Duck River Garden Club of Old Lyme

 

Horticulture

Moles and Voles

At this time of year when you start your garden and lawn cleanup, you might begin noticing tunnels and piles of dirt in your lawn and garden beds. There might be a mole or voles in residence.

Voles are small, stocky rodents similar to field mice. They dig snake-like tunnels that you’ll see all over your lawn and garden. Very active in the spring, they love to burrow underground, and since they are herbivores they will eat bulbs, root vegetables and plant roots.

Here are a few tips for getting rid of voles. Trap voles near vole runways or the nesting sites at the base of trees and shrubs. Bait traps with peanut butter. Set baits midday to early evening when voles get more active. Reset the traps as often as necessary until you eliminate the population. The key to trapping is persistence. If you have an extreme problem, you can bait voles with a registered rodenticide. Consult your local garden center or professional critter control agency.

It’s always easier to discourage pests than having to deal with an infestation. Voles like dense, heavy vegetative cover, mulch, and weeds. Make your yard inhospitable to voles by cutting back brush, mow, weed, and create a clean space. Voles also love the vegetable garden. These little critters aren’t very good climbers. Protect a garden by fencing the area with a half-inch of mesh, at least 12 inches above the ground and buried 6 to 10 inches deep. Another great control method is an outdoor cat.

Moles are ground-dwelling carnivores that eat insects instead of your garden plants. Moles have a hairless, pointed snout. They have very large and broad forefeet with webbed toes. They are usually about 7 inches in length and weigh about 4 pounds. Unlike vegetarian voles, moles dig deep. Their tunnels are usually at least ten inches underground. Check your soil and lawn for their tunnels. They will look like raised volcano-shaped swellings in your yard.

Moles are usually found where soil is rich in organic matter. They prefer moist, loamy soil and are most active in the early morning or evening in the spring or fall. Their presence in unusually large numbers might be due to a high population of soil pests - a warning that all is not well with the soil life.

If you have a persistent mole problem, the best solution is trapping. Frankly, this is often the only way to get rid of moles. Again having an outside cat this may help. Getting rid of lawn pests and their source of food will also help. Try spraying your lawns with milky spore disease or beneficial nematodes to get rid of the grubs. This will also rid your lawn of Japanese beetle larvae, which is a great benefit!

~ Submitted by Denise Dugas
(From the Farmer’s Almanac)

From The Old Farmer’s Almanac

Here are tips on how to start your seeds indoors.

  • Team up with a neighbor for starting seeds, since a packet often yields much more than you will need.
  • Don’t start your seeds too early, especially tomatoes! Most annual flowers and vegetables should be sown indoors about 6 weeks before the last frost in your area.
  • You may have to soak, scratch, or chill seeds before planting, as directed on packet.
  • Use clean containers. They can be purchased but egg carton compartments are good too. Be sure to poke holes in the sides near the bottom of the containers you use.
  • Remember to label your containers. It’s easy to forget what you planted.
  • Fill the containers with seedling mix. (soilless peat moss and equal parts vermiculite and perlite) Don’t use potting soil.
  • Pour the soilless mix into a large bucket and moisten with warm water. Fill the containers to just below the rim.
  • Plant your seeds according to your seed packet.
  • Cover containers with plastic. Prick holes with a toothpick for ventilation. Water as directed.
  • Water carefully. Try using a meat basting syringe which avoids too much soil disruption.
  • Find a place where there is natural bottom heat if possible.
  • Seeds sprout best at temperatures of 65 to 75 F.
  • When seedlings appear, remove the plastic and move containers into bright light.
  • When the seedlings get their second pair of leaves, prepare individual pots filled with potting mix and plenty of compost. Move seedlings carefully to the new pots and water well. Keep pots out of direct sun for a few days.

Click Here to visit The Old Farmer's Almanac Garden Planner website

~ Denise Dugas, Horticulture

The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES)

The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES), established in 1875, is the oldest agricultural experiment station in the United States. The main mission of the CAES is research. Programs also exist to educate the public to solve agricultural, public health, and environmental problems.

Agriculture is the main core area of research. New fruit and vegetable crops are evaluated. Pest problems are promptly diagnosed and investigated for control. Integrated Pest Management programs are developed to reduce insect and plant disease infestations with minimal use of pesticides. Nursery plants are inspected before they are shipped to other states or countries.

Ticks and mosquitoes transmit pathogenic organisms that can cause human illnesses or death. Field and laboratory studies are conducted to determine how these arthropods live and what methods can be safely used for control.

Sixty percent of Connecticut is forested. Hardwood trees are important economically and ecologically. However, two destructive invasive insects, the Asian longhorned beetle and the Emerald ash borer, threaten our valuable forest resources. Extensive surveillance programs are in place to detect these and other pests as well as emerging plant diseases.

Current Research and Service Programs in Progress

  • Studying the links among Japanese barberry, white‐footed mice, and ticks infected with the Lyme disease agent
  • Testing a fungus to control blacklegged ticks and bed bugs
  • Evaluating new crops to enhance farm incomes and provide fresh produce for consumers.
  • Testing bark‐applied insecticides to control forest pests
  • Testing honey bees for pesticide exposure or diagnosing other causes of mortality
  • Investigating deer behavior to keep these animals away from highways and reduce plant damage
  • Investigating the fungus that causes boxwood blight

 

~ Denise Dugas, Horticulture

Wake up your Garden with Shrubs of Winter Interest

Showy color during snow season wakes up the garden with colorful berries that the birds also appreciate as food. The bright berry fruit stands out against the white snowy, winter landscape.

