Volume 2 Issue 8 | August 2021
Hot, dry August weather sometimes puts the gardener in a holding pattern. Come in for a landing with an early morning garden stroll to check out the latest flowers and fruits and to revel in the every-changing plant world.
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Look Around
A walk in the woods reveals a tree’s natural silhouette. Rather than rising straight up from the ground, trees emerge with a graceful flare at the base. This area of a tree is called the Root Flare, and understanding its importance is key to growing healthy, beautiful landscape trees.

The root flare is the swelling where the roots join the trunk at the soil line. Those horizontal roots anchor the tree, store food, transport water and minerals, and take up oxygen. The root system under a tree is massive, and vital to the beauty and function above ground.

Those of us who plant trees and other woody plants pay attention to the location of the root flare. A new tree needs to be planted so that the roots flare at ground level. Too high, and the plant’s root system dries out. Too low, and the plant cannot access the oxygen and water abundant in the top layer of the soil. The bark that should naturally occur above the soil remains moist and becomes vulnerable to pests and disease.
Metasequoia glyptostroboides (Dawn Redwood)
Other than a chain saw, there are few things that will kill a tree instantly – the damage done by planting a tree too deeply or not deeply enough may not present for many years. One of the first things an arborist will look for when determining the cause of tree decline is improper planting depth. 

Container trees are often potted with the root flare deep in the pot. Gently remove the soil until you see a slight flare or the first roots emerging from the stem. That is the area that needs to be at ground level when planting (or slightly above when soils below the plant are loose and will settle).  

Root flare size and shape vary among trees and add to the beauty of those old giants we have come to know and love. As you stroll among the trees note the differences in root flare and the graceful ways that trees meet the ground. Seek out an old beech tree, or hornbeam, or dawn redwood and appreciate the role of those roots that so elegantly anchor that Methuselah to the earth. Look Around.
K Edgington
Leaf Brief - White Wood Aster
Face it. Late August can be tough on a garden. Dry spells, heat waves, high humidity and fungal diseases can leave you with brown, droopy foliage and spent flowers. Then, in the corner of your yard in that dappled shady spot something catches your eye – Eurybia divaricatus!

Eurybia divaricatus, commonly known as white wood aster, is coming into its own, blooming fresh and bright. While many other perennials are finished blooming and setting seeds, the white wood aster is forming clumps of airy, white and diminutive daisy-like flowers with yellow centers that fade to red. This native perennial grows 1.5 to 2.5 feet tall and can lighten up a dark corner of your yard. 

Most of us are familiar with the fall blooming perennial asters that are popular at local garden centers. They feature eye-catching blues and pinks that thrive in full sun. In contrast, their cousins the white wood asters bloom earlier, usually beginning in August and prosper in shady conditions.

Native to North America from Canada to the Appalachians, white wood aster can be found along forest trails and in the shady understories of trees. One would think that a plant with such delicate flowers would be hard to grow, but this is one tenacious plant. As a native, it is uniquely adapted to our weather and soil conditions. Some decry Its propensity to self-seed and sprawl but that is ultimately its appeal! Tolerance of difficult light and growing conditions make it a good choice, even for problematic north facing sites. Some of its wilder habits can be managed in the garden with deadheading, and cutting the plants back to 6” in late spring encourages density.

White wood aster spreads through rhizomes and self-seeding. Propagation is through divisions of plants or collecting seeds once the flower head is dried in late fall. They can be sown directly in the ground in the fall or stored in the refrigerator until spring as the seed needs a cold period to germinate. (This process is called stratification.)

Incidentally a recent study of 119 asters at the Chicago Botanic Garden gave the white wood aster a rare top rating based on flower production, habit, hardiness and disease resistance.

Chin up! You’ve got more gardening ahead of you. Just remember, when you’re wilting in the heat and humidity, your garden doesn’t have to!
J Gramlich
Creature Feature - Crickets
By Jiminy—it’s time for crickets!
 
It may still look like glorious summer, but if you listen carefully, you’ll hear autumn coming. The bittersweet chirping of crickets—the song of late summer.
 
Crickets belong to the order Orthoptera, along with grasshoppers and katydids. Gryllidae is the family of “true crickets”, which includes more than 900 different species worldwide, about 120 of which are found in U.S. fields, pastures, lawns, and wooded areas (and sometimes your house). Camel, field, house, northern mole and two-spotted tree crickets are species found in Ohio.
 
Grasshoppers, katydids and crickets are often confused due to their similar body shape and large hind legs. Grasshoppers have shorter antennae and more rounded bodies, while katydids have longer antennae and long, delicate wings that are held like a roof over their back. Crickets generally have long antennae like katydids (the size of their body or longer), but with flattened bodies and 2 pairs of shortened wings. Crickets can leap more than 2 feet!
 
