November 2021 — Volume 11, No. 9
Hello Everyone,
The end of the gardening season is almost here - but there is still plenty to do in the landscape! Our crews will be scurrying like squirrels and chipmunks to get everything done before snow flies. We look forward to helping you with fall garden chores and preparations for next season!
Getting Vulnerable Plants Ready for Winter
One item you may need to consider is winter deer protection. A few years ago we learned that in fall and winter, the enzymes in a deer’s stomach change so the animal can digest woody plants and evergreens in particular! With ever more deer per square mile in our region, deer fencing is now in our wheelhouse. Anchored with sturdy oak stakes, we put this deer fencing around woods edge plantings or favorite plants browsed in the past. This project needs to be undertaken now and during mid to late November, well before the ground freezes.

We also spray a deer repellent on plants that are composed of sulfur, hot pepper, and garlic. The smell turns the deer away but does not harm them otherwise. For canes of oak leaf and lace cap hydrangea and stems of witch hazel, we apply small garlic clips. One or both of these strategies is recommended in conjunction with deer fencing.

For protection from harsh winter winds, we spray a clear anti-desiccant solution on rhododendrons, hollies, mountain laurels, leucothoes, andromedas, and boxwoods. The main ingredient is pine sap. Again we do this in late November and early December as the weather will permit: a dry day with sun and temperatures above 40 degrees.

To sign up for a winter protection program, contact our Plant Health Care Manager, Reese Crotteau, <>
Fall Care of Blueberries
Blueberry bush leaves that are red in color
Fall color of blueberry bush
We’ll be doing some important work this month for those of you with blueberries (lowbush and highbush) in the landscape.

These plants fruit best in a soil that is acidic, yet require Calcium to produce well! A bit of a conundrum that we often solve by testing the soil and studying various solutions.
One solution is to add Calcium in the form of Gypsum. This amendment does not change soil pH yet adds the needed Calcium. In addition, we often kickstart new plantings by adding Cottonseed meal to provide a source of acidifying Nitrogen that these plants need (ditto for Mountain Laurels, Rhododendrons, and other Ericaceous family members). However, Cottonseed meal is harsh on soil microorganisms, so we use it only once every four to five years. We’ll also be topdressing your blueberry plantings with pine needles that will slowly break down and provide further acidifying Nitrogen.

If the soil tests low in Potassium, as in common in our region, we will add Kelp Meal or Greensand to help boost this valuable nutrient to promote flowering and fruiting.

The coming of November signals the beginning of the time to prune blueberries, culling out dead and crossing wood, and providing space to encourage new growth tips that will bear fruit next year. Blueberries can be pruned anytime between now and April while they lack leaves and are dormant.

As plants come into flower in late April, we’ll be scratching in Berry Mix to encourage flowers and fruit. Then we can look forward to a July and August harvest!
Plant Pick: White and Red Oaks
Recently I was asked to identify an oak at the edge of a woodland where a new house had been built. This was a woods tree, with whitish bark somewhat resembling a hickory tree: clearly a white oak. Another clue was the rounded lobes on the leaves. The Latin name for white oak is Quercus alba.

Red oaks, Quercus rubra, have dark bark and ski-track-like striations vertically on their trunks. Lobes on leaves are pointed.
White oak leaves
White oak leaves
Red oak leaf held against the red oak's trunk
Red oak leaf and tree
All species of oak are valuable additions to the home landscape, hosting over 500 species of caterpillars that provide food for our bird population. Acorns provide food for a variety of wildlife in fall and winter. With a deep taproot, oaks can be difficult to transplant from typical nursery stock.
The best way to establish an oak is to plant an acorn, either in the ground directly or in a small pot. Be sure the acorn is whole, hard, and brown for effective germination. After a few years, the young oak can be safely transplanted from the pot to its final location. Remember that oaks grow over 80 feet tall with a broad canopy of shade!
Recently I read two interesting books about oak trees that you may enjoy:

Witness Tree: Seasons of Change with a Century-old Oak, by Lynda V. Mapes, a journalist who spent a year living and writing at the Harvard Forest in Petersham, Massachusetts. She studied changes to one oak tree through the seasons.

The Nature of Oaks by Douglas W. Tallamy, the University of Delaware entomologist who traces the connection between caterpillars, birds, and our ecosystem, changing the conversation about gardening in America.
Oak tree on lawn
Oak tree in landscape
Visiting the Harvard Forest
This nearby spot in central Massachusetts is just off Rt. 2 in Petersham. Open year-round free of charge to the public for hiking and enjoyment, there are marked trails. 

On a beautiful fall Sunday, I was fortunate to find the oldest tree in the forest, over 400 years old, a black gum (Nyssa sylvatica), on the boardwalk in the black gum swamp. I first noticed its red leaves on the walkway, then looked up to positively identify the towering trees!

It’s also interesting to observe various experiments underway by Harvard University scientists in the forest. The small Fisher Museum is closed due to the pandemic, but there are plenty of trails outside to explore. 
Two New Invasive Pests: 
All About Asian Jumping Worms
Asian jumping worms in the soil
Jumping Worms and the soil they create
Have you noticed that some of your garden bed soil looks like coffee grounds? Do large worms jump out of the soil when you’re simply digging a small hole or pulling a weed?

If you can answer at least one of these questions, you probably are host to a population of Asian jumping worms. Why should we be concerned?

