New England

April, 2013
Regional Report

Overseed Bare Spots in Lawn

Dense turf makes it harder for weeds to get a toehold in a lawn. Keep weeds at bay by overseeding thin or bare spots as soon as you notice them. Loosen the soil in these areas with a steel rake, mix in some compost and a small amount of nitrogen-containing fertilizer, then sow grass seed. Keep the area moist until seeds sprout.

Plant Asparagus Crowns

Gardeners used to be told to dig a deep trench in which to plant asparagus crowns, then to fill it in gradually as the spears emerged. But newer research has shown that all that work isn't necessary. Simply dig a trench 5-6 inches deep and as long as you desire. Place the crowns in the bottom of the trench, spacing them 18 apart. Next, fill in the trench to its original soil level, but don't pack the soil down or it will interfere with the emergence of the shoots. Wait until the soil has warmed to at least 50 degrees before planting. Crowns that sit in cold, wet soil are more susceptible to disease problems.

Choose Alternatives to Invasives

Burning bush (Euonymus alatus) and Japanese barberry (Berberis thungbergii) are once popular landscape shrubs that have proved to be invasive across New England. States in our region now ban or discourage their sale, but lots of these plants are still thriving (and sending out seeds) in many landscapes. Consider replacing them with some better behaved alternatives. Fothergilla gardenii 'Mt. Airy' has colorful fall foliage like burning bush, as well as white spring flowers; highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) and chokeberry (Aronia spp.) are other possibilities with vivid fall foliage. For shrubs with purplish foliage like many of the popular Japanese barberry cultivars, consider dark-leaved ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius) cultivars such as Summerwine ('Seward') or Diabolo ('Monlo').

Keep Wood-Based Mulch Away from Structures

Good advice from the Massachusetts State Fire Marshal: "Mulch [made from wood products] is a combustible material that can be easily ignited by improperly discarded smoking materials. Hundreds of small and large fires are started this way every year. The risk is that what starts as a small outdoor mulch fire can quickly spread to buildings." He recommends keeping wood-based mulch at least 18 inches from combustible building materials such as wood, vinyl siding, and decks, as well as gas meters. Use a non-combustible mulch such as rock or pea stone near combustible portions of a structure and around meters.

Make Root Maggot Mats

Cabbage root maggots attack all members of the cabbage family, mainly in the northern half of the country. Symptoms are wilting of young plants in the heat of the day, stunted plants, and small, white maggots feeding on roots. Prevent this problem by placing a barrier on the soil around each plant at transplant time. This will keep the female fly from laying eggs in the soil at the base of the plant that will hatch out into plant-damaging maggots. Cut a 6-inch circle out of tar paper, sturdy fabric, or some other weather- and waterproof material. Cut a slit from one edge into the center and enlarge the center just enough to fit around the stem of the transplant. Then slip the mat on to the soil around the plant, sealing the slit with waterproof tape. Be sure the mat is pressed firmly into the soil so flies can't crawl underneath.

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