Plug this “pollinator gap”
If you are gardening to help pollinators, it is important to keep the flowers unbroken throughout the season.
As an author, pollinator promoter and professor of entomology at the University of Delaware Dr Doug Tallamy Often said, “Bees can’t take a week off. “
New research reveals that August is a prime month where pollinator picking can get a bit thin.
Dr. Doug Sponsler, an entomological researcher at the Center for Pollinator Research at Penn State University, last year studied the pollen that bees brought back to their Philadelphia-area hives.
While supply was plentiful in May and June, July and August led to significant drops, Sponsler said in a report at this year’s Philadelphia Flower Show.
He said bees are particularly dependent on tree pollen in the spring and, surprisingly, a lot of weed pollen later in the year.
This leaves room for gardeners to plant a variety of blooming flowers in mid to late summer to fill the void.
Some of the best are the native perennials which peak in July and / or August, including cluster mountain mint (which can spread), Joe Pye grass, goldenrod, anise hyssop (Agastache ), sneezing, great garden phlox, coreopsis, monarda (both types beebalm and wild bergamot), perennial sunflowers, false sunflowers (Heliopsis), milkweeds, black-eyed susan, purple coneflower and, in late summer, asters and turtles.
Two good native flowering shrubs that bloom in July and August are Summer Sweet (Clethra) and New Jersey Tea.
Several non-native perennials are also attractive to pollinators, especially lavender, sedum, and Russian sage, while many annual flowers bloom continuously for much of the summer, including alyssum, dahlias, the cosmos, zinnias, lantana, pentas, and annual sunflowers and salvia. .
All of the above perennials can be planted now, as long as their roots remain constantly moist until the ground freezes later in the fall. Pollinator-friendly annuals are best planted around Mother’s Day, once all danger of frost has passed.
Previous research from Penn State suggests that pollinators prefer flowers that have clusters made up of lots of small flowers and perennials that are planted in groups of at least three to five plants each.
Eliminate weeds from the lawn
Now is a good time to get rid of lawn weeds so that the space is cleared for the ideal time just around the corner for planting grass seeds.
Late August to mid-October is the best time of year to start a new lawn. This is also the best time to thicken and repair lawns that have suffered from dieback due to the heat and dry weather of summer.
Weeds in the lawn are blocking the space that might otherwise be occupied by the growth of new grass.
Make way for thickening lawns by digging out larger weeds and spraying small weed creeping spots with an herbicide labeled to control broadleaf weeds in lawns. This type of herbicide kills lawn weeds without damaging the grass … usually.
The complicating factor this year is the heat and drought stressed grass trying to make a comeback.
Certain herbicides that do not generally disturb healthy turf can be counterproductive for a stressed lawn. Read the label of any herbicide you are considering to make sure there are no restrictions on its application to lawns stressed by drought or high temperatures.
Purdue University Extension says it’s best to wait until temperatures are 85 degrees or colder to apply lawn herbicides and only when at least 50 percent of the lawn is green and actively growing.
Some lawns have fared better than others this summer, depending on where summer storms hit and where they didn’t.
If the lawn is full of weeds everywhere, one option to save time is to apply a granular herbicide all over the lawn. Look for one labeled for broadleaf weed control in lawns, and again, check the label for restrictions on use if your lawn is under heat / drought stress.
Most lawn herbicides suggest waiting four to six weeks between application and planting new seeds, which is another reason it makes sense to control weeds in August and plant in September or early. of October.
Problem in the basil patch?
Basil is America’s favorite cooking herb, and it was previously fairly easy to grow.
Lately, however, a late blight disease has found and killed more and more basil plants, especially when the weather turns hot and humid in July and August.
If you are growing plants that grow well until they suddenly turn yellow and then die off, late blight is probably the cause. A telltale sign is a fuzzy, gray-purple growth on the underside of the leaves.
The problem is fairly recent, it first appeared in Florida in 2007. The spores of this disease do not overwinter in the North, but they move easily in the south to north wind as the weather warms. each summer.
Spraying fungicides is not very effective, especially if you don’t put them on the plant at the very first sign of infection. Many home gardeners don’t want to spray anything on their edible plants anyway.
The best way to get around this recent threat is to grow late blight resistant plants in the first place.
The breeders have already introduced several interesting new entries.
The best known is the newer variety ‘Amazel’, which is a Proven Winners variety available only as a plant (and generally much more expensive than older plant varieties).
Rutgers University has also developed two new late blight resistant varieties called ‘Obsession’ and ‘Devotion’ (available from seed) and will release two more next year called ‘Passion’ and ‘Thunderstruck’.
A fifth variety, developed in Israel, is also already on the market and available to grow from seeds carried by Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Harris seeds, High mowing seeds, and Territorial seed. It’s called “Prospera”.
Trials conducted over the past three years at Cornell University and the University of Maryland have shown that “Amazel” and “Prospera” were almost completely resistant to late blight.
“Obsession” and “Devotion” displayed some yellowing, but the disease did not progress in these trials. Burpee’s ‘Pesto Party’ variety came out with moderate resistance.
If your basil this year is going down quickly or is already dead, there isn’t much you can do. Just plan to try one of the above varieties next spring.
Note that basil likes warm temperatures, so don’t plant it until all danger of spring frost has passed.
More advice when to do what: George’s “Monthly gardening in Pennsylvania” delivered