These worms over-aerate the soil and can destroy normal soil structure, particularly near woodland areas. They move very actively, close to the soil surface. The jumping worms are active in summer, unlike many of the European earthworm species we’re accustomed to which rest during the hot weather. Thus they avoid direct competition and may be found as the sole worm species in a given area.

Jumping Worms have just one generation per year in our region. Adults can be identified by a pale, milky-white band encircling the entire body approximately one-third of the way back from the head. They are sensitive to cold temperatures and die by the time winter arrives. However, their eggs can successfully overwinter, hatch in spring as cocoons, and develop into adults by summer.

No effective methods of suppression are known for this species. We are inspecting all materials and plants that we purchase for signs of jumping worms and have not discovered any to date. Remember that our vendors for compost and mulch have heat-treated their materials as part of processing, thereby killing the cocoons. Nurseries use specialized potting mixes that do not contain garden bed soil. Field dug stock is another matter. When transplanting and dividing, we have been careful this fall not to relocate divisions from one property to another. However, we remain vigilant.

Research is underway with solarizing garden beds using clear plastic sheeting for two to three weeks in summer, heating the soil beneath to 104 degrees or more. Cocoons are sensitive to heat and will not survive this treatment which unfortunately also will kill other soil microorganisms!

You may enjoy this interview with a Wisconsin scientist at the forefront of research into jumping worms.
And: Spotted Lanternfly arrives in Fitchburg, Massachusetts 
Adult spotted lanternfly; insect with light brown, red, and black wings with black spots.
Spotted Lanternfly adult
Spotted lanternflies congregating on a tree trunk
Spotted Lanternfly adults congregating on tree trunk
Rather close to home, the MA Department of Agricultural Resources announced in late September that a small, established and breeding population of the invasive Spotted Lanternfly was detected on three trees in Fitchburg.
The showy adults native to Asia have been a problem in the mid-Atlantic states. Talks at professional gatherings for the past few years have warned about the increasing chances of the pest moving north on vehicles or goods moved from infested states. Alas, this time has come!
Spotted Lanternfly egg masses
The Spotted Lanternfly feeds on the sap of over 103 different species of plants, including economically significant fruits (apple, peach, and grape among them), along with trees and shrubs that are important in both managed landscapes and natural areas. Maple trees that are tapped for maple syrup in spring are also at risk. The so-called non-native “Tree of Heaven” or the “Tree that Grew in Brooklyn,” Ailanthus altissima, is a favorite host plant located mainly in urban areas.

Learn how to spot egg masses or swarms of adults on tree trunks, rocks, and stationary items in your yard. This fact sheet is a handy reference guide. And it also includes a reporting form if you spot any sign of this pest.
Introducing Jeff Stevens, Project Foreman
Jeff is a welcome addition to our staff, arriving in late September.
He worked for three years at Stonegate Gardens in Lincoln, as head of the perennial plant department and managed landscape installation and maintenance crews. Prior to that, he worked at Bransfield Tree on all aspects of tree care. He also has a permaculture design certificate from Oregon State University and has a strong interest in this aspect of our work.

We started Jeff off as crew lead for some of our fall plantings, and he has done a great job with these varied projects. Look for Jeff on our dormant pruning crew as we head into winter!
Priscilla’s Garden To-Do List for November into December
  • Clean up debris in the vegetable garden promptly to reduce hiding places for insect pests and diseases
  • Cut back perennials that have no wildlife value (i.e. hostas, daylilies, Shasta daisy, catmint, lady’s mantle, etc), remembering to leave basal rosettes of foxgloves, heucheras, and hollyhocks to generate new growth for spring
  • Seedheads of native perennials can be left as desired for winter interest and to provide cover for pollinators and food for wildlife
  • Test soil and amend per soil test results, particularly in vegetable gardens and around woody plants
  • Empty containers of spent annuals, plant out any perennials, and prepare for winter greens late in the month
  • Drain hoses and store for winter
  • Clean leaves from lawns, walkways and driveways
  • Consider leaving the leaves on beds for winter protection and for pollinator habitat
  • Protect canes of oak leaf and lace cap hydrangeas against deer predation with garlic clips (both bloom on old wood)
  • Protect trunks of thin barked trees from “buck rub” against your tree (male deer repeatedly rubbing the spot on their foreheads where antlers recently fell off)
  • Plant bulbs for spring color
  • Plant garlic
  • Plant bare root woody plants that may arrive via mail order
  • Begin dormant pruning of trees and shrubs as leaves drop off - spiraea, blueberry, and fruit trees respond well at this time
  • Shear back ornamental grasses that may splay open and block passage - otherwise wait until spring to cut back
  • Prepare winter shrub protectors and install before snow flies
  • Apply anti-desiccant late in month to protect vulnerable broadleaf evergreens again winter damage
  • Apply deer repellent to favored shrubs such as yew, holly and rhododendron to discourage winter browsing
  • Wait until the ground freezes before putting down winter mulches of salt marsh hay or sterilized straw around tender plants or exposed plantings
Remember, now is the time to reserve our talented Decor Coordinator, Laura Semple, to fill your window boxes, urns, and other containers with fresh winter greens and your choice of red or gold accents for the holidays. We will be making the rounds for the winter look in late November. Contact Priscilla <> for scheduling.

Thank you for your support this season! We look forward to seeing you in the garden soon,

Priscilla and the PBOG Crew
Thank You for Working With Us!

Please give us a review online.
Share photos if you've used our services! We'd love to see your beautiful gardens!
© Copyright 2011-2021
Pumpkin Brook Organic Gardening, Inc. 
All rights reserved.
(978) 425-5531