Slimy Tunnels

Why are there worms in the soil? One of the many questions I have asked myself in the course of a day. Everything in the natural world usually has a function. Worms create tunnels in the soil. These tunnels act as a pathway for roots to travel. Worms ingest decomposed leaves and organic matter. This is probably why they stay within one foot or so of the earth’s surface. We very seldom find worms in clay or very sandy soil; places roots don’t like to hang out. Worms also aerate the soil. Their travels create small air tunnels just under the soil surface. Our native earthworms are small one inch creatures; very narrow and delicate. Large earthworms or night crawlers are slimy worms from other continents. They accompanied the soil from roots of plants brought from other lands. When trees, shrubs and perennial roots use these earthworm holes to wander through the soil, there is an air transfer at work that’s keeps our landscape healthier. Soil that has been compacted through super saturation can choke plants and create an unhealthy environment. I mention all these factors because I am seeing some very strange plant phenomenon in the woods.

Since mid-August we have had almost thirty inches of rain. The unusually heavy rain occurring this time of year has stressed many trees and is drowning many plants in the landscape. I’m seeing yellowing and browning on leaves and leaf tips on some maples are turning that characteristic black when plants get too much water. These conditions are most pronounced in heavier soils that tend to drain much slower. It’s all a function of climate change. What’s next? I don’t believe any one knows, but stay tuned as I plan on following these changes very closely.

Don’t fret, it’s October, one of our favorite times of the year. It’s the season to put away the mower and get ready to compost the leaves. October begins green and ends gray; but in between, we have some of the greatest color on the planet. October is the time of year to relax and smell the apple punk. October is long hikes in the deep woods to enjoy the maple, hickory and birch hues. October is our first frost. October is the beginning of the fall rainy season….uh-oh! October is stacking up the wood pile. October is windy. October is the hunter’s moon. October is geese flying south before winter sets in. October is the night sky full of stars. October is good eats. October is getting out the long johns and feety pajamas. October is grrrrrrrrrreat!


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Late Summer Chores

July weather and August weather could not have been anymore different. July was hot and dry, so hot that one of the warmest days ever occurred midmonth as the temperature topped out at around 106 degrees Fahrenheit from Glens Falls to Baltimore. August did an about face as thunderstorms and steady rain lasted most of the month. August could go down in history as the 2nd wettest month on record. Between 10”-15” of rain fell in our area.

The lawn turned deep green and crab grass was not as aggressive as it usually is. Now is the time to renovate weak lawn areas. Soil compacted areas from the heavy rain should be aerated and top dressed with a mix of sand, leaf mold and calcified lime. Depending on your exposure, seed soon after with a northern blend of rye, fescue and bluegrass. Continue mowing as high as you can tolerate. This high mowing will eliminated broadleaf lawn applications.

Most plants began growing again in August. Shrubs and trees put on a moderate amount of growth and some light pruning may have to be done before winter. Prune out dead, weak and diseased wood first and then work on shaping the plant.

Weeds were very aggressive this summer. Weeding is a chore we either love or hate. Weeding teaches us what a plant looks like at a young age. We can learn more about local botany while weeding than in any text book or website. If you are an aggressive weeder you had a tough time keeping your nails clean this summer.

September, as we all know, is the last month of summer. September is warm days and cool nights. September is canning apple pies and cider. The small sour crab apples make the best cider. September is nut season as the Oaks, Hickey and Beech drop their harvest. September is foggy mornings and clear starry nights. September is the beginning of fall color. The Sumac, Virginia Creeper and Mums put on their war paint. September is the month we start the fireplace or woodstove for the first time. If we were lucky we found some down apple or cherry for a sweet smelling fire this early season. September is the New England Aster, one of my favorite perennials. September is golden rod, a perfect Fall color perennial, just ask the honey bees. September is the first cool blast out of the north and the first biting breeze that requires a heavy jacket. September is the smell of ripe fruit with Apple punk and Pumpkin being two of my favorites. September is the harvest moon. September is late corn, tomatoes, root vegetables and some berries. September is another one of nature’s rhythms that remind us that change is good and this is the time of year to accept and embrace another season.


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Nice Tomatoes

July put an end to the streak of wet, cool months. Patiently waiting for the right conditions, many perennials and shrubs that flower from mid June to early July bloomed a bit late. The sun and heat finally arrived on the Fourth of July weekend. I especially enjoyed the phlox, monarda and honeysuckle vine this summer. Rhododendron maximum or giant rosebay rhododendron generally starts blooming in late June into early July. This year’s rosebay began blooming the second week of July. We are in the far northern range of the rosebay hardiness limit and I have stumbled upon pockets of this plant growing along the swamp behind the garden center. To our south in Pennsylvania and Virginia, I’ve seen rosebay grow the size of small trees. It’s a striking plant when grown in small groves. This year’s flowers were short lived as July heated up and became a scorcher.

Some short grasses suffered when the heat and high humidity exposed lawns to red thread fungus. Blackspot, powdery mildew and apple cedar rust could be found in some locations. Japanese beetles, hemlock wooly adelgid and tent caterpillars are few and far between this year. Their numbers sufficiently dropped off because of the prolonged cool, wet spring weather.

As July progressed, we began watering more often. I found container plants quickly dried out as the temperature went well into the nineties. Before the crabgrass set in, I raised the height of cut on the lawn from four to five inches. This saved the lawn from burning out. Wasting water on my lawn is something I will not do; keeping containers, vegetables and fruit trees hydrated is more of a priority.

August is asters, goldenrod, corn, squash, tomato and a second cut of hay. August is early apples, peaches and pears. August begins the harvest.

August is low water. Some streams go right down to a trickle. Ponds and lakes warm up in the hot August sun. August is bullhead season. Catching mud cats in the late evening with a box of worms and a light fish pole are relaxing evenings I will always remember. Observing from the dock how the Martins turn into bats and the muskrats turn to beavers, transitions evening into night.

August daylight is getting noticeably shorter. We lose an hour and a half of sunlight by the end of the month.

Late evening summer thunderstorms are not only interesting to watch, but can drop the warm evening temperature twenty degrees. The August heat can be searing as the Atlantic turns into a sauna. Our first threat of a hurricane can be in the forecast. After a hot, dry summer the warm rain of a tropical storm can help with rain deficits as the summer winds down.

The August full moon is not quite the harvest moon. It’s a mellow, calming and a more hypnotic globe. Let’s call it the generous moon.

The August night can be the maestro of a bug symphony. Crickets, grasshoppers and katydids start wing-scratching right up until first frost. They must have a lot to say before they bed down to a long winter’s nap.

Late August misty mornings are the first sign of fall. As the fog burns off, it exposes the crisp blue morning sky. It’s a perfect time to go out and pick the ripest, juiciest beefsteak tomato. Slice it thin on whole wheat toast with olive oil, salt and pepper. While the bread is toasting, I’m going to make some watered down lemonade. Care to join me?


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