Saturday, November 30, 2013

Just Buggy!

Saturday, November 30, 2013
2.7 degrees below zero here on the mountain. The wind has stopped for a change and the sky is full of stars. Occasionally as I walked Karl the Wonder Dog  I could hear trees crack in the distance as the morning temperature deepens a bit and the sun begins to stretch far away in Eastport, Maine. I almost wish I was there in Maine watching it this morning.
For several years now we have had gardening authorities sharing their prayers for extreme cold for a few weeks. The past week has been cold and the weatherman suggests that this first week of December will be very cold at night too. Daytime temperatures will reach 30 degrees but the temperatures at night will be at 15 degrees or below so some will be happy with the drop. As I watch how fast the firewood pile changes during times like this, I normally would not be pleased but cold may be worth the sacrifice.  Here's why.
Pictured above is a longhorn beetle known as the Elderberry Borer. There are lots and lots of longhorn beetles on earth and in fact I saw a display once at the Montshire Museum in Norwich, Vermont and there are +100 in New England alone. I have only seen the Elderberry Borer over the past