Volume 6, March 2016
Hello Everyone,

Is it winter?  Is it spring?  It's been such a see-saw this year that it can quite literally change within the hour!  Here at Pumpkin Brook, we held our indoor staff training day on March 18th and our field training day yesterday.  Field training day is the time when we regroup after the long winter hiatus and update our skills before officially beginning our rounds.

This year for our field training we are doing some volunteer pruning work at the Bolton Public Library, Groton Town Hall, Townsend Historical Society and Minuteman National Park Headquarters (Buttrick Mansion) in Concord.  These government and nonprofit organizations have little or no budget for landscape gardening and are in highly visible locations.  We decided to offer our services to provide a refresher to our staff and to serve the communities where we live and work.

We all look forward to seeing you again and to beginning our seasonal care of your beautiful gardens!  We will begin our rounds right after our field training day, March 29.
New Crew Members
We are happy to introduce some new faces and new roles:

Adam Hawley is our new Plant Health Care Technician.  Adam has had a 25-year career in landscape gardening in the Worcester and Boston areas including construction, pruning and maintenance.  He is sitting for the Massachusetts Certified Arborist exam in early April!  We welcome Adam to work with Al Newman, who is taking a promotion to Plant Health Care Manager.  Carmine Imbriglio will be working closely with both Adam and Al as they assume his former roles in this department.

Gary Merrill joins our crew from a career in garden center sales.  He studied horticulture and history at Cornell University and has a special eye for woody plants.  Gary will be working mainly in Concord and points east.

Roy Christoph comes to us with a background in lily growing, hybridizing and judging.  He is an enthusiastic perennial gardener who is eager to combine that knowledge with woody plants in the landscape.  Roy's previous career was in manufacturing and building.

Tyler Ewen will manage our Organic Lawn Care department this year, with assistance from Chuck Papalia who helped us get things off the ground last season.  

I will be taking over scheduling of client visits and will be assisted with site visits and proposals by Karla Bigelow, Maintenance Manager, and Carmine Imbriglio, Operations Manager.

Paul Marean is back with us this year as Project Manager and Designer for both landscape, hardscape and drainage projects.  We've found that some gardens need a bit of each, and he is the perfect person to coordinate things for you!  With Paul's 30 years of experience, you will be in good hands.  Feel free to contact Paul now with your design/build needs.
Adam Hawley at the Groton Town Hall
Gary Merrill (on the right) at Minuteman National Park
Roy Christoph at the Bolton Public Library
Plant Pick:  Hellebore Care
With the unseasonably warm weather earlier this month, Helleborus orientalis began to bloom earlier than in the past several springs.  Before the spring snow storm one plant had 12 stems ready to bloom and counting!

I made a protective tent of winter greens pulled from my windowbox the

Tented protection against foundation
afternoon before the storm, then removed it two days later after the snow had melted.  Its stems were a little bent but will straighten up again with some light.  And the flowers are intact! (See pictures below.)

You'll notice that some of last year's leaves are a bit tattered.  This week I will trim them off and fresh new foliage will quickly resprout.  For now, I'll leave the old leaves in case temperatures dip unseasonably at night.

It takes Helleborus orientalis a few years to bulk up to this size, but it's worth the wait.  This is one of our longest blooming perennials and should continue through May.  I enjoy the large palmate leaves in my summer perennial garden among hostas and astilbes.
Winter aconite after the storm

In another part of the garden, I covered newly opened Eranthis hyemalis (winter aconite) with old winter greens for protection from the heavy, wet snow that fell.  Look - successfully protected two days later!
Hellebores before and after the storm
Hellebores with evergreen bough protection
Snow covered hellebores
After the snow - unharmed
Organic Lawn Care Timetable:  Spring through Fall
This is what a PBOG lawn seeded last fall looked like in early Spring - before the snow
April is the month when many of us look at our lawns and think:  "time to do something about the lawn this year!"  Tyler is happy to visit you to discuss the organic program that we offer and to assess your site including pulling a soil test as a baseline.