Adults mate in late summer, and females deposit hundreds of eggs in soil or wood during the fall. Eggs hatch into nymphs in the spring, which look like adults except smaller and wingless, and molt several times before becoming adults. Life span varies by species, but is generally about 90 days.
 
So why do crickets provide the sound track for our late-summer nights? Crickets are nocturnal, so that’s the night part. And as with so many other creatures, the music is all about mating. Only males can chirp, and they do so to attract the ladies and deter competition. Males chirp by “stridulating”—rubbing a sharp edge (the scraper) located at the base of one front wing along a file-like ridge (the file) on the bottom side of the other front wing. Check it out HERE. A cricket will chirp 4 to 200 times per second, getting faster as the temperature gets warmer. The wing surface acts as an amplifier.
 
Dr. Amos Dolbear wrote an article in 1897 called “The Cricket as a Thermometer”, which included a mathematical formula that predicted air temperature based on the number of cricket chirps. Dolbear’s Law says if you count the number of chirps from a snowy tree cricket in 14 seconds and add 40, you’ll get the air temperature in degrees Fahrenheit. Dr. Dolbear was a brilliant academic and inventor, head of Tufts physics department for decades, who graduated from Ohio Wesleyan in 1866. How brilliant was he? As a student he invented the first telephone receiver with a permanent magnet in 1865, ELEVEN years before Alexander Graham Bell. (His case to prove his claim was lost in the U.S. Supreme Court.)
 
Crickets have different songs, each serving a special purpose. There’s the song to tell other guys to keep out. The calling song lets females know he is ‘lookin’ for love’. When a lady shows interest, he launches into his courtship song, and if the pickup is successful, he kisses and tells with a third song. Doesn’t it sound a little like the cricket version of South Pacific?
 
A cricket’s ears (actually they are tympanal organs) are located on the front pair of their legs— it’s as if your ears were on your kneecaps. These are incredibly sensitive to vibrations, making it almost impossible to sneak up on a cricket. Try walking towards a chirping cricket—it will most likely stop!
 
Crickets may become pests if they make their way into your home—that night time chirping can fast become annoying! Preventative measures include mowing lawns, and removing dense vegetation, weeds and firewood from around your home. Caulk and seal cracks near ground level, and use yellow lighting outdoors instead of white.
 
Those cute little crickets eat pretty much anything. They generally feed on living or dead plants and other organic material, but if given the chance will also eat human food, fabrics and paper products. Kind of hard to picture, but if Jiminy Cricket got really hungry he might turn cannibal!
 
Predators of crickets include salamanders, snakes, frogs, rats, bats, mice, birds, ants, wasps and spiders. Would you like to be added to the list? Crickets are a food source for humans in many parts of the world. They are an excellent source of protein—more than beef or salmon. They are also a sustainable source, requiring little land, air or water to survive. Don’t chomp down on one from your backyard as it could cause allergic reactions or be contaminated (like other food sources). But cricket-based protein powder and protein bars are a good way to start!
 
Crickets are intriguing! Click HERE to dig a little deeper.
C Christian
A Fungus Among Us
Aug 21 issue
Powdery mildew. It exists to keep gardeners from getting overconfident. Just as your garden reaches its mid-summer glory greyish-white spots show up on the leaves of your phlox, zinnias and tomatoes, like someone’s been tossing handfuls of flour around. The leaves eventually turn yellow, dry out, and become disfigured. Bummer! While powdery mildew is generally not deadly, it can really wreck your garden buzz. So what exactly is this nasty little buzz-wrecker, and what can we do about it?

It’s a fungus among us! Powdery mildew is caused by fungi in several different genera, each containing multiple species. Most species of powdery mildew only infect plants in one genus or family—so the powdery mildew on your tomatoes is not going to spread to your zinnias. An exception is Podosphaera xanthii, which affects calibrachoa, verbena, petunia and cucurbits (squash, pumpkins, cucumbers and melons), so you may want to avoid planting those near each other. Powdery mildew infects lots of plants, including nightshades (tomatoes, eggplants and peppers), legumes, and woody ornamentals (dogwood, lilac, rose and azalea).

The fungi that causes powdery mildew produces spores which are spread by wind. Infection occurs when the spores land on the right kind of host plant, under the right environmental conditions. Powdery mildew thrives in mid-summer to fall as spores are blown by wind on warm, dry days. The higher humidity of cool nights then helps those spores germinate. Cooler, rainy weather inhibits the spread, as do temperatures above 90 degrees.

