“…winter, will be forced to relent, once again, to the new beginnings of soft greens, longer light, and the sweet air of spring.” – Madeleine M. Kunin
This turf along the edge of a walkway could use some help recovering after months of shoveled snow was piled on top of it.
As spring progresses and temperatures continue to rise, lawns are recovering from the long winter. As the grass grows and the dry tips are mowed off, areas that need help will become more obvious. What can you do to help prevent weeds from taking over bare patches or thin areas? It’s time to break out the seed!
Mary Thurn from Cornell University guides us through the process of patching small weak or bare spots.
The shield-shaped adult brown marmorated stink bugs (BMSB) are between ½ to ¾ inch long with grayish-brown speckling on the top and bottom. “Marmorated” refers to the light and dark bands along the edges of the body. Now (April – May) is the time that they emerge from their overwintering places in our houses to mate and lay eggs through the summer. Although the BMSB is not a threat to human health, people become alarmed when large numbers invade their homes (and even hotel rooms).
Note the light and dark bands along the edge of the body.
Did You Know…?
Unwelcome, but not demanding: Indoors, BMSB do not form a nest, do not feed, do not reproduce and do not cause damage to the structure.
Northward (or Eastward) Ho! The majority of insects will enter on the south or west facing side of a building, which are warmed by afternoon sunlight throughout the winter.
Just pretend we’re not here: Once inside, they will hide in protected and dark places, such as wall voids, folds of curtains, and furniture.
They stink! While they do not form health risk, they will give off an unpleasantly pungent smell if crushed.
“April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.” ― William Shakespeare
It’s Spring (with a capital S) and the urge to get outside and work in the yard is mounting. When it comes to your lawn, what should you be thinking about and doing as April progresses?
Ahhh, spring. Waiting for the grass to grow.
Getting ready to mow
Depending on where you are, it might be awhile yet before it is time to gas up the mower. In the meantime, avoid the rush and get your mower tuned up and the blades sharpened. Set the mower blades to their highest setting. If you do nothing else this year, keep your blades sharp throughout the season, mow high, and leave the clippings in place.
Not sure how to remove the blade from your walk-behind or tractor? Want to sharpen your blades yourself but don’t know how? Here are some videos to help you out:
Do not fertilize if the lawn is looking good or you fertilized in the fall. The grass can get all the nutrients it needs from the soil and grass clippings.
Research has shown that fertilizing is best done in the fall when it supports root growth. Spring fertilization promotes top growth. There are two issues with this. First, promoting top growth at the expense of root growth leads to grass that is less resistant to drought and pests. Second, while you may currently find it hard to believe, you will get tired of mowing.
Fall is also the best time for seeding, but if you have bare patches or thin areas, fill these areas with a mixture of perennial rye grass seed.
Last week we announced that — now that we’re 30 — we’ve planned a whole different take on our Year in Review. For prepping for NYS IPM’s 30th anniversary takes looking back — back to times when IPM was a whole new ballgame for farmers statewide.
What are we finding? Take these “for instances”:
Our 1986 annual report shows that our first year out of the gate we tested and tweaked new, computer-based disease-forecasting systems for certain insect and disease pests of apples, grapes, onions, and tomatoes.
Grape berry moths: pretty at first glance.
Those models are primitive compared to what we have today — but they offered a critically important launch pad. For instance: we demoed these models to snap bean growers in western New York, who saw how — given growing conditions that year — forecasting for white mold could eliminate 50% of fungicide treatments while onion growers could cut herbicide use by 47%.
But … grape berry moth larvae and the damage they do? Not pretty at all.
Also that first year, we taught IPM in 17 counties, reaching and teaching 438 producers, 11 consultants, and 52 scouts how to use IPM. For instance: on Long Island, IPM potato farmers followed our recommendations and made 2.2 fewer pesticide applications.
Dairy and livestock are big in New York, and — (the last for instance in this post) our IPM cooperators in southwestern New York consistently combined higher yields with fewer inputs.
Productive from the get-go: that’s NYS IPM. Stay tuned for more from the annals.
Photo credits for adult and larval grape berry moths: Todd Gilligan and Marc Epstein, USDA APHIS.
Where agriculture is concerned, dairy is king (or is dairy queen?) in northern NY State. But with the kind of winter we’ve had so far, I wonder if we shouldn’t start producing other crops, ones particularly suited to our region. How about we raise snow peas. Or iceberg lettuce, perhaps. OK, so I’m indulging one of life’s most futile activities, griping about the weather. But for farmers, foresters and gardeners, there is an up-side to all this snow.
Snow has been called the poor person’s fertilizer because it’s a source of trace elements and more importantly, of plant-available forms of nitrogen, a nutrient often in short supply. When snow releases a whole winter’s worth (what’s that—six, eight months around here?) of nutrients in a short time, the nitrogen value can add up.
Round bale, baled with snow? It’s a snow job! Photo courtesy Pixabay.com
Since air is 78% nitrogen, you’d think plants would have all they needed. But atmospheric nitrogen, N2, is a very stable, inert molecule that plants are unable to use. Where does useable nitrogen come from? Some soil bacteria can fix gaseous nitrogen, converting it to water-soluble forms that plants can slurp up. Lightning also turns nitrogen gas into plant food. But this only accounts for a small percentage of the nitrogen found in snow.
Turns out snow is a better fertilizer today than it was years ago. There’s an outfit called the National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP), which basically measures stuff that falls out of the sky that isn’t some form of water. According to the NADP, the vast majority of snow-borne nitrogen comes from pollution …. For the rest of the story, read on.
