Well, we had a nice March thaw. I’m not sure it really made things better, but it sure was pleasant to have a couple days of sunshine and warmth. I was even able to let the fire go out for about thirty-six hours, marking the longest period I’ve gone without a fire in the wood stove since January.
While I enjoyed shoveling in just a shirt with no gloves necessary, I was still a little upset at having to shovel. Needless to say, I have had more than my fill of shoveling this winter. The driveway is passable, but not in good shape. The ruts I made when the snow was soft are now essentially the tracks I have to take to get in and out of the cabin. I basically have no say in how I get up and down the driveway, but so far, I’ve still been able to drive it. I don’t mind hiking, but if it can be avoided, it seems silly to hike. » Continue Reading.
Well, I survived Winter Carnival, along with another monster snowstorm. So far this winter, I’d say that I’ve gotten between four and five feet of snow, most of it coming in two big storms. Luckily, I had a friend with a plow help me out this time, so I’m not having to hike in to the cabin. There’s no way I’m moving that much snow again. I’d rather hike than shovel.
Last week I house-sat for some friends of mine who live in Saranac Lake. It was glorious to have running hot water, fast internet and unlimited electricity. Out of the three though, I would still take hot water over the other two. » Continue Reading.
The King’s Garden at Fort Ticonderoga is presenting its second Garden and Landscape Symposium: “Enhancing Life through Gardening” on Saturday, April 13. The day-long symposium, geared for both beginning and experienced gardeners, provides insights from garden experts who live and garden in upstate New York and Vermont. This springtime event takes place in the Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center and is open by pre-registration only.
The walled King’s Garden was originally designed in 1921 by leading landscape architect Marian Coffin. The formal elements – a reflecting pool, manicured lawn and hedges, and brick walls and walkways – are softened by a profusion of annuals and perennials, carefully arranged by color and form. Heirloom flowers and modern cultivars are used to recreate the historic planting scheme. » Continue Reading.
Climate change; global warming; superstorms; extended droughts; the hottest year ever; December tornadoes; on and on it goes. Changes are happening everywhere. Even here at home this year, worms and bugs on our sidewalk in mid-December! There have been so many devastating storms and floods and fires. We do benefit from modern forecasters using the most advanced technology to predict the weather, helping us to avoid any big surprises, or to at least prepare.
The same was true of weathermen seventy-five years ago: they did their best to predict what the weather would bring―days, weeks, and even months in advance. But they weren’t alone in doing so. Competing against them were country prognosticators who sometimes did better than the latest technology. » Continue Reading.
When raking leaves, putting away patio furniture and dealing with other outdoor chores that should be done before winter sets in, an observant individual may notice small, fuzzy, bluish-white insects slowly drifting through the air.
Upon close examination, these gnat-like bugs have an abdomen covered with a mass of tiny, curly, white fibers and a thorax that is a light iridescent blue-green, especially near the base of their transparent wings. These tomato seed-sized invertebrates are known as woolly aphids, and although they are active from mid-spring through October, it is only after the leaves have fallen and they take to the air that they become marginally visible to anyone that spends time outside. » Continue Reading.
Applications are being accepted for the training that will begin in January 2013. The program is open to anyone who has an interest in expanding their gardening experience and knowledge. Participants learn to improve their own gardens and landscapes, including scientifically-based gardening information in a relaxed and supportive atmosphere. » Continue Reading.
For many locations in the Adirondacks, the growing season ended last week when the temperature dropped into the mid-20’s. The hard frost that formed on unprotected garden vegetables and cultivated flowers that were not covered was enough to destroy these sensitive forms of vegetation, along with many herbaceous plants that thrive in fields and meadows.
However, not all places in the region experienced freezing temperatures, as the calm air that permitted heat to be radiated from the atmosphere into space also allowed many spots to retain just enough warmth to stay several degrees above 32. In heavily wooded areas, the dense canopy of leaves that still exists is able to act like a sheet of plastic placed over a garden and trap the warmth of the ground beneath it. » Continue Reading.
