By joenesgarden, 1 month and 21 days ago

Winter Review: are you invasive species savvy?

Winter is the ideal dream time for cold-climate gardeners, but it's also a perfect time to review good gardening practices and increase your gardening knowledge. For this Winter Review we'll examine invasive species.

February 23 to 28, 2014 is National Invasive Species Awareness Week. Since winter snow covers most of Connecticut and cold temperatures continue to keep most gardeners inside, now is a great time read 10 Ways To Observe National Invasive Species Awareness Week.

There are many ways to prevent spreading invasive plants and creatures that seriously impact native species:

  • cleaning hiking boots, waders, boats/trailers, off-road vehicles, and other equipment or gear on which an invasive seed, plant, or creature may hitch a ride;
  • not dumping aquariums or live bait into waterways – something I thought was a no-duh;
  • using hay, mulch, and soil designated weed-free;
  • and planting only non-invasive landscape plants.

But, there are other means by which invasive plants and creatures spread: seeds and plant pieces may hitch a ride on gardening and lawn mowing equipment; potentially invasive weeds and seeds may arrive in nursery plants; and gardeners can inadvertently transport potentially invasive species by sharing plants from yard to yard or region to region. Even firewood can hide invasive insects – are you aware of the Emerald Ash Borer-caused ban on moving wood from ash trees and firewood out of New Haven county?

To become invasive species savvy, gardeners, homeowners, landscape workers – in essence everyone - must know where to find solid, trustworthy information. In Connecticut, start with

For a plant to be listed as invasive in Connecticut, it must be non-native and harm the environment, human health or cause economic harm in minimally managed areas (woodlands, waterways, open spaces) through its ability to establish and rapidly grow in a wide variety of conditions, reproduce prolifically, disperse over wide areas by vegetative fragments and/or seeds, and lack the growth and reproductive controls evident in the plant's native regions.

A few of Connecticut's most prolific terrestrial invasive plants include

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Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus), as young plants and roots above;

 

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Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) as young plants, above, and en-masse, below, in early spring;

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and Japanese Stilt Grass (Microstegium vimineum) as it emerges in early summer …

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and shortly before it goes to flower and seed.

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Connecticut is also plagued by Autumn Olive (Elaegnus umbellata), Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata), Japanese Knotweed (Polygonum (Falopia) cuspidatum), Multiflora Rose (Rosa multiflora), Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus), and multiple other trees, shrubs, annuals, perennials, grasses and aquatic plants.

The Invasive Plant Atlas of New England is another great resource for New Englanders. Those in other regions should research the invasive species information provided by their state.

Learning about invasive species is an ongoing process … after gardening for more than three decades, I'm still learning. Every region is different, but learning what is already determined to be invasive in your area is the FIRST STEP in becoming invasive species savvy.

By joenesgarden, 1 month and 26 days ago

Winter Review: Winter pruning

Winter is the ideal dream time for cold-climate gardeners, but it's also a perfect time to review good gardening practices and increase your gardening knowledge. For this Winter Review we'll examine winter pruning.

You can take advantage of sunny late-winter days by heading outside to complete some winter pruning. Shrubs are dormant during winter, which makes it the perfect time for pruning damaged, dead, or diseased branches.

I don't suggest you prune all shrubs at this time. Those that flower on last season's growth – think lilac, forsythia, pieris, mountain laurel, rhododendron –  and flower in early spring are best pruned shortly after they finish blooming. If you prune these during late winter you will remove much or all of the upcoming blooms.

You should wait until early spring to prune shrubs that bloom on new growth. These include butterfly bushes, cotoneaster, and red- and yellow-twig dogwood. And if you are looking to prune hydrangea, you first need to know what type of hydrangea you have, then you should seek the advice of a knowledgeable professional rather than risk losing upcoming hydrangea blooms.

At this time of year, when winter still has a good hold on our weather but we are beginning to get intermittent sunny and somewhat warmer days, look to prune damaged, diseased or dead branches. If heavy snow has split or broken a branch, it doesn't matter when the shrub or tree blooms. The damage limb must be removed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABranches scarred from rubbing against another object – specifically crossed-branches – are easily identified now while branches are bare. Crossed branches lead to chaffing that opens the shrub to insect or disease. Crossed branches must be pruned to maintain the health of the shrub.

Notice the scarring on the larger branch in the photo to the left.

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABranches that are too close together, such as those to the right, should also be pruned.

While not yet causing damage, they will rub against each other when winds blow.  Any jagged stem ends can also be pruned at this time, as can unwanted suckers – thin new growth that has grown from the base but detracts from the shrub's form or looks like it's growth pattern will cause it to rub against a more mature branch.

It's also important to remove any suckers growing from below the base union – usually a fatter section at the base of the plant where a graft was added to rootstock – or from beneath the soil of a grafted shrub. These are growing from the rootstock rather than the grafted, and more desirable, section of the shrub.

The exception to removing suckers shrubs and trees that have not been grafted to a rootstock, is when new suckers are needed to replace old or damaged branches. If you plan to keep the shrub, select suckers can be left to grow and become mature replacement branches.

Pruning is a necessary part of maintaining shrub and tree health, but it can also be a very confusing part of garden maintenance. When in doubt, ask advice from trusted, well-trained local garden center staff. Or, hone your pruning knowledge by reading.  I often reference Pruning & Training by Christopher Bricknell and David Joyce. State extension offices often post great pruning advice online, as well.

By joenesgarden, 1 month and 29 days ago

A future praying mantis? Wordless Wednesday

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