Article courtesy Paul Hetzler, Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County
2015 marks our 30th anniversary here at NYS IPM. With age comes a new approach to our Year in Review — to our annual report. Yes, as always our focus is real science for real people. But “commodity driven” has long been our organizing principle.
This year our Year in Review will be different — a difference that’s as new as tomorrow. No matter if you’re coping with rats in the furnace room or late blight in tomato fields large and small, most everything in IPM relates to something else in IPM. So our organizing principle this year? I’m calling it “A Theme Runs Through It.”
Yes, even viruses are pests. Plum pox first showed up in NY orchards in 2006.
Our themes? Inasives are a biggie, so lets start there. Given the invasives and emerging pests we were seeing 30 years ago, could we foreseen the meteoric rise in bed bugs? Stick bugs? And not just insects, but new viruses, bacteria, weeds?
More themes? Pest forecasts — because if you know a problem is headed your way, it’s easier to take action to prevent or better cope with it. Applied research that spans years — because when you test new IPM tactics under a range of conditions year in and year out, you have a clearer picture of do they work and what should you tweak one year that you don’t need to the next. Education — because people learn with their hands as well as their heads. Nor is that all.
A single pot of mums is a trap? Trap crops attract greenhouse pests that could wreak havoc with your main crop.
Each theme offers incorporates core principles of IPM: Prevention. Monitoring. Meeting cultural needs. Natural enemies of pests — biocontrol, in a word. Lures and traps. Healthy soil. Healthy plants. Healthy homes and schools — healthy kids. They apply across the board.
Oh — and by culture, no; we don’t mean a night at the opera. (Or even the pool hall). We mean finding the right site, whether indoors or out, with the right conditions for the plants you want to grow.
In New York and around the world, invasive plants rank among the top reasons that the stability of native ecosystems are under threat. Consider the prickly barberries that swallow woodland understories whole. The Norway maples that outcompete sugar maples and out-shade wildflowers. The — well, let’s just stop. Because it doesn’t get better.
Trying to hack through acres of barberry gone feral is no fun.
Sure, those plants might look good in your backyard or hedging the sidewalk, but their seeds have sneaky ways of getting around. Maintaining the value and beauty of woodlands, parks, and farms where invasives abound gets expensive fast. Which is why New York law now regulates and prohibits the sale of these and other invasive plants.
The good news? At NYS IPM we’ve got a great list of plants that’ll do the job you want just as well. Here you’ll find plants similar in appearance and cultural requirements to the invasives they replace — while bringing their own subtle brand of shade, grace, or fragrance to the places you want.
Plant native ninebark, not barberry — and ninebark has lovely flowers, too.
Many are native to the Northeast; among those that aren’t, none are considered invasive. And many of these alternatives are readily available at local nurseries. While most are hardy in much of New York and the Northeast, follow core IPM practices by checking your hardiness zone — and your site’s soil, air and water drainage, microclimate, and other cultural factors.
“Spring work is going on with joyful enthusiasm.” ― John Muir
In other words, birthing season will soon be upon us. And though it’s fun watching animal families grow up in our backyards, it’s best that they don’t give birth within our buildings. Because female squirrels seek safe places to raise their young in late winter and early spring, now is the time to ensure they stay out of your attic.
Give them an opening and squirrels will happily turn your attic into a nursery. Photo credit: Carosaurus
Your first step? Monitoring is key to sound IPM. In this case you want to inspect your building exterior, especially if you’ve had problems in the past. Since squirrels are climbing animals and there’s no way could you see all possible entry sites from the ground, you’ll need a ladder. If you find a likely entry hole, don’t close it without first determining if it’s active. Trapping an animal (or its nest) inside can provoke it to chew its way back out — or in. Monitor an opening by inserting a soft plug (crumpled newspaper works fine) into the hole. If the plug is still there after two days and you see no other signs of activity inside the building, it should be safe to permanently close the hole. What to close it with? Think galvanized sheet metal or galvanized metal mesh, which resist strong teeth.
Do you need to remove squirrels from the building? Trapping is the most common and successful method. By New York law, however, without a state-issued permit squirrels must be released on the property or humanely destroyed. Another method is to install one-way doors (also known as excluders) over entry holes. These devices allow animals to leave — but not re-enter — the structure. To be successful, one-way doors need to be combined with preventive exclusion (such as metal mesh and caulk) on other vulnerable sites on your building, since exclusion and prevention are also key IPM practices.
Openings such as this one provide access for squirrels, raccoons, mice, rats, birds, stinging insects, bats, snakes, … Photo credit: BillSmith_03303
No rodenticides or other poisons are legally registered for squirrel control. Although a variety of repellents and devices make marketing claims about driving squirrels from buildings, their efficacy is questionable.
To prevent future problems, reduce squirrel access to the building by keeping trees and tree branches at least 10 feet away from the structure and make sure all vents are made of animal-resistant materials.
When Cornell’s NYS IPM story — based on IPM entomologist Matt Frye’s research — hit the news a week ago, it made quite a splash. Back then, nearly 20 media outlets told the story: how Frye found over 6,500 lice, mites, and fleas on 113 rats live-trapped in New York City.
And — that among them were over 500 Oriental rat fleas, fleas capable of carrying the infamous bubonic plague. No, none of those 500 fleas harbored the plague. Still — “If these rats carry fleas that could transmit the plague to people,” says Frye, “then the pathogen itself is the only piece missing from the transmission cycle.”
Below, an updated list of the outlets that ran the news. Now the BBC — the British Broadcasting Corporation — also has plans to tell the story. And here, a one-minute video that shows how city rats make a living.