American Winterberry (Ilex verticillata) is the red-berry North American holly. This shrub bears fruit in late fall and retains it well into the winter. While both the male and female shrubs bear white flowers in spring, only the female plant bears fruit which serves as nourishment for birds. Winterberry prefers full sun, acidic soil and moist conditions. It grows on Zone 2 to 7. Check out this shrub at the Old Lyme Post Office.

Beauty Berry (Callicarpa Americana) also known as French Mulberry produces clusters of metallic shades of magenta and violet berries in the fall which last during the winter. It is winter source of food for many varieties of birds. It thrives in full sun to partial shade in Zone 5 to 8 in well-drained soil. It blooms from June to August with pink flowers and grows 4 feet tall to 5 feet wide.

American Cranberry (Viburnum trilobum) produces clusters of hanging red fruit in the fall continuing during the winter months. In spring, it has white lace cap flowers. It thrives in Zone 2 to 7, grows 8 to 12 feet tall and wide but can be pruned to smaller size.

If you have a ho-hum landscape in the winter months, consider some of these plants and notice as you drive around town other interesting berry plants that you might incorporate into your garden landscape. Winter is the time for gardening respite and research. The library has many fine horticultural magazines and books that can assist you in planning something for spring planting and eventual enjoyment in the winter months. Perk up your winter garden!

~ Jeanne Munnelly

Use Flowering Plants

Add color and life to holiday decorations on the table, mantle or just here and there. Three plants in particular thrive indoors at this time of the year – amaryllis, paper whites and cyclamen.

The showy and majestic amaryllis is easy to grow. Many nurseries sell the bare bulb or potted bulbs ready to grow. If started now (mid-November) it should be just ready to bud and bloom. You can buy plants started earlier in the season almost ready to bloom and this may the way to go if you want blossoms for Christmas. The good thing about the amaryllis is that it blooms for weeks so you get a lot a blossom-bang for the buck. There are so many colors from which to choose – red, pink, white, cream and yellow, not to mention the spectacular striped ones.

Plant the bare bulb in well-drained potting soil just covering the bulb so the upper part is sticking out of the soil. Water sparingly until the sprout is well out of the bulb, then water regularly. Remember to keep turning the pot since it has the tendency to grow toward the light. Keep in bright light with a minimum temperature of 60 degrees. Do not overwater.

When the bloom fades cut the tubular flower stems near the top of the bulb, leaving the foliage to grow. Water as usual and after the danger of frost is gone, sink the pot in the ground in a sunny spot in your garden. At the end of the summer, remove the pot from the soil and allow it to dry out. Cut the dry leaves, and in 6 weeks repot the bulb in fresh potting soil and start the growing cycle again.

I am about to pot my amaryllis bulb from last year. This will be the first time I try this. I know fellow gardeners who have done this successfully. I'll let you know how it works out!

Paperwhites (Narcissus) are easy to grow with flowers that last several weeks. They may be grown in a shallow dish filled with pebbles. Nestle the bulbs into the pebbles, pointed up, and fill the rest of the dish with pebbles. Then add water keeping the water level just below the bottom of the bulbs. Place the dish in a dark place for a week or two until the bulbs sprout. Move the plant into bright light and water sparingly. Cool temperatures will prolong the life of the flowers. The bulbs may also be planted in potting soil following the above procedures.

The Cyclamen has beautiful white, pink or yellow blooms and beautiful foliage all year round. The plant likes moist soil, cool temperatures and indirect sun. It thrives in temperatures between 65 and 50 degrees. Never pour the water directly on the plant as water from above may rot the corm. Instead water the soil under the leaves. Your plant will bloom from December to April. Remove fading blooms at the base as well as leaves as they fade. The plant regenerates new blossoms and leaves when you keep it pruned. It may be moved outdoors in a shady spot in the pot in the spring when all danger of frost is gone.

~ Jeanne Munnelly

Preparing the Herb Garden for a Winter

It's time to harvest your herbs to dry and put them to bed for the winter.  Annual herbs such as basil, dill, and fennel can be picked for their leaves and seeds. Seeds of dill and fennel can be used in baking, like breads or muffins, and used to start new plants in the spring. Store the seeds in glass jars in a dark place.

Summer flowering herbs such as lavender should be pruned and shaped soon after blooming, about a third of the plant. You can complete the pruning in the early spring.  Perennials such as tarragon, tansy and oregano will send out shoots that will be damaged by the cold, so complete the process of cutting back to the ground as early as possible in the fall. Sage should be cut back about a third. I harvest and dry leaves for sage tea. I find it therapeutic with added honey to sweeten it in the winter when I feel a cold or sore throat coming on. Mint can be cut back to the ground after harvesting leaves which you can dry for use in tea or add, crumbled, to pea soup a la Martha Stewart's recipe. Harvest your thyme before it flowers. After flowering, cut it back and it will grow again during the season. Your last cut should be in early fall.

The best time to harvest herbs is anytime in the morning after the dew is dried on the leaves.  For culinary purposes gather in small bunches with a rubber band holding the small "bouquets," because as the stems dry the bouquets shrink.  Hang them in a cool, dry place or put them in a paper bag, out of the sun. When they are thoroughly dry, in about two weeks, store them in glass jars, gently removing the leaves but not crumbling them until you are ready to use them.

Bring your rosemary, a tender perennial, inside in a pot. Place it in a cool, sunny window and water sparingly. Dig a young chive plant inside and keep it in a sunny window.

Weed your herb garden and remove all plant debris to reduce insect and disease. Once the ground is frozen, add about three inches of compost to protect herbs during the winter. Settle back. Enjoy the respite and read your plant catalogues, dreaming of another growing season in spring.

~ Jeanne Munnelly

 

Duck River Garden Club of Old Lyme

P.O. Box 4116
Old Lyme, CT 06371

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