With a mild winter now behind us, Connecticut faces a spring and summer with a higher population of ticks than we’ve seen in decades. The warmer weather is blamed for a greater survival rate of the tiny pests, so there will be significantly more of them this season.
More concerning, however, is that scientists are seeing a higher rate of Lyme disease among ticks tested. Scientists at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES) report that nearly 38 percent of over 450 ticks tested were positive for Lyme disease – a jump from the 27 percent average they’ve seen over the last decade. The situation is so serious that Senator Richard Blumenthal has announced a federal grant to enhance research efforts into mosquito and tick-borne diseases, $3.25 million of which will be awarded to CAES.
While ticks are primarily associated with Lyme diseases, they do carry other serious – but less common – diseases that can be transmitted to humans. According to the state Department of Public Health, 2015 saw 2,553 reported cases of Lyme disease, in addition to 286 cases of babesiosis, and 120 cases of anaplasmosis in Connecticut. With tick bites already reported in the state, this year’s numbers promise to be much higher. A case of Powassan Virus, related to West Nile but transmitted by ticks, has already been reported. This disease is rare, but can be fatal.
That’s why it’s critically important to take whatever precautions you can to avoid these dangerous pests. Measures should include:
- Always wearing socks and shoes when in areas where ticks might be present – that is, ANY outdoor area with grass, ground cover such as pachysandra, shrubs, trees, leaf litter…really, any area that isn’t specifically urban. Your best bet is actually to tuck your pants into your socks, even if it’s less than fashion-forward. It’s also recommended that you wear light colors, so ticks will be easier to spot.
- Always wearing an insect repellent when outdoors. There are many effective types with DEET, Picaridin and other active ingredients that work well. However, none of them work non-stop, so be sure to re-apply periodically. Refer to this PDF (pages 4-5) for a really helpful breakdown of insect repellent options.
- Washing your clothes in HOT water as soon as you get in. You’ll want to get the smell of bug spray off them anyway, but a good wash will kill any ticks that have landed on your clothing. By the same token, take a hot shower and wash your hair.
- Checking yourself, your kids and your pets carefully when you come inside. Hopefully, you won’t find any ticks! Look very carefully in spots behind knees and elbows, and around the edges of the scalp, as these are easily missed. As a precaution, contact your local health department and ask if they have tick removal kits. (Should you find one, you can submit it for Lyme disease testing.)
- Preventative spray. We can help keep ticks at bay with our preventative spray. It’s safe for your family, your plants and your pets, and while it won’t completely eliminate ticks, it will greatly reduce their numbers – and your risk of getting bitten and sick.
Health officials are concerned about the high number of ticks in the state this year, and so are we. While we’re loathe to appear opportunistic, we know preventative spray can help keep you and your family safe. The threat of ticks and tick-related illnesses is alarmingly high this year, and we’re genuinely concerned for our community. If you need more information on how to protect yourself and your family, you’ll find a wealth of information on the CAES website: http://www.ct.gov/caes/cwp/view.asp?a=2837&q=378212&caesNav=|
Nobody likes weeds. Apart from the fact that they’re unpleasant in appearance, they can cause harm to your other plants, competing with them for nutrients, water and sunlight. Rather than dedicating all our time to reacting to weeds, we take a proactive approach to weed control and prevent them from growing in the first place.
This is the time of year that weed prevention starts for us at Connecticut Green! We’re largely clear of the threat of frost, and it won’t be long before your garden is in full bloom. So, in these few weeks before things start to flower, we apply the first treatment of two effective preemergent herbicides.
These products are incredibly efficient at preventing weed growth, but also safe for your ornamental plants, and (once dried) for people and pets. We apply them now because they’re strictly preventative – they won’t have any impact on weeds that are already growing.
To ensure your garden makes it through the season with far fewer weeds, we’ll return in June – after the beds have been mulched – for a second treatment. With two treatments this spring, you should see a dramatic reduction in crabgrass, dandelions, chickweed and other common garden nuisances all season long. In fact, with continued treatments, you’ll likely see fewer and fewer weeds over time.
