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Winter Gardening Activities: Making the Most of the Season

Winter may not seem like the ideal time for gardening, but there are plenty of activities that can be done during this season to keep your green thumb satisfied. From planning for the upcoming spring to tending to cold-hardy crops, here are some ways to make the most of your winter gardening time.

1. Planning for Spring

Winter is the perfect time to start planning for the upcoming spring season. Take some time to research the plants you want to grow, create a garden layout, and list the supplies you will need. This will help you get organized and ensure you are ready to hit the ground running when the weather starts to warm up.

2. Pruning and Maintenance

Winter is a great time for pruning and maintenance tasks. Trim back dead or damaged branches from trees and shrubs, remove old growth from perennial plants, and tidy up your garden beds. This will keep your garden looking neat and tidy and help promote healthy growth in the spring.

3. Composting

Winter is also an excellent time to start a compost pile. While it may take longer for the compost to break down in the colder months, it will still happen eventually. Start by collecting leaves, yard waste, and vegetable scraps and adding them to a compost bin or pile. Turn the compost regularly to help speed up the decomposition process.

4. Growing Cold-Hardy Crops

Believe it or not, there are plenty of crops that can be grown during the winter months. Cold-hardy vegetables like kale, spinach, and broccoli can thrive in cooler temperatures. You can also grow herbs like parsley, chives, and thyme indoors or in a heated greenhouse. Not only will this provide you with fresh produce, but it will also give you something to tend to during the winter months.

5. Indoor Gardening

If outdoor gardening isn’t your thing during the winter, you can still get your gardening fix indoors. Try growing houseplants or starting an indoor herb garden. Not only will this add some greenery to your home, but it can also improve indoor air quality and provide fresh herbs for cooking.

In conclusion, while winter may seem like a dormant season for gardening, there are plenty of activities to keep you busy and productive. From planning for spring to tending to cold-hardy crops and indoor gardening, there is no shortage of ways to satisfy your green thumb all year round.

Plant Root Health

As gardeners and plant enthusiasts, we often focus on the beauty of the leaves, flowers, and fruits that our plants produce. However, we often overlook the importance of healthy roots. Healthy roots are essential for the overall health and vitality of the plant. 

In this blog post, we will discuss the importance of plant root health and provide some tips to maintain healthy roots. Roots are the foundation of a plant’s health and are responsible for absorbing water and nutrients from the soil.

Healthy roots can absorb water and nutrients more efficiently, leading to a stronger and more resilient plant. On the other hand, unhealthy roots can cause stunted growth, wilting, and even death of the plant. One of the most crucial factors in maintaining healthy roots is soil quality. Soil should be well-draining and rich in nutrients. Soil that is too compacted or lacks nutrients can lead to root rot and other diseases. To improve soil quality consider adding organic matter such as compost or aged manure to improve soil structure and nutrient content. 

Another important factor in maintaining healthy roots is proper watering. Overwatering can drown the roots, leading to root rot, while under-watering can cause the roots to dry out and die. To prevent this, water your plants thoroughly but not excessively. It is also essential to water at the right time of day—early morning or late evening—to avoid evaporation and ensure the water reaches the roots. Additionally, it is essential to avoid damaging the roots when transplanting or planting new plants. Be careful not to tear or break the roots when removing the plant from its pot or digging a hole for a new plant. 

It is also important to avoid planting too deep, as this can suffocate the roots and prevent them from absorbing nutrients. In conclusion, healthy roots are essential for the overall health and vitality of the plant. You can ensure your plants have healthy and thriving roots by maintaining proper soil quality, watering, and avoiding damage to the roots. Remember, healthy roots lead to healthy plants, leading to a more beautiful and productive garden.

Tick Control in Winter

One of the good things about winter is that the bugs that bother us in the summer go away, right? Unfortunately, as winters on Long Island become milder, the tick population gets a chance to grow through the winter.

