Category Archives: Gardening in Orange County

Hemp! An Introduction to Hemp as a Crop

Hemp: It is not Pot! An Introduction to Hemp as a Crop

By Brooke Moore, New Windsor Senior Master Gardener Volunteer and Madelene Knaggs, New Windsor Master Gardener Volunteer

This article appeared in the October / November 2019 Issue of Gardening in Orange County. Click here to subscribe!

top of a hemp plant showing the characteristic five lobed leavesHemp may not be a familiar crop to you, but it has had a long history in this country and is poised to make a comeback in the Hudson Valley and throughout New York State. In the last five years, changes to federal and state laws have allowed for the growing of hemp. As a result, hemp has the potential to create an incredible economic boom for our region.

As demand for dairy and other traditional crops has declined, farmers are looking for alternative crops to provide a long-term base for staying in agriculture. Hemp may also be a means to keep younger farmers interested and involved in family farms. Some estimates for the return on investment in growing hemp for cannabidiol (CBD) are as high as 40%. This high return on investment is unheard of in agriculture, but as we are still in the earlier days of growing hemp in our region, it could turn out to be much less. Research is ongoing and there are many facets of hemp where little is known or where conflicting information exists.

Purple hemp flower pistils on a CBD hemp plant
Female hemp flower

Hemp can be grown for use as fiber, grain, oil and CBD. In the Hudson Valley most hemp in 2019 is being grown for CBD not for fiber, grain, or oil. CBD is a compound that is extracted from the female hemp flower and can be used for medicinal purposes. Unlike its cousin marijuana, CBD do not produce a “high” when ingested. There is a lot to learn about hemp and its potential impact on the agricultural economy of our region, but before we explore all the options lets answer some basic questions and introduce the crop.

What is hemp?

Both hemp and marijuana are varieties of Canabis sativa. Each is produced through selective breeding. Hemp is bred to produce fiber, grain, oil and/or CBD, while marijuana is bred to produce delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which is a psychoactive compound.

Genetically the two plants are very similar. Research shows that even though different genes produce CBD and THC, these genes are linked. This link between the genes creates a ratio of CBD to THC that influences the total amount of each compound in a particular plant.

Hemp can be useful in many ways that may surprise you. Historically hemp was grown to produce fiber for use in rope and textiles. Today hemp fiber is used for insulation, animal bedding, particle board, hempcrete (a mixture of hemp and lime used in construction), and some plastics. When synthetic fibers became more common in the mid-twentieth century, hemp and other natural fibers fell out of favor. Now as we look at the impact of plastic products in all forms, a renewed interest in natural fiber production, including hemp, has taken hold.

Close-up of a top of a hemp plant covered with seeds
Ready to harvest hemp grain

Hemp seeds are a good source of protein and can used like other seed to enhance a large variety of foods. They can also be pressed to produce a food grade oil that is high in omegas, vitamins, and minerals. As hemp oil has a low smoking temperature, the oil is best used for low temperature cooking. Hemp oil can also be used in cosmetics.

The medical side of hemp comes from using  CBD extracts from the female flowers. (More about this will be in another article.)

Is it legal to grow hemp?

Field of 3 foot tall hemp plants, rows are seperated by black landscaping fabric and each row has a five foot wooden post ever marking of every two plants
Hemp Trial, Geneva, NY

Yes, with the proper approval from the state it is now legal to grow hemp. Following the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill, which legitimized industrial hemp research, New York State created an Industrial Hemp Agricultural Research Project Pilot Program to encourage hemp research. In 2017, the state expanded the program from a few educational institutions to farmers and businesses. The 2018 Farm Bill went as far as removing industrial hemp from the controlled substances list. Today hemp growers in New York are partners with the Industrial Hemp Pilot Program and supervised by the Department of Agriculture and Markets.

Is all hemp the same?

The simple answer is no. There is still much to be learned about the genetics of hemp plants and what is important for developing plants that will thrive in our soil and climate. Plant researchers are looking at both modern hemp plants as well as feral plants they find growing along ditches and hidden in fields. Some of these feral plants date back to the colonial period of cultivation. Others are from the pre-WWII era when hemp was a huge source of fiber. These plants may well hold the key to developing modern cultivars which are well adapted to the soil and temperature in New York State and still produce a high rate of CBD and a low rate of THC.

Do the plants all look the same?

All the hemp plants currently grown have similar looking leaves, but there is quite a variety of height, width, and flower development. And even though the leaf shape is similar, it too can vary in size. Plant breeders continue to select for plants that are both easy to cultivate and easy to harvest, but still produce good quality fiber, grain, oil, or CBD depending on the desired end product.

The topof a hemp plant, a small dish of hemp seeds and a ropper bottle of CBD oilDo all plants produce the same products?

There are many of different hemp cultivars, each bred to produce either good quality fiber, grain, oil or CBD. Growers choose the specific cultivar that matches the intended use. Most growers in our region are growing for CBD production, not for fiber, grain or oil production. In the future plants may be developed to allow for multiple products to be economically processed from the same plant.

Special thanks to Maire Ullrich, Cornell Cooperative Extension Orange County and to the Cornell Hemp Team for resources and guidance in this series.

This article is the first in a series of articles focusing on the hemp industry.  See future Gardening in Orange County issues for more information.

For more information about all things hemp:

Beginning Hemp – Keys to Successful Production in NYS – Cornell Cooperative Extension Orange County

Cornell Hemp – Cornell School of Integrative Plant Science

 

Color, Color Everywhere – or maybe not!

By Brooke Moore, New Windsor, Senior Master Gardener Volunteer

This article appeared in the September 2019 Issue of Gardening in Orange County. Click here to subscribe!

We live in a colorful world filled with plants, animals, and objects that are brightly colored or, in some cases, patterned, or even singular in color.  As humans we often think that the rest of the world sees itself and its surroundings in the same way that we do. But nothing could be further than the truth.

A cirlce filled with dots of varying sizes all in arying shade of red except for the green dots, of varying shades, that form a large 'W' spaning the width of the circle.
An Ishihar plate, used by optometrists and ophthalmologists to test for color blindness.
As a teenager I had a wonderful friend, John, who was the first person I knew who was colorblind.  Not just color insensitive, as many are, but truly and completely unable to perceive any color at all.  His experience of the world was totally opposite to mine, as I am one of the lucky or in some ways unlucky people who perceive way more color than most people do.  His daily view of things was more like that of a rabbit, who see in shades of darkness and light and contrast.

Close up of a blue human eye.
Human eye

Learning more about how he saw the world and experienced paintings, gardens and simple things like traffic lights began my interest in color and how we can manipulate our surroundings based on adding or subtracting colors from a situation.

Close-uo of the head of a fly - white head, lots of black hairs and large red eyes in which you can see teh individaul lenses
Fly eye

The animals who live among us and in our gardens perceive color in many different ways, and they interact with the plants we grow depending on what they see and how they see and interpret light.

All eyes use reflected light to create images that are the basis of sight.  As humans, we have sight that can determine the shape, size and special relationship of objects, and we have sight that is color-based.

Close up of an owl eye - bright yellow eye surrounded by white, brown and black plummage
Owl eye

The same is true for animals.  Birds have keen color sight that helps them with foraging for food, identifying prey and recognizing others of their species.  Many scientists have been astonished to discover that some birds may not be able to see all the colors of their own plumage, while other birds can see more than enough colors to find and attract a mate.

Bird Vision
A graph with absorbance on the y-axis (0-1.0) and wave length (330 nm - 700 nm) on the x-axis. There are four lines on the graph, all of them bell shape-esque. The grey line peaks at 370 nm, which falls in the ultraviolet range. The blue line peaks at 445 nm, which falls in the blue range of the visble light spectrum. The green line peaks at 508 nm, which falls in the green range of the visible light spectrum. The red line peaks at 565 nm, which falls in the yellow/orange range of the visible light spectrum.
Humans usually have three types of cones allowing them to perceive light in the visible spectrum.  Some animals , including birds, have four types of cones which allows them to see ultraviolet light.

