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Tick and Mosquito safety

Warmer weather and blooming flowers mean you’re spending more time outdoors. But while you’re out enjoying the weather, so are ticks and mosquitoes, and they’re hungry! Not only are these pests annoying, but they can also carry potentially deadly diseases so it’s important to get them under control as soon as possible. 

Ticks are found in wooded areas and like to hide out in tall brush and grasses. Making the average yard on Long Island the perfect habitat for ticks. Every year we see more ticks spreading diseases, many of which are difficult to diagnose and treat. Some of the tick-borne diseases now spread on Long Island include the Powassan virus, Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, Tularemia, Lyme Disease, and Alpha-Gal Meat Allergy.  

Take ticks seriously and consider doing more to keep you and your family safe from them, because what you’ve been doing may not be enough. It is imperative to spray for ticks before the ticks arrive.

Mosquitoes tend to show up a little later than ticks, but should not be ignored. Not only are they annoying, but they can also carry diseases such as West Nile Virus and Zika. These pests breed anywhere where there is standing water. Just an inch of water can produce hundreds of mosquitoes. The best thing you can do for mosquito control is tree spraying. Plenty of organic insect control compounds kill dangerous insects but are safe for your family and pets. Discuss your tree spraying schedule early to ensure a happy, mosquito-free summer.

Scheduling regular tree and yard spraying for ticks and mosquitoes can help you take back your yard from these devious pests. Call Aronica Plant Health Care today and keep your family safe.

It’s Almost Spring!

You heard that right! Despite the late-season cold, spring is just around the corner. It’s time to grab your tools and get some dirt under your nails! To help you get a leg up on the work, here is your spring gardening checklist:

1. Time to Trim: Prune back winter-killed branches to make room for new growth. Cut back spent perennials and pull up old annuals if you didn’t get around to it last fall. Then look around. March is a good time to take stock of your yard and see if it’s time to thin out crowded beds or do some transplanting to fill in bare spots.

2. Check for Signs of Growth: Our winter has been warm, so some plants might have started without you.

3. Prep the Beds: Remove winter mulch or, if it has been well composted, work it into the top layer of the soil. Clear away any broken or damaged branches from winter storms. Rake out fallen leaves and dead foliage. Also, remove existing mulch to set the stage for a new layer once spring planting is done. Push heaved plants back into flower beds and borders. Spread a pelletized fertilizer tailored to existing plantings on the soil’s surface so that spring rains can carry it to the roots.

4. Prune Away Dead and Damaged Branches: Where tree or shrub branches have been damaged by cold, snow, and wind, prune back to live stems by using a handsaw for any larger than ½ inch in diameter. Shape hedges with hand pruners, rather than electric shears to be more precise.

5. Divide Perennials: Before plants have begun spring growth you should divide your perennials. Prune flowering perennials to a height of 4–5 inches and ornamental grasses to 2–3 inches to allow new growth to shoot up.

6. Fill in the Gaps: Where the soil has thawed, dig up perennials—such as Day Lilies and Hostas—to thin crowded beds. Divide them, leaving at least three stems per clump, and transplant them to fill in sparse areas. If you’re past the last date of frost, cut back winter-damaged rose canes to 1 inch below the blackened area. 

7. Perform Basic Maintenance: Check stonework for frost heaves. Check and clean the deck now so you don’t have to do it later; make any repairs.

8. Start Seeds Indoors: Set your indoor seed planting now so they will be ready when the time is right.

9. Plant Veggies: Cold hardy vegetables—such as onions, potatoes, artichokes, and some lettuces—should be planted now, well before the weather truly warms up.

How to Ready Your Property for Spring

Yes, you heard right, it’s time to start talking about spring! While official spring doesn’t start until March 20, there’s a lot to do before then to make sure that your property is looking its best. Here’s some things you can do now so that you’re ready when it’s time to get outside.

How to Ready Your Property for Spring:

To start prepping your property, take a look at your beds and their edging. Neat edges on your beds will make mulching tasks easier and give the property an instant aesthetic boost. You should make a fresh cut around the edge of your bed and scoop out whatever has accumulated over the winter, such as leaves, unruly grass, soil, or mulch. You’ll want to do this early in the season because it’s not dependent on plant growth and can sometimes be time-consuming. Once growth starts, this task can become more difficult. 

