Heucherella Sweet Tea Heucherella Golden ZebraThere is never a shortage of choices for full- or part-sun plants, but if you have a shady spot and want to try something a little different, consider these two very new Heucherella: ‘Sweet Tea’ and ‘Golden Zebra.’
Heucherella (aka Foamy Bells) are a cross hybrid, and have the amazing foliage colors of Heuchera plants and the impressive flower stalks of the Tiarella plants. What I personally love about these Heucehrella is their multi-season beauty. Both will bloom in early spring with copious long-lasting small pink flowers. Then their stunning foliage color will maintain its appeal throughout the summer, fall and into early winter. Heucherella are also very flexible in the garden because they form a very tidy clump and remain compact. You can plant them in the front of perennial beds or under shade-loving shrubs and you won’t have to worry about the plants outgrowing their situation – a big benefit if you’ve experienced other plants outgrowing their original purpose. Heucherella are easy to grow, and tolerate either dry shade or sunny but moist conditions. How great is that?
Here we go, off to another slow start to spring. But that’s ok with me, because these cold days and nights bring me to one of my favorite crops of the veggie season: lettuce and other leafy greens. Nothing beats fresh picked lettuce – the taste and texture is so much better than store bought. And it’s easy to grow, either in the ground or in containers. Plus this stuff loves the cold, so you need to take advantage of the season. Actually lettuce tends to “bolt” (stretches and goes to seed) when planted too late, so don’t procrastinate!
Any container will do!
Planting lettuce in containers – Start with any 10- to 12-inch pot that’s least 4 inches deep. It doesn’t need to be fancy (unless you like fancy, in which case pick a lovely pot that complements your outdoor décor and the color green). Good quality potting soil makes a huge difference, so don’t cheap out – and remember, topsoil or regular dirt will not work! The just pop in 4 to 6 plants in a 12-inch pot and you’re off!
Planting lettuce in the ground - Lettuce is an efficient use of garden space. I place plants in a row about 6-inches apart, with the next row about 12-inches away. Iceberg and other larger varieties may take a little more room. When the plants start to grow close together I take out every other head to make more room to grow. Again, starting with good quality soil rich in organic matter is key.
Fertilizer – lettuce and greens typically are “heavy feeders” (like to be fertilized often). When first planting I mix organic Espoma Garden-tone into the soil, and then as the plants grow I add Neptune Harvest Organic Blend Fertilizer when watering. Try to feed directly onto the soil without touching the leaves. There are other quality fertilizers that will work, but I always do both feedings because it really pushes them along well.
Fresh lettuce tastes way better than store bought!
Pest problems – lettuce and other greens don’t have a lot of problems at this time of year. Most insects aren’t out yet, and there are no major disease problems. The only insect problems I’ve ever had are aphids, and they’re easy to deal with. Every so often inspect under leaves. I usually use an organic approach such as insecticidal soap or Bon Neem. Start spraying every 5 to 7 days. Don’t let them get out of control because they get harder to deal with as the plant grows and inner leaves become harder to reach. Again, aphids are rare, but it’s something to keep an eye out for ‘cause there’s nothing worse than aphids swimming in the salad dressing. That said, also watch out for over watering; either from mother nature (which is uncontrollable) or yourself. While lettuce plants like an even moist soil, too much water will lead to botrytis, a rot at the crown of the plant.
Harvesting your lettuce – One of the great things about lettuce is how fast you can start to enjoy eating it. You can enjoy your first harvest in as little as 2 to 4 weeks. Remember, you can pick lettuce at any size – it tastes the same, it’s just smaller. As they start to crowd each other out, just thin out a couple heads, enjoy your fresh salad, and the rest will grow on for another supper. I usually plant too much every year, and inevitably get a little sick of salad towards the end of the season. But then I miss it when it’s gone and I look forward to it the next time I can plant. So don’t wait, take advantage of this pre-tomato growing season and plant that lettuce; your rewards will be palatable.
Vole Damage: Damage from vole ‘runways’, as pictured above, is an un-welcome sight as snow melts in the spring. Photo Credit: Jason D. Lanier, UMass Extension Technician
Now that our record-breaking snow pack is just an unpleasant memory, our attention can focus on the lawn and garden. Something to watch for are signs of moles, voles and other winter hungry rodents. Heavy snow provides protective cover from predators, so moles and voles are free to do a lot of damage without risk.
