Long Island Ticks

The warm weather is here and we’re back to spending time outdoors. Unfortunately, while we’re outside there’s a better than average chance we’ll encounter ticks. Currently, there are three kinds of ticks that are most commonly found on humans on Long Island. These include black-legged ticks (aka, deer ticks),  Lone Star ticks, and the American dog tick, also known as the wood tick. 

Lone Star ticks are most commonly found in wooded areas of Suffolk County. While they don’t transmit Lyme disease, they can spread Rocky Mountain spotted fever and meat allergies. They can also transmit STARI (Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness). They originated from the southern United States, but have slowly crept northward due to climate change. 

The other tick species also transmit tick-borne diseases including Lyme, Babesiosis, and Ehrlichia. 

The best way to deal with tick bites is to avoid them; so it’s important to practice tick control in your gardening. Keep a three-foot barrier between play areas and wooded areas. Keep grass trimmed low and check everyone before they come inside for ticks. 

Managing wildlife is important in the fight against ticks. Keep your yard neat and free of leaf litter, long grasses, and brush piles in order to make your yard as unpalatable to ticks as possible. Wildlife such as domestic chickens and similar fowl—including ducks, geese, turkeys, and guinea hens—also eat ticks and can help keep your yard and garden tick-free.

Finally, spraying for ticks is an easy way you can help reduce the number of ticks on your property. Having your yard treated early and regularly can make play areas safer for children and pets. These sprays can reduce all three kinds of ticks, including dog ticks! Contact us today to schedule a spray for your yard to help keep you, and your loved ones, safe as they play in the summer sun. 

Planting Spring Bulbs

Everyone loves to see spring flowers peeking out of the ground as soon as the weather turns, but in order to make that happen, it takes a bit of planning! 

To ensure that your yard is filled with blooms all spring and summer long, follow these tips for planting. 

Beautiful bulbs make beautiful flowers, so when picking out your bulbs make sure they have no mushy spots or mold. Avoid bulbs that are soft, feel hollow, or have dark spots on them. Choose the largest bulbs in the variety you’re after, as those will be the healthiest and the most reliable bloomers. 

Spring flowering bulbs need to be planted the fall before you want them to bloom. These hardy bulbs do not need to be brought inside to overwinter. This includes tulips, hyacinth, crocus, snowdrops, etc. They need a chill in order to prepare them to bloom, however, you can plant them as late as January if the soil is still workable and they will still have time to settle in before blooming. Make them a part of your fall planting for a spectacular display come springtime.

For plants with summer bloom times,  early spring is the perfect time to plant bulbs. When planting bulbs it’s very important to dig a hole that is at least 3 times deeper than the size of the bulb. For large bulbs, you’ll want to dig a hole about 6 inches deep, while smaller bulbs may only need a 3-inch hole. 

Many bulb flowers are sun-loving, particularly summer bulbs, so try to put the bulbs in a place where they will receive full sun. You also want to ensure good drainage so that the bulbs don’t end up rotting. 

To create a spectacular spring and summer-long show, plant spring bulbs on top of mid-to-late season bloomers, and mix different types of bulbs to create displays of color that will pop up all season long. 

Starting Seeds in Egg Cartons

It’s that time of year; when the weather is getting just a little warmer and it’s time to start seeds indoors. One of the best methods for starting seeds uses cardboard egg cartons to start your plants. Cardboard egg cartons are biodegradable and make the perfect little planters for growing seeds. You can start indoor plants in egg cartons as well as plants you intend to sow outdoors once they develop. 

To start prepping for seed containers you’ll want to poke small drainage holes in the bottom of each egg compartment. This will allow water to escape. If you like you can poke several small holes or just one slightly bigger one. It’s up to you. Next, use some plastic wrap to cover the top; you’re going to use this as a drainage tray. Next comes the fun part: playing in the dirt! 

Take some potting soil and place it in the bottom of each egg cup. Once they’re about half full, poke holes in the middle of each section and begin planting seeds! You’ll want to put one seed in each hole for larger seeds like squash and cucumbers, but for smaller seeds like flowers feel free to put several in each hole. Once you have all of your seeds planted, cover the seeds with enough dirt to reach the top of the egg carton. Next, dampen the soil and place the moist carton on your drainage tray and put it in a sunny window. Cover it with plastic wrap or a bag from the grocery store. Every day check on the seeds and give the dirt a little spray if it’s looking dry. The warmth from the sun will help you to start seeds indoors, so be sure they’re in a warm, sunny, dry spot!