Unlike most other fungi, powdery mildew does not need water to germinate. Water on plant leaves actually inhibits germination (but can cause other problems). If spores land on a suitable host, they germinate and send sucker-like structures into the plant’s epidermal cells to obtain nutrients. Powdery mildew generally grows as thin layers of mycelium (fungal threads) on the upper surface of leaves; it never invades the tissue itself. Infection can take between 3 to 7 days. Powdery mildews do not kill their hosts because they need living plant tissue to feed and reproduce—which is a little creepy if you think about it. The fungus survives the winter on plant debris.

So what can you do about it? As with everything garden, prevention is the first and best approach. Start by choosing plant varieties that are resistant to mildew. When planting, provide appropriate spacing and sunlight. Powdery mildew likes shade, so avoid it if possible. Prune and thin plants to promote air circulation. Watering from overhead can wash spores off leaves, but as noted above, wet leaves cause other problems, so limit watering during the day and when humidity is low. Monitor plants to catch infections early.

Sadly, once a plant is infected it cannot be cured. The goal is to prevent further infection. Remove and destroy diseased foliage (this will also make things look better). Do not throw the material in the compost pile—temperatures may not be hot enough to kill the fungus. Young, succulent tissue is more susceptible to infection, so once the disease is a problem limit fertilization.

If you get to the point where you JUST CAN’T STAND IT ANYMORE—you can try an organic fungicide, such as sulfur, lime-sulfur, neem oil, or potassium bicarbonate. These are most effective when used prior to infection or when you first see signs of the disease.

If you start getting compliments on your all-white garden and it isn’t, and you REALLY CAN’T STAND IT, you can try one of the synthetic fungicides listed at the end of the following article:

Apply fungicides at seven to 14-day intervals for continuous protection throughout the growing season, and be sure to follow all instructions on the fungicide label. And if all else fails, try some deep, calming breaths…
C Christian
SOW WHAT NOW?
Enter August. Spring crops are history. Summer crops are on the wane. That cabbage that made such a great slaw and those beans that gave and gave are gone and leave behind “opportunity spots”. Now is a good time to clean out spent plants and sow crops for a fall harvest. Fall is a great gardening season. A number of vegetables, carrots or kale for example, taste better when grown during cold weather. Pest pressure tends to be reduced and rains more frequent in fall. Lower light levels and temperatures mean moisture is retained in the soil.

Some vegetables prefer or need cooler temperatures to grow and produce. A number will tolerate light frost and keep growing when temperatures are in the mid-forties. These are the ones to focus on in a fall garden. Vegetables suitable for fall crops tend to be in the leafy, cole and root vegetable groups. Lettuce, Asian greens, and spinach are great candidates. Add kale, broccoli, cabbage, beets and turnips to the list, vegetables that tolerate light freezes. Parsley, a biennial, and cilantro, an annual, yield well during fall’s cool days. HERE’S a list of fall garden vegetable options with their frost tolerance.

For fall garden success you should:

  • Know the average first frost date (AFF) for your area. In the Akron area the AFF is October 15th.  This doesn’t mean that it won’t frost before that date – it may frost a few weeks earlier or later. It does mean that on average you can expect the first frost around that date. Count back from your AFF to determine how many growing days are available to you, which will indicate which crops will have time to grow and produce. HERE’S a calculator for the first frost date by zip code.

  • Research the “days to maturity” (days to harvest) for the vegetables you want to grow in your fall garden. HERE is a chart listing good candidates, their days to maturity, and whether to plant them as seeds or transplants. Make sure you look at the seed packets to compare varieties and see which have the shortest period before harvest. Cooler fall days and lower light levels mean you may need to add a week or two. Plants such as cabbage and broccoli are usually planted as seedlings, rather than seeds, and the days to maturity number refers to the time after planting out these plants.
Planting in August means that you will need to attend to watering both for seed germination and growing on. Hot summer days are hard on seedlings. Small seeds, such as lettuce or spinach, may be frozen in water in ice cube trays before planting out, which helps them break dormancy and provides moisture for those first critical days. The partially shaded area under a cucumber trellis or north of a tall crop will provide protection for young seedlings. If there is no partially shady area for young fall crops shade cloth or trellising affixed above the planting bed provides some relief. Add a fresh supply of compost, well-rotted manure or fertilizer to planting soils to replace nutrients used by earlier crops. Mulch helps conserve moisture and moderates soil temperatures, keeping soils cooler during the heat of summer and warmer during cold fall nights.
Planting a fall crop of lettuce under the cucumber trellis
As temperatures drop and frost threatens you will become a weather watcher. More sensitive crops can be covered with row covers or blankets when frost is predicted. Often, protection from early frosts leads to days or weeks of warm growing weather. Low tunnels and cold frames provide for an even later harvest, for some crops extending the season well into the winter months. HERE’S a great resource on building a low tunnel for your fall and winter garden.