While mosquitoes are usually dormant until at least April, deer ticks can remain active in their adult stage from fall to spring as long as the temperature is above freezing. One of the most common ticks on Long Island, deer ticks, are one of the top hosts of Lyme Disease and other illnesses. A recent study found that around 60% of deer ticks in the northeast of the United States are carriers of Lyme Disease. This means there is still a chance of getting Lyme Disease if you are outside, even in winter.

Ticks survive the winter months by going dormant and hiding in undergrowth and leaves in wooded areas which become more insulated after it snows. So while you will see fewer active ticks during the winter, this doesn’t mean they are all dead and gone. Female ticks lay up to 3,000 eggs before the winter begins that will hatch in spring. Utilizing tick control measures means you can expect to see fewer egg-laying females come summer, resulting in fewer ticks the following year.

You can take preventative measures, like preventing eggs from hatching in places you don’t want them to, like your backyard.

Don’t let the cold fool you even if you’re enjoying the winter. Continue to check your pets for ticks, not to mention yourself, after being outdoors. Ensure your property is clear of debris and piles of sticks, brush, or leaves, so the ticks don’t have a place to go this winter. Continuing your tick control regimen can also decrease tick populations in your home.

How a Late Fall Spray Can Give You a Great-Looking Spring!

Did your trees and shrubs have a hard spring and summer? Pests and diseases can damage fruit trees and other garden plants. If this is the case, you may want to consider dormant winter spray treatments.

“Dormant spray” is an umbrella term that covers treatments such as horticultural oil, which smother hibernating insects—such as aphids, mites, and scale—as well as their eggs.

Another type of dormant spray uses either synthetic fungicides or copper to treat fruit and flower-bearing trees and shrubs. This treatment can give your plants a head start when going into spring.

Additionally, sometimes liquid lime sulfur will be used on smaller fruit plants such as blueberries or blackberries to kill fungus and bacteria.

Dormant spray application should be after the growing season, but before the weather drops below 40 degrees. While a pre-winter treatment will suppress spring pests, it may not fully control them. Scheduling regular treatments throughout the year may be necessary for the optimal health of your plants.

Common sprays may include:

  • A fixed copper fungicide containing elemental copper, such as tribasic copper sulfate, copper oxychloride sulfate, or cupric hydroxide
  • Neem oil from the seeds of the neem tree (Azadirachta indica)
  • Lime-sulfur is a mixture of hydrated lime (calcium hydroxide) and sulfur

An important step to secure the health of trees and shrubs that may be forgotten by homeowners, whether or not they choose to treat with a dormant spray, is to maintain good housekeeping of plants.

Be sure to remove fallen leaves from the base of plants to prevent pests from laying eggs or hibernating for the winter. The leaves can contaminate adjacent plants, thus hampering success in disease control efforts.

Do I Need to Trim My Trees, and if So, When?

A very tall tree that has not been properly trimmed has the capacity to cause a lot of damage. But knowing when to trim your trees is important as well.

Both shrubs and trees require regular trimming to maintain their looks and health. In addition, practicing regular tree trimming can help prevent problems during inclement weather.
During a storm, weak or damaged limbs can break off and damage your home, take out power lines, or even injure someone.

High up or large branches require a professional tree trimming service for the safety of the tree and the people around it. These tasks can be extremely dangerous and can result in damage to, or even death of, the tree. A reputable company such as Aronica Plant Healthcare will have professional arborists on staff who will consult with you about which sections we can safely remove from the tree.

While professionals are definitely necessary for heavy tree work, there are a few jobs you can do on your own. As long as you do them at the right time of the year.

Evergreen Tree Trimming

You, or an Aronica specialist, can prune evergreens, non-blooming trees, and shrubs in late winter while they are fully dormant. If you require smaller shaping you can do that any time of year. For larger cuttings, waiting for winter is best.

Summer Blooming Trees

Summer blooming trees and hedges should be pruned in late winter, and spring blooming plants should be pruned right after they’re finished blooming. Otherwise, you risk losing buds they are setting for the next year, as they set immediately following their blooming cycle.

