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This week in your Massachusetts garden & landscape

Week of October 10, 2016 By Ron Kujawski

Beware of the house-invaders!  Though that sounds like the title of a Stephen King novel, it is definitely non-fiction.  These house-invaders represent a collection of insects and mites who can’t afford the price of airline tickets to Florida, so, they’ll try to spend the winter in our homes.  Included on this list of un-invited guests are multicolored Asian lady beetles, boxelder bugs, cluster flies, and western conifer seed bug.  I usually handle these critters the same way as I do my in-laws.  I try to keep them out.  That means sealing off all potential points of entry.  In the case of the six and eight-legged creatures, I use caulk to seals cracks around windows, doors, foundation, utility lines and pipes.  Other favored entryways are unscreened attic vents, openings around soffits, and holes in window screens.  These will have to be repaired.

Often the house-invaders successfully evade my efforts to keep them out.  Though they are harmless, they are annoying.  So, they’ll have to be “Hooverized”, that is, sucked up with the vacuum, which is then emptied far down the street away from my house. Admittedly, this tactic doesn’t work with in-laws.  Them I get rid of by reading aloud my old gardening columns.  Once I start, they’re out of here in a flash.

  • Take out a bank loan and get to a garden center.  The sales are on.  Take advantage of fall sales on trees, shrubs, and perennials.  These can still be planted but don’t wait any longer.  Perennials are best planted by mid-October to ensure good root development before the ground freezes in November.
  • Celebrate Columbus Day by planting tree peonies. They are exceptional plants and just as trouble free as herbaceous peonies.  The most important thing to know about planting tree peonies is that the graft union must be about five inches below ground.
  • Start raking leaves from lawns to keep them from smothering the grass.  This is especially important on lawns that were newly seeded or over-seeded last month.  Because of the persistent drought this year, leaves have been dropping much earlier than usual.
  • Spot treat broadleaf weeds with appropriate herbicide if such weeds in your lawn are causing you to lose sleep.  This is an ideal time to control dandelion, plantain, ground ivy, and other broadleaf weeds since they are moving sugars down to their root systems, making them vulnerable to herbicide applications.  As always, be sure to read and follow all label directions on the herbicide product used.
  • Pull up tomato stakes when plants are no longer productive.  After pulling up stakes, brush off soil and apply a wood preservative, e.g. copper napthenate, before storing the stakes.  Spores of fungi that cause early blight and other tomato diseases can persist on the stakes through winter, but application of a preservative or disinfectant such as Lysol can destroy blight-causing fungi.

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