Monthly Archives: October 2014

The Good and the Ugly: Beneficial Bugs

The growing season is coming to an end and we are busy closing our gardens and making preparations for next year. So much to do! Cutting back perennials, cleaning up a seemingly endless supply of leaves, planting bulbs for that early spring splash of color. Even with so many things to think of as we near the end of another growing season, many families are focused on one thing: it’s Halloween time!!

Over the years the costumes have improved, the decoration displays get bigger and scarier, and undoubtedly, our misunderstood garden helpers get put on display to gross out and frighten. Insects and spiders have become a standard in Halloween gags, pranks, displays and décor that seem to awaken all of our irrational fears about our 6 or 8 legged friends.

To try and balance out all of the negative attention, here are three of the beneficial ‘bugs’ we can find right in our own backyards:

10-30-14 Ground beetleGround Beetles – While some types of beetles can be serious home garden pests, others are the best pest-fighters around. These medium to large, blue-black beetles typically hide under stones or boards during the day. By night they prey on cabbage root maggots, cutworms, snail and slug eggs, and other pests; some climb trees to capture armyworms or tent caterpillars.

10-30-14 Jumping spiderJumping Spiders – The Jumping Spider lives in woods, fields or gardens. It is often seen on tree trunks, fallen limbs, leaves, or other ground litter. The Jumping Spider gets its name because of its amazing leaping ability. Male Jumping Spiders are between 1/4 inch and 1/2 inch long while females are slightly larger. These spiders do not build webs to catch prey but hunt their prey on foot. They use silk to make a small shelter under a leaf or bark. These spiders eat all sorts of insects as well as other spiders. Their inquisitive behavior and rapid stop and go movements can provide quite a show!

10-30-14 Ladybug larvaeLady Beetle – The adult Lady Beetle, or Lady Bug, is easy for us to picture in our heads with its shiny red exoskeleton speckled with black or white dots. This family of small to medium beetles includes more than 3,000 species that feed on small, soft pests such as aphids, mealybugs and spider mites. Both adults and larvae (pictured) eat pests. Most larvae have tapering bodies with several short, branching spines on each segment.

Look for these friendly insects in your garden as you finish up your end-of-the season tasks. And if your fall maintenance is ‘bugging’ you, call us to help!




10-15-14 conifer fall after (2)

Conifer with normal yellow inner needles

10-15-14 conifer fall b4

Conifer after plant grooming

We delight in fall’s multicolored leaves and perennials that color like chameleons. Northeastern states are famous for their fall foliage … on deciduous plants. But we gardeners are not so happy about all plant coloring. Yes, there is that ominous side of Autumn: alarming yellow inner needles on conifers.

Take a walk in the woods this fall and you will be treading on a carpet of pine needles. But few of us realize that this natural shedding of inner needles is normal and to be expected on our garden conifers too. This is what happens: we walk outside and see bright yellow cloaking the interior of our favorite Pine or Hinoki Cypress and we lose our minds. Panic sets in and we start to water copiously, thinking it is a drought consequence. We forget to make the connection between walking in the woods and our garden conifers.

Evergreens have a fall season too. They shed their older inner needles annually, keeping the newer outer needles. The key differential diagnosis here is whether the plant is turning yellow in its interior- normal– or at the tip of the branch- a problem.

THE SOLUTION: The solution is plant grooming using your finger tips. Starting at the top of the plant, lightly brush the yellow foliage out of the plant, working your way down to the ground. Needles will fall easily and the fronds on a Hinoki Cypress may take a bit more direct jiggling. You can then remove the yellow foliage or leave it as mulch.

Christie Dustman & Company – here to help demystify the antics of plants.

10-15-14 pine needles on lawn

Garden with fallen pine needles

Falling into Spring!

fall into spring pix 2Autumn leaves are falling and covering your garden like a patchwork quilt. Yellows, oranges, reds and all kinds of browns create the soothing color palette of fall. Ornamental grasses have hit their stride and perennial Asters, Chrysanthemums, Sedums and Goldenrod all give a final burst of visual delight. It is very easy to get lulled into a state of sedated calm. Your mind tells you that you have worked so very hard this spring and summer taking care of the garden. Now is the time to relax and enjoy nature’s waning gifts.   OK, naptime is over! Finish your warm cider because there is necessary work to be done to put the garden “to bed” for the winter.

Get started by removing the debris of any remaining summer annuals. For perennials you should consider whether you will really want to get out in early spring to cut them back or is your springtime better spent with other tasks…remember how busy and pressured you felt back in March?   Clean up as much of the perennials as possible now while still leaving some for winter display (i.e. Sedums and ornamental grasses are beautiful in snow) and food for birds (i.e. Coneflower seeds). This is also a great time to do a final weeding. Many weeds make a last effort to go to seed in the fall and completing this task will save you hours of work next season.

Lastly take a critical look at your garden. Are there large gaps? Plants that are failing? Plants that need dividing? Fall is the perfect time to plant trees, shrubs, and perennials. The weather is cooler, rain is usually more plentiful and the soil still warm. New additions to the garden or transplants will have a chance to put out great root growth and get established for next season.

Need help putting your garden to bed? Let us know, we’re ready and able!

Fall into Spring pix 1