If you have empty space after sowing those fall crops, or if your vegetable gardening enthusiasm is on the wane, consider planting a green manure crop to build up garden soils for future crops. More about that next month…..
K Edgington
Your Best Defense
You’ve got a great design. You have spent hours preparing your soil and setting out seeds or transplants. Everything in your garden patch is thriving. Or so you think. One day you find your precious plants look sickly, or have holes or aphids or tomato hornworm. What to do?

Please, resist the temptation to immediately reach for the pesticide. There are ways to fight those little buggers without poisoning your food, flowers and the good bugs that, if given a chance, are your best bad-bug fighters.

This is Integrated Pest Management, using a series of strategies to keep your garden as pest-free as possible. No pest management program is 100% effective; a little damage is inevitable. However, with a few regular actions, you can give your flora a great start. The IPM steps are cultural, biological, mechanical and chemical. We’ll talk about the first three.

Your best first line of defense is cultural, meaning how you grow your plants. First, keep your plants healthy. Most destructive insects and diseases need certain conditions to infect the plant. Make sure you have the right plant in the right place. Ensure your soil is healthy. For a little extra insurance, confuse the pests by interplanting different varieties of flowers and vegetables. Diseases tend not to spread if the plant next in line isn’t a host plant. Some diseases are airborne. Your best defense is to prune your plants and give them plenty of space to ensure good airflow.

Many cultivars of popular vegetables and flowers have been bred for resistance to pests and diseases. Buy those if you can. For the ever-popular heirlooms, vigilance and a healthy environment are your best bets.
Aug 21 edition
A lady Beetle Contemplates a meal of aphids.

The biological step in IPM involves wielding nature’s weapons. Give beneficial insects time to do their job. A number of insects are voracious consumers of bad bugs. Lady beetles and lacewings eat aphids, braconid wasps lay eggs on tomato hornworms, praying mantids eat just about anything.
IPM also involves mechanical strategies. Don’t simply watch your plants being destroyed while you wait for the cavalry. Hand-pick the offending insects and douse them in detergent water. Hand-picking might not work for aphids but spraying them with a stream of water (not so strong as to harm the plants) knocks them off and they can’t climb back on. Get past the ick factor and grab and squish the big bugs. Job done.

If you know the life cycle of, say, the squash vine borer, you know that the female lays her eggs toward the end of June. Place a low row cover over your transplants before eggs are laid on your zucchinis. Two to three weeks later, the female is no longer active and the row cover can come off. Cutworms are most active in the spring right about the time you are setting seedlings out. Protect the stems from damage by placing a cardboard toilet paper or paper towel tube around the stem and shove it into the soil about 1-2 inches. There is also the tried-and-true hunt and drown method, done at night with a flashlight when cutworms are most active.

There are many ways to protect your precious plants from pests and diseases without resorting to chemicals. Knowledge, perseverance and vigilance are your most effective weapons in protecting your food, flowers, and ultimately the environment. An added bonus – they’re free.
S Vradenburg
Down and Dirty
August Checklist

  • Keep deadheading perennials and annuals to promote bloom.
  • Monitor plants for late season pests like aphids, Japanese beetles, whiteflies, caterpillars and more. Remove by hand if possible.
  • Reseed turf in late August so it has time to establish before cold weather.
  • Clean up and divide daylilies and hostas. 
  • Plant lettuces and other short season, cool weather crops.
  • Move houseplants to shady locations to begin acclimation to indoors.
New Growth!
To learn more please check out these programs :

  • Bug and Botanical Portrait Photography: Discover the Wonder of Your Garden with Danae Wolf, Ohio State University Extension Technology Specialist on Wednesday, September 1st at 6:30 pm. (zoom)
  • Growing the Herbs of Shakespeare with Summit County Master Gardener Nancy Quinn Simon on Wednesday, October 6th at 6:30 pm. (zoom)

Meet Me in the Garden Series

  • A Sneak Peak at Proven Winners 2022 Offerings and Great Plants for Fall Planting with Proven Winners Representative Doug Parkinson on Wednesday, August 25th at 6:30 pm.

Learn more about and register for these programs on our website (link below).
More learning opportunities:
Dirty hands, iced tea, garden fragrances thick in the air and a blanket of color before me, who could ask for more? – Bev Adams Mountain Gardening
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The Root of It staff: Karen Edgington (Editor), Emma Barth-Elias (Photo Editor), Carolyn Christian, Jennifer Gramlich, Sarah Vradenburg, and Geoff Kennedy (Technical Advisor)
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