Birds see more colors than humans as they are able to use ultraviolet (UV) light due to having four types of cones in their retinas – in contrast to humans who have three types of cones.  Different species of birds have more or fewer cone cells in their retinas and thus different ability to see colors.  The ability to determine subtle differences in shades of colors is an evolving ability in birds and thought to be something that aids in adapting to change in environment and availability of food sources.

Color Vision
State Types of cone cells Approx. number of colors perceived Carriers
Monochromacy 1 200 Marine mammals, owl monkey, Australian sea lion, achromat primates
Dichromacy 2 40,000 Most terrestrial non-primate mammals, color blind primates
Trichromacy 3 10 million Most primates, especially great apes (such as humans), marsupials, some insects (such as honeybees)
Tetrachromacy 4 100 million Most reptiles, amphibians, birds and insects, rarely humans
Pentachromacy 5 10 billion Some insects (specific species of butterflies), some birds (pigeons for instance)

The UV reflection from the waxy surface of fruits and berries makes them stand out from the green of foliage – and birds are better able to find them.  Red berries are seen  best and will be eaten first, so also growing some plants that produce orange or yellow fruit will extend the feeding season.

Top picture: A sinlge stem with two flower buds and one small yellow flower with four petals. Bottom: The same photo taken in UV light. The flower is now white with a black center.
Winter Jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) photographed in visible light (top) and ultraviolet light (bottom).

Many insects also reflect UV light, making them more attractive to birds as a food source.  Certain bird eggs reflect UV light and help birds to identify their own eggs and reject those put in the nest by other birds.  Many flowers have nectar guides  that reflect UV light.  These  marking are visible to bees and butterflies allowing them to easily find the nectar at the center of the flower.

Deer have poor color vision limited to short (blue) and middle (green) wave lengths of color.  They may have some UV sensitivity but not much compared to birds.  Foxes do not see green and have little ability to see blue, red or yellow.  So, these animals are not using color in the garden to find or choose what they eat!

The head of a deer standing with its face brushing up againsta purple flower.Understanding which animals use color to find and choose food can help us in identifying plants to put into our gardens, and plants to leave out.  It also can put to rest myths like deer choosing red tulips over yellow daffodils -because they are making a choice based on taste and smell, not sight.

Urban Sanctuary

Urban Sanctuary

By Cecelia Lillard, Florida Master Gardener Volunteer and James Alton Thomas, Greenville Township Senior Master Gardener Volunteer

This article appeared in the August 2019 Issue of Gardening in Orange County. Click here to subscribe!

This article profiles an urban lot that was transformed into an oasis for body, mind and soul as well as for wildlife.  This lot belongs to a local Master Gardener and illustrates how much privacy, beauty and biodiversity can be created with thoughtful design and considered plant choices.  We’ll review the design principles employed in this yard and then take a look at the ecological needs fulfilled through the design and its implementation.

A bright green garden - houses in the background and bright lush green garden in the foregroundFirst and foremost, this design provides privacy and the sense that the space is an outdoor room.  The lot is 50′ wide and faces southeast.  The edges of the property are bordered by deciduous and evergreen trees.  The tall Norway Spruce provides a strong anchor for the southern border and creates a shade garden for almost half of the yard, while the mature deciduous trees provide both frame and boundary for the property.  Given that this garden is in shade much of the time, plant textures are emphasized in throughout the space.  Since the plants are in groups instead of individual plants, the various textures become harmonious and interesting rather than chaotic to the eye.  The repetition of plants by massing gives the design a simplicity that helps quiet the mind and gives one an opportunity to linger in areas and simply enjoy the beauty of a plant’s texture and color.

A beautifully green garden with trees in the background and a small grassy area with a large planter in the foreground
The central planter provides the main focal point of the yard and is the only place where we find a traditional lawn.  The repetition of red in the plants helps to unify the yard and gives the focal point additional structure.  The use of evergreen boxwoods around the base of the container ensures that the focal point will be held even in winter when the planter is moved indoors and allowed to go dormant.

The lawn around the focal point draws the eye to the back of the circle where a stone path peeks between the low shrubs and groundcovers.  The curving shape of the path gives the landscape a sense of movement and entices one into the farther spaces.  The copper birdbath provides another focal point that draws the viewer’s eye and invites the viewer to another part of the garden that is more private.  The red pole, which supports an unseen, yet occupied birdhouse, gives us a hint that there is more to that part of the garden than we can see and provides a touch of mystery.

A lush green gardenThe yard evokes a feeling of balance with the shrubs softening the borders of the property and the understory trees filling the gaps between the shrub layer and the canopy of the deciduous trees.  The varying heights of the plants provide visual interest and contribute to the feeling of privacy that is created in such a small space.  The repetition of color throughout the garden contributes to the sense of balance, with the yellow-greens contrasting with the darker greens, yet not competing with them.

Seasonal interest was also a major consideration in the design of this space.  There is year-round interest provided by many elements of the garden.  The plants were chosen not only for their texture, but for their bloom times and flower colors as well.  There is a continuous supply of flowers in the garden throughout the spring and summer and into fall.  The changing color of the leaves of the trees and shrubs during the autumn supplies the visual interest that flowers provided the rest of the season.  In the winter, the evergreens take center stage, furnishing a stark contrast to the more delicate structures of the deciduous plants.

Overall this garden creation has a feeling of unity, where all of the parts work together to create a coherent whole.  The massing provides a rhythm that is relaxing and the multiple textures provide interest within that rhythm.  The reiteration of certain colors also unifies the space by visually connecting different areas of the property.

green stripped caterpillar with a red head on a leaf stem
Rosy Maple Moth Caterpillar  (Dryocampa rubicunda)

Looking at the yard from an ecological point of view, the property provides all the layers of a forest garden:  tall tree layer, low tree layer, shrub layer, herbaceous layer, ground cover layer and, of course, the root layer.   The tall tree layer consists of both deciduous and evergreen trees.  These trees provide food in the form of seeds and shelter within their branches to birds and squirrels.  The leaves of the deciduous trees also supply an important habitat for insects, including butterflies and moths, providing spaces to lay eggs and food for growing larvae.

A back beetle with orange stripes and long antenna on the white florets of a Queen Anne's Lace flower
A longhorn beetle on the umbelliferous flower of Queen Anne’s Lace

Since the garden was designed to be in continuous bloom for more than half the year, it can be considered an insectary.  There are various flower shapes throughout the garden, providing food for many different types of insects.  Some insects prefer umbelliferous flowers, while others prefer flowers with central florets like asters.  The diversity of flower shapes and bloom times helps ensure that beneficial insects will have a continuous food supply and will help keep invasive and/or problem insects at manageable populations.

As we have spent much of this issue discussing soil and the soil food web, we need to look at our garden through that lens.  In addition to providing mulch and habitat for overwintering insects, fallen leaves contribute to the soil structure and organic matter content in the soil.  These photos were taken in spring and we can see how full and lush the vegetation is early in the season.  This verdure is due not only to the care of the gardener, but more so to the health of the soil where these plants are growing.  The soil food web is very dynamic in an environment like this and the result is the beauty that we see in these photos.  May you be inspired to use these design principles and nourish your ecosystem to build a beautiful garden of your own.Drawing of a carm with icons highliting different management practices, soil health benifits, and soil organisms that are important to soil health. Click on the picture to learn more.

For links to resources that will help you design your own urban sanctuary, check out Cornell University’s “Site Assessment for Better Gardens and Landscapes“.

Click here to learn more about Backyard Conservation.

What kind of insect is destroying my plants?

