Volume 6, September 2016

We are again concentrating on the drought situation in this edition.  See some hints below.
How to Help Your Garden Recover from the Drought
Spike Waterer
"Record drought isn't just turning lawns to dust, it is a threat to fish, fowl, flora and the future"
 - - - Boston Sunday Globe headline, August 28, 2016

Water bans, lack of rain, extreme heat for weeks on end, drooping plants that aren't blooming, and tired looking landscapes are depressing.  Are my plants dead, you may wonder?  Or will they pull through?

We stand ready to help you and your garden recover this fall.  As temperatures cool a bit, especially at night, this will help all of us.  Here are some tips for the coming month:
  • Water deeply when you are able to water as this is most beneficial, early or late in the day
  • Use a spike waterer to deliver water efficiently to the root zones of both woody plants and perennials
  • Utilize the organic liquid fertilizers to give stressed plants a boost, encouraging bloom, and do this once per week with fish fertilizer or the powdered organic fertilizer that dissolves in water
  • Woody plants benefit from a dose of kelp and seaweed solution to recover from stress
  • Face facts, remove dead plants promptly and replace in a few weeks when it is cooler, as fall planting can continue until the end of October
  • Use a moveable, tripod style sprinkler for large areas such as lawns or shrub borders to  simulate rain
  • Plan to amend your soil in the fall per soil test results, working to build water holding capacity with organic matter and replace nutrients that have been depleted in the heat
  • Maintain a mulch around your plants to help retain moisture after each watering
Remember that our Plant Health Care trucks are outfitted with 200 gallon tanks.  We have been making the rounds with these tanks filled with water and Stress X, our special kelp and seaweed solution, to help those of you with water bans or large areas of plants in distress.  To arrange for this service, please contact Doris.
What about Installing a Cistern or Rain Barrel?
Here's an idea - what if we could collect some free water when it finally does rain again?  Cisterns are widely used all over the world for this purpose.  An underground container, cisterns are connected to drainpipes and are usually located near building foundations.  A mechanism is attached so that one can access the collected water when needed.

Our project crew can design and build a cistern system for you.  Please contact Paul Marean for details.

A smaller version of this is the rain barrel.  I've been using them for years around my nursery and plant holding area.  I found a sturdy, good looking rain barrel that comes in either dark green, grey or black.  There is a handy screen insert that prevents mosquitoes from entering the barrel, plus a spout for filling your watering can or attaching your garden hose.  We find the water running off the metal roof is clean and safe for use on edibles, but avoid using water that has run off asphalt shingles for this purpose.  This water is fine for use on ornamentals.

To order your rain barrel and arrange its delivery and set-up, please contact Priscilla.
Why Do the Leaves of My Plants Look Yellow and Pale?
While you admire my large Brugmansia blooms in the photo, you'll notice that the leaves are far from pretty.  What once was deep green turned gradually off color during the month of August.  Note that the veins are yellow.  This is a sign of a Boron deficiency.

Boron works hand in glove with Calcium.  Once Calcium slips, and it does disappear fast in hot weather as plants work to overcome the stress of heat and drought, Boron will slip also.  This is our microorganisms at work.  They need "food" and nutrients are on their menu.  Each time the plant is watered, more nutrients slip away.  The result is the tired leaves.

After working some Calcitic Lime into the soil a few weeks back, we then sprayed this plant with Solubor, or soluble Boron, on a cool morning about a week ago.  We notice this week that the new leaves at the top are emerging solid green!

During August we pulled soil samples from many of your gardens and will plan to amend soils according to test results this October and November.  This will be an important means of overcoming the impact of drought and heat.
What about My Lawn?
Recent photo of a client's lawn despite the drought
Now through the end of September is the time to plan and execute lawn renovations and overseeding.  This is the one time per year that we use a core aerator to bring more air spaces into the soil particles beneath the lawn, relieving compaction that leads to those pesky bare spots.  We then amend soils and overseed.  

With the drought, we have postponed this work until the week of September 12.  We know that many towns have water bans that will prevent you from watering the newly seeded lawn.  We will keep current lawn care customers posted about when we will be starting this work.

