Autumn Tips

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Dramatic increases in deer abundance can be attributed to changes in habitat, including reversion of abandoned farm fields to forest and shifts in human population to rural and suburban areas. Both of these trends create the open and forested habitat preferred by deer.

Deer frequently feed on flowers, fruits, and vegetables and the buds and twigs of fruit trees and ornamental shrubs. Damage to landscape plantings and ornamentals may occur at any time of year but is usually most severe in the late winter and early spring when other food supplies are limited. Damage to fruit trees may cause immediate loss of the crop and residual tree injury that leads to reduced yields in the future. Deer browsing may permanently disfigure ornamental trees.

Deer feeding damage is readily distinguished from that caused by rabbits and rodents. Rabbits and rodents will a clean cut surface where deer will leave a ragged, broken end on the browsed branches. Deer damage will also occur up to a height of six feet.

In some cases, damage can be reduced by selecting plant material that deer don't prefer. Be aware that plant material will almost always require protection if deer are present in the landscape and they find the plant material desirable. No plants are completely deer proof, and hungry deer will consume plants that have little nutritional value.

A variety of frightening devices, including lights, whistles, loud noises, and scare crows have been used to prevent deer damage. Deer habituate to scare devices after a few days of exposure.

Several kinds of caterpillars feed in groups or colonies on trees and shrubs and produce a silken "tent." The most common type in the Spring is the Eastern Tent Caterpillar and in the Summer through the Fall it is the Fall Webworm.

Eastern Tent Caterpillar

The Eastern Tent Caterpillar are more or less common on the forks of branches on cherry and apple during May and June and are used as a shelter during molting and resting periods. These caterpillars are sociable until full grown and enlarge their tent until they are full grown. Cherry and apple are the favored food plants. Plum, peach, hawthorn, pear, rose and some of the deciduous forest and shade trees may be attacked.

If accessible, the tents can be pulled out and removed by hand. Pruning to remove the tent can be done if needed, but this and burning usually results in doing more damage than the caterpillars. Numerous natural enemies attack all of the tent making caterpillars. Birds, predaceous insects and hunting wasps prey on the caterpillars. Various tachinid flies and parasitic wasps are important as parasites. Tent caterpillars are also susceptible to virus diseases that can devastate populations. Selective control of all the tent making caterpillars can be achieved with biological insect controls. Timing is critical. Other insect controls are available that can give excellent control. Control is best achieved when the webs are small. Treating the web as well as the area around the web is beneficial so that the young susceptible caterpillars will feed on the treated leaves as they expand their web.

Fall Webworm

Similar to the Eastern Tent Caterpillar the Fall Webworm, prefers to feed and nest in deciduous trees. Birch, cherry, crabapple and walnut, maple are among their favorites. Typically appearing in late summer or early fall, they construct their web over the end of the branches as opposed to the crotch of the tree like the Eastern Tent Caterpillar.

Control for these pests is the same as for the Eastern Tent Caterpillar. Mechanical removal either by hand or pruning can be done. There are also many natural enemies of the webworm, such as birds and insects. Treatment using a control product is best done in July or August when the webs and very small.

Information gathered from the University of Vermont Extension Service and Colorado State University Extension Service. Feb 02 RN

Leaves Are Falling and Your Yard is Calling

When you first moved into your new home, you received information on how to care for the refrigerator, the range, and the heating and cooling system. But had you considered how to maintain your lawn? Soon after you signed the mortgage, you realized it is your job to keep the yard in top shape. And lawn care is a seasonal chore.

So resist the urge to hide the lawnmower in that dark, hidden corner of your garage. Then get out the rake. Unfortunately, the grass does not stop growing after Labor Day. And the leaves will soon begin to fall. Yes, summer is over. But your lawn care duties are far from complete. By doing a few lawn chores this fall, you will spare yourself from some work next spring.

So what exactly do you need to do? Try mowing, raking, weeding, aerating, soil testing, planting and fertilizing. Sound like a lot of work? It is. But you won't necessarily have to do it all, depending on the current condition of your lawn.


Here are some fall lawn care tips:

Test your soil.

The wise lawn keeper tests his soil to determine its nutrient content. Armed with this knowledge you can then select the proper fertilizer for you particular situation. Balancing the nutrient content is essential to growing healthy turfgrass. Grass growing out of nutrient-deficient soil is less resistant to drought, pests and disease.

A test will also help you determine the soil's pH level, which can affect the rate at which your grass will grow. Soil with a low pH level is highly acidic. When planted in overly acidic soil, grass has a difficult time soaking in nutrients. Knowing the pH of the soil will tell you what adjustments need to be made; using either lime to raise the pH or sulfur to lower the pH. You can also then determine how much lime or sulfur is required.

Re-seed.

Is your yard a little thin on top? Fall is the best time of year for reseeding your lawn to fill in those bare patches and make it full and lush by the following spring. To reseed, first loosen the soil with a rake to a depth of 1-2 inches. Then spread the grass seed over the area evenly and gently rake to make sure the seed comes in contact with the soil. Apply a light layer of mulch and begin watering. You need to keep the new seed damp, which means that watering every day will probably be needed. Continue watering until the new seed is firmly established.

Aerate.

Try core aerating your lawn before you re-seed it. This process loosens your lawn's soil so air, water and nutrients can better reach the grass roots. Lawn grasses root better in aerated soil. And increased oxygen levels help the grass grow. To make the job easy, use a mechanical aerator. A core aerator strikes through compacted soil, depositing cores of soil and thatch on the lawn's surface. It is not necessary to remove these cores. Regular mowing will cause these cores to disappear.

Mow.

Don't forget to put 'cutting the grass' on your fall lawn care itinerary. Well-fertilized grass keeps growing... and growing... and growing. So you have to keep mowing... and mowing... Some cool-season grasses, such as bluegrass, will keep growing into November. Mow as often as you think it is necessary but don't remove more than one-third of the leaf blade in any one cutting.

Rake.

Before you even finish mowing the grass, you will have to start raking the leaves. Don't let the leaves stay on your lawn through the winter. A lawn covered with soggy leaves does not get enough oxygen or sunlight and is more prone to disease. You can shred small quantities of leaves with a leaf attachment on your lawnmower and leave them on your lawn as a thin layer of fertilizer. But you need to rake most of the leaves and remove them from your lawn.

Take care of your garden.

Next task? Clean up your vegetable garden. If you leave your vegetable plants to rot and decompose in your garden, you might leave disease organisms along with them. Those organisms might revive in the spring and ruin next year's garden. Make a chart of where you placed each plant in this year's garden. You will want to rotate the crops next year. If you plant the same kinds of crops in the same spot in your garden year after year, you will deprive those crops of important nutrients. Try planting a cover crop to help keep the soil from washing away before next spring. Also, some cover crops, such as rye, clover and vetch, can help improve the soil's nutrient content.

Plant.

Fall is a good season for planting trees and shrubs. These plants, if planted before the end of October, will have plenty of time to settle in before winter dormancy. Just make sure you mulch and water these newly planted trees and shrubs on a regular basis until they are well established.

You can also plant bulbs and flowers in the fall. Some autumn season plant species include chrysanthemums, marigolds, coreopsis, zebra grass, Russian sage, sea oats and ornamental cabbages. Plant bulbs, such as the Autumn crocus, that you want to bloom next spring.

So it does take some work. But if you follow these steps this fall, you will sigh relief next spring when your lawn peeps its glorious self through the last patches of sullen snow.

© Rhode Island Builders Association. Used by permission.