Biting / Chewing vs. Piercing / Sucking

By Susan Ndiaye, Community Horticulture Educator

This article appeared in the July 2019 Issue of Gardening in Orange County. Click here to subscribe!

Insects can cause a lot of damage to your plants.  Determining what insect is causing damage to your plant is key to developing an effective management strategy.  The first step is to examine the damage.

Biting/Chewing Insects

A leaf covered with holes and a small grasshopper
Chewing damage

Biting/chewing insects create holes in plant leaves.  The size and shape of these holes varies by  insect.  The three most common types of insects with biting/chewing mouthparts you may find in your garden are: grasshoppers, butterfly/moth larvae, and beetles (adults and larvae).

 Grasshoppers

Two mating diffrentail grasshoppers, the male sitting on top of the female
Differential grasshoppers (Melanoplus differentialis)

Grasshoppers are a sporadic pest and rarely cause substantial damage to garden plants.  During dry years when other plants dry out, grasshoppers may seek refuge and food in your lush green garden. Unfortunately, because grasshoppers are highly mobile they are difficult to manage.  If you have an ongoing problem with grasshoppers, you can reduce populations, by fall tillage as grasshoppers overwinter as eggs laid in the soil.

Imported Cabbageworm (Pieris rapae)

Imported cabbageworm larvae, a velvety green caterpillar with a faint yellow strip down the miidle of the back, hanging out on a leaf
Imported cabbageworm larvae
Imported Cabbageworm adult, a white butterfly with three black spots on the forewings perched on a rasberry bloom
Imported cabbageworm adult

Those beautiful white butterflies you see fluttering around your garden, may seem innocuous, but their larvae, the imported cabbageworm, can cause extensive damage to plants in the brassica family also known as cole crops.  These plants include broccoli, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, collards, kale, radishes, and turnips.  The caterpillar is bright green with a yellow stripe down the center of its back.  They start out chewing little holes in the leaves of the plants, but eventually consume the entire leaf leaving only the midrib behind.

A very holey head of cabbage a result of feeding by the imported cabbageworm
Imported cabbageworm damage on cabbage

To monitor for these pests, look for dark green frass or poop near feeding areas.  Once you discover a population of imported cabbageworm, depending on how numerous they are you can hand pick them off your plant.  The use of Bt (Bacillus thuringensis), a microbial insecticide is also highly effective on younger caterpillars.  This particular pest spends the winter in the pupal stage, so to prevent future infestations you can eliminate overwintering sites in your garden by removing plant debris.

Stripped and Spotted Cucumber Beetles (Acalymma vittatum and Diabrotica undecimpunctata howardi)

A single stripped cucumber beetle, black and yellow vertical striped with an orange thorax, a black head and black legs and filiform antennae, on the orange flesh of a pumpkin
Stripped cucumber beetle

Although they are called cucumber beetles, these insects feed on much more than cucumbers.  The stripped cucumber beetle prefers plants in the cucurbit family (squash, pumpkins, melons, etc.) feeding on leaves, flowers, stems and fruits.  They can be especially detrimental to young seedlings.

Spotted cucumber beetle, a yellow beetle with black spotts, a back head, legs and filiform antenna
Spotted cucumber beetle / Southern corn rootworm

The spotted cucumber beetle is more of a generalist and feeds on cucurbits as well as beans, tomatoes, and ornamentals. The larvae of this beetle can do substantial damage on the roots of corn plants hence its other name, the southern corn rootworm.

 

A cucumber plant sith bacterial wilt, there is a scetion of health plant and a two foot vine with shriveled brown leaves
Bacterial wilt of a  cucumber plant

Cucumber beetles vector or transmit bacterial wilt (Erwinia tracheiphila), a common disease in cucurbits in which bacteria clog up the vascular system of the plant preventing the flow of water and causing the plant to wilt and eventually die.

One way to protect your plants from cucumber beetles is by using row cover.  This can be put on at planting and kept on until female flowers appear, then it must be removed to allow for pollination.

Sucking/Piercing Insects

Squash bug damage on a squash plant - edges of the leaf are brown with a yellow line between the brown area and the green center of the leaf
Squash bug damage on a squash plant

Sucking/piercing insects can cause of variety of symptoms including leaf malformation and leaf discoloration. The most common types of insects with sucking/piercing mouthparts are from the Order Hemiptera, also known as the “true bugs”.  This order of insects contains, stink bugs, squash bugs, cicadas, leaf hoppers, scale, aphids and many more.

Brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys)

A brown shield shapped bug with white and black marmoration on the edge of the wings
Brown marmorated stink bug adult

Many people are familiar with this invasive species because the adults invade their home every fall looking for a nice warm place to spend the winter.  Although it can be an unwelcome house guest it also can cause major damage on fruits and vegetables.  Some of the brown marmorated stink bug’s favorite snacks include apples, peppers, beans, tomatoes, and sweet corn.

About 20 orange and black colored brown marmorated stink bug nymphs clustered around their egg mass
Brown marmorated stink bug 1st instar nymphs clustered around an egg mass

Controlling the brown marmorated stink bug can be quite difficult because they are highly mobile, feed on a large variety of plants, and adults are highly resistant to insecticides.  Monitoring for these pests is the best way to start.  Bunches of about 28 eggs are laid on the underside of leaves and should be removed and destroyed if found.  When the eggs hatch the 1st instar nymphs cluster around the egg mass making them an easy target for removal.  The bugs usually drop down when startled, so for hand removal, you can knock them into a container of soapy water.

Lots of research is being done to develop effective management strategies for brown marmorated stink bug.  One of the most promising avenues of research is on biological control.  A stingerless wasp known as the Samurai Wasp (Trissolcus japonicas) destroys 60-90% of brown marmorated stink bug egg masses in its native range in Asia.  This tiny wasp has found its way to the United States and as of 2018 has been found in twelve states, including New York.  Research is now being done to determine the effectiveness of rearing and releasing this tiny parasitoid.  Check out this video about brown marmorated stink bug and the samurai wasp.

Potato Leafhopper (Empoasca fabae)

Potatoe leaf hopper adult on a leaf
Potato leaf hopper adult
Neon green leaf hopper nymph on the underside of a leaf
Potato leaf hopper nymph

Despite their name, potato leaf hoppers feed on over 200 hundred different kinds of plants including potatoes, snap beans, cucumbers, pumpkins, egg plants, rhubarb, squash and sweet potatoes.  The nymphs are neon green and are usually found crawling around on the underside of leaves.  The adults only reach ⅛ inch in length. They are pale green and wedge shaped and fly away when disturbed.

hopper burn on bean leaves, edges of leaves are yellowing, entire leaf is distorted
Hopper burn on bean leaves

These little pests do not overwinter in our area, but instead overwinter down south and the adults are brought up each year by the winds arriving in late-May / early-June.  Although small, a few individuals can cause hopper burn on your plants.  Hopper burn reduces yield and is characterized by chlorosis, or yellowing, of the leaf edges.  Eventually these leaves begin to curl and turn brown.

It is easiest to combat these pest as flightless nymphs using insecticidal soaps or horticultural oils on the undersides of leaves.  Dusting plants with diatomaceous earth can also help deter these pesky bugs.

Squash Bug (Anasa tristis)

Squah bug nymphs, green with black legs
Squash bug nymphs

Squash bugs are pests of all cucurbits, but prefer squash (summer and winter varieties) and pumpkins.  Adults are a little over a ½ inch long and are dark brownish while nymphs are black, pale green or gray with black legs.  These insects feed mainly on the leaves and the stems of squash plants, but can also feed on the fruits.  Initially they cause a stippling on the leaves, but after heavy feeding the leaves begin to look tattered.