Soon, you’ll start to see small seedlings appear. Once they’re about a quarter-inch high you can remove the plastic cover, but continue to water them so they don’t dry out. Let them grow for a couple of weeks before planting them outdoors. You can just tear off each section and plant the whole thing, egg carton and all, right in the ground as the carton will biodegrade and become part of the soil. 

Planting seeds in egg cartons is a fun project to do with your kids, and a great way to bring spring into your home. Even though the weather may still be a bit cold, when you start seeds in egg cartons you can get your garden going, and enjoy a bit of greenery until it warms up outside. 

March Gardening Checklist

March is here and that means that spring is just around the corner. For those of us itching to get back into the garden, our time has come. Now is the time to begin turning that gardening plan into reality!

March gardening means a lot of prep work before the early spring growth begins. Start your garden journal in March. Record the layout of your garden design and include pictures. Make a note of successful plants and those to avoid as well as bloom times. Record when you started seeds and transplanted plants. If you go to a flower and garden show bring your journal and make a note of the plants that you’d like to work with.

All of these notes will help you to improve your garden year after year.

It’s a great time to start seeds indoors so you’ll be ready to plant after the danger of frost has passed and the soil temperature rises. Cool-season crops like lettuce, peas, spinach, and radishes can be planted now, though they may benefit from protection like a cold frame. The rest of your vegetable gardening may need to wait until April or May. Check your local nursery’s weekly newsletter to see what kinds of new seedlings are available so you can get them as early as possible.

Now is also a good time to plant summer blooming bulbs. These can be put in the ground as soon as the last frost is over once your garden bed is turned and prepped.

If you have flower boxes, cool-season annuals such as pansies, petunias, snapdragons, daisies, and more will help bring color to your garden early. 

For larger plants, if you have trees and shrubs that you’ve wrapped with burlap, now is a good time to remove it. 

Fruit trees can benefit from being sprayed in March against insects and disease, and ornamental grasses should be cut back to make room for new growth. 

Finally, to bring some color into the house, you can take cuttings of spring-flowering shrubs and force them into bloom to get a taste of what’s to come in the next few months and hold you over until the warm weather takes hold and you can spend more time out in the garden. 

Forcing Flowering Branches

There are just over 50 days of winter left before spring starts, and many of us are just dying to see a little spring color in our homes. One of the best ways to do this in late winter is to force flowering branches. The term forcing refers to cutting a piece off of spring flowering trees and shrubs and bringing the branches indoors. Once indoors they are put into warm water so they can force into bloom. While their natural bloom time may not be for a month or two, the tree or shrub you cut for forcing will bring an early spring within days or weeks, depending on how close they are to their natural bloom time. 

In order to force flowering branches you’ll need it to be late winter. There should have been at least 6 weeks of cold or they won’t bloom indoors. Once you choose your branches for forcing (pussy willow, forsythia, apple, and flowering cherry are great choices), grab a clean set of pruners (using alcohol or hydrogen peroxide is a good idea for cleaning to ensure that you don’t spread disease to the tree) and cut branches to the desired length. Keep the shape of your arrangement in mind when choosing flowering branches. Proper pruning techniques require that your cuts are clean and smooth. Do not leave stubs of branches without leaf buds and do not tear the branches. Remember, you want these trees to thrive all spring and summer, so don’t set them up for failure by damaging them or introducing disease. 

Once you have cut the branches you desire, trim and discard any parts you don’t want to keep in your arrangement. After you’ve shaped your branches, cut the ends at an angle and smash them with a hammer a few times to spread the wood. This will improve water uptake and help the branches to bloom. You may add floral preservatives to the warm water if you like to help them last longer. 

Ever few days you’ll want to cut and hit the branch ends with the hammer again to keep the flowers lasting as long as possible. 

Forcing flowering can be a great alternative to cut flowers in late winter and can really bring an early taste of spring to your home. Put your branches in narrow necked bottles to be sure they stay upright and you’ll have a breathtaking display that can last weeks with proper care.

