Even though most of the trees are still bare and must of us awoke to snow on the ground this weekend, spring has arrived and with it are some of the most beautiful blooms of the year.
Spring Flowering Bulbs
The crocuses have all but faded, but the daffodils continue to bloom, brightening up the drab landscape with their cheery yellows and oranges. They have recently been joined by the hyacinths. With their overpowering fragrance, these flowers add to springs color palette with their cool colors of pink and purple.
You may have noticed some small purple flowers known as grape hyacinths. Not a true hyacinth, the inflorescence of this flower is a cone of small purple flowers that almost looks like a miniature clump of grapes.
If you want to bring some spring cheer inside (highly recommended), it is best to give daffodils their own vase as their stems secrete a substance that is harmful to other flowers.
One of the great joys of spring is the appearance of spring ephemerals. These native plants grow in wooded areas and only have a short time to flower before the trees above them leaf out and block their sunlight. When you are walking through wooded areas in the spring, make sure you watch your feet or might step on the delicate flowers of the bloodroot or the hepatica.
Other Spring Blooms
From the showy flowers of the andromeda bush to the subtle flowers of the lungwort, the more time you spend out side the more flowers you’ll notice.
Many spring flowering plants are considered weeds. You may think that dandelion in your lawn is unsightly, but the bees beg to differ. Dandelions are an important source of pollen and nectar for bees in the early spring as are other spring flowering ‘weeds’ like purple deadnettle and henbit.
What about Fungus?
Now fungi aren’t plants, so they don’t have flowers, but they can add color to the landscape. In the spring cedar-apple rust galls that overwintered on juniper become more noticeable as they produce gelatinous tendrils that release spores into the air. Some of these spores will find their way to apple trees where they can cause problems by infecting the leaves and the fruit of the tree.
Thanks to all of the Master Gardener Volunteers who provided their thoughts and photos for this post!
If you happen to have a garden or have decided that this is the year to start one there are lots of things to keep you busy at this time of year!
Hopefully you waited until spring to clean up your garden to allow beneficial insects and other arthropods such as bees and butterflies to overwinter. Now that spring has sprung you should leave debris as long as you can to give these creatures a chance to emerge from their winter hiding places. You should start carefully removing debris from around blossoming plants. If you must cut back hollow stems, bundle them so any pollinators overwintering inside have a chance to emerge. As you are cleaning up be on the look out for praying mantis egg cases know as ootheca. This is one time when you should leave things till tomorrow!
Mulching is another spring time activity. There are many different types of organic mulch that will not only suppress weeds, but also add organic material to the soil as they break down. You don’t have to mulch everything, in fact many ground nesting bees such as bumble bees need a bit of bare earth to make their nests. And if you are mulching your trees make sure to keep the mulch at least 3 inches away from the base of the tree so that it is not touching the bark.
There are lots of places online where you can purchase seeds. If you still have seeds left over from last year and don’t know if they are still good, don’t throw them out, try this simple home germination test.
sterile potting mix
It is important to use sterile potting mix to avoid disease issues like damping off. Do not reuse potting mix and do not use garden compost.
You don’t need to buy a fancy container to start seeds. Just make sure the container has been sterilized and has drainage holes.
You want to keep the soil moist, but be careful not to over water or you may have a problem with damping off.
Some seeds need light to germinate, but all seeds need light after they germinate. Once your seeds sprout a light source will help prevent them from becoming leggy. You can purchase grow lights or just use a soft white fluorescent bulb. Here are directions on how to build a Low-Cost Grow-Light Frame.
Most seeds will germinate between the temperatures of 55°F and 75°F, but the optimal temperature for each type of seed varies. You can create a mini-green house to trap heat and moisture. You can also buy heating mats to warm the soil. Click here to see Soil Temperature Conditions for Vegetable Seed Germination.
Out in the Garden
Gardening is an activity for the whole family! Children love helping plant seeds! Right now you can be direct seeding cool season crops in your garden such as beets, carrots, lettuce, peas, radishes, spinach, and turnips. If you want to have a continual harvest, consider succession planting or seeding several smaller plantings of the same crop at timed intervals, rather than all at once.
While most people are busy seeding, some perennial plants are already coming up or even ready to harvest! Chives are a great example of a perennial that allows you add something fresh and green to your meals in the early spring. If you planted chives in your garden last year, they are probably already making their way to your table. This perennial of the onion family begins growing in early March and is able to be snipped with scissors and eaten soon after and throughout the growing season right up until the fall frost.
