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fall foliage color

There is an extra tinge of Melancholy this fall season.  It is not because of the shorter days or the knowledge a frost will end the tender plant growing season.  The fall season color is underway. This annual event has new meaning as I view the clear yellow of our native ash trees.  There will likely be fewer of those yellows in the future with the loss of many of those trees to the Emerald Ash Borer.  Communities and individuals will protect many of them but many more will be lost in the coming years.  Cherish every color and every year as the seasons change.

Impatiens & Downy Mildew

`Impatiens walleriana’s, future as a shade tolerant annual flower is threatened by downy mildew (Plasmorpara obducems).  The disease’s first appearance in New York was 2009.  Last year several more states reported the disease.  It is now widely distributed in many areas of NYS, including the Greater Rochester area.

Impatiens infected with downy mildew first exhibit yellowing leaves, similar to what looks like a nitrogen nutrient deficiency.   The infected leaves appear white on the underside that is a layer of spores that can travel through the air, infecting other impatiens plantings.  The leaves eventually fall, leaving pale green stems that melt away.  Practically, there is no landscape treatment, according to Brian Eshenaur, Cornell IPM Plant pathologist.  Container grown plants where the foliage is kept dry may delay infection.

As a systemic disease, it infects the entire plant and flower growers also find it very difficult to manage.  Bill Chase, owner of Chase Greenhouses in Rush is encouraging his customers to select other annual flowers such as coleus, marigolds, petunias, fibrous begonias or New Guinea impatiens, (which are not susceptible to the disease).  Chase plans to reduce the numbers of impatiens he offers for sale next year.

‘Impatiens are popular shade garden annuals’ says Walt Nelson, horticulturist with Cornell Cooperative Extension Monroe County.  ‘Movement of cuttings across our Nation is making it difficult to combat the disease.’  He believes some growers will not offer impatiens next year rather than disappoint customers with disease prone plants.

Gardeners are advised by Nelson not planting impatiens in an area where impatiens were killed by the mildew, as the disease survives the winter in soil and will re-infect impatiens in that site.  Hopefully future varieties will have disease resistance resulting from current plant breeding work.  It will be several years before resistant varieties are available.  Until then gardeners should celebrate diversity and plan on planting different annual flowers next spring.

Jumping Oak Gall

A recent submission to the horticulture diagnostic lab was a jar of jumping oak galls. A Hymenoptera lays eggs in the leaf of white oak. when mature in the resulting gall it jumps off the leaf and begins jumping around on the soil surface, coming to rest in a soil crevice where it pupates and emerges in another year.  Management is not likely necessary, beyond keeping trees healthy: mulching, watering during dry periods, avoiding injury from lawnmowers and trimmers, and fertilizing in the spring. Unless a tree is already stressed due to disease or drought, jumping oak galls usually do not affect tree health and by the time the damage is noticed, it is too late to begin treatment. Insecticidal sprays are not recommended. 2) Practice good garden sanitation and dispose of fallen leaves to remove sources of disease or pests. Jumping Oak Gall

Understanding Lawn Care

As with any subject greater understanding comes with an understanding of terminology.  In the lawn care arena four words or phrases are important to understand.

1) Conventional.  Lawn care connected with this term usually includes the use of synthetic fertilizer.  These fertilizers may be fast or slow release.  The later may be labeled WIN or water insoluble nitrogen.  Bacterial or heat action releases these nutrients.  The slow release is usually accomplished via a coating either sulfur or plastic polymer.  This lawn care practice may include the use of registered pesticides for management of insects, undesirable vegetation or fungus.

2) Organic.  When a lawn is managed organically the source of nutrition are organic fertilizers.  These materials are of lower analysis than conventional fertilizers, therefore requiring more material to provide similar amounts of nutrition as conventional fertilizer.  A result is higher cost of an application.  If the selected organic fertilizer is complete (containing nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) and no phosphorus or potassium is required, for example, their application is wasteful both environmentally and economically.  Only nonselective herbicides are available for an organic lawn.  There are few effective insecticides for use on an organic lawn.  Fortunately few diseases trouble home lawns, necessitating a fungicide.

3) Reduced risk lawn care.  Synthetic fertilizer is part of a program in this category.  Those pesticides labeled in NYS and listed by the EPA as reduced risk products could be used in a reduced risk program.

4) Lawn care without pesticides.  This lawn care is similar to an organic practice as neither uses synthetic pesticides.  This regime integrates good culture practices rather than pesticides for pest management.  Convectional fertilizers and bio controls for pest management are considered acceptable with this program.

Future blogs will expand on each of these lawn care programs.

Local Produce Harvest Season Underway

Most of the earliest local produce are perennial crops.  Farmers and gardeners make multi-year commitments when planting crops such as asparagus and rhubarb.  Both of these crops are in mid-season harvest, continuing about another month.

Green garlic is harvested in early spring, before the bulb forms.  The scallion-like plant is a chef’s favorite.  They are sometimes substituted for scallions or green onions whose harvest begins in the coming weeks.

Those with unheated growing structures (cold frames, high tunnels) offer salad greens (spinach, romaine, raducchio, argula) sown either last fall or in late winter and many herbs.

The early season harvest provides an opportunity for a foray to rural areas and encountering roadside stands.  Several area farmers’ markets are open, with vendors selling transplants, flowering baskets and early season produce.