Hate edging? Consider raised garden beds, which don’t need edging!

Another task you can do at any time of the year is weeding. As soon as the weather warms even a little, weeds will wake up, and with our relatively warm winter, they’re especially ready to go. Spring rains can make weeding easier as the ground is softer and weeds will come up easier. You want to pull up weeds as soon as you see them, and check for them regularly throughout the spring, summer, and fall.

After the final risk of frost has passed, you’ll want to tame your roses. Whether they’re climbing roses or shrub roses, you should prune them back to a more reasonable shape before new shoots reach half an inch. Remove dead stems, rubbing stems, or stems that are just outside of the shape you’re aiming for once blooming starts.

On Long Island, you’re looking at late March before it’s 100% safe to prune.

Before new growth appears you’ll also want to remove old, dead stems from other perennial plants. Don’t yank on stems, as that can damage new growth. Instead, use gardening shears or hand pruners to cut the dead growth away. For ornamental grasses, you can use a hedge trimmer, and be sure to cut off old, dead tops before the new growth appears if you have not already done this in the fall. 

Finally, plants in spring are hungry after a long winter’s dormancy, so fertilizing them is always a great idea. Mix the fertilizer into the soil once new growth is seen and make sure to soak in the fertilizer, so it mixes with the soil.

Getting all of this done before your garden starts to come back to life can make a big difference in what you see come mid-spring through summer. It’s a lot of work and can be time-consuming, but worth it once you see those plants blooming and bringing color back to your garden.

If you’d prefer to have the experts take care of the dirty work, give Aronica Plant Healthcare a call, and they’ll be happy to prep your property! Visit our website to complete our contact form or call 631.928.9000.

Protecting Trees and Shrubs From Arctic Blasts

We had a warm early winter, but we all knew it couldn’t last. Arctic blasts are coming and we’ll likely have frigid temps on and off until spring. With so much freezing and thawing your plants may need a little help to get through the winter unscathed.

The main issue that causes winter damage to trees and shrubs is desiccation, or drying out. When the ground freezes the roots are unable to take up water from the soil, so they quickly begin to use up all the water stored in their leaves and stems.

While trees and evergreens are built to survive the cold, it’s still a hard time and it can weaken them, allowing disease to set in. Plants such as Rhododendrons and Hollies have a thick, waxy covering on their leaves to hold in water. However, if during the winter plants are exposed to harsh winds or harsh sunlight the plant responds by releasing water from its leaves. This biological response, combined with the unavailability of water, results in winter burn, which can ruin these plants and shrubs.

To prevent this issue we utilize anti-desiccants. Anti-desiccants are products that can be applied to evergreen trees and shrubs to help create a protective barrier that holds in moisture through the winter. While two applications in December and one in February is ideal, it isn’t too late to protect your plants from drying out.

Which plants benefit from anti-desiccants?

  • Broadleaf evergreens such as Azalea, Boxwood, Holly, and Rhododendron
  • Conifers such as Arborvitae, Cedar, Cypress, Juniper, and Pine
  • Tender stems such as Rose Canes and Hydrangea Stems

 

If you are worried about your trees and plants this winter call the plant healthcare experts at Aronica Plant Healthcare.

How Should I Mulch My Leaves?

Leaves are piling up outside and for many, it’s time to pull out the rake and blower and start bagging leaves to be taken away. Consider, however, that mulching your leaves back into your lawn can help enhance the soil and the effectiveness of your lawn fertilizer.

While leaving whole leaves on your lawn can sometimes smother the grass and leave dead patches, running over those leaves with a mulching mower creates an excellent fertilizer. Many mowers have the ability to mulch if you use the right blade. Mulching blades are serrated rather than straight and help to shred the leaves into small pieces as you go over them.

If you’re using a regular mower you’ll need to put on the mulching blade before starting your task. If you’re using a mulching mower you just need to raise the blade up as high as it goes and remove the grass catcher so that the shredded leaves go back onto the lawn. Be sure you go over the leaves a number of times, making sure they are broken down into small pieces. This way, the leaves will not mat together, but will settle down into the turf and be decomposed by valuable microorganisms within the soil.

These leaves will break down over the course of the winter and release nitrogen back into the soil. This nitrogen, in turn, will feed your lawn and help it to be as lush and green as possible come spring. It will also help your lawn to fight off weeds like dandelions and crabgrass.

