What should you do when a garden has to sit empty for season? Mike McGrath reveals how you can take a year off and improve your soil, kill weed seeds and disrupt disease! Plus the maven of moss, author Annie Martin talking about her new book The Magical World of Moss Gardening.
Question of the Week:
“For various and sundry reasons there is a strong possibility I may have to take a break from my garden this year. I won’t be able to plant, weed, water, etc. Is there something I can do that would help the garden benefit from this time off? I have six raised beds that are each four feet by 12 feet. In the winter they are each covered with black plastic to keep out weed seeds until spring, and at the beginning of the season when the plastic is pulled off they are perfect; just bare soil and compost. It would be nice when I do go back to gardening to have done something good for the soil while I was gone. And it would also be nice not to have it all turn into a field of weeds! I love the show and thank you so much for your help!”
— Jana in Matawan, New Jersey
Photo by Flickr user Chiot’s Run
Highlights from show for March 26, 2016:
Apples and aphids
Kristen in West Chester, Pennsylvania, has an apple tree that bore tons of fruit this year, yielding a lovely and tasty variety of apples, but they all had a black tar-like film on them. She said the film comes off when the apples are scrubbed down, and she speculates it might be fungus. The tree is a standard tree standing at 10 to 25 feet tall. Mike tells Kristen it’s probably not fungus at all, but rather aphid frass(excretions). Aphid frass is black, sweet, and sticky. Fungus, he says, would have permeated the skin and run into the flesh. Mike advises Kristen to mail-order a quart or a gallon of ladybugs, hose the tree down with water, and release the lady bugs after sunset. Then, the ladybugs will breed in the tree and their offspring will eat the aphids.
Bernard in Medford, New Jersey has an old smoke tree with a caterpillar problem. He tried spraying it, but the caterpillars keep coming each August and stripping the tree down anyway. Mike says using systemic insecticide will kill bees and butterflies and other pollinators you need when the tree flowers. After hearing that the tree leaves each year, Mik
Featured Interview: Mossin’ Annie
Annie Martin, otherwise known as Mossin’ Annie, was welcomed onto the show this week to speak with our producer, Alexis Landis. Annie is a plant rescuer, farmer, landscape designer, lecturer, educator, and author. Born and raised in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, she passionately advocates the advantages of gardening with eco-friendly mosses by imparting how-to knowledge from a practical point of view. She has earned her reputation as an expert through years of personal research and experimentation with moss gardening methods. Mossin’ Annie emphasizes environmental benefits to our world while placing value on the interconnectedness of nature and the human spirit.
Who eats adult mosquitoes?
Carol in Califon, New Jersey has a question about mosquitoes: who actually eats adult mosquitoes? She heard that bats and dragonflies typically feed on these tiny insects, but was skeptical. Mike says that bats, in fact, don’t primarily feed on mosquitoes because they’re not out for very long, so when they hunt, they look for larger prey. He also adds that the biggest consumers of mosquitoes outdoors are dragonflies and birds – specifically, in this region, birds like swallows.
Bill in Penn’s Creek, Pennsylvania uses shredded leaves to mulch his asparagus beds. Lately, the beds have been invaded by a weed called creeping charlie. He says the creeping charlie crawls under the mulch and loves it. He used a weed burner, to eradicate the creeping charlie, but fears he might have accidentally cooked the asparagus. In doing so, he might have also burned up the eggs of beetle pests. However, Mike suggests focusing on the source of the creeping charlie, and asks where the creeping charlie is coming from. Bill says the asparagus is around the perimeter of his lawn by a fence, and mike suggests getting some better edging for the asparagus bed, to keep the grass (and the creeping charlie) out for good.
Planning a permaculture garden
Steve in East Hampton, New Jersey is a senior in the environmental science program at Stockton University. He is working on a class project, trying to begin a permaculture garden. He wants to design a garden that is full of perennial vegetables – things that are enticing to eat and can be picked on the way to class. Raspberries, Mike says, are the perfect fruit because they’re so low-maintenance. He also suggest blueberries, but he says the soil must be very acidic and the bushes would have to be protected from birds.
Photo by Flickr user Paul Goyette