Thursday, June 8, 2017

Check your soil temperature first

It has been a cooler than normal spring across much of New England. Don’t let a few warm days fool you into thinking it’s OK to plant ‘hot-weather’ vegetables like tomatoes, corn, squash and peppers. Until the soil temperature reaches 65 to 70 degrees (depending on the vegetable and variety), resist the urge. To check your soil temperature, take a standard thermometer and push its base down at least two inches into the soil and leave it there five minutes. If you want to speed warming the soil, lay down plastic over the area. Clear plastic allows any weed seeds to germinate and you can easily remove them before you plant.

Make certain the soil temperature is warm enough to plant your hot-weather vegetables

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Rain = slugs!

May and early June have seen a string of rainy days in New England.  With that much-welcome rain, unfortunately, has come an equally unwelcome pest: slugs. Look over the undersides of leaves in your garden (especially low-growing perennials) and, if you see any slugs, assume there are more lurking in the soil or mulch. Skip the cutesy internet-fed slug remedies and go for what works: iron-phosphate-based pellets, available under several brand names in most nurseries.  Place them around the base of plants and replenish monthly as long as it keeps raining.

Iron phosphate is the quickest and most effective way to get rid of slugs

Remove those spent flowers

Lilacs (especially) and other spring-blooming shrubs such as rhododendron need to have their spent flowers removed so the plant doesn’t put its energy into producing useless seeds. Use bypass pruners to snip off the flowers while taking off as few leaves as can be managed. If your rhodies are getting too big, carefully snap off the new fuzzy leaves that are springing up from the old flower sites. This removes new growth, will not hurt the plant, and helps to keep your shrub at a size that fits its site, rather than covering the windows and threatening the eaves.

Removing spent flowers from lilacs and rhododendron lets the shrub put strength back into its leaves and roots rather than unwanted seeds.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Want shorter, stronger flowers?

Pinch back chrysanthemums at the end of May. The same treatment works well with any perennial that is growing now but won’t bloom until fall.

Pinch back perennials at the end of May to get stronger blooms this summer.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Don't let weeds get a start in your garden!

Weeds in flower beds are usually easy to spot and so are pulled early. Do the same in your vegetable garden. Weeds are thieves of water, light, nutrients and the precious room to grow. Weeding early means they don’t get to set seeds and make more weeds.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Plant a pollinator garden

Want to do a good deed for the bees and butterflies in your neighborhood? Plant a small pollinator garden. Find a sunny spot anywhere on your property and clear a space. Plant seeds at the depth specified on the package. Here’s a quick list of flowers that grow easily from seed and benefit the environment: bachelor buttons, cosmos, nasturtium, poppies, and zinnias. Keep the area you planted watered until the new plants have grown. Seeds that dry out won’t sprout.

Plant a garden for the pollinators. Annuals such as marigolds are favorites for bees and butterflies.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Feed your bulbs now...

Feed your bulbs now — before, during, or after they have bloomed. This helps the foliage to send food to the bulb which it will use to grow next spring’s flowers. Do NOT cut off foliage, or braid it until it has turned yellow, or you will not have blooms in 2018. Hate the look of yellowing foliage? Plant annual among them to hide it. As the flowers on your spring bulbs wilt, do them a favor and pop off their heads. You want your bulb to put its energy into producing more bulbs, not producing a hybrid seed from whatever pollen it received.

Deadhead spent bulbs so they put their energy into strengthening their bulb.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Beware of gypsy moth & winter moth caterpillars...

The Massachusetts Department of Agriculture reports that gypsy moth caterpillars are emerging from the egg masses laid in trees last fall. Check trees on your property daily for signs of them. If you see tiny caterpillars, it’s time to act. BT-K (Bacillus thuringiensis K) is an environmentally friendly spray available at local nurseries. When the caterpillars ingest the BT-K, it will kill them. But even with this, please use it carefully and read the application information. Our thus-far wet spring offers hope that, in future years, a naturally-occurring fungus will keep the population of gypsy moths in check.

