March 2018     Volume 8, No. 2
Hello Everyone,

Spring is now here!  So what's all this white stuff still on the ground?!

Now is the perfect time to call or meet to plan your spring garden update with us, contact Priscilla.    I'm so happy to have quite a few meeting dates on my calendar, as this spreads out the workload behind the scenes that is ever so necessary.  Then by the time green shoots appear, we'll already have an action plan or estimate worked out.  

Our designer, Paul Marean, is also available to meet with you, contact Paul And our Plant Health Care team will be back in the swing soon, ready to make additional estimates for tick and mosquito spraying once the snow piles have receded a bit.  Contact Al  here .

What's new this Spring
Romaine lettuce seedlings

Order Seedlings through our website  here

Lee, Kyle, Anika, 
Jimmy & Roy

Our 2018 NOFA Organic Land Care Graduates
Carmine checking the tea's potency

Celebrating 10 years of compost tea brewing this Spring!
New Equipment in the Mix
We are proudly debuting three new battery operated blowers this spring.  Manufactured by Stihl, a trusted name in power equipment for decades, these electric machines have power yet sound like a vacuum cleaner.  We'll have our original Mean Green backpack blower in use as well.  Our goal is to make faster and safer clean up of potential tick infested areas while offering environmentally sound services.  We will still use rakes and brooms in our cleanup efforts as well.

Charging Station

Staff Update

I am proud to introduce two new supervisors on our staff this season who have been promoted from the crew:  Roy Christoph and Alfred (Lee) Gadway.  

Roy is a perennial fanatic and grows prize winning lilies which he has shown around the country at American Lily Society shows.  He has been a mainstay in the gardens of our west of Rt. 495 clients and will continue mainly in that region this season.

Food and farming are just two of Lee's passions.  He also is an avid bicyclist, photographer and hiker, leading night hikes for several conservation groups.  Lee became an important part of our team early last season; we are so pleased with his dedication and hard work and look forward to a great year!

As Kimberly and Deanna settle in to the office, they have formalized their contact emails:   Kimberly, our Director of Operations, is now , and Deanna, Executive Assistant, is .   

We thank Karla Bigelow for her five years of service at Pumpkin Brook.  She is moving on to a new position outside of our company this season.  We wish her well in all her new endeavors. 

About the Garden...
Plant Pick - Plants that Refresh Indoor Air 

Since we're still mainly indoors this month, I've selected two types of Plant Picks:  one for indoors and one for outdoors.

When we moved into our expanded office space this winter, we suddenly thought of adding indoor plants to clean the air!  They've been doing very well on our four windowsills, and we also added some plants suitable for low light areas.  One tip:  we regularly run humidifiers both for our respiratory systems and the plants to simulate that conservatory type of atmosphere.  And it's fun to take a break from the computer screen to do a bit of plant tending now and again.

Here's what we're growing and why:

Peace lily - One of the top rated plants for cleaning air of alcohols, acetone, trichloroethylene, benzene and formaldehyde.  White spathes (flower-like) and deep green leaves.  Keep evenly moist soil, slightly drier in winter.

African violet - Looking at the bright flowers stimulates adrenaline release, increasing oxygen to the brain and helping one to relax! Likes occasional bright light and little water, doesn't mind warmth.  Leaves are valuable as an air cleaner.

African Violet
Wax Begonia - Moderately effective at removing chemical vapors.  This variety flowers throughout the year and is rarely bothered by pests.  As a succulent with waxy leaves, it doesn't need much water.

Kalanchoe - Not as valuable at removing toxins from the air, but one of the few flowering plants that likes warm  indoor temperatures (60-78 degrees) and flowers in winter.  After flowering, snip off stems to deadhead a nd do not water until new growth appears.

English Ivy - High on the list of air cleaning plants.  Mist often in winter.  Very highly rated for cleaning indoor air.  Note:  poisonous to pets!
Bamboo Palm

Bamboo palm - Removes chemical vapors such as xylene.  Good for semi-sunny  spots.  Mist regularly to prevent an atmosphere that is too dry (may draw spider mites or sc ale insects, check regularly.

Spider Plant - Leaves absorb mold, dust and small traces of formaldehyde and carbon monixide.  Grows quickly, offspring can be potted on.  Effective after just two days in your house!

Rubber plant - Same as above.  Best plant for removing chemical toxins from the indoor environment.

Boston Fern

Boston Fern - Removes air pollutants such as formaldehyde.  Tolerates semi-sun and is rarely subjected to pest  inf estations.

Golden Pothos - Remo ves chemical vapors.  Very easy to grow, tolerant of any light.  Rarely infested by insect pests.

Select Native Willows 
for an Enchanted Garden  Buzzing with Life

When I heard at the recent Ecological Landscape Alliance conference that native willows are the top shrub for attracting pollinators, I thought "Why aren't we planting these?"  Well, pests do take their toll on the le aves.  But it occurs to me that some of those pests are the larval stage of our native moths and caterpillars, just looking for a meal.  And the shrub willows can be hard to find in most nurseries.            

Salix sericea
Salix discolor
  One t hat specializes in conservation type native plants is a better bet.  Two species to seek out are  Salix discolor, pussy willow, and  Salix sericea , silky willow.

A group of native willows can be established in any low, wet or average soil edge spot in your garden, providing some needed food for pollinators and birds during every season except winter.  They will tolerate sun or part shade.  And willows have another useful function as well:  offering shelter and nesting spots for birds like goldfinches.  The black willow, Salix nigra, and the goat willow, Salix caprea, are larger shrubs (almost tree like) suggested to attract woodpeckers, who will seek out the larvae of wood boring beetles all winter long.  The black willow can also be trained to a weeping form.

Entomologist Dr. Doug Tallamy has counted 455 species of butterflies and moths that depend  on willows!  We should look care fully this season for the Viceroy.     
Female Viceroy butterfly
This butterfly shares the color patterns of the Monarch but is not toxic to predators.  So this clever mimicry keeps it from being eaten.  Viceroy larvae love to feed on willows, and the adults will lay t heir eggs within reach.  Other showy butterfly species found on the willow include Comma s, Mourning Cloaks, Hairstreaks and Tiger Swallowtail.

The pussy willow has the added attraction of being the first shrub to "do something" in earliest spring.  This is when the catkins unfurl, the small, furry silver-grey buds.  It was a rite of March for me as a child to search along the roadside ditches with my mother, who always had a good memory for where to find the best pussy willows for cutting.  The silky willow has soft undersides to its narrow leaves and also to its catkins.

At this time of year you may note the showy golden branches of the alien species, Salix babylonica, or weeping willow, growing in low wet spots or by a pond.  This large, weak wooded tree often naturalizes in the landscape.  Its branches turn bright gold in late winter as a means of photosynthesis.  Weeping willows often break in wind or ice storms and can be quite messy in the landscape as a result.  This is not a native plant and will have little to offer our native pollinators.

Deer Tick, 
Adult female & nymph
Tick and Mosquito Threat Strong Throughout Massachusetts

With a large meltdown expected from these late winter storms, the threat of ticks will be strong this spring.  Lacking natural predators, tickslike to congregate in spots where moisture is retained.  So areas at the edge of your property, under prickly shrubs such as Japanese barberry, around leaf litter and off-trail in the woods become risky spots.  Ticks will be out as soon as the temperature rises above freezing and were spotted during some of this winter's warm spells.  Dry areas are not a threat, such as                                        meadows.  Woodchip or gravel mulch repels ticks very effectively.

Here is a scary statistic:  82% of all ticks in the landscape congregate within 3 feet of the woods edge.  Another bad spot is by stone walls where chipmunks and mice (who carry ticks on their fur) run or nest.  If deer can be excluded from your landscape, mainly through fencing, the tick population can be reduced by as much as 76%.  We all have to continue to protect ourselves and check for ticks daily after spending time outdoors.  If you have pets who go outside, remember to check them also!

Pumpkin Brook offers a monthly tick and mosquito spray program utilizing natural essential oils.  We can custom blend also to help you handle tough problem
Carmine directs the mister blower to potential tick habitats
 spots such as a lakeshore property with lots of mosquitoes.  We apply the liquid with backpack style mister-blowers, since fine particulates are the most effective  con trol.  As a safety precaution for our applicators who spray nearly all day long, they will be wearing face masks this year.  Yet all ingredients meet the NOFA Standards f or Organic Land Care and are approved by the Organic Materials Research Institute (OMRI).

To request a tick and mosquito spray estimate for your property, please contact  Al .

Priscilla's To-Do List for March

  • Resume feeding indoor houseplants every other week as new growth begins
  • Continue monitoring houseplants for signs of pests such as aphids, scale, whitefly and spider mites
  • Start seeds indoors of lettuce and cold hardy crops such as kale, Swiss chard and broccoli 
  • Peas can be sown outdoors by the end of the month
  • Allow snow and ice to melt naturally from outdoor woody plants, as branches are brittle and will crack readily if handled now
  • Gently brush heavy snows from tree and shrub branches
  • Avoid foot traffic on frozen or recently thawed lawns as this may injure turf grasses
  • Check shrubs and small trees for storm damage and prune out as soon as spotted
  • Begin dormant pruning of fruit trees, honeysuckle vine, spiraea, and any overgrown woody plant as the structure is now easily visible
  • Cut back ornamental grasses, butterfly bush, caryopteris, and smoke tree to start them over for the new season along with any perennials left standing over winter
  • Slowly remove winter greens, hay or pine needles put down as winter protection around exposed or marginally hardy plants but be ready to reapply if the weather suddenly changes
  • Shear back old growth of lavender and heathers
  • Pull back compost from tender roses in stages as the weather warms up
  • Thin canes on these roses to the 4-5 strongest stems and cut to the 6" height
  • Clean up leaves at edges of woods, by stone walls, woodpiles and other similar places where ticks seek refuge
  • Prune back overhanging branches at woods edge to create a less attractive tick environment.

When will we be starting our rounds?  Hard to say just now, but we want to wait for shrubs to pop out of the snow, temperatures to be reliably above freezing and the danger of slipping on ice to be past.  Kim Kuliesis, our new Operations Manager, will be in touch with you to arrange our spring schedule before too long. 

In the meantime, Happy Spring!  And remember:  "In like a lion, out like a lamb" is a way to describe this month of March sometimes.


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