Monthly Archives: April 2015

Invasive Gypsy Moth

According to the United States Forest Service(USFS), the gypsy moth is one of North America’s most devastating forest pests. After originally evolving in Europe and Asia for thousands of years, it was accidentally introduced around 1869 to the Boston area by  E. Leopold Trouvelot, who was attempting to start a silkworm industry. This mistake has caused massive defoliation and damage to trees across the northeast region.  Let’s take a closer look at the gypsy moth and what the future hold for regions impacted by this invasive caterpillar.

gypsyIdentification – Gypsy Moth caterpillars change appearance as they grow.  Young caterpillars are black or brown and about ¼ inch (.6 cm) in length.  As they grow, bumps develop along their backs along with coarse, black hairs.  Each of the 11 sections of a developed caterpillar will have two coloured spots, the first five pairs, blue, and the last six, red.  Mature caterpillars can be as long as 2 ½ inches (6.35 cm).Source: The Gypsy Moth Guide

Damage – Tree damage is caused by the insect larvae, or caterpillars, which emerge from their eggs beginning in early spring and continuing through mid-May.  The larvae move to the leaves of trees and begin to eat, mostly at night. Gypsy moth larvae grow by moulting and as is expected their appetite grows with each moult. The gypsy moth caterpillar is not a picky eater.  It has a preference for the leaves of deciduous hardwood trees such as maple, elm, and particularly oak.  Gypsy moths can also feed on apple, alder, birch, poplar and willow trees.  As it grows it will also attack evergreens like pines and spruces. Depending on the degree of infestation, tree damage ranges from light to almost complete defoliation.

Management – Over the last 20 years, several millions of acres of forest land have been aerially sprayed with pesticides in order to suppress outbreak gypsy moth populations. nostsIn 1992, the USDA Forest Service began a pilot program to test the feasibility of slowing the spread (STS) of the gypsy moth in North America. STS pilot programs currently exist in North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and Michigan. This map shows the slowed spread of this species. (USDA Forest Service)

Because the gypsy moth has many undesirable effects on trees and forests, efforts are made to manage the problem. Eradication and Slow the Spread are methods used to prevent or postpone the establishment of gypsy moth populations in portions of the country where it currently does not exist. Suppression, silviculture, and biological control are methods used to manage established gypsy moth populations.

Source: USDA Forest Service




Lawn Maintenance Safety

Most people probably don’t think of lawn care as a risky activity or one that could cause harm to family members or pets.  These statistics may change your mind.

  • According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSM), more than 230,000 people per year are treated for injuries resulting from various lawn and garden tools and equipment including lawn mowers, trimmers, edgers, and other power equipment.
  • These injuries range from minor to severe lacerations, loss of fingers, toes, and legs, broken and dislocated bones, mild to severe burns, and eye injuries.
  • Each year 800 children are run over by riding mowers or small tractors; 75 people are killed, one in five deaths involves a child. (Source: CPSM Online)

These weekly Lawn and garden chores may seem mundane to most, but if safety is not taken into consideration, a simple chore may turn into a life or death situation rather quickly.  Here are some safety tips for mowing, weed trimming and using insecticides in your yard.

Mowing – Whether you use a walk behind or a ride on mower there are several things that you can do to keep yourself, children and pets safe while you are mowing the grass.

  • Do a walk-through of the yard prior to mowing. Remove debris such as rocks, toys, wires, glass and other materials that could become flying weapons.
  • Wear protective clothing such as boots and long pants to protect yourself against flying debris.
  • Have bystanders and pets leave the area while you are mowing.
  • Keep your hands away from blades and chutes.
  • Allow the engine to cool before storing in a shed.
  • Never leave a running mower unattended.
  • Keep the cord behind you with electric mowers.
  • When using a ride on mower do not have any passengers ride with you.
  • Mow up and down slopes not across to preventing tipping with a ride on mower.

Weed Trimming –

  • Just as you checked the yard for debris when using a lawn mower,  check areas where you will be edging or weed trimming for similar debris.
  • Wear protective eye gear and clothing.
  • Be sure all bystanders including pets are away from the cord and area you are working.
  • Never leave a trimmer plugged in while unattended.
  • Do not remove protective guards or shield.
  • Shut off tool before cleaning or checking for clogs.

Garden Chemicals – Insecticides, herbicides and fungicides are common when trying to grow lush gardens and lawns.  Follow these guidelines when using these products on your lawn.

  • Have children and pets leave the area you are applying the chemical agent.
  • Close doors and windows to the house.
  • Remove all pet food including bird feeds before applying.
  • Store chemicals in correct containers and away from children and pets.

Source: Texas A&M Agriculture Division

Planting Perennials

Planting sounds fairly simple right.  Go to a garden store or order seeds online, plant in your yard, water and watch the magic happen right?  Well, it’s not that easy.  Success with perennial plants depends on selecting the right perennial for the site conditions. There are several factors in deciding where the best place is to plant your garden such as: temperature, soil, and irrigation requirements as well as light exposure needs. Here are several resources that will help you determine the best location and perennials for your yard.