Squash bug adult laying eggs
Squash bug adult laying eggs

Squash bugs overwinter as adults, so at the end of the season cleaning up plant debris and mulch will remove overwintering sites.  Eggs are bronze colored and usually laid in clumps on the underside of leaves.  Removing and destroying egg masses can help keep squash bug numbers down.  Adults and nymphs are known to hide in mulch around the base of the plants, laying down a board or piece of cardboard will provide a hiding place for these bugs.  You can then remove the shelter and destroy all the bugs underneath it.  There are also some cultivars of both summer and winter squash that are resistant to squash bugs.


Of course there are lots of non-insect pests that can wreak havoc on your garden as well and whose damage can sometimes be confused with insect damage.  Snails and slugs have rasping mouth parts that create holes in plant leaves much like insects that have biting/chewing mouth parts. Spider mites having piercing/sucking mouth parts that cause stippling on plant leaves like the “true bugs”.

So as you try to determine what is causing damage to your plants keep in mind that different kinds of insects cause different kinds of damage and that determining the cause is essential to developing a solution.

Note: Pesticide recommendations are not a substitute for pesticide labeling.  Remember to read the label before applying any pesticide.  The label is the law!

Helpful References

Vegetable Insect-Mite Pests

https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/vegetable-insect-mite-pests

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

https://www.stopbmsb.org/stopBMSB/assets/File/BMSB-in-Vegetables-English.pdf

https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/stink-bugs-vegetables

 Grasshoppers

https://extension.umd.edu/learn/grasshoppers-life-cycle-and-control

Imported Cabbageworm

https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/imported-cabbageworm-vegetables

http://idl.entomology.cornell.edu/wp-content/uploads/Imported-Cabbageworm.pdf

Potato Leafhoppers

https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/potato-leafhopper-vegetables

Squash Bugs

https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/squash-bug-vegetables

Striped and Spotted Cucumber Beetles 

https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/cucumber-beetles-spotted-or-striped-vegetables

 

Native Bees

Which Native Bee Is That?

By Susan I., Sparrowbush Senior Master Gardener

This article appeared in the June 2019 Issue of Gardening in Orange County. Click here to subscribe!

Even though there are almost 400 species of native bees in New York, these bees usually zoom right under our radar.  They work and nest on our property yet are often unrecognized and unnoticed (let alone understood) as the crucial pollinators of our flowers and food crops.  Most natives are not aggressive and sting only if provoked. Unfortunately, they often get mistaken for bellicose wasps or hornets and, sadly, are obliterated.

Bees evolved from insect-devouring wasps 100 million years ago.  Bees are wasps that went vegetarian.  They evolved away from hunting insects to bee species adapted for efficiently gathering more nutritious pollen to feed their larvae.

Three-fourths of our native Orange County bees are ground-nesters that dig tunnels or take over beetle or mouse burrows.  The rest nest above ground in straw-like stems, twigs, stonewalls, or in hollowed-out deadwood.  Most of them are solitary – meaning the queens build, gather, provision, and care for their nests all alone.  Males often look like a smaller version of their queens.

Close up of a bumble bee on an orange flower
Bombus pensylvanicus

BumblebeesBombus

Closely related to foreign honeybees, these charismatic bees have an iconic stocky, round shape and small wings that defy the aerodynamics of lift and drag.  The distinctive flat shiny spot on female’s back legs is surrounded by hairs to form a pollen basket.  They use this basket to transport pollen wetted with nectar, but, unlike the honeybee, they never stockpile it.  Bumblebees live in ground dwellings, not hives, and are distinguishable by their waist-less anatomy covered in black and yellow hair, especially on the abdomen.  Queens make their nests in animal tunnels or tussock grasses.  A queen will travel up to a mile for pollen to feed her young, usually referred to as her brood. The more flowers available for pollen, the larger her brood.  Colonies last only one season – compelling swift, and prodigious pollen collection, 15 times that of the honey bee.  Males leave the nest and do not normally return, spending their time feeding on nectar and trying to mate.

Bumblebees are flower generalists and are the preeminent pollinators of tomatoes.  To do this, they clutch the tomato flower and vibrate their abdomen to shake out the pollen found inside.

Pinned mining bee specimen
Andrena nigrae

Mining Bees

These strong bees dig deep ground-nests leaving volcano-shaped mounds in sand, clay, grass or under fallen leaves.  Often their nests are aggregated and are easily spotted when females are orientating themselves to the “door” of their nest by flying in larger and larger figure eights around it.  Males can also be seen swarming around the complex, but instead of orientating themselves, they are looking for an opportunity to mate.  Although one hole leads to many underground “apartments”, each queen lives separately with her brood. The communities’ females exhibit an orderly morning exodus one at a time.

Our most numerous native bees, miner bees fly only from late April to July. They emerge to the surface at around 40 – 50 °F to absorb the sun’s warming rays, and take of flying when temperatures reach 50 – 60 °F.  They fly fast and are valued for pollinating early morning flowers that bloom before honey bees wake up.

Close-up of a carpenter bee on a wooden fence
Xylocopa virginica

Carpenter BeesXylocopa virginica

Common in Orange County, carpenter bees are the largest of our native bees.  Females resemble bumblebees – only they are larger and have a hairless shiny black abdomen. Males’ faces are yellow while females’ faces are black.  They are named “carpenter bees” because they cut precise round galleries for nests inside sound, undecayed soft wood.  They avoid wood covered with paint or bark and have been known to cut their galleries in fence posts, wooden benches and houses leaving what some would consider unsightly holes and stains.  Males are attracted to sudden movements and conspicuously hover closely to people or in front of nests.  They also engage in aggressive territorial battles for mating opportunities, but fortunately for us males cannot sting. Females can sting, but only do so when molested.  Adults emerge during the summer and fall and can live for up to three years.  Females will sometimes cohabitate with their daughters and, unlike most native bees, carpenter bees will reuse old nests. Carpenter bees are beneficial and important pollinators, especially of open-faced flowers.

Mason bee on board with
Mason bee apartment
Mason Bees

New York’s several species of Mason bees choose above ground nesting sites in preexisting cavities such as twigs, hollow stems, and beetle burrows.  Child and pet-friendly Mason bees are far too busy to be aggressive. They only sting as a last resort, and the venom they release is very mild.  If you’re allergic to honeybees, this solitary, docile pollinating rock star is easy to keep and a great alternative.  They cross-pollinate a wide variety of trees and plants instead of focusing on stripping pollen and nectar from one location.  You can help protect them in winter by leaving standing hollow-stemmed plants.

Close-up of a leaf cutting bee on a yellow flower
Osmia ribifloris

Leaf Cutter Bees

The female leaf cutter bee makes small circular cuts in living or dried leaves or petals.  She curls them up to carry back and line her nest.  Attracting these gentle yet vigorous pollinators requires growing plants with thin-walled leaves, such as roses, hostas, peas, and lilacs.  Because they build their nests near one another and are 15 times more valuable as pollinators than honey bees, they aid farms and gardens where lots of bees are needed. Unlike carpenter bees, solitary leaf cutter bees cause no damage to structures, because they lay their eggs in existing holes.

They are more round, cigar- or submarine-shaped than other bees and carry collected pollen on their abdomen.  Distinguishable from honeybees, they have no brown/yellow stripes on their abdomen.

Close up of a sweat be on a white petal that tuns red at the center of the flower
Agapostemon virscens

Sweat Bees

Sweat bees make up for their minute size with their incredible numbers and are among the most abundant and commonly seen bees in North America.  They are attracted to the proteins, moisture and salt on sweaty arms, legs, and necks.  Don’t swat!  Females will sting if brushed against or agitated, and they will release pheromones attracting more bees.

Up to twenty-four solitary females dig deep burrows in banks or on flat or sloping soil – they then share the entrance into the nest.  They are most active in late spring and summer.  Sweat bees have short tongues which makes it difficult for them to extract nectar from deep flowers.  For this reason, they are attracted to open-face flowers.