The trimming of small branches (those that can be cut with a hand lopper) or the shaping of hedges can be a year-round activity.

Most importantly, for those of us who live on Long Island, removing weakened branches—during early spring before hurricane season and late autumn before winter storm season—is important. Removing weakened branches before the whole tree suffers an injury from a summer or winter storm could be vital to the survival of the tree.

For more information or for a professional consultation with Aronica please visit our website’s contact page https://aronicaplanthealthcare.com/contact-us.php or call 631.928.9000.

Winter Tree Danger

The long-range forecasts are out and it looks like Long Island is due for a busy winter, weather-wise. While hurricane season is almost over, Nor’easters and blizzards with their rain and snowfall are likely on the way, and these storms can spell disaster for your trees. Fallen trees not only can damage your property, or take out power lines, but a mature tree can account for as much as 10% of your assessed property value.

It is important to look over your trees at least once a year to see which ones are in danger of falling over. Here is how to tell which trees may fall, and what to do about it.

Leaning Trees

Trees usually don’t grow straight, and a little lean is normal. But when your tree starts looking like the Tower of Pisa—because of poor weight distribution or anchor root damage—it’s likely unstable. This is a good time to call an arborist.

Multiple Trunks

A tree with multiple trunks, or with splits in one trunk, can be unstable. V-shaped or U-shaped multiple trunks are weak points for mature trees. The connective wood where the trunks come together may lose strength—and be more likely to split—with age or when storms occur.

Damaged or Sick Trees

Pests, disease, and events like construction can weaken, damage, and destabilize your trees. Be on the lookout for damaged bark; reduced smaller, or no foliage; premature autumn color; mushrooms, conks, and carpenter ants at the base of the tree; and woodpecker activity along the trunk, as these are all signs of decay and rot.

If you think your trees are changing, or you see any of the major warning signs above, they could be “hazard trees”—trees likely to fall and destroy what’s near them, like your house.

This is a good time to call Aronica Plant Healthcare. Our tree experts can help save your tree or let you know if it’s beyond help.

Long Island Gets Its Own Tick Clinic

This August, the Northeast’s first dedicated tick clinic opened in Hampton Bays to treat tick bites and diagnose tick borne illnesses. 

Stony Brook Southampton Hospital’s Resource Center will diagnose both children and adults. This is important because Suffolk Country has nearly 2,700 cases of Lyme disease last year, a five-fold increase over 2021. Ticks—ranging from deer ticks to the Lone Star tick—have been spreading various diseases across the Island for years, and numbers are going up every year. 

With the warm, wet weather we’ve been experiencing this autumn so far, you can expect ticks to hang around and be active in the area through December. 

Ticks love wooded areas and the female tick lays her eggs in leaf litter. So while it may be tempting to jump in that big pile of leaves you’ve just raked up, consider that there could be hundreds or thousands of tick nymphs living inside. 

To keep the tick population at bay keep your grass trimmed, clear fallen leaves as soon as possible, and keep a 3 foot barrier of wood chips or gravel between your lawn and wooded areas. Without these barriers adult ticks have no problem traveling to all corners of your yard. 

Perhaps the easiest thing you can do is have Aronica Plant Healthcare come and spray your yard for ticks and remaining mosquitoes. That way you can enjoy these last warm days in autumn without worrying about your family becoming a meal for disease-carrying parasites. 

Bringing Your Summer Garden Back to Life

Your garden bloomed into color in spring but now as the late summer days begin, you realize the plants don’t look as lively as they once did. Perhaps lower leaves are turning brown and dropping off. Maybe spider mites are spotting the leaves. There’s less new growth. Those beautiful blooms are wilting in the heat of the afternoon. The fruit is ripening more slowly. Fewer new flower buds appear. The nutrients in the soil are being used up or washed away. If you’re seeing any of these issues, this post is for you. 