  • Temperature – Plants generally have a specific range of temperatures in which they thrive.  This information is usually listed in terms of hardiness or hardiness zones. Hardiness refers to a plant’s tolerance to low temperatures.  Factors that influence hardiness include minimum temperature, recent temperature patterns, water supply, wind and sun exposure, snow cover, genetic makeup, and carbohydrate reserves. The USDA publishes a map of hardiness zone that you can find here.
  • Irrigation Requirements – There are differing requirements for the amount of water plants need called Hydro-zones.  For example – Routine irrigation – Watered every two to four days, Reduced irrigation – Watered every five to fourteen days, Limited irrigation – Watered during dry spells, and Non-irrigated – On sites where landscape irrigation is not desirable or possible, focus on natural growth. For more information on water needs and designs read more.
  • Soil Requirements – Planting catalogs many times refer to soil as either woodsy or woodland. Having a soil analysis to help you choose plants wisely may make sense if you are having a hard time figuring out what types of plants may do well in your backyard.
  • Sun Exposure – The amount of sun a plant needs to thrive is a critical factor in choosing a plant to fit a particular garden situation. Read carefully about each plant you choose to find out if it needs full shade, full sun, partial shade, light shade or dark shade.  Once you understand the needs of your perennials, choose locations in your yard that are appropriate.
  • Choosing specific plants.  Cornell University has published a list of perennials and how they do in various environments.  To find out more about these plants read more.

Common Gardening Mistakes

What a wonderful time of year!  The air is warm, the sun is high in the sky and your gardens are really beginning to take root.  Gardening can be hard work but it is so worth it when you have a cornucopia of produce throughout the season or a beautiful garden to admire daily.  There is a lot to learn to become a master gardener and even then there are common mistakes that can be catastrophic to a cherished garden.  Here are some tips to avoid common gardening mistakes.

  • Planting in the Wrong Spot – The type of garden you are growing will determine how much sunlight is needed, what type of soil is best and the amount of space that is needed.  Do your homework by researching what you are growing and where in your yard might be best for that type of planting.
  • Soil Preparation – Determine drainage conditions and have a soil test done before beginning to plant.  Find out the liming and fertilization needs before you begin. Too much, too little or the wrong type or timing of fertilizer will not allow your garden plants to produce healthy, vigorous growth.
  • Over/Under Watering – Plants need water to metabolize nutrients and grow, but different types of vegetable plants need different amounts of water.  Again do your research ahead of time to know what your plants need. Too little water will cause plants to dry up and wilt. Too much water can rot the root system. Most vegetable plants prefer a good, deep watering one to three times each week. If you don’t know whether you’re watering deeply enough, check soil moisture by inserting the probe of a moisture gauge to the depth of the plant’s roots.
  • Weeds and Mulch – The best time to pull a weed is when it’s tiny and its root system is small. Pulling weeds at that stage of growth won’t disrupt the roots of your vegetable plants. A light mulch is fine after planting, but don’t mulch too deeply or seed sprouts might not be able to push through into the sunlight.
  • Planting Bulbs Upside Down – Sounds a little silly but it happens far too often. Onions, garlic and other bulbs have a root-growing end and a stem-growing end. Make sure that you know which is which before you plant these. In most cases, the top of a bulb comes to more of a point than the bottom, so it’s not too difficult to tell which end should be up when planting.


Keeping Insects and Pests out of your Garden

For “green thumbs,” this is the most anticipated time of year – spring planting time!  It is a true labor of love to nurture flower gardens filled with annuals and perennials that will eventually pop with color and bring great joy later in the season  Or if veggie gardens are your thing, it is a wonder to watch your seedlings develop into beautiful cukes, tomatoes, peppers, corn, or any wide array of tasty vegetables. This favorite hobby can become a challenge however, if pests begin to run ramped in your gardens and ruin the expected outcome that you waited all season long to see.

There are three primary groups that can have devastating effects in your garden: mammals (like deer and rabbits), insects (like tomato worms), and gastropods (like garden snails and slugs). In past blogs we have discussed methods to keep animals out of your garden. So now, let’s look at some suggestions about other pests from our friends at Home and Garden and the Farmer’s Almanac.  If you would like professional advice, consult Pro-Tech for a plan to combat pests in your yard.

  • Identify the pest and assess the type and amount of damage it may cause. Some insects are actually beneficial because they feed on other, more dangerous pests. For example Ladybugs are beneficial but some insects disguise themselves as this bug and can wreak havoc on your garden.
  • Coffee grounds are a great addition to your garden. They add nitrogen to the soil, they increase the acidity for acid loving plants, and, best of all, a wide range of creatures can’t stand coffee grounds. Slugs hate coffee, cats hate coffee; it’s even sometimes an effective olfactory-based repellent for picky deer.
  • Slugs are some of the most annoying of garden pests. They descend of your garden at night and chew up your plantings. Hand picking slugs and snails is an effective natural control, but it must be done early in the morning. As the sun rises, they retreat to hide under cool debris, and can be impossible to find. When hand picked, they can be dropped into a bucket of brine or salt. Copper strips can be a good deterrent as they cause a slight electrical charge as the slug slides over it.
  • Tomato horn worms are large (3-4?), pale green caterpillars that strip tomato, eggplant, pepper, and potato plants of new leaves and flower buds. Hand picking is the most effective way to get immediate relief. To rid a garden of repeated infestations, you can use Bacillus Thuringiensis, a bacterium parasite.