Summer Is Here
How was your spring? We would describe it with one word…”exhausting”. Our landscaping company is beginning to finally catch up on pruning and weed control. This is pretty much on schedule. Spring explodes into green growth with weeds, shrubs, and trees. It seems like three weeds pop up for every one that we pull. This is somewhat true. In the soil, thousands of dormant seeds are waiting for the right conditions to germinate. As we disturb the soil by tilling, or pulling weeds, seeds may travel to the surface. These seeds are suddenly in perfect germination conditions. Vines, like English Ivy take for the skies up tree trunks, fences, and any vertical structure within reach. It’s obviously easier to stay on top of smaller properties, but larger properties are more challenging. Nature is often like chasing a gang of rogue two-year-olds. The minute you get one mess cleaned up, you turn to find another in the making. Spring often brings extreme weather conditions that knock deadwood, pine cones/needles, and leaves to the ground. This debris removal, on top of weed control, pruning, edging, and mulching can make it hard to “stop and smell the roses”.
Now we are into summer and the heat has set in. In Virginia, we have already had record temperatures on and near 100ºF. Gardening is generally not thought of as an athletic pursuit, but no one can deny that it is a physically challenging vocation. Author, and friend of Mark Twain, Charles Dudley Warner stated, “What a man needs in gardening is a cast-iron back, with a hinge in it.” As we move further into summer, most gardeners will refrain from planting. Installing plants in the summer heat requires more frequent watering to enable a new plant to establish. With that in mind, as the turf relaxes its explosive growth, and you begin to catch up on other chores, this is a great time to begin planning for autumn planting.
Some people will research, contemplate, and validate most purchases whether it’s a new coat, or a plant. Others hop into their automobile with wallet in pocket, and go to make a purchase without forethought. We want to encourage you to take the time to pick the right plant for the location you intend to plant it. Sometimes a trip to the garden center is necessary just to research what is available. This spring has been difficult for the landscape industry in the Mid-Atlantic region. After a hard winter, and hot spring, there has been a shortage of plant material. Growers have not been able to keep up with demand. On top of that, much of the available plant material does not look as pleasing as in years past. Nonetheless, now is the time to start thinking about adding to your garden when the cool of autumn returns. Here are some questions beyond, “Is it pretty?” to ask yourself when considering adopting a new plant:
- Does the area where I intend to install the plant provide the proper conditions (sun, shade, soil conditions, etc…)
- Will this plant benefit local wildlife with food (nectar/seeds) or habitat?
- Is it considered invasive? See http://www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov/unitedstates/state.shtml
- Is it native? If so, know that it will require less maintenance. See http://www.wildflower.org/plants/
- What is the mature size of the plant? Will the chosen area allow space for the plant to grow to maturity?
- How will the mature size of this plant affect other plants around it? Will it shade out other sun-loving plants?
- What are the water requirements of the plant? Is it drought-tolerant, or will it require supplementary watering in drought conditions?
- Is the plant prone to particular pests in your area? Will it require regular use of pesticides to maintain it?
- When does it bloom? Would it provide color in the garden when other plants do not?
- What are the maintenance requirements of the plant? Will you be able to keep up with pruning requirements?
In The News
Since our last article, Pope Francis issued his Encyclical letter. You can read it at the Vatican website. In this letter, Pope Francis discusses the state of the earth, environmental issues, and humankind’s role in the pollution and climate change. This environmental attitude is nothing new for the Catholic Church. The pope makes reference to many of his predecessors, as well as biblical references to support his position. Environmental activism is not only happening in the Catholic Church. Christian churches across the spectrum have programs aimed to help the Earth usually called “Creation Care” ministries. A search with the term “creation care” will bring up programs from all kinds of churches.
Glad we don’t have to wear suits like this when we work!
Of course, a person of such celebrity like the pope can’t make a statement without somebody else jibing him. Representative, Rick Santorum (R-PA), and Governor Jeb Bush (both 2016 presidential candidates) caused some controversy. They said that the pope should leave the science to scientists. Of course this line of thinking precludes both of them as law graduates from having any input on climate change. It turns out that the Pope Francis actually earned a título in chemistry from the Escuela Técnica Industrial in Argentina (making him an actual scientist unlike Santorum, Bush and the majority of his critics). According to Fr. Thomas Reese of The National Catholic Reporter, Jorge Mario Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) worked as a chemist prior to entering the seminary. We are just happy that the Pope is encouraging people to take care of, and respect the Earth.
The U.S. forest Service is funding a team of scientists to battle a pest that is killing the beautiful Hemlock forests of the East Coast. The Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA) (Adelges tsugae) is a small, aphid like insect that threatens the health and sustainability of eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) and Carolina hemlock (Tsuga caroliniana) in the Eastern United States. The HWA is originally a native of Asia, and first appeared in the US near Richmond, Virginia around 1951. By 2005, the HWA had established in 16 states from Maine to Georgia.
Tiny, silver flies, that are native to Washington state eat the HWAs. Two species of the fly are being released, Leucosis piniperda and Leucosis argenticollis. Of course, many of you are thinking, “What happens if these flies turn out to be just another pest?” Experience has given us reason to be a little pessimistic, and humble about projects like this…think Kudzu. They have been conducting the study for 10 years. The team does not expect the flies to completely eradicate the HWA population, but will keep them at bay and reduce the population.
You can just feel the calm, cool, and quiet of the forest floor…
What Are They Eating Now?
In our last article, Got Weed, we were digging out a crop of Dandelions that popped up in our vegetable garden. Out of curiosity, we decided to sauté some of these nutritious greens for a supper side. The flavor left one of us thinking they are slightly better than edible. The other was thinking that they belong in the compost pile. This minor setback did not deter us from exploring the consumption of other “weeds”.
Chenopodium album, more commonly known as Lambsquarters is a common “weed” found throughout the United States. In fact, according to the USDA, it occurs in all of the lower 48 and most of Canada. It has many “colorful” common names like: Pigweed, Fat-hen, Goosefoot, Baconweed, Dirty Dick, and Wild Spinach.
Lambsquarters are reportedly more nutritious than spinach:
We won’t attest to the nutritional content, or health benefits of Lambsquarters. We will tell you that they are DELICIOUS! The flavor is actually similar to spinach. The greens are mild, yet tasty. Simply sautéing the leaves in some olive oil, with a pinch of salt made for a delicious side. We had worked hard, and decided to splurge on a nice steak. We added some corn on the cob, yellow tomatoes, and a glass of Merlot. The unanimous decision is that we will allow some of these plants to go to seed, and look forward to keeping them in our garden.
It is a wonderful thing, not having to prepare soil, plant seeds, water, treat for pests, and worry about competing weeds. The only problem with this, is that Lambsquarters do not grow in straight rows, nor do they respect the other vegetables. Any open soil is fair game.
Understand…WE ARE NOT RECOMMENDING THAT YOU GO OUT AND START EATING WEEDS FROM YOUR YARD!
Plants need to be positively identified. If you decide to start eating wild foods from your property, it is your responsibility to research and identify those that are edible!
Until next time,
Stay Cool and Get Grounded!
The HH Team