Emerging gypsy moth caterpillars are susceptible to a spraying of BT-K

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Pull that garlic mustard!!

Garlic mustard:  this highly invasive plant has arrived and is threatening our forests. In some areas it has all but eliminated the native forest floor plants, and even has the ability to stop the germination of some tree seeds. You are most likely to find it around the edges of your lawns and gardens, in disturbed areas, under shrubs and so forth. Pulling it whenever you see it is the first line of defense.  Garlic mustard is in flower the first week of May, but will continue to bloom as young plants grow.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Steer clear of neonics

As you visit garden centers looking for annuals and perennials for your garden, you may well encounter plants with tags like the one pictured (some are prominent, others are buried). They say the seeds that grew the plant were treated with neonicotinoids, a neuro-toxic pesticide. When seeds are coated with this pesticide, the pesticide will appear in every part of the plant-leaves, flowers pollen-making the plant deadly to insects that come to pollinate it. These tags have even been found on milkweed (grown to feed butterflies) for sale in the South at Home Depots.

Neonicotinoids are linked to bee colony collapse. Please avoid any plant treated with this neurotoxin.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

May Meeting: Growing & Cooking with Herbs

Please join us for a fun night of live cooking demos, recipe sharing, and advice for growing and storing herbs on Wednesday, May 3, 2017.  This meeting starts at little earlier at 6:30 pm at Harmony Hall.  Please RSVP to a club member or on our Facebook page by 4/21 if you're interested in joining us!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Welcome Back Meeting Tonight!

Our 1st meeting of the 2017 season is tonight!  Please join us at Harmony Hall at 7pm for our welcome back meeting with newly installed President, Kathy Gauthier.  We'll be running through the 2017 Program and doing a secret gardening activity!

When:  Wednesday, March 1, 2017 @ 7pm
Where:  Harmony Hall @ the Dracut Historical Society

New members welcome!

Nature Happenings - March 2017

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Pass on the peat!

"Peat bogs are seen by some scientists to be as important and fragile as rainforests, and that’s where the concern lies about the use of peat moss by gardeners. Peat companies are destroying these fragile, unique and valuable bog ecosystems by removing the peat."

There are many alternatives to peat moss, many of which cost almost nothing and, unlike dry peat moss, they offer nutrient value:
  • compost - made from yard waste or kitchen scraps
  • leaf mold / mulch -- we have plenty of this around here!
  • well-rotted farm manure
  • spent mushroom compost
  • wood waste-- chipped bark, shredded tree prunings
  • straw
  • cocoa shells 
  • coconut coir -- although it's a waste material, it's being transported from far away places such as Sri Lanka
For more information, check out this article

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Clean up old chemicals

Like food, garden chemicals have expiration dates. “Old” products may have broken down and no longer be effective. If you have bottles of weed killers or insecticides from last year (or years before), you should put them aside to go to the next local collection day for hazardous chemicals (usually held in the spring). If you purchase new chemicals, always mark your purchase date prominently so you don’t use products that may no longer do the job, but could still pollute your environment.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Last call!

If you are planting either a vegetable or a flower garden from seed this spring, early February is likely your last chance to get the widest selection from seed catalogs or quality seed company web sites.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Sharpen those tools

Sharpen the garden tools you will need for your spring clean-up and gardening. Once you’ve got out your sharpening kit, don’t stop with clippers and pruners. Shovels and hoes are more efficient and save you work when the blades are clean and sharp.

Friday, February 10, 2017

While you're out snowshoeing...

...snap off the candles. Do you want to keep your pines, firs or spruces dense and compact?  This is the month to snap off the ‘candles’ that will otherwise grow; extending branches out to areas where you may not want them to go.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Lawn Mower Maintenance

Time to send lawn movers to the repair shops for a tune-up before the shops get overwhelmed in March and April. Remember that sharp blades do less damage to your grass. If you're considering a new mower, keep in mind that rechargeable, battery-operated mowers need less maintenance and do just as good a job as gas-powered ones without the air or noise pollution.