Spring is coming, but not fast enough for most of us. Despite the warmer days we had in March, today looks and feels like the middle of winter, with strong gusty winds and snow showers. Tomorrow will be significantly warmer, but it will still be mud season.
As the season progresses, my gardening activities resume. This month I attended some excellent webinars from Cornell focusing on biocontrol, using good insects (predators) to reduce damage from bad insects (prey). To incorporate this approach, you need to create habitat for predators. Researchers have had some success using this strategy with some invasive plants, including purple loosestrife; and with certain plants in agricultural environments. There are promising trials with St. John’s Wort (aka Dog Strangling Vine), a terribly aggressive choke vine that is establishing itself in Livingston County. They have yet to have success with the most damaging pests in my flower beds: the four-lined stink bug, red beetle, and Japanese beetle.
I have undertaken pruning projects, which are optimally completed for many shrubs before leaves emerge. On Facebook, horticulturist Lee Reich offers great pruning suggestions. Plant Amnesty has the best pruning videos on the internet. These videos are available to members for $30 per year. And the good gardening videos on YouTube are a great free resource for many gardening tasks, including pruning.
I recently enjoyed Christine Froehlich’s recent blog post on pruning tools and was inspired by an included video on sharpening hedge trimmers, my favorite garden cleaning tool. I had to clean the blades well first: I used low-odor mineral spirits and steel wool, to avoid clogging my sharpening file. Christine’s blog is called “Gardening with what you have”. It’s a great counterpoint to “how many new plants can I buy?” »
I don’t remove a lot of decaying plant matter from my gardens. Although leaf layers can’t stay on your flower beds where they can smother emerging plants and bulbs, you can allow hollow plant stems to stay in your garden until we get higher temperatures. constant during the day in the 50s, when the garden creatures overwinter. emerge. I’m going to use my hedge shears to cut the stems into small pieces and drop them to the ground. I keep a close eye on my chopped mulch leaves from fall for emerging plants.
Be careful not to walk on wet garden soil which causes compaction. I work on areas accessible from my garden paths, or you can use a wooden slab as a moving stepping stone, to distribute your weight. My mulch will wait until the existing plant matter is cut into pieces and the soil is dry enough to support my weight.
Do you have questions about gardening? My email address is included in my bio at the end of each column. I like to receive your questions; I love helping gardeners, and they let me know what I might consider writing in the next columns.
Julie Brocklehurst-Woods has been a volunteer Master Gardener with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Livingston County since 2002. She enjoys helping all gardeners become successful gardeners, especially helping people identify tools and strategies to prioritize and simplify their tasks. of gardening. She will answer gardening questions by email: [email protected]