Because we’re preventing most weeds from coming up this year, they won’t have the opportunity to go to seed. By “breaking the cycle” of weeds dropping their seeds in the same place, you’ll notice less of them in the years to come. That’s the best reason of all for keeping up your weed control treatments.
Horticultural oils are oil-based products that are used to control pests and diseases on plants, especially trees and shrubs. These oils are typically mineral oil-based, although organic alternatives are widely available. The oils are refined to remove any impurities or toxins that could damage plants, then mixed with an emulsifier so they can be easily diluted and sprayed.
Horticultural oils became popular initially as a way to control destructive insects on fruit trees. Horticultural oils work very differently from systemic insecticides: the oil is sprayed so that it coats the plant and any pests on it, smothering the insects. The oils can be easily washed off, keeping fruits and flowers toxin-free.
Years ago, there were two different types of oils, a heavier oil, known as “dormant oil” that was sprayed in the dormant season to kill pests that may be wintering on plants, like aphids and scale. This dormant oil was heavier than other horticultural oils, and couldn’t be sprayed during the growing season. A “summer oil” was lighter, and could be sprayed without fear of damaging foliage. Today, all horticultural oils are lighter, and the terms “summer oil” and “dormant oil” refer to the time of spraying, rather than the formulation.
While there are many different types of horticultural oils available, they all work essentially the same way. They suffocate both insects and their eggs, or simply block the insect’s ability to feed. Oils are particularly effective in controlling:
- Woolly adelgid on hemlocks
- Mites – especially conifer-infesting ones – that winter on the plant
- Scale insects like pine needle scale, striped pine scale, and cottony maple scale
…and many others. It’s also effective at controlling powdery mildew and diseases spread by aphids and other insects.
One of the reasons people really love horticultural oil is that – when used properly – it is safe for most plants and for use around animals, although it is harmful to fish. Overall, horticultural oils are a great and environmentally-friendly way to maintain your garden.
Questions about horticultural oils? Contact us!
Blooms of Magnolia, Forsythia and Viburnum are Sure Signs that Winter is Over!
Nothing says spring like the first leaves of a crocus poking up through the earth. It’s a heartening sign that the short, cold days are coming to an end, and an warm weather is just around the corner.
At Connecticut Green, we’re more partial to flowering shrubs and trees than your traditional spring flowers. These are some of our favorite harbingers of spring:
- Forsythia – It’s an obvious choice, but nothing says spring like the bright yellow blooms of forsythia. These easy-to-grow shrubs make quite a show in April, and they make a great hedgerow even after their blooming season. Fast-growing as they are, forsythias do require pruning, but it’s worth noting that they’re quite insect- and disease-resistant.
- Magnolia – The romantic magnolia is a springtime favorite, with its extravagant flowers and sweet fragrance. Often associated with southern plantations and Grateful Dead songs, deciduous varieties of the magnolia tree do grow well in New England. Dwarf varieties make it appropriate for almost any garden with our acid soil, and while generally hardy, they do need to be protected from scale and fungus.
A few interesting facts about magnolia trees: They are the earliest-known flowering tree variety. Magnolias also represent the oldest trees grown on the White House lawn, planted between 1829 and 1837 by Andrew Jackson in his wife’s memory.
- Viburnum – versatile viburnum is a garden favorite. It’s easy to grow and comes in so many varieties, it can work almost anywhere. Viburnums as ornamental shrubs work well in any situation, from borders to pots! With arrow-shaped leaves,and flowers ranging from creamy white to deep pink, viburnum is a stunner – and the scent those flowers producing can be stunning as well. (The white “Carlcephalum” variety has a beautiful fragrance.) In the fall, these lovely shrubs bear small, brightly-colored fruit, so they bring beauty to the garden from early spring straight through the fall.
These are some of our favorite early bloomers, but we know there are many others to choose from. Azaleas, cherry trees, mountain laurel – they’re all beautiful, and thankfully, not too far from their blooming season now! Which is your favorite? Post to our Facebook page and let us know.