New England

May, 2011
Regional Report

Harvest Asparagus

Harvest spears by cutting or snapping off at soil level when they are 6-8 inches tall. Established plantings (at least 3 years old) can be harvested for about two months or until the diameter of the spears coming up is less than that of a pencil. Keep an eye out for the common asparagus beetle (black back with white spots and red sides) and the spotted asparagus beetle (red with black spots). Handpick the adults and the black-headed, humpbacked larvae.

Keep an Eye Out for Flea Beetles

If the leaves of your young vegetables plants are so full of tiny holes they look like they've been peppered with buckshot, you're seeing the damage caused by flea beetles. These minute (1/10 inch long), black beetles get their name from the way they jump like fleas when disturbed. They do the most damage early in the season when their feeding may be extensive enough to kill young seedlings. Crop rotation (the adults emerge from the soil in spring) and use of row covers are good strategies for protecting vulnerable plants. The natural insecticide spinosad can help control heavy infestations.

Ditch Potato Beetles

Here's an interesting Colorado potato beetle control from UMass Extension. It is effective against the first generation of this pest. Dig a ditch a foot deep around your potato or tomato beds and line the ditch with plastic mulch. Most beetles overwinter outside the garden and crawl in to feed on plants, being too weak from their winter fast to fly well. The beetles slide into the ditch and can't climb out up the slippery plastic. Keep an eye out later for yellow-orange eggs laid in rows on leaf undersides and dark-orange, black-spotted, humpbacked second generation larvae. Squash the eggs. The microbial insecticide Bt is effective against the larvae while they are still small.

Prune Spring Flowering Shrubs After Bloom

Prune spring-flowering shrubs right after they have finished blooming. This gives them time to set flower buds on new growth in late summer for bloom the following year. Many flowering shrubs will benefit from having some of the oldest wood taken out as close to the ground as possible every few years.

Care for Strawberries

Hand weed the strawberry bed or hoe carefully so as not to disturb the shallow roots of the strawberry plants. Then spread mulch between rows to keep down weeds and conserve soil moisture. If a late frost threatens, protect blossoms with row cover fabric. As berries ripen, you may need to cover beds with netting unless you want to share your harvest with the birds.

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