FYI – Wasps 

Paper wasp resting on top of its nest
European paper wasp – Polistes dominula

Although wasps are usually considered pests, adult wasps are considered beneficial since they capture insects for their developing larvae.  They also feed on sweet nectar (and can annoy picnics in late summer by scavenging on human food).

yellow jacket feeding on rabbiteye blueberry
Yellow jacket

Some of the more common wasps found in our area are yellow jackets, bald-faced hornets, and paper wasps.  Yellow jackets usually build their nests in the ground or in voids found in buildings.  Their colonies last only one season and nests are not reused.  Bald-faced hornets are actually not true wasps, but a type of yellow jacket.  They are large black and white wasps that make the grayish papery, pear-shaped hives (mistakenly illustrated as Winnie the Pooh’s “honey bee hive”) found hanging from trees or shrubs.  Bald-face hornets also do not reuse their nests.  Like the bald-faced hornets, paper wasps also make papery nests, but their nests have open combs.

Bald-faced hornet nest 20 feet in a Maple tree 9 inches in diameter
Bald-faced hornet nest

Just remember that wasps are considered beneficial, so unless their nests are in an undesirable place, they should be left alone. One way to dissuade wasps from nesting near your home is to use an imitation wasp nest. (These can be crocheted or purchased.)  As visual creatures, when they see another “wasp” nest in the area they assume it’s another competitor and do not build there.

It’s clear that bees are good for our gardens and as long as our gardens provide reliable pollen and nectar sources, our gardens are good for the bees. Unfortunately our native bees are in decline due to loss of habitat, residual pesticides in their food sources, pathogens, mites and diseases.  Our first step in helping them is understanding them and their ways.  Protect their livelihood by proliferating their only food source – flowers – which renew and sustain them year-after year.  Here are a few other things that you can do to help protect the bees:

  • plant flowers in swaths
  • remember that although modified, doubled-petaled cultivars are ascetically pleasing to the eye, they have less nectar than native cultivars of the same flower
  • choose diverse flowers, preferably natives species
  • intersperse decorative flowers among vegetables
  • allow some of your herbs bolt, producing flowers
  • minimize your use of neonicotinoid pesticides which move systemically through the plant into plant pollen and nectar and can weaken bees’ immune systems.

Flower Power!

More flowers = Higher bee numbers!

In the bargain, humans get free pollinating labor assuring healthy vegetation and reliable fresh foods – and we get to revel in Nature’s door-prize of life – the magnificent, ravishing, inestimable flower.

Squash bee resting on a yellow flower petal
Squash bee – Peponapis sp.

For more information about Wild Bees of New York visit Cornell’s Pollinator Website (https://pollinator.cals.cornell.edu/wild-bees-new-york/).

Highlights of the Gardens of the Orange County Arboretum

By Nancy F., Cornwall Master Gardener

This article appeared in the May 2019 Issue of Gardening in Orange County. Click here to subscribe!

The Alpine Garden

A stone path running through the APline Gardne full of color and texture
The Alpine Garden at the Orange County Arboretum

Explore the Alpine Garden and its varieties of succulents, spruces, perennials and grasses, surrounded by rock formations and waterways.  If you take time to look around at all the different colors and textures, you will notice a very delicate plant known as the crown anemone or Spanish marigold (Anemone coronaria).

Close up of a purple crown anemone flower.
Crown anemone (Anemone coronaria)

The crown anemone’s  dark-centered flowers can be found in an array of colors from purple-blue, red, pink or white.  They are a perfect addition to rock gardens, flower bed, and containers.  They do well in full sun, but will tolerate light shade in very hot areas.  Soil preference is sandy loam. Crown anemones are propagated by underground storage structures called corms, which are similar to a bulbs and tubers.  Corms can be planted after the danger of frost, which is usually early May here in Orange County New York.  For continuous bloom throughout the summer, they should be planted every two or three weeks. (Note: The small corms should be soaked for several hours before planting).  For those people who garden in containers, you can create a stunning display by combining crown anemones with tulips and grape hyacinths.

 

The Asian Maple Garden

Large pink clower with yellow center known as the Peony 'Morning Lilac'
Peony ‘Morning Lilac’

One of the numerous attractions in the Asian Maple Garden is the intersectional Itoh Peony ‘Morning Lilac’.  This stunning flower was created by crossing a tree peony with the more common herbaceous peony.  Intersectional peonies have strong, short woody stems and large flowers like a tree peony, but die down to the ground in winter like an herbaceous peony.  These plants prefers a neutral to alkaline soil pH, and need good drainage.  Autumn is the best time for planting peonies.

The Nellie Mazur Perennial Garden

A metal plat with corn, cow and flower siloueetes cut out allowing the sun to stream through projecting the images onto the snow
Remember Agrisculpture : Seed Plates – Lovingly Rethought

The Nellie Mazur Perennial Garden is a lovely mix of shrubs and herbaceous perennials. Recently added is to this garden is a magnificent piece of Agrisculpture made by collaging (welding) found vintage and antique metal with new steel to create an entirely new form.  The piece is entitled “REMEMBER Agrisculpture: Seed Plates – Lovingly Rethought” is a 40 square-foot steel piece made from antique seed planter plates and gears.  It was commissioned by the arboretum to honor the late Farmer Mazur and his passion for seed distribution.

The Remembrance Walkway and Garden

A large black globe on a pedastool surrounded by a circular stine path and bed of red flowers
The Remembrance Garden

The Remembrance Walkway and Garden “honor[s] those who lost their lives and those whose lives have been altered by the tragic events of the September 11 attack on America”.  The September 11th Memorial features a stunning rotating granite sculpture of the earth surrounded by bronze plaques with the names of the 44 Orange County residents who perished that day.  A ceremony is held every year on September 11 to honor those that we lost.

The Raised Garden Beds

The Raised Garden Beds developed in 2002 are situated throughout the Arboretum and are home to a spectacular seasonal display of annual and perennial companion plantings.  Every year visitors anticipate the arrival of the colorful spring display of numerous tulip varieties found throughout the grounds.  The plants for the raised beds are grown in the arboretum’s Kosuga Greenhouse.  This greenhouse houses 28,000 plants which includes plants for the raised beds as well as plants for the Arboretum’s annual plant sale.  The purchase of new plants is made possible through the generosity of the Friends of the Arboretum and the patrons of the arboretum’s annual events.

The purple thistle like bloom of the Cardoon
Cardoon (Cynara cardunculus)

Two of the plants that are highlighted in the raised garden bed for their uniqueness are cardoon and cotton.  Cardoon (Cynara cardunculus), also known as the artichoke thistle or globe artichoke, is an herbaceous perennial in the aster family and is hardy in zones 7-10.  Unfortunately, Orange County New York is found in zones 5 and 6, so here it usually can only be grown as an annual.   This plant requires full sun in a sheltered location with fertile, well-drained soil.  The plant reaches 5 feet tall and 4 feet wide and is an architectural splendor. Its large, thistle-like flowers are quite ornamental.  The violet-purple flowers are produced in a heavily spined capitulum (head).  Choose companion plants that contrast with the blue to silver color of the foliage such as annuals with blue, purple or burgundy flowers.

A white flower surrounded by dark green leaves with dark magenta vains
Cotton (Gossypium hirsutum)

The second plant highlighted in the raised garden beds is the cotton plant (Gossypium hirsutum). The hibisicus-like bloom is initially white in color and later turns pink.  The flowers stay on the plant for a few weeks, before they wither and fall leaving behind seedpods known as bolls.  Fibers inside the boll continue to develop until the boll bursts open exposing white fluffy cotton.  This annual grows three to five feet tall and prefers full sun and moist soil.