In spring we fertilize and amend lawn soils that may be lacking in Nitrogen, Calcium, Magnesium and Potassium.  Many of us need additional organic matter, so we can apply a pelletized compost topdressing and humates to boost this number.  Overseeding can be tricky, as new grass seed has to be kept evenly moist to germinate.  It prefers cool weather to do its best.  Usually temperatures will burn off hot sometime in April or early May, so we make every effort to get new turf seeded before April 15.

In summer we again fertilize (lawns are really heavy feeders).  Thin spots can be overseeded with annual rye which is green and grasslike.  Or we encourage clover in the mix, as this is green, fast spreading and heat tolerant!

Bare spots, grubs and crabgrass are worries that may be in the back of your head.  These issues can be addressed NOW by seeding thickly in a compost-enriched soil, but get harder to deal with once warm weather comes and proper irrigation becomes an issue. 

Luckily we will have a full lawn renovation season running from late August to late September.  At this time we aerate, topdress, fertilize, overseed and pray for ample rain to get a thick turf established before leaf drop and frost.  The threat of crabgrass germinating is over once the hot weather ends, so we save the major renovation work for fall.

I hope you will consider our organic lawn program this year!
Snowball Aphids Soon to Appear
Snow Ball Aphid 1
Snowball aphid damage on viburnum
While those twigs may look dormant out there, Plant Health Care Manager Al Newman is already planning our first spot
spraying action for those with snowball viburnums, the fragrant Viburnum carlesii

When the leaves first begin to unfurl, that is the time for prompt spraying of the twigs with horticultural oil to smother the emerging snowball aphids. Otherwise, aphids can quickly suck sap from the young leaves that results in a puckering effect as the leaves unfurl. This doesn't harm the plant but can look unattractive.  We will be contacting you soon about spot spraying if you have this viburnum in your yard. Our crews will be keeping a close eye on the opening of leaves on this plant. We expect the pest first in areas closest to Rt. 128 so will be starting our spray work there.
First Tick and Mosquito Spraying Set to Begin
In early April we will pull out our mister/blowers for the first round of tick and mosquito spraying.  We use a blend of all-natural oils that repel these dangerous, disease-bearing pests.  To be most effective, we apply this material twice per month.  Ticks are active all months of the year if temperatures are above 32 degrees Farenheit.  Typically we are spraying April - November.

Are you signed up yet?  Please call our office at 978-425-5531 or e-mail for more information.
Do you need to fill raised beds?  Try our Special Raised Bed Mix!

We are pleased to offer our custom blended raised bed mix for edible gardens again this spring.  Vegetables are heavy feeders, so we recommend topping off the soil in your beds, in either late fall or early spring before crops are sown.  Please contact Doris in our office to arrange delivery or filling services.

Priscilla's To-Do List for late March - early April
  • Cut back ornamental grasses and ferns to start over for the new season
  • Cut down butterfly bush, caryopteris, smoketree, beautyberry, Russian sage for the same reason, thinning out insignificant canes
  • Shear lavender, summer blooming heather, dianthus to promote mounding shapes and new growth
  • Cut down brown stalks of perennials
  • Remove any remaining annual or vegetable carcasses from last season
  • Remove winter protection from shrubs and perennials, strawberry beds and tender plants in stages, especially if cold snaps threaten
  • Fertilize bulbs just after bloom with a slow release organic bulb fertilizer
  • Prune for structure any woody plant that drops leaves in fall, removing crossing and deadwood first; but avoid maple, birch and stewartia as these bleed
    Wisteria needs to be pruned now
    excess sap in spring
  • Fruit trees can be pruned now, working to preserve flower buds that are swelling
  • Hollies can be pruned if they were not cut for berried branches; also inkberries and junipers
  • Rhododendrons, mt. laurels and azaleas can be lightly pruned for structure, but be careful not to cut away buds that will bloom in late spring
  • Prune honeysuckle vines to a framework now as they bloom on new wood
  • Prune wisteria now, removing all vegetative growth that will not bloom
  • Check for cold season weeds and pull now
  • Refresh containers with spring color
  • Plan lawn care program
  • Plan tick and mosquito spray program
  • Sow seeds of peas now directly into the prepared vegetable garden, along with spinach, arugula and cold-tolerant lettuces
After a short delay due to uncooperative weather, we are now out and about.  See you soon.

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