New England

June, 2011
Regional Report

Don't Forget to Thin

Thinning seedlings is often one of the hardest things for a gardener to do. Not only is it time-consuming, it's just plain hard to make yourself pull up healthy little plants! But you'll have a much better harvest and healthier, more attractive flower bed if you space your seed-sown veggies and flowers out. Consult the seed packet or a gardening reference for specific spacing recommendations.

Use Row Covers to Protect Young Squash Plants

Covering the bed in which you've sown seeds or planted transplants of squash and pumpkin with row covers will help protect these vulnerable youngsters from cucumber beetles, flea beetles, squash bugs, and squash vine borers, as well as giving them a little extra warmth early in the season. But be sure to remove covers when the plants begin to flower so bees can get in to pollinate the blossoms.

Remove Tent Caterpillar Nests

Eastern tent caterpillars are building their silken web nests in the crotches of trees, most commonly apples and members of the Prunus clan, which includes cherries, plums, peaches, and chokecherries. The caterpillars leave the nest on warm, sunny days to feed; heavy infestations can defoliate trees. Prune out or physically remove new nests on cool nights when all the caterpillars have gone back in to huddle for warmth. For larger infestations, the natural insecticide B.t. is effective against caterpillars when they're small. Spinosad, another natural insecticide, works against all stages of the caterpillar.

Recycle Plastic Pots

Avid gardeners can accumulate quite a few plastic pots by the end of the growing season. Be green and try to recycle as many of them as possible. Many curb-side recycling programs or drop-off stations will accept them. If not, see if a local nursery will take them back. Some nurseries encourage their customers to return pots -- it helps the environment and it saves them money!

Don't Worry about Ants on Your Peonies

Some gardeners worry that the ants they see crawling over peony buds are hurting their plants. The ants are not harming the peony buds in any way and, in fact, may be helping the peony plants! The ants are eating the sugary nectar secreted by specialized tissues on the buds called "nectaries." It is old garden lore that the ants are necessary for the peony buds to open, but it isn't true -- the buds will open just fine without these insects. But it has been suggested that, in return for providing the ants with food, the peony receives protection from them as they feed on pests such as aphids that would be harmful to the peonies. So there's no need to get "antsy" about the ants!

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