The local harvest’s red (literally) carpet rolls out starting the end of May and continues through early July with ripening strawberries.  Farmers were successful earlier this spring in their protection against frosty mornings as area patches abound with strawberry flowers inter mixed with developing small green berries.

Find listings of area farmers’ markets on the web:

Compost = Organic Matter

Organic matter is the elixir of life for the plant world.  More is generally better.  How much more?  A large bag (1 Ft3?) is generally sufficient for planting a two gallon shrub or a flat of annual flowers.  That bag of compost will cover 162 square feet (10’x16’) with a two inch layer.  That is a lot of bags if you have a substantial food garden or perennial border!  Bulk on the other hand avoids the bags and is a more appropriate scale.

Garden retailers offer compost made from spent mushroom soil, brewery waste and occasionally leaf mold.  The last is often free through your municipality.  Unfortunately, what is free sometimes lacks quality.  Plastic waste, wood that will not decompose or stone require hand picking or screening.  Whether native soil is better suited for a potter’s wheel or a beach, organic matter is the solution to its improvement.

Contact the garden helpline for more information (585) 473-5335

Early season turfgrass situation

What with the breath of summer in late March turf is green and growing earlier than usual, despite the typical early April frosts.  Western New York is relatively dry.  Creeks and streams continue dropping.  The spring growth flush is not evident, likely due to lack of moisture.  Two positive impacts of low moisture at this time:

1) Lower disease risk for cool soil root diseases.

2) Grass roots are going down for moisture.  This enhances the plant’s ability to endure dry weather later on.

Low sun angle is reducing evapotranspiration.  Grass plants are growing down not up.

For these reasons, resisting the temptation to irrigate is a good turf management practice.

Another Frosty night coming

For the second time in a week Western New York has come under the influence of arctic air via a Canadian high pressure system.  The National weather Service is again issuing a freeze warning for Monday night and Tuesday morning.  Temperatures along Lake Ontario are expected to dip close to 32oF and mid 20oFs inland.  Flowering fruit and ornamental trees are vulnerable to these temperatures.  Consider taking steps to protect these plants and perennials that may not be accustomed to such temperatures.  Perennials that were greenhouse forced are more susceptible than those emerging naturally.

Understanding Food Labels

Knowing how to read a food label can help you make the healthiest choice.

Serving Size

The serving size lists the amount of food that the nutrition facts are based on. They are familiar amounts like 1 cup, 10 chips, or four cookies. Pay attention to how much you are eating and make adjustments to the nutrients based on those amounts.

Servings per container

The label tells you how many servings are contained in the package of food items. This can be helpful if you are calculating how many of the food items are in the package for a group or if you are consuming the entire package of a food item, you know how much of the nutrients you are consuming.

Calories and Calories from Fat

The number of calories tells you how much energy you will get from that food. Calories may come from carbohydrates, protein or fat. Foods that are 400 calories or more per serving are considered high in calories. 100 calories or more per serving is moderate, and 40 calories or less per serving is low. The calories from fat tells you how much of the total amount of calories are provided by fat. It is best to keep fat less than 30 percent of the total calories.

Total Fat

The total fat is the number of fat grams contained in one serving of food. Saturated fats and trans fats raise cholesterol and will be listed separately. Foods high in these fats should be avoided.

Cholesterol and Sodium

Many people with high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease need to limit their sodium and cholesterol intake.  Look for foods that contain less than 5 percent of the Daily Value.

Total Carbohydrate

Carbohydrates are the body’s primary energy source. Choose healthy high fiber carbohydrates like whole grains, vegetables, beans and fresh fruits. Look for foods that contain 2-3 grams of fiber per serving. Limit foods with added sugars. There is no daily percentage value for sugar, but you can compare sugar amounts of various foods to find the lowest number. Sugars are also contained on the ingredient list. Make sure sugars are not one of the first items on the list. Sugars may be listed as sucrose, glucose, fructose, corn syrup, maple syrup or honey.


Most people get plenty of protein, which is a major component of our muscles, organs and blood. Healthy protein sources include lean meats, beans, nuts and eggs.

Vitamins A, C, Calcium and Iron

Nutrient rich foods will contain 20 percent or more of these essential nutrients. Foods that contain 5 percent or less of the Daily Value are not good sources of these nutrients.

Percent Daily Value

Daily Values represent the recommended amount of nutrients based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Daily Values are reported in percentages. A food high in a nutrient provides 20 percent of the Daily Value, 10-19 percent is considered a good source and 5 percent or less is considered a low source of that nutrient. A table is provided on the food label with some upper limit guidelines for fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrate and fiber.

Ingredient List

Ingredients are listed on the food label in order of descending weight from most to least. Avoid foods that have fats or sugars listed in the first few ingredients. Sugars may be listed as dextrose, sucrose, maltose, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, maple syrup or honey. Fats may be listed as oil, palm oil, coconut oil, hydrogenated oil or partially hydrogenated oil. Ingredient lists may also be used to avoid foods that may cause an allergic reaction.



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Warm weather growing weeds in high tunnels

Warm weather is fostering the growth of winter annual weeds in high tunnels and under other winter covers.  options for management of plants such as chickweed and bittercress are the sue of non-selective post-emergence herbicides (glyphosate), hand-weeding or physical barriers (black plastic or weed barrier fabrics).

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