent in ‘Questions for Cory’, keep those great questions coming. I will try my best to answer those questions here.

Q. I found a large beetle in my attic and have heard about the Asian Beetle problem in Western Mass. Is this the same issue?

A. Great question! Most likely the beetle, which found its way into your home is the Western Conifer Seedbug, they often come in through attic vents and small cracks around windows, along with Ladybugs. This beetle (Leptoglossus occidentalis) is large enough to be surprising but is essentially harmless to you, your home and your plants (unless you are trying to harvest your conifer seeds). For more information:

The other part of your question has to do with the Asian Longhorn Beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis), which is a threat to many hardwood trees and yes there has been some very interesting and aggressive quarantining happening in Massachusetts west of Rt. 140 in an effort to stop this pests’ progress. The trees, which are most susceptible, include all Maples, Birches, Elms, Horsechestnuts, and Willows. For more information, check out the USDA info site: