May/June 2020       Volume 10, No. 5
Dear Friends,
Frost free time is finally here! After a long spell of cold days and night temperatures in the 30s, we can be assured of warmer weather once May 15 passes. This means that anything can now be planted! We are working with trees and shrubs, any perennial, colorful summer annual favorites and edible mainstays like basil and tomatoes. Our crews are as busy daily planting and we hope to keep this up until the hot weather arrives for good, usually at the end of June.

Compost tea application season has begun, now that the soil temperatures are also rising and microscopic life in the soil has become more active. This is the perfect time to support such life.

We've attached our summer watering instructions for your reference. It's very important to keep newly planted material on a watering schedule to aid in strong root establishment.

Having Fun with Pollinator Plants

This trend from recent years is actually nothing new - just another way to add more color, style and variety to your garden by choosing plants that are actually useful to insects, birds and butterflies! The goal is to keep these beings thriving and doing their jobs of enriching our environment by offering them "food" - meaning long-blooming flowers with value.

Rudbeckia Goldsturm
photo by Lee Gadway
I'm watching bees visit the  Tiarella cordifolia  groundcover that just opened in my garden. Ditto for the native  Geranium maculatum   and Jacob's Ladder,  Polemonium caeruleum , that I started from seed many years ago. I have planted them in large blocks with the idea of filling space, as well as to send up signals to passing pollinators, saying "we're ready and we've got pollen for you." Happily, the Geranium and Jacob's Ladder are now seeding around the yard, mainly because sometimes I fall behind with my deadheading in the busy season. Even the non-native shrub,  Weigela florida  'Canary' has been getting visited by bees and a hummingbird.  

Asclepiast uberosa,
photo by Lee Gadway
Doug Tallamy, entemologist and noted author, suggests that the next frontier for planting is right in our own yards.  He calls this "Homegrown National Park." We all have unused space, be it a hellstrip out front or the mulch encircling a tree.  Both sunny and shady spots qualify! There is no need to have a large meadow if you don't have that much space or time to plant. We can find pollinator plants for you.  Native plants, of course, will have the most value to our native pollinators. Doug believes that up to 30% of your garden can be non-native, however.

For more information, you may enjoy perusing Doug Tallamy's recent book  Nature's Best Hope  that expands on this topic, including studies on pollinators and plants conducted by his graduate students at the University of Delaware.
Plant Pick - Pinus mugo

Pinus mugo
I had the chance to work with three overgrown mugo pines of varying size recently. Late in the month of May is the perfect moment for their renovation, as new growth is just beginning and can be easily edited by "candling" or pinching off the new growth. I also had to saw some branches to the base to completely eliminate them, as the tallest shrub was growing too wide for its alloted space next to a young Japanese maple and a pieris.

This plant is native to the European mountains and takes various forms that conifer enthusiasts love to collect. Mature heights can range from 10' or less up to 75.' At the nursery, it is certainly hard to tell how big your Mugo pine will become over time! Since this is a popular foundation plant, it's important to get size right.

One sure clue to the eventual height is the length of the needles. Tiny needles around an inch in length indicate a true dwarf, which the American Conifer Society defines as reaching only 3'-6' high or wide (maximum) in 10 years, growing only 3"-6" per year. Then there is Intermediate, with mature size 6'-15' in 10 years, growing 6"-12" per year. Most Mugo pines in the landscape will fall into one of these two categories.

This is an adaptable shrub to extremes of soil, pH and climate as long as it is planted in full sun and well drained soil. However, Mugos are susceptible to European pine sawfly predation when under environmental stress such as extreme drought or soil compaction. Eggs begin to hatch in April and May and are well disguised among the needles until you see the heads start to move! The larvae feed on last year's or current year's needles. This action results in the brown clusters of needles that may be randomly spread over the shrub in the summer.

Missouri Botanical Garden's excellent fact sheet on Pine Sawflies is linked for further information,  here.
Introducing New Staff

Diana Shomstein
Diana Shomstein is a graduate of The Farm School in Athol and has experience working on organic farms. She comes to us to learn her ornamental plants, having already experienced weeds and planted a variety of material over the past several years.

Cedric Smith
Cedric Smith is a life-long gardener, growing up on Five Acre Farm in Waltham. He has held a variety of positions in the food science and wellness worlds. We know we can count on Cedric to help with almost anything we put his way!

We will have a few more new people to introduce next month.

Some virtual gardens you may enjoy...

The Concord Museum has announced plans to hold a virtual tour of gardens this year, on Father's Day Weekend! Pumpkin Brook has signed on as a Sponsor. Register to attend, here.

Ecological Landscape Alliance has inaugurated a weekly series of Wednesday noontime webinars to take you out into the landscape. These are free to all!  Sign on at their website, here. 

Tower Hill Botanic Garden is offering online garden resources for adults and children, including aerial views of their gardens in bloom. And they are getting ready to reopen the gardens to members and later the public, by reservation only! Visit their website for more info.

Native Plant Trust offers some video close-ups of native spring ephemerals - catch them while you can as they will soon go dormant! Two of my favorite native plants are featured: Dutchman's Breeches and Trout Lily aka Dog Tooth Violet.  See their website for more info. 
Priscilla's Garden To-Do List for May into June:

  • Weed beds and new plantings
  • Deadhead bulbs as blossoms fade, preserve foliage so the plants can photosynthesize
  • Dig out bulbs that did not flower and made only foliage
  • Fertilize bulbs to promote strong root growth for next year
  • Make notes or take photos to show where to add bulbs, estimating quantities (we can help with this)
  • Edge beds and mulch to conserve moisture and cut down on weed pressure
  • Edit spreading perennials in the next two weeks before they reach 8" height to ease the shock of division and transplant
  • Stake peonies as stalks rise to prevent flopping in wind and rain during bloom
  • Compost topdress and fertilize clematis, train to its support
  • Finish pruning hydrangeas
  • Young hydrangea plants can be fertilized with Pro Holly to provide a jump start
  • Plant anything before hot weather arrives for good at the end of June
  • Consider adding some native plants that pollinators prefer
  • Water new plantings to aid in establishment (see our guidelines)
  • Cover kale, cabbages, broccoli and the like with floating row covers to protect crops from flea beetle infestations that leave small holes in the leaves later
  • Plant warm weather crops such as corn, melons, squash, and beans seeds
  • Set out tomato, pepper and eggplant starts, along with your basil and marigolds
We look forward to seeing you as spring turns to summer. In the meantime, stay well,

Priscilla and the PBOG Crew

© Copyright 2011-2020 Pumpkin Brook Organic Gardening, Inc. 
All rights reserved.
(978) 425-5531