The Rill

Bronze statue of Pan holding a pan flute
Pan – the god of woods, fields and flocks

During the warmer months, a bronze statue of Pan, the god of woods, fields and flocks is surrounded by running water.  The Rill was a developed by John and Connie Vanderberg  in 2005 and the Pan sculpture was donated by Ruth Ottaway.

The Al Durland Memorial Pond

Surrounded by grass and woodlands, the Al Durland Memorial Pond, is a peaceful aquatic sanctuary. One can enjoy its beauty and serenity on the large deck that runs along one of its sides.

The Apiary

Upclose view of a bee hive buzzing with activity
Honey bees tending their hive

The Apiary is buzzing with bee activity this time of year.  Our new beekeeper is starting classes for beginner beekeepers.

The Apiary is also a favorite site for the elementary school students visiting the arboretum with their classes to participate in the Garden Exploration with Master Garden (GEM) program.  During the bee portion of this program,  the students learn about the three different types of bees found within a hive – queen, worker and drone bees. They also learn all about honey production and the important role bees play in our environment.  The arboretum sells its honey at their Holiday Boutique that is open from the end of November until the end of December.

The Veteran’s Garden

Plaque with the following words: Dedicated to those who have served, are serving and will be servinf our Country - Orange COunty thanks...(words cut off)
Honoring our Veterans

The Veteran’s Garden at the Arboretum is dedicated to our Veterans of the past, present and future and hosts a yearly ceremony to honor our Veterans.

The Ceremony Garden

The Ceremony Garden is a large open field surrounded by a beautiful rose garden, raised garden beds, and towering trees.  This popular venue is available for rental through the Orange County Parks Department.

The Children’s Garden

The Children’s Garden was designed to get children outside and give them an opportunity to connect with nature.  The Children’s Garden  is both beautiful and educational.  It hosts a myriad of children’s events throughout the year from backyard bird feeding to a its annual Fairy Festival.

For more information about the Orange County Arboretum and upcoming events check out their website: http://www.orangecountyarboretum.org/.

The Eternal Flame of Summer: Celosia

by Carole L., Warwick Senior Master Gardener

This article appeared in the April 2019 Issue of Gardening in Orange County. Click here to subscribe!

Red cascading amaranth flowers
Love Lies Bleeding

When looking forward and making plans for showcasing summer’s wild and lively colors, consider adding the versatile annual showstopper Celosia.  A member of the Amaranthaceae family, the flower is reminiscent of its cousin, the Amaranth plant, and its more common ornamental variety, “Love Lies Bleeding.”

Celosia comes in assorted colors, shapes, and sizes.  There are three common types: plume, cockscomb, and wheat.  Their names well describe the shape of each flower.

Yellow plume celosia
Yellow Plume

The plume celosia’s flowers top off the plant with large poofs of color which resemble a flame.  The name ‘celosia’ is actually derived from the Greek word ‘kelos,’ which means ‘burned.’  Like a flame, they come in reds, yellows, and oranges.  You can plant a border garden in one favorite color, or add all the colors together in a mix guaranteed to make you smile.  The plant will continue to flower from June through to the first frost, and simple deadheading will suffice to keep the rainbow aglow.

Red cockscomb celosia flower
Red Cockscomb Celosia

The cockscomb celosia has a dome shape with curving lines which, not surprisingly, look like the red crest on the head of a rooster.  The traditional red-colored flower is used throughout Mexico with the Mexican marigold (Tagetes erecta) in Day of the Dead celebrations. Cockscomb celosias can also be bright yellow.  As with the plume celosia, flowering can be extended for months by regular deadheading.

Magenta wheat celosia flowers
Wheat celosia

Wheat celosia is slightly more subdued in color than the other two types.  The flower is shaped like a spike of wheat, and tends toward shades of pink or white, although there are now some varieties in darker red-purple shades.  As an ornamental, its straight, erect height, between 3 and 5 feet tall, makes the wheat celosia a striking addition to any flower garden.

Here are a few more reasons to consider celosias for your summer 2019 garden:

    • They make good container flowers, especially in an alkaline soil mix.  If you are looking for a new “thrill” for your containers’ “fill, thrill, and spill” mix, consider adding some celosias for color or height.
  • Celosias are an easy-care flower. For best results, plant them in full sun; they do like heat.  As a tropical plant, they are known to tolerate drought, but keeping them moist (not wet) is best.  Usually watering 3 or 4 times per week in well-drained soil is ideal.
  • Monarch butterfly perched on magenta wheat celosia flower
    Monarch Butterfly on Celosia FLower

    All of the celosias will attract bees and other pollinators. Consider planting some near, or mixed in with, your vegetable garden or orchard to help with pollination.

  • The leaves, stems, and little flowers are all edible! In parts of Africa, Indonesia, and India, the leaves (especially the tender new leaves) are a green staple.  They are a source of protein, Vitamins A and C, iron, calcium, and phosphorus.  They are said to have a flavor much like spinach, and a texture like basil.  Before the plant flowers, the tender leaves would be a healthy addition for any recipe that includes spinach as an ingredient.  It is best to boil the leaves first and toss out the resulting blackish water, as it reportedly contains nitrates and oxalates; then you can use the still-green leaves in your scrambled eggs, soups, or stews.  Most recipes add onions, garlic, hot peppers, or even peanut butter to perk up the flavor of the mild celosia leaves.
Just sprouted celosia seedlings. Some of the seelings still have the seed coat at the end of the leaves.
Celosia Seedlings
    • Since the celosia leaves are best used when tender before flowering, and most store-bought celosias already have flowers, you may want to start your own plants from seeds.  If starting indoors, plant 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost date.  Cover the tiny seeds lightly (with only 1/8 inch of soil).  Keep moist and warm. Germination takes 10 to 15 days.  Transplant to your prepared garden bed when the soil is warm.  When plants are 4 to 6 inches tall, thin them.  You can throw the pulled plants into the cooking pot.  Alternatively, you can plant seed directly into the garden when the garden soil is warm.  Cover the newly planted seeds with straw to keep moist and prevent washing away in case of heavy rains.  Remove the straw once plants emerge.

     

    • Numerous bouquets of flowers hanging on a string inside a rustic woodedn plank building
      Drying FLowers

      All types of celosia make beautiful cut flowers and colorful long-lasting dried flowers. To dry, cut flowers when at their peak, remove side leaves to prevent mildew, and hang the flowers upside down in a dark, dry place for several weeks.

      Remember to place newspaper underneath the drying plants to catch the seeds that will fall from the flowers once they are dry.  Save these seeds for your 2020 celosia garden and be sure to share with your friends!

Who are the Master Gardeners?

By Deborah C. – Highland Mills Master Gardener Volunteer

This article appeared in the March Issue of the Gardening in Orange County Newsletter.  Click here to subscribe!

Currently, there are 70 active Master Gardener Volunteers in Orange County. These volunteers help Cornell Cooperative Extension of Orange County disseminates research-based information to the community.  Volunteers go through an intensive training to increase their knowledge of gardening and landscaping. Once they complete the training, they are required to volunteer 30 hours a year, which includes six hours of continuing education.

Master Gardener Volunteers write for the Gardening in Orange County newsletter, answer gardening questions on the “Garden Helpline”,  participate in community and school gardens,  read to school children, and we provide workshops to the community on a wide range of topics.

Master Gardener Volunteers come from different backgrounds and careers.  Here are just a few stories of their stories.

Brooke M., New Windsor Master Gardener Volunteer

Brooke in a red MAster Gardener Apron stands next to several planters full of plants talking to people sitting around tables
Brooke teaches a class on container gardening

Becoming a Master Gardener six years ago was the fulfillment of a longtime dream! I was introduced to gardening by my maternal grandmother who grew wild abundant perennial borders. She changed her color scheme regularly and encouraged me to see gardening like painting, providing joy in every glance. Being a Master Gardner lets me combine my skills from being a teacher, Museum Educator, and photographer with my absolute passion for plants. Going out to schools, garden clubs, and other public gatherings to share knowledge is one of my favorite things. Contributing to GOC by writing and editing is another. This year, helping to start a new school garden was the highlight. Nothing is more fun than hearing the laughter of children in the garden and seeing the wonder on their faces when they taste a fresh carrot. I have found new friends and opportunities in this program and it enriches my life.

