A Pumpkin Spider for Halloween

Spotted crossing the driveway the week before Halloween, this spider, an Orange Marbled Orb Weaver, is a Halloween decoration on the go.


Marbled Orb Weaver, Araneus marmoreus, shown next to an oak leaf for size comparison.

Marbled Orb Weavers (Araneus Marmoreus) are common and harmless to humans, but their color certainly attracts attention. Apparently, their color ranges from white to yellow to yellow-green to orange; BugGuide shows the many color variations.

After stopping for a quick photo shoot, this one ambled away to a place unknown … but it’s likely in one of the perennial and shrub beds along the edge of the driveway. This adult will die after laying eggs that will hatch in the spring.

Orange Orb Weaver spider, aka Pumpkin spider, in Connecticut during Halloween week, October 2014.

Orange Marbled Orb Weaver spider, aka Pumpkin spider, in Connecticut during Halloween week, October 2014.

Marbled Orb Weavers spin circular webs in low vegetation. They spin these each morning for that night’s catch. For more comprehensive information on Marbled Orb Weavers visit this BioKIDS link.

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Planting Garlic

Yesterday was garlic planting day in my Connecticut garden. October is garlic planting month in Connecticut and, since this has been a warm October I held off planting my garlic until the end of the month.

A fall planting of garlic is one of my routine gardening tasks. Garlic is super easy to plant, grow, harvest, dry and store, making it one crop that all gardeners with a small bit of room should try. Over the years my garlic plantings have gone into spaces as small as 2 x 4 feet. The bulbs don’t need a lot of space, making them perfect for tucking into small, underutilized sections of a bed. However, garlic does need loose, fertile soil and no competition from weeds.

Every two years I try to rotate garlic plantings to different areas. This year, garlic went into what was a strawberry bed that yielded me next to no fruit – birds, a rabbit, and chipmunks got to it first. (The bed is underlined with 1/4″ hardware cloth to prevent voles from tunneling into the bed to remove anything planted there.)

After removing strawberry plants (I have others planted elsewhere) and weeds, I loosened the soil while incorporating this year’s straw mulch and rich, homemade compost. It was easy to press each garlic clove a couple of inches deep into the loosened soil after making a hole with my trusty soil knife.

Plant each garlic clove about 2" deep into loose, rich soil.

Plant each garlic clove about 2″ deep into loose, rich soil.

One pound of garlic bulbs gave me 42 cloves planted 6″ apart in six rows, using 3.5 x 4 feet of space. I marked each row with short bamboo stakes and covered each clove with soil and a thin layer of fresh shredded straw.

A fresh planting of garlic, lightly mulched.

A fresh planting of garlic, lightly mulched.

I’ll make sure the garlic has ample water, in case of little to no rain, and add a 4″ layer of straw mulch once colder temperatures settle in.

My chosen garlic variety is Music. It’s a hardneck variety that is very cold tolerant, has a good yield, and keeps well. Hardneck garlic is the only type I plant since it keeps so well over winter months.

Garlic 'Music' purchased this year from Territorial Seeds.

Garlic ‘Music’ purchased this year from Territorial Seeds.

One pound yields ample garlic for cooking and sharing with family. If I planted a bit more, I could begin saving a few heads for next fall’s planting and, maybe in future years I will.

Read more in a previous post on planting garlic.


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Invasive Japanese Stilt Grass – Tend it now!

I’ve not posted much lately here, mostly due to being very busy in my gardens and the gardens of my clients. I expect I won’t have time to resume regular blogging until October, but did not want this time to go by without reminding Connecticut gardeners and landowners that now is the time to cut and tend to Japanese Stilt Grass.

This is a highly invasive grassy-looking plant that is overtaking many roadside edges, lawns, and gardens. If allowed to form seeds – which are maturing now – each plant can send up to one hundred seeds into the environment. The seeds are small and easily distributed by water, animals, boots, mowers and wind. Distributed seeds can last as long as 10 years in the soil.

Japanese Stilt Grass - highly invasive in CT

Japanese Stilt Grass – highly invasive in CT

I outlined how to deal with Japanese Stilt Grass previously … just click the highlighted text to read.

Control takes some time and effort, but it can be controlled if one is vigilant. If not tended to it can completely take over a lawn or garden.

I’ve successfully controlled the serious stilt grass invasion I talk about in the linked post above. Each year I’ve weeded out Japanese Stilt Grass has meant fewer plants the subsequent year. Now, where stilt grass once dominated, I have native wildflowers and grasses returning which are so much more attractive and beneficial that invasive stilt grass.

Japanese Stilt Grass close up

Japanese Stilt Grass close up

I highly doubt it will ever be eradicated, unless some disease starts attacking it. But, with proper management it can be controlled. Search for it now, remove it now … before it has the chance to spread hundreds of seeds throughout your property.

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