There is still time to sign up.  Contact Tyler for more details.
Plant Pick:  Colchicums and Autumn Crocus
Colchicum just beginning to bloom at Tower Hill this past weekend
I can't wait for our order of these fall-planted bulbs to arrive next week!  We're going to plant them immediately and will see them flower about a month later.

Colchicums are drought tolerant natives of west Asia, parts of the Mediterranean coast, and east and south Africa down to the Cape.  Often they are referred to as "naked ladies" or "meadow saffron" since they lack leaves when they bloom in the fall.  The leaves will appear in the spring (but no flower - for that we have to plant the spring crocus varieties).

And, yes, Crocus sativus is the edible saffron.  The stamens of the plant are collected, arduously, and sold for flavoring.  I distinguish all the varieties of autumn crocus from colchicums by the size of the blossom.  Colchicums have bigger flowers.  Their colors range from white to lavender to deep purple.  There will be small leaves on the autumn crocuses.

What a surprise when these plants pop up in the garden!  Flowering at a time when there is
Autumn crocus Crocus sativus
little in bloom, they are a welcome sight.  I like to tuck them in near fall bloomers such as sedums and low asters.  By chance, I put some Colchicums near a clump of dianthus with blue foliage.  What a great combination!

Colchicums are critter resistant, but Autumn crocus may tempt voles during the winter.  If left undisturbed, these will plants will rebloom year after year.  They are easily divided and replanted in late spring after the foliage yellows.  Remember, they need no irrigation and are a beautiful addition to the garden.
Forests for Monarchs Connection

I met Jose Luis Alvarez at the Arnold Arboretum recently, a Mexican nurseryman who is working to expand the winter habitat of our beloved Monarch butterfly by planting more native trees with the local peoples.  

This group collects seeds of native trees and grows seedlings in La Cruz nursery.  Once-forested lands that were cleared for agriculture, wood harvesting or destroyed by wildfires or pinebark beetles are then reforested.  I especially liked hearing that the group is planting the very plants that the Monarchs seek to complete an important part of their life cycle.
Rudbeckia awaiting a visit from the Monarch

After nectaring all fall on our asters, goldenrod, Joe Pye weed and rudbeckia, the Monarchs make a long migration from Canada to Mexico in October.  The butterflies regularly arrive in their winter grounds high in the mountains in the States of Michoacan and Mexico in early November.  They seek native pine trees for roosting sites where they will rest all winter long and will not feed again until they are ready to head to Texas in March. 

There they mate, lay eggs on milkweed plants, and another generation is ready to continue the flight north into summer.  Several more generations of Monarchs will come forth before "our" Monarchs show up in time for the milkweed emergence in New England.

Read about the great work of Mr. Alvarez's organization on their website Forests for Monarchs.
Items of Note 
Fall Hardscape Projects

We recently replaced a poorly installed block wall with a beautiful natural stone wall.  Contact Paul if you have a hardscape project in mind. 
Time to place the  
bulb orders

Bulb orders are due now!
Please contact Priscilla if you haven't already ordered your bulbs for fall planting. 

Wouldn't it be great to see some early spring color?
Concord Food, Farm & Garden Fair

Visit the Concord Food, Farm and Garden Fair from September 10-11. 
Natural stone wall 
Variety of spring bloomers

Visit their website for more information.
Priscilla's To-Do List for September
The colors of fall
  • Water and foliar feed (see checklist in lead story)
  • Weed as seen, remembering that if time is limited, pull the biggest weeds and come back tomorrow for the smaller ones
  • Deadhead and deadleaf plants throughout the garden to promote rebloom and regrowth
  • Cut down browned and blackened plants such as astilbes, as these will resprout from roots
  • Plan dividing and transplanting work, but execute when it is cooler later in month
  • Finalize new fall plantings including bulb orders
  • Perk up containers by replacing tired summer plants with fresh looking fall material and color schemes
  • Finish summer pruning work, being sure to water these plants well
  • Keep picking vegetables and clean up spent/diseased foliage and dropped fruit as you go along
  • Plant fall lettuce, kale, greens and cilantro, all cool temperature loving crops
We look forward to helping rejuvenate your gardens this fall.  Please call us and let us know how we can help.

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