Preparing Trees for Storms

Winter is here and while we’ve already had a good dose of the cold; soon we’ll also be getting winter storms, which can damage trees. Whether it’s a strong wind or the weight of wet snow, the trees on your property need a certain amount of care to get through the season undamaged. 

The first thing you want to do to prepare your trees and to keep trees healthy is to prune your trees BEFORE the storm hits. You can eyeball this but the best bet is to have your trees evaluated by a certified arborist. If any trees are extremely damaged you may want to contact tree services for tree removal. Trees go dormant in winter making it an ideal time to prune. 

Tree care such as this should be done before the winter storm season as well as before hurricane season. 

For delicate trees and shrubs, wrapping them in burlap that extends to the ground may be helpful to prevent breakage. Mulching around the base will help to retain moisture as well as warmth. Moist soil will absorb more solar radiation than dry soil and will re-radiate heat during the night.

Young trees may need extra help during their first years with snow. After a snowfall gently knock the buildup off with a broom, being careful not to break any weak branches. In the case of ice, just leave it alone; the chances of breakage are too high. 

Trees with a shallow root system such as willows, maple trees, oak trees, and ash trees are all at special risk of becoming uprooted during storms, so special attention should be paid to them. If you see any signs of root rot or lifting call an arborist immediately so you don’t have to deal with a fallen tree during the winter. 

Should You Leave Fall Leaves?

Autumn is here and that means leaves are likely falling all over your yard. You are probably thinking about breaking out the rake and buying some leaf bags, but before you spend money and put in the time, consider this: you don’t actually have to rake all of the leaves on your lawn. 

It’s true! When people rake their fallen leaves they generally end up in a landfill. According to the EPA, yard trimmings—including those leaves you were thinking about raking up—created about 34.7 million tons of waste in 2015. While in landfills, leaves can break down with other organic matter to create methane—a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change—and no one wants that. 

On the other hand, if you don’t spend the whole day raking leaves, what options do you have? Turns out, plenty. 

Mulching leaves with a mulching mower should be your first step if you decide not to rake all of your leaf drop. A mulching mower chops up leaves into smaller pieces, called leaf litter so that they can break down and return nitrogen to the soil, feeding your grass. This layer of natural mulch can also suppress weeds, keeping weed seeds from germinating. Mulching by mowing can be done when there are wet or dry leaves, but raking should only be done with dry leaves. The same can be done with grass clippings. Leaving them behind when you mow is a great natural fertilizer that won’t pollute waterways and acts as natural lawn care.

Have a thick layer of leaves? Rake some of them over to your garden bed before mowing. Flower beds will appreciate the natural layer of mulch and weed prevention. Don’t make TOO thick of a layer though, you still want the airflow to prevent fungus from growing. 

Another thing you can do with leaves instead of sending them to the landfill is to create a compost pile in your yard. You can put vegetable food waste, grass clippings, and leaves in the pile and help create nutrient-rich compost to aid in gardening next spring. 

Finally, according to the National Wildlife Federation, leaving the leaves also helps birds, butterflies, and moths. Birds raid the litter for food for babies, and moths and butterflies pupate in leaf litter. 

Fall Tick Activity

Pumpkins are everywhere and people are picking out their costumes. Fall is in full swing but there’s one part of summer that’s still hanging on: ticks. 

Our warm autumn weather means that ticks like the American Dog Tick, Deer Ticks, Black Legged Ticks, and the Lone Star Tick are still active and even breeding. Tick bites can spread tick-borne diseases at any time of year, but right now—when we’re out enjoying the last warm days hiking and playing outside—they have a better-than-average chance of latching on. 

When a tick uses its mouthparts to feed it can transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme, as well as several types of parasites and viruses, so it’s important to remove a tick as soon as you see it on you. Generally speaking, a tick must be attached for 36 hours to transmit Lyme disease so it’s important to remove them as soon as you see them. If you find a tick, use tweezers to grasp the head as close to the skin as possible and pull straight out. 

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. 

When outdoors, if possible, wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts to keep ticks off of your skin. For extra protection, you can treat your clothing with Permethrin or use a spray with DEET to help repel ticks and other biting insects. 