Deborah C., Highland Mills Master Gardener Volunteer

Three Master Gardener Volunteers staff an "Ask a Master Gardener Table"
Deborah and two fellow Master Gardener Volunteers help disseminate information to the public at a “Ask a Master Gardener” Table

When I was a child, my dad grew zinnias from seed and I know my love of gardening was cultivated by the beautiful gardens he created in our yard.  I asked a thousand questions; he did not always know the answers, but he let me keep asking!  I think he grew delphiniums for their beautiful (and rare) periwinkle color.

I bought my house in 1992, and shortly thereafter I attended the Garden Days sponsored by the Master Gardeners.  I soaked up all the material and tried to apply it in my own yard.  I subscribed to “Gardening in Orange County”.  Now my gardens are filled with Milkweed and plants that the deer do not eat.  My andromeda (Pieris japonica) is about 35 years old.

I became a Master Gardener because of all the wonderful people who answered all my questions on the “helpline” at the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Middletown.

I have been a Master Gardener for 11 years now.  I enjoy being in the company of other volunteers who love plants, trees, shrubs and flowers.  Go ahead and ask questions.  I am happy to help others cultivate their love of nature!

Doug M., Middletown Master Gardener

Doug pretends to work on a botanical drawing or the orchid sitting on the table in front of him
Doug shows off his passion for botanical drawing

Although I have lived in Orange County all my life, the experience of purchasing and renovating a neglected property in Middletown ignited a love for gardening which changed my life.

My gardening obsession led me away from a career in interior design to attaining a Certificate of Horticulture from the New York Botanical Garden where I also discovered my passion for creating botanical artwork.  With that change in place, my life was now consumed by horticulture.

I was drawn to the Master Gardener program because it is a stimulating and satisfying educational process where members are continually receiving and sharing information.

I am especially drawn to the design and artistry of gardening and have led programs on container gardening and botanical drawing.  I also enjoy projects where I can get my hands dirty.

My four years as a Master Gardener have been rewarding, especially the shared experiences with other volunteers.

Jim H., Monroe Master Gardener

Three Master Gardener Volunteers standin in a garden
Jim and two fellow Master Gardeners working in one of the school gardens

 I have lived in Orange County for 21 years but I am a native of Texas.  I grew up in the fruit orchards of Dallas County, Texas and every home of mine has had a garden.  A career in High Tech Communication took me around the globe six times.  I have experienced a lot of things in my life, but I am pulled to the challenge of gardens.

I love vegetable gardening and I want to pass on my passion to elementary children.  I am involved with two school gardens in Monroe.  The North Main Garden is located in a 100-year-old church courtyard next to the school.  It is a pollination garden with six raised beds and the vegetables are donated to a local food bank.  We work with the Ecology Club and teach classes on recycling and composting.

The Pine Tree Elementary garden was built with donations from the Girl Scout cookie sales.  This garden is totally managed by 3rd grade students and it is a learning garden from the soil up!  The students plant seeds, learn correct watering techniques, transplant material, weed and mulch.  It is a hands-on endeavor with no smartphones or computers.

The Master Gardening Program has given me the opportunity to give back to my community.  What keeps the gardens running is the look in the children’s eyes when they pick a ripe vegetable!

Joe G., Warwick Master Gardener

Joe giving a thumbs up standing in front of a hop yard
Joe out in his hop yard

I’m the son of a passionate gardener and grew up in a small Connecticut town in the 1970’s.  Dad had a huge vegetable garden and I spent many hours with him there, tending his plants and growing an area of my own starting at age 7.  Giant pumpkins were my favorite.

My gardening passion grew and I worked for a landscaper through high school and college.  My adult career is in packaging, so my gardening passion had to be limited to a hobby, but I became a Master Gardener in 2013 to deepen my knowledge and spread my passion to others.

My retirement goal is to operate a farm, which I decided to start in my 40’s rather than wait.  I farm part time, growing Hops and Shiitake Mushrooms and benefit from the education and access to information the Cooperative Extension network has provided through the Master Gardening program.  I enjoy creating and presenting educational workshops through the MG program and writing articles for Gardening in Orange County and the Time Herald Record.

Kate H., Cuddebackville Master Gardener Volunteer

Kate talks on the phone answer inquires that come into the Garden Helpline

I have lived in Orange County for over 40 years, but I am originally from California.  What brought me to the East Coast was a position as an instructor, and clinic coordinator, in SUNY Orange’s dental hygiene department.

When I learned of the Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Master Gardener program, I was intrigued.  I have always loved gardening, and I love teaching, so being part of a volunteer program where I could teach horticulture topics sounded perfect to me.  I knew I would learn a lot when I started the MG training, but how much I learned, and have continued to learn for the past 11 years, is astounding!

I have also come to understand more about Cornell Cooperative Extension – what an incredible resource it is for the people of Orange County.  Its scope of programs and outreach is amazing and inspiring.

I have been involved in community gardens, children’s programs, lectures, and workshops.  They have been fun, interesting and satisfying.  But what really amazes and delights me is the group of Master Gardeners themselves.  They have a great variety of interests and specialties; they are talented, generous, and wonderful company!  I feel lucky to be part of this group of volunteers.

Nancy F., Cornwall Master Gardener Volunteer

Head shot of Nancy
Nancy

I graduated from the Orange County Master Gardener Program in March of 2016 following my retirement in 2015 as a Family Nurse Practitioner for Newburgh Enlarged City School District.  My love for flower gardening expanded to vegetable gardening and a variety of gardening and health-related school programs.  As a result of collaborations with the Orange County Department of Health Healthy Orange Team, the Newburgh Enlarged City School District’s Wellness Team and the Fuel Up to Play 60 grant, my journey lead me to my lifelong passion to be a Master Gardener with Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Master Gardener Program.

The Master Gardener Program has provided me with opportunities for continued professional development in areas that require research-based gardening knowledge and has afforded me the opportunity to continue collaborations with other gardeners and associations.

A Master Gardener has many volunteer opportunities. I personally enjoy the Garden Help Line, writing for the Gardening in Orange County Newsletter, assisting student learning about bees, composting, flowers, vegetables, and bugs at the Orange County Arboretum.

Samantha G., Harriman Master Gardener Volunteer

My Master Gardener story is very simple. I have been a gardener ever since my mom said she would pay me a penny for every dandelion I dug up. I made ten dollars. Now I forbid dandelion removal in my yard!  I came to Orange County in 2004, and promptly got a job in the Walmart lawn and garden department. I quickly realized that I was going to have to dig a little deeper to meet fellow gardeners and new friends. Lucky for me I noticed a small article in the local paper advertising the registration for the 2007-08 Master Gardener class. Although this really stretched my comfort zone, I knew that this program was what I needed to really become part of my new community. As a gardener I have very simple needs – a beautiful habitat in the middle of suburbia and a small garden to feed my family. As a Master Gardener it fills me with joy to show people how to find the answers for gardening success. I love to put the light back in their gardening shade.

Click here to find out how to become a Master Gardener Volunteer!

Spectacular Succulents

By Michele L. – Cornwall Master Gardener

This article appeared in the February Issue of the Gardening in Orange County Newsletter.  Click here to subscribe!