Mature plants need more water. The late summer garden certainly requires more effort but, fear not, all is not lost. You can bring your garden back to life with just a little bit of work. 

As late summer and fall arrive atmospheric humidity declines. This causes soil moisture to evaporate more quickly. Your normal watering routine from June and July just won’t cut it and will need to be supplemented with regular soakings to support your late summer garden. One way to supplement your watering is to set a dripping garden hose at the bottom of each plant for a couple of hours. Repeat this every few days. 

Try creating generous watering basins around the base of each plant. Make them big enough to hold a lot of water directly over the root zone so it may gradually percolate down into the soil. Soaker hoses and sprinklers will also help if left on long enough to penetrate deeper than the top few inches of soil.

As time goes on the nutrients in the soil begin to get used up, so adding a second helping of fertilizer in August can make a big difference.

Select a fertilizer carefully and be sure to read labels. Too much nitrogen can sacrifice flower production. Rather than using a single form of fertilizer such as manure or compost, fertilizer blends that contain a diverse formula of minerals and nutrients are a better option. They are as easy to apply as any larger name brand and they are manufactured locally, so each region of the country will have its own brands. You’ll find them at quality garden centers.

Keep watering and fertilizing your garden through the late summer and you will see your garden spring back to life and stay beautiful through the fall. 

Tree Trimming Tips

Part of maintaining the health the trees in your yard involves trimming those trees. While forest trees get by with only nature’s pruning, your landscape trees will require a higher level of care to maintain their health, structural integrity, and aesthetics. While pruning is necessary, improper pruning can cause lasting damage so tree trimming and pruning must be done with an understanding of tree biology.

Reasons for Pruning

Each cut has the potential to change the growth of the tree; so no branch should be removed without a reason. Common reasons for pruning are to:

  • Remove dead branches
  • Improve form
  • Reduce risk to property and other trees
  • Increase light and air penetration to the inside of the tree’s crown or to the landscape below

 

Routine thinning does not necessarily improve the health of a tree. Trees produce a dense crown of leaves to create the energy for growth and development. Removal of foliage through pruning can reduce growth and stored energy reserves. Heavy pruning can be a significant health stress for the tree, so make each cut with purpose.

So while there are many reasons to keep your trees intact, there are also outside considerations that may make it necessary to prune your trees. Safety, clearance, and compatibility with other components of a landscape are all major concerns. Proper pruning, with an understanding of tree biology, can maintain good tree health and structure while enhancing the aesthetic and economic values of our landscapes.

Inchworm Infestations

Inchworms serve as food to many bird species, and most trees and plant life can survive minimal inchworm feeding. However, when inchworm populations grow to the level of an infestation, they can become a destructive pest causing damage to vegetable crops, ornamental trees, shrubs, and flowers. Inchworms lay their eggs in both fall and spring, so it is possible to have more than one infestation in a year. 

Generally reaching about an inch in length, inchworms are hairless and come in white, green, or black colors. To check for an infestation carefully check plants for both worms and larvae or signs of inchworm damage. Infected plants will have tiny and irregularly shaped holes between the veins. 

Different species of inchworms have different diets. They are voracious eaters who consume plant matter day and night. New leaves, leaf buds, flower buds, fruits, and berries may all be targets. Damage ranges from large holes to nearly total defoliation. Everything from your ornamental trees to your tomato garden can fall victim to an inchworm infestation. 

The best prevention for an inchworm infestation is ensuring your yard is hospitable to an inchworm’s natural predator: birds. Installing birdhouses and feeding stations is a great way to lure birds to your yard. 

While birds will go a long way, if you have an extreme infestation you may need to hire a professional to take care of the problem if expensive trees and shrubs are at risk. 

If you’re noticing a higher-than-usual amount of inchworm activity in your yard, consider giving us a call. We can offer you a number of treatment options to help tamp down the infestation and save your trees, shrubs, and garden.