The National Weather Service has issued a frost advisory for tonight (Monday, Sept 10) for the southern and western Adirondacks, including Northern Warren, Hamilton, Herkimer, and Fulton counties and Southeastern St. Lawrence, Southern Franklin, and Western Essex counties. A frost advisory means that frost is possible. Temperatures are expected to be generally in the mid to lower 30s. Near freezing temperatures and areas of frost will damage unprotected crops and tender vegetation and sensitive outdoor plants may be killed if left uncovered.
Tom Kalinowski wrote about the impact of the first frost on Adirondack plants and wildlife last year.
Ellen Rathbone wrote about the impact on frost on garden plants in 2009.
The Almanack frequently posts the latest weather advisories on our Facebook Page.
Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) of Lewis County in conjunction with Mother Earth News is responding to the increasing numbers of people inquiring about raising backyard poultry, beef, and other livestock, food preservation, energy alternatives for homes and farms, and back-to-the-land management skills with a new educational event. A Homesteading Fair will be presented at the Maple Ridge Center in Lowville, NY, September 8 and 9, 2012.
The two-day event will offer more than 90 educational workshops, held rain or shine, under large tents, in a large, approved, kitchen and former barns, and on the expansive lawn at the Maple Ridge Center. Livestock shearing and wool spinning are among the many planned demonstrations. » Continue Reading.
This time of year you might be noticing some red or lavender flowers along the sides of the roads or in old fields as you are out driving or hiking. If you slow down and stop to take a look, what you might be seeing is one of our native species of the genus Monarda, commonly known as Beebalm or Oswego Tea by many gardeners. There are a variety of cultivars and hybrids available at most garden centers with enticing names – such as ‘Coral Reef’ or ‘Raspberry Wine’. Gardeners have been using beebalm in their gardens for years – it is a great choice for attracting hummingbirds and other pollinators and is a beautiful splash of summer color.
The group of plants in the Monarda genus are often just called beebalm as a whole – even though there are many distinct species. And many gardeners don’t realize that we have a number of different native Monardas in our area – in fact Monarda is a North American genus of over a dozen species. » Continue Reading.
My garden is a joke. I tried, but the spot is just not very good. Too little light and mediocre soil make a great combination for disappointment. The peas are doing alright, and the lettuce is coming along, but the basil and carrots are struggling. Even my tomatoes are pathetic.
It’s a small raised bed made with flat stones. I didn’t do any real prep to the spot though. There was a rotten tree trunk in the middle and I pulled that out and added a little top soil, but not nearly enough. I weeded and turned the soil. I should have added more soil and some composted manure to help. What the garden really needs is to have a few trees cut down. » Continue Reading.
When I was a little kid, Thanksgiving and Christmas were spent at my grandparent’s house. The one memory that is crystal clear (other than opening presents part) was celery stuffed with cream cheese. My grandmother would make a platter or two, and it was my job to run around carrying said platter and offer it to the adults who were hanging around waiting for dinner to be done.
The reason I mention this is not to talk about holiday meals in the middle of May, or the delights of stuffed celery, but rather because on top of that celery were tiny tasteless dried green specks. These were chives. Freeze-dried and shaken out of a spice bottle, utterly devoid of flavor, they weren’t anything to write home about. Chives, by the time I was toddling around in the 1970’s were firmly entrenched in popular culture, along with paprika and curly parsley, as food stuffs that were “strictly for looks”. » Continue Reading.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has announced that it is dedicating the month of April to sharing information about the threat that invasive plant pests, diseases and harmful weeds pose to America’s fruits, vegetables, trees, and other plants—and how the public can help prevent their spread. What are some actions that we can all take to help protect our Adirondack forests and waterways?
Be Plant Wise. Buy native plants and avoid using invasive plant species at all costs. Many invasive plants still commonly sold in New York have been banned in surrounding states such as Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and others for years. Nurseries may not be selling purple loosestrife or japanese knotweed anymore, but Burning Bush, Japanese Barberry, Norway Maple, and Yellow Iris are all still commonly sold – and are very invasive. » Continue Reading.