Aeonium arboreum 'Zwartkopf'
Aeonium arboreum ‘Zwartkopf’
I am a self-proclaimed succulent lover always in search of the most exotic, colorful, and unique plants.  My cousin Denise lives in California where succulents thrive in the sunny dry climate.  She is a member of the Contra Costa Garden Club and has been my go-to person when I need to find out about a particular succulent variety or care.  My visits with my cousin in California consist of visiting succulent gardens and many mind-blowing greenhouses that grow only succulents.  I have been known to buy dozens of plants, shake off all the soil and transport back in shoe boxes in my luggage to replant once I get home. (Check rules for your own state for transporting plants.)

Haworthia cooperi 'Pilifera'
Haworthia cooperi ‘Pilifera’
Cacti (members of the family Cactaceae) and succulents (members of many different families) all have one thing in common – they all are adapted to conserving water.  All cacti are succulents but not all succulents are cacti.  The name “succulent” is derived from “succulentus”, a Latin word which means sap or juice.  Succulent plants are found in about 60 plant families and thousands of hybrid cultivars that differ in color, texture and size.  Most people are familiar with succulents such as Jade, Kalanchoe and the popular Aloe.  Not only do succulents come in many varieties and colors, they have the added benefit of blooming if they are happy in their space.

Snow White Panda Plant (Kalanchoe eriophylla)
Succulents are known for their low maintenance and long lifespans, which makes them perfect for people who work all day, are on-the-go or just aren’t great at taking care of plants.  Another distinction is that succulents are native to most parts of the world and love hot, dry weather.  Because they store water in their leaves, they can withstand quite a bit of neglect.  These plants are great for adding structure and vibrance to container gardens outdoors.  However, even though these drought-resistant plants are simple to maintain, they still have preferences when it comes to location.

I am frequently asked how to keep succulents alive since there are thousands of different succulent cultivars, all growing with different care requirements and sizes.

Jade (Crassula bonsai)
Here are a few simple steps and tips so you can enjoy your succulent garden for years to come:

Treat your succulent garden as living art.  Don’t be afraid to pull out a plant that has overgrown the planter or has died.  Just replace with another succulent.  Succulents are a great gift for a non-gardener.  Decorate with flowers, berries, shells, or pinecones to theme up your succulent containers or vertical gardens. You can just pull out flowers once they have wilted or brown out and still have a beautiful creative piece.

OUTDOOR DO’S AND DON’TS

Containers
The best pot/container for a succulent is a shallow terra cotta or clay pot with a large drainage hole.  The deeper the container, the more susceptible the plant is to rotting from wet soil.  A 13-inch or smaller shallow garden dish is the perfect container and can hold a nice selection of succulents.  This type of container is shallow enough that it won’t become waterlogged if left outside in the rain all summer.   If you have created a vertical garden (one that hangs on the wall), keep it flat for at least one month until the roots have established themselves.  Once the succulents have rooted you can hang it on wall.

Sempervivum globiferum
Sempervivum globiferum

Some of my many favorite succulents are Echeveria, Sempervivum, Sedums, Haworthia and Kalanchoe.  Move outdoors early to mid-June.  Most succulents can tolerate night temps of 50 degrees. Some varieties of Sempervivum and Sedums are cold-hardy and can survive our harsh winters.

Sedum ruspestre 'Angelina'
Sedum ruspestre ‘Angelina’
Rock Garden walls, crevices or slopes
Winter/cold hardy Sedums are best for this type of planting as they have shallow root systems and spread easily.  My favorite is a sedum called Angelina which has beautiful yellow flowers, and some varieties change leaf colors from green to gold in the fall.

Water
Overwatering is the main reason succulents die.  The key to watering is restraint!  Remember they are filled with water.  They are the camels of the plant world. If the leaves are plump, don’t water.  If they look slightly shriveled or puckered it is time to water. Rain water is preferable to tap water.  Water-softened tap is not recommended because of excessive salt content.

Echeveria leucotricha
Echeveria leucotricha
Light
Succulents like bright light, but most cannot tolerate intense, direct sunlight outdoors all day.  Morning or late afternoon sun is ideal.  Most succulents need only 3 to 4 hours of sun a day. Never place in a southern exposure outdoors.  The intensity of the light that a plant prefers depends on the species.  Keep in mind that succulents have very different growing habits, some grow very slowly and others will double in size in a season.

While optimal lighting conditions depend on species, there are some general signs that indicate your plant is getting either too much or too little light:

Too much light: appears “off color,” “bleached out”, or turning yellow. Your plant can scorch on a dark wall in full sun and will likely not recover.

Too little light: stretches out and appears leggy and will weaken plant.

INDOORS – YEAR ROUND OR  OVER WINTERING

Light
If your succulents were outside, place them in the sunniest location in your home in winter. Best indoor location is an east, west or south windowsill. I also have a number of my succulents indoors under lights. I have 2 types of lights – the typical white grow- lights are fine, but I prefer the red and blue spectrum grow-lights specifically for succulents.

Water
When your succulent garden is very dry, water it thoroughly. Every one or two weeks should be sufficient indoors depending on time of year. Succulents should be given just enough water so that they show no sign of shriveling.

PESTS

Mealybugs
Mealybugs

Mealybugs
These soft oval insects shroud themselves in a cottony covering. The presence of these cotton masses indicates infestation. Mealybugs dine on plant sap reducing plant vigor, distorting growth, and causing premature leaf shed. Minor infestations can be handled by dabbing the offending individuals with an alcohol soaked cotton swab. The alcohol dissolves their waxy protective coating leaving them susceptible to desiccation and other environmental stressors.

Twospotted spider mites
Twospotted spider mites (Tetranychus urticae)

Spider Mites
Spider mites are all but invisible to the unaided eye. These pests are often found on the underside of leaves shrouded in their whitish webs. Spider mites also dine on plant sap and cause a distinctive stippling pattern on infested leaves. Copious amounts of webbing indicate a large infestation, which means drastic measures must be taken such as removing all infested leaves. If the infestation is minor a strong burst of overhead watering can help eliminate the mites. Mites are not insects, so insecticides are ineffective.

Scale

Brown soft scale
Brown soft scale (Coccus hesperidum)

These pinhead-sized insects appear as raised brown spots resembling marine shells. Like many other pests, they dine on the plant’s sap. Outbreaks of scale can be treated similarly to mealybug infestations.

FERTILIZER

During the growing season, a balanced fertilizer (10-10-10), which has been diluted to 1/4 strength, can be added to the water for each watering; or use specific fertilizer (foam) for succulents. Only use fertilizers on soil and not on the plant itself. My favorite is worm castings which will not burn the succulents and seem to cut down on pest infestations as well.

PROPAGATION

Thousands (Kalanchoe daigremontiana)
Mother of Thousands (Kalanchoe daigremontiana)

Sometimes it is very easy to identify the best way to propagate your succulents and other times it is not as obvious. However, before you start, the first thing to ask yourself is: What kind of plant do I have? If you don’t know, the easiest way to learn is to organize the information you know about your plant into categories. How is it shaped? Is it tall and thin, short and round? How does it grow? Does it grow all by itself, or are there similar tiny plants that poke up out of the soil near it?

Questions like these are the first ones to ask yourself when considering propagation. Some species can be propagated by separating pups from around the base of the plant. With others you can start a new plant by just placing one of the leaves on top of soil. If succulents start stretching and getting leggy, try pinching off the top, let dry out for a few days to callus over the end and then replant.

Moncarpic Succulent (Sempervivum kindingeri)
Moncarpic succulent (Sempervivum kindingeri)
Ever wonder why some die after blooming? Some succulents may be monocarpic. “Mono” means “once”, and “carpic” means “fruit”. Therefore, once the single flower has come and gone, fruit or seeds are set and the parent plant can die. A monocarpic succulent flowers only once and then dies.

Monocarpic is, in fact, a strategy of many plants to produce progeny. Most monocarpic succulents produce many new plants before they bloom. So by the time they are ready for the bloom, they’ve already created enough plants to replace themselves.