Moles (carnivores) can be found in the lawn feeding on grubs and other insects or even earthworms. Voles (herbivores) tend to go after perennial beds and turfgrass. As snow receeds, you might notice bare patches of lawn where voles have fed on the grass, usually accompanied by vole ‘runways’ (winding 1-2 wide pathways) which are caused by wear from vole traffic.There are lots of different products on the market for moles and voles. I’ve seen baited poison pellets syringes that are injected into the ground, peanut or grub looking bait poison, or even guillotine looking traps.
Mole Max: by Bonide
While you may feel the rodents that just ruined your lawn and garden deserve to die, there is an organic non-lethal product that really works: It’s called MOLEMAX from Bonide. MOLEMAX is an organic castor oil. Available in liquid or granules, the package says it repels moles, voles, gophers, rabbits, skunks and armadillos. (Man, I really hate it when those armadillos hang around) Very simply, these critters don’t like the taste and move out of the area relatively quick. It’s safe around children, plants and pets, and can be applied spring, summer or fall – but now is a great time since you’re bound to discover those guys in great numbers after the snow is gone. Apply on lawns, flower beds and gardens. Lasts up to 3 months.
Click here to download the “VOLEDAMAGETOLAWNS” (PDF) factsheet from UMass Extension
Have you’ve seen our herb and vegetable plants and wondered, “Who is Uncle Mike?” Uncle Mike is Michael Mahoney, one of the six second-generation Mahoneys. With a face full of beard and too-well-worn hat, Uncle Mike is a genuine down-to-earth guy.
With a passion for vegetable gardening Mike...
Winter Moth Damage: Example of damage caused by Winter Moth
Tree buds are a welcome sign of spring. Unfortunately, spring also signals the return of the dreaded winter moth. In Massachusetts, the Eastern part of the state typically sees the most damage. If not treated properly, and soon, emerging leaves could be riddled with holes, and complete defoliation may ultimately kill maple, oak, apples, cherry, linden and ash trees in as little as four-years. Many outbreaks popped-up last spring, causing concern for this spring. Additionally, the high amount of winter moths we saw this winter is an early warning sign that outbreaks may be high.
Winter Moth Damage: A winter moth caterpillar eating, an already, partially consumed leaf. Research has indicated that tree mortality is likely in as little as four consecutive years of defoliation.
When temperatures begin to average 55°F, the winter moth eggs begin to hatch. The newly hatched caterpillars, resembling an inch worm with a white “racing stripe” down the side, wiggle their way under the scales of flower and leaf buds to feed on the unopened bud. As the caterpillars grow, they continue to feed on unfolding leaves and are capable of defoliation on a large scale. If spring flowering is delayed, the problem is further intensified as caterpillars continue to feed on closed buds. In fruit trees, such as apple or blueberry, this may lead to a loss of fruiting.
Fortunately, there are treatments that are not only effective, but if handled properly, environmentally friendly. The first level of defense is to spray trees now with horticultural oil, such as Bonide All Seasons Horticultural Oil. This spray smothers the eggs while the trees are still dormant (no leaves out). Make sure to apply when temperatures are above freezing for 48 hours, so as not damage the plants. Cover as much bark and stems as can safely be reached. This method will dramatically lower populations; however additional treatments may be needed as some eggs may be protected by bark or lichens on the tree.
Winter Moth Solutions: All Seasons Horticultural oil (left) and Captain Jack’s Deadbug Brew (right) by Bonide
As leaves unfold, caterpillars will appear to swing from the trees on silky strands spreading to neighboring trees. At that time a foliar insecticide containing spinosad, (Bonide’s Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew) should be applied. Spinosad is a natural bacterium that targets caterpillars and similar insects. Once ingested, the caterpillars will stop feeding immediately and die within two-to-three days. If trees are sprayed as the leaves are unfolding an additional application will protect the untreated foliage.
Bonide All Seasons Horticultural Oil and Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew are available at all Mahoney’s, and most homeowners can handle spraying their smaller trees*. Larger trees are too hard to reach and require proper equipment. Mahoney’s SafeLawns and Landscapes offer spraying services capable of reaching the tops of large trees, as well as smaller. We can also protect against another destructive invasive insect, the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid, For more information or to schedule an appointment call (781) 305-5555.
* As always read and follow label instructions. Additionally, when spraying fruit trees, take care to protect foraging bees by spraying early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the bees are less active.
Kristina’s interest in the horticultural industry started at a young age. She attended an Agricultural High School where she focused on Arboriculture — the cultivation, management, and study of individual trees, shrubs, vines, and other perennial woody plants. She then continued on to get her...