Another perennial making an appearance is rhubarb! Rhubarb is a great addition to any vegetable garden and as it is deer resistant and highly attractive it can also be used as part of your edible landscape. Although the leaves of rhubarb are considered poisonous, the stems of this spring crop that can be used to make the classic strawberry rhubarb pie as well as many other delicious snacks.
And as always, if you are having any issues in your garden, need help identifying the cause of a problem or figuring out a management strategy give us a call. Our Garden Helpline phones are staffed April – November, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, from 9:30 am – 12:30 pm. But you can always leave us a message or send us an e-mail.
Signs of spring abound! Bird songs fill the air. Buds on the trees are starting to unfurl. New shoots are breaking through the soil. And flowers are beginning to bloom!
Here are some of the flowers to look out for as you venture outside for a breath of fresh air.
When most people think of maple trees, flowers aren’t the first thing that comes to mind. Red maples are native to the eastern United States and happen to be one of the first trees to flower in the spring. Their bright pink to red flowers result in the production of thousands of winged fruits called samaras, colloquially referred to as helicopters. After ripening on the trees for several weeks they will fill the air and litter the ground.
Although many people equate the yellow blossoms of the forsythia with the beginning of spring, the forsythia is not native to New York; it actually native to eastern Asia. This fast growing shrub is a favorite among homeowners, because it is tolerant to deer, resistant to Japanese beetles, and rarely has disease problems. If you are looking for a native alternative to forsythia, try spicebush (Lindera benzoin). This medium sized multi-stemmed shrub has fragrant yellow-green flowers in early spring and supports 12 species of butterflies and provides berries for the birds.
One of the many joys of spring is the emergence of all the spring flowering bulbs. Some of them are already blooming: snowdrops, crocuses, daffodils (my favorite flower!). Despite its sometime unsightly appearance, make sure you leave the foliage alone until it turns yellow and dies back. This allows the leaves of the plant to produce food through photosynthesis. This food is stored in the bulb and will be used to produce even more beautiful flowers next spring!
Hellebores are also flowering! This evergreen herbaceous perennial is native to Turkey, but does well here in Orange County. It grows well in full or partial shade and has beautiful white to pink to purple flowers that bloom in late winter into early spring. Hellebores are rarely damaged by deer and as they are evergreen, after their flowers fade, they make an attractive ground cover
As you are out enjoying the sunshine, what other signs of spring do see or hear or smell?
Thanks to all of the Master Gardener Volunteers who provided their thoughts and photos for this post!
Have you ever noticed one of these structures hanging on a Colorado blue spruce or an arborvitae? They kind of look like pine cones, but not exactly. Well, they aren’t pine cones, but silken bags spun and decorated by bagworms (Thyridopteryx ephemeraeform).
Bagworms are moths whose larvae feed on evergreens such as spruce, juniper, pine and arborvitae. The larvae can also feed on deciduous trees such as maple, elm, birch and sycamore. Bagworms defoliate the trees and shrubs they infest. In large numbers, bagworms can cause significant defoliation, which can lead to the death of the plant.
In late spring, bagworm eggs, which overwinter in their mother’s silken bag, hatch and caterpillars emerge. These caterpillars begin to form new silk bags, and as they eat, they cover it with bits of leaves. As the caterpillar grows, it expand its bags. Then in late summer the caterpillar firmly attaches its bag to the plant and pupates.
Complete metamorphosis from caterpillar to moth takes about four weeks. Adult male bagworms emerge from their bags as clear winged moths and begin to search for a mate. Adult female bagworms are wingless moths and never leave their bags. After mating females produce 500-1000 eggs before dying. Their eggs overwinter inside their mother’s silken bag and the whole cycle begins again.
Because bagworms are protected by their silken bag, management can be tricky. For smaller trees and shrubs the best tactic is to remove and destroy the bags by hand. Unfortunately, this is not possible in all instances, especially on larger trees and shrubs. Insecticides are most effective right after bagworm eggs hatch, when the caterpillars are small.
But how does one know when the eggs are going to hatch? Well, it turns out that there is a “Bagworm Forecast” that you can check in the spring to determine the best time to apply insecticide. The maps provided by this forecast are updated daily and available six days in the future, so you can plan ahead.
For recommendations on pesticides, check out the resources below. And as always, make sure you read and follow all the instructions on the pesticide label including the use of personal protective equipment. The label is the law!
As females don’t fly, you may wonder how bagworms spread. Bagworm caterpillars can balloon, or use their silk threads to catch the wind and travel long distances.
Despite relatively little protection for overwintering bagworm eggs, research at Purdue University found that it takes a 24 hr period at -0.6 ° F or below to kill the eggs. So if you live in Orange County New York don’t expect a cold winter to kill off your bagworms.