New England

September, 2012
Regional Report

Check Birch Trees for Borers

Birches are popular landscape trees in our region. But these trees are especially vulnerable to drought stress and often struggle in landscapes, especially when planted in the middle of a lawn area. Drought-stressed birches are particularly susceptible to potentially fatal infestation by the bronze birch borer, a native pest found throughout our region. White-barked birches are most susceptible; river birch (Betula nigra) is the most resistant to the borer. Dieback in the upper crown of the tree, along with raised ridges about a quarter inch wide under the bark and D-shaped exit holes in the trunk are signs of infestation. Prevention is the best control strategy. Avoid the most susceptible species, such as European white birch and white-barked Himalayan birch; plant trees where the the roots will stay cool and moist, and use mulch, not turf, in the tree's root zone; keep trees well watered during dry spells; and avoid pruning from May 1 to July 1, as egg-laying females are attracted to fresh pruning cuts.

Freeze, Don't Can Tomatoes from Frost-Killed Vines

If you want to preserve tomatoes harvested from frost-killed vines, freeze them instead of canning them. According to the University of Minnesota Extension Home Food Preservation Newsletter, fruits from vines hit by frost will be low in acidity and may carry more bacteria than those picked from living vines. This makes them unsuitable for safe canning, but still acceptable for freezing or fresh use.

Save Tender Perennials as Houseplants

Many plants that we grow as annuals in our climate are actually tender perennials and will continue to thrive if potted up and brought indoors before they are hit by frost. Coleus, browallia, wax begonias, impatiens, and Persian shield are all good candidates. Cut back plants by half, then dig and pot up in containers with potting soil. You can also root tip cuttings to grow on over the winter. Be sure to check plants for pests and treat, if necessary, before bringing plants inside.

Plant Spring-Flowering Bulbs

Plant bulbs as the soil begins to cool in mid-fall. This is especially important for tulips; ideally the soil temperature should be less than 60 degrees F when tulips go in the ground. The exception is small bulbs, corms, and tubers, like snowdrops, crocuses, and winter aconites, which dry out readily. Get these little guys in the ground as soon as you purchase them.

Cut Back Asparagus Tops When Yellowed

Wait until the ferny top growth of asparagus plants has yellowed and dried before cutting it back. Burn or discard the fronds if asparagus beetles were a problem, as this is where these pests overwinter. Then add a topdressing of compost to the asparagus bed.

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