Depending on how thick the tree cover around your property is, you may have to mow once a week or so until the leaves stop falling. As you mow over the leaves you’ll see the pieces getting smaller and smaller until they sink down a bit between the grass blades. Once the grass is showing through, and the leaves are broken down to confetti size, you’re done with your lawnmower or mulching mower.

You can also use fallen leaves as mulch for plantings rather than for lawn care. In this case, you’ll still need to shred leaves first, though not as small as when you’re using them for the lawn. No matter what you choose to do with them, leaves should always be shredded before use. When you pile up whole leaves, air and sunlight cannot get to the decomposing leaves at the bottom. This becomes worse once they get wet and soggy. Mold and diseases can grow in this anaerobic environment. Your mulch, like your compost pile, should be as fluffy as possible so that air can circulate and nature’s decomposers can do their work. The idea of leaf mulching is to protect the ground from freezing, thawing, and then re-freezing because this is damaging to plants. The leaf layer in this case serves as a temperature regulator to keep this from happening. You’ll want a thick layer of shredded leaves for leaf mulching your garden beds.

So before breaking out the rake and the blower this year consider mulching your leaves instead. Your garden, and especially the soil, will thank you!

Fall Tree Spraying

Believe it or not, Thanksgiving is just around the corner and that’s just one sign that it’s the ideal time to start thinking about a preventative spraying program for fruit and other trees!

In particular, Peach Leaf Curl and Shot Hole Fungus can be prevented with a disease control application, while aphids, scale, spider mites, and others may be controlled with a dormant oil spray. After the first winter freeze, your tree’s bark contracts and seals in disease-causing organisms, so catching them early before the first heavy frosts come is essential. 

When trees are dormant, some pests take advantage of cracks and crevices to survive the winter, so spraying now is important for prevention. 

If we have a particularly wet winter, another application may need to be done in early spring just as buds begin to swell. 

It is just as essential to keep the areas around your trees clean from debris as it is to spray. Pests and fungus may take up residence in fallen leaves so it is important to rake up leaves and fallen branches before winter sets in.

To find out what type of spraying your trees may need, or to schedule a preventative service, contact us today!

Ticks vs. Chiggers

The weather is cooling and it’s perfect for spending time outdoors. Unfortunately, for many people, this will mean dealing with bites and the allergic reaction that comes along with them. 

People who have been outdoors in grassy areas may report instances of hundreds of red, itchy bites around the ankles, lower legs, or groin and assume these are chigger bites; but on Long Island, they would be mistaken. 

Chiggers are red bugs found in the southern, southeastern, and midwestern United States. They are the larval stage of a  parasitic mite that tends to bite in clusters where clothing is tight against the skin. They have not been found on Long Island. 

So if not chiggers, then what are those bites? Most likely, these bites are from the larval stage of the Lone Star Tick. Lone Star ticks bite in similar areas of the body as chiggers so it is easy to confuse them. Ticks bite in order to feed on blood, and while they do they often transmit tick-borne diseases such as Lyme Disease. Deer ticks are another parasite that may also cause these bites. These ticks may be almost invisibly tiny so they’re very hard to avoid. 

Your best bet to avoid any biting insect outdoors is to dress properly in long sleeves and pants and use bug repellent containing DEET. Stay on paths when you hike and avoid grassy areas! 

If you’re worried about ticks in your yard—be it dog ticks, deer ticks, or Lone Star ticks—you can contact us to have your yard treated!

West Nile Mosquitoes

The West Nile Virus is a mosquito-borne disease spread by the bite of an infected mosquito or, rarely, due to blood transfusion. Mosquitoes generally become infected after biting birds infected with West Nile and then spreading the virus to humans. While most people infected with West Nile Virus (WNV) do not experience any symptoms, many can experience fever accompanied by flu-like symptoms such as headaches, body aches, and diarrhea. In the United States, a total of 54 human cases of West Nile virus disease have been reported to the centers for disease control and prevention, and there are more cases reported every summer. 

Recently tests in Suffolk County showed 13 mosquito samples tested positive. Because of this, it is important to practice mosquito safety to reduce the risks. 