Well, spring has been officially here for more than a week now – and the unusually warm temperatures sure have me ready to get out in the garden and get planting. And I don’t think I’m alone. Nurseries and garden centers in the area are scrambling to get their plants in earlier than usual to meet customer demands. But this recent cold front has helped snap me back to my senses, at least for a few days. We might be having an early spring, but we still have a good while until the threat of spring frosts are over. Not that a little frost bothers our hardy North Country native plants.
Labrador violet (Viola labradorica), a great native groundcover with beautiful purple flowers and foliage, was flowering through the snow at the nursery last fall on October 29 and it is already flowering this spring! Now that is what I call one tough little plant.
So instead of rushing out and buying a bunch of plants, now is a great time to do some planning if you haven’t already. Just like you should have a grocery list when you go to the store to keep yourself from buying too many unhealthy (but all too tempting) snacks, you should have a plan before you arrive at the nursery (And of course part of that plan should be to buy native plants – but more on that in future posts). Otherwise, those displays of pretty flowers will suck you right in!
Remember, when selecting plants for the garden, whether native or not, always keep in mind site conditions such as sun, soil, and water. You also want to be sure to think about your zone. If you keep these things in mind, they can help stop you from those impulse plant purchases for plants that may look pretty in the catalog or on the shelf, but just aren’t meant to grow in our area. If the right plant isn’t in the right place, you can have the greenest thumb in the world, but still not be able to make it grow.
Plant Hardiness Zone Maps help gardeners determine which plants are most likely to thrive in a location. Even when gardening with native plants, you have to keep zones in mind. For example New York State covers zones 3-7. So there might be plants native to southern New York zones 6 or 7, but they aren’t for us – since the park is mostly zone 4.
If you are an experienced gardener, you are probably very familiar with what zone you are gardening in – or at least you might think you are! In late January the USDA released a new version of hardiness zone maps for 2012.
Hardiness zones are based on the average low winter temperature. Zones are divided by 10 degree increments, with a and b subsections for 5 degree increments. In the new 2012 maps many locations across the country shifted and became a subsection warmer. So if you were a 4a you might now be a 4b, and if you were a 4b you might now be a 5a. This new map is based on 30 years of temperature data, from 1976-2005, and was created with new and improved algorithms that took elevation and other terrain features into account. The old maps were based on a shorter and older temperature record, and simpler modeling, so they had become outdated. The new maps are much more accurate for our current conditions.
Another great thing about the new map is that it is also now interactive – so it is much easier to see exactly what zone you are in. You can just enter your zip code and ta-da – the site will tell you what your new zone is! Click here to go to the USDA website and enter your zip code to try it out.
Take a look at the map and see if your zone shifted. If it did, there might be some new plants that you might want to go ahead and try out this year that you hadn’t tried before. I wouldn’t go out and plant a dozen of something new, but maybe get a few and see how they do. I know I might add some Sweetspire, Itea virginica, a great native alternative to the popular non-native butterfly bush, to some of my own gardens and see how it does. According to the new maps – it should do just fine! But I think I will do some testing on my own first for my own specific site conditions. After all, algorithms and equations are great, but they aren’t Mother Nature!
More info on local weather and gardening from Cornell Cooperative Extension can be found online.
Photos: Labrador violet flowering in the snow last October, and already again this spring.
Please join us in welcoming the Almanack‘s newest contributor, Emily DeBolt. Emily is committed to promoting native plants and landscapes. She and her husband Chris own Fiddlehead Creek Farm and Native Plant Nursery in Hartford, NY (just outside the blue line in Washington County) where they grow a wide variety of plants native to New York and the Adirondacks for sustainable landscapes.
Emily graduated from Cornell University and received a Masters Degree at SUNY-ESF, falling in love with the Adirondacks during her time in Newcomb at the Huntington Wildlife Forest. Readers may recognize Emily’s name from her work as Director of Education at the Lake George Association. Emily is a member of the New York Nursery and Landscape Association, the New York Flora Association and a member of the newly formed Adirondack Botanical Society.
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