When you get back inside be sure to do a full-body check especially:

  • Under the arms
  • In and around the ears
  • Inside the belly button
  • Back of the knees
  • In and around the hair
  • Between the legs
  • Around the waist

By following these steps you’ll have a much better chance of avoiding tick bites and having a safer and happier fall!

Planting Roses in the Fall

Fall may seem like the end of the planting season but for container-packaged roses, it can be a great time of year to start planting. Early spring is better for planting if you have bare root rose bushes, but there is enough time for planting a potted rose in fall to ensure that your newly planted roses will create a solid root system before they go dormant in winter. So if you’ve just got to get some roses in the ground, skip the bare root roses and go for those already in pots. 

There are many different rose varieties to choose from when planting so your first decision will be what kind of rose you want to grow. In addition to growth habits, such as bush form or climbing, there are also different varieties such as hybrid tea roses, floribunda, grandifloras, miniature, tree, and climbers. When you grow roses the choices and colors are almost endless so spend some time doing the research before you get started planting. 

There are a few things you have to keep in mind if you decide that fall will be your growing season for your roses. Number one, you should not fertilize. Fertilizing roses can actually weaken them leaving them more susceptible to diseases like powdery mildew and black spot. Leave fertilizing to spring planting.

Roses need full sun so location is important when planting. They also need good drainage so you may want to check your soil before popping them into the ground. 

Mulch is vital for healthy roses. Use organic matter to cover the roots of your roses. This will keep them warmer longer and will give them that extra little bit of cushion they will need in winter. 

Go for dormant plants. Plants with new growth won’t be as happy going into the ground in the fall. If you just love the idea of watching new growth instantly, you might want to wait till spring to plant those bushes. For long-term success, planting dormant bushes in the fall is the best idea. 

Finally, don’t prune. Tempting as it may be to shape your roses, they don’t need the additional stress of open wounds. This can also make them susceptible to disease and pests and they don’t need that before going into a long cold winter. 

So take some time and consider if fall rose planting is what you’re looking for and if it is, get out that shovel, gather some mulch, and get planting!

Seeding a Lawn in September

With summer coming to an end, and the temperatures dropping, it’s time to think about reseeding your lawn. Mid-August through September is the best time to re-seed an existing lawn and fill in those bare spots and small areas of dead grass. 

For cool-season grasses, such as Kentucky Bluegrass, early to mid-September is the sweet spot, while warm-season grasses like Bermuda grass and Zoysia may prefer a mid-August to early September planting. As their names suggest, cool-season grass grows primarily in spring and fall while warm-season grasses thrive in the warmer temperatures of summer. 

The warm soils of  September, combined with soil moisture and cooler nights, will let the seed germinate as efficiently as possible. It will also give cool-season lawns a month or two to establish themselves before the first frost. 

Starting the task now will give you time to seed before the cold of late fall and early winter when new growth may be stunted by the cold. 

There are many different seeds to choose from when overseeding your lawn; the most popular include Kentucky Bluegrass, Perennial Ryegrass, Tall Fescue, Fine Fescue, and Bermuda grasses. Mixes of Kentucky Bluegrass and Perennial Ryegrass are good seed choices for our area. Lawn care for both species is similar and they have a good tolerance for our climate. 

Before you plant grass seed, be sure to prepare the soil. Remember that seed must come into contact with the ground in order to germinate, so if you are overseeding an existing lawn a thorough raking to de-thatch is recommended. For bare areas loosen the top layer of soil and test the pH. Most lawns grow best with soil that is slightly acidic to neutral (pH 6.2–7.0).  Your local garden center will have the additives you need to achieve this pH reading. 

After preparing your soil and spreading the seed, be sure to keep the top level of the soil damp at all times to give all of your seed an equal opportunity to grow. It is also recommended to use a seed starter fertilizer to help give the new grass shoots a jump start before the first frost sets in. 

After you have growth that has reached 2 inches you can now give it a trim. Don’t let new grass grow too long or it won’t develop a strong crown. 

Finally, don’t forget that while you can leave clippings on the lawn as an added fertilizer, you shouldn’t let fallen leaves lie in place as they will suffocate new growth!