First, make sure you’re wearing good mosquito repellent. Insect repellent sprays with DEET have shown great effectiveness in repelling mosquitoes and ticks. Next, remove sources of standing water. Pet water bowls, bird baths, planters, tires, etc. can all be places where mosquitoes lay eggs. Change the water out regularly or keep water flowing with a pump to dissuade them from breeding there.  

Minimize exposed skin from dusk till dawn, the most active time for mosquitoes. 

Report dead birds. Dead birds may be a sign of local West Nile activity. To report dead birds, call the Bureau of Public Health Protection at 631-852-5999 from 9 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.  Residents are encouraged to take a photograph of any bird in question.

Finally, consider having your yard sprayed for mosquitoes (and ticks as well!) Make your yard a more pleasant place to be through the fall by keeping up with a spraying schedule to keep your family and pets safe from West Nile and other mosquito-borne viruses. Give Aronica Plant Healthcare today to schedule your yard treatment. 

Long Island Tick Identification

When you’re out and about on Long Island, there are several tick species to look out for to help you avoid disease including Lyme—the most common tick-borne illness. 

As soon as the weather is above 40 degrees Fahrenheit you are at risk for tick bites in grassy or wooded areas across much of the United States. Tall grass in particular is a common spot for finding ticks. 

Some of the kinds of ticks you may encounter in Suffolk County are Lone Star Ticks, Wood Ticks (or American Dog Tick), and deer ticks (or black-legged ticks), with deer ticks being the smallest of the bunch. 

Lone Star Ticks are very widespread and can be distinguished by the “star” or white spot on their backs. They are very aggressive ticks that actually stalk their prey through the grass. They are known to transmit Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Tularemia, in addition to meat allergies. 

Wood ticks, or the American Dog Tick, is a relatively large tick that features brown to reddish brown markings with silver grey markings on its back behind the mouth. These ticks are known to transmit Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Tularemia.

Deer ticks are the smallest of the Long Island ticks, but tick bites from a deer tick can pack a punch. These ticks can spread American Powassan Virus, Lyme disease, Babesiosis, and Ehrlichiosis. Deer ticks are very small and brown or black in color with no other colors present. Adults are the size of a sesame seed and nymphs are the size of a poppy seed.

Most ticks have to be attached for at least 24 hours to spread Lyme, but other diseases can be spread sooner than that, so it’s very important to check yourself for tick bites after every trip outside in the woods or near tall grass. 

To keep your property safe, pest management practices such as cutting grass low and creating natural barriers between play areas and wooded areas are vital for tick control. 

For further control methods, having your yard treated with certain sprays can help keep you and your family safe as well. For more information about tick spraying, contact Aronica Plant Healthcare today. 

Mosquito Diseases in America

Ticks are in the news for spreading diseases like Lyme Disease and Babesiosis, but mosquito-borne diseases are also a risk to public health and something that everyone should pay attention to. Mosquitoes are a public health risk due to the numerous diseases they spread across the United States. Some diseases, such as Eastern Equine Encephalitis (or EEE) can be spread to both humans and animals. Encephalitis viruses, including EEE and St. Louis Encephalitis, can cause brain swelling and even death. Human cases are rare, but can still be dangerous. 

Other mosquito-borne diseases that can cause Encephalitis (or swelling of the brain) are the Jamestown Canyon Virus, La Crosse Encephalitis, and the West Nile Virus (WNV). Encephalitis affects the entire nervous system and can cause pain, swelling, and paralysis. 

Other viruses that can be passed through mosquito bites are the Chikungunya Virus, Yellow Fever, and Zika Virus. Zika Virus was originally prevalent in parts of the world like South America but has since become a public health risk in places like Florida and Texas, however, it has been seen as far north as New York due to travel-associated transmission. 

For most of these diseases, transmission to humans happens when a mosquito bites an already infected animal. These bites infect mosquitoes with an illness that then spreads to humans through the next bite. The Center for Disease Control has many fact sheets for each disease we’ve mentioned, including symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment. 

Combining mosquito control techniques is the best way to avoid catching these diseases. Wearing long sleeves and long pants outside is one method, and using bug spray on your clothing is another. The easiest method is to have a yard spray applied to your property. These sprays help to cut down on not only mosquitoes, but also fleas, ticks, and flies. 

Contact us today if you’d like to find out more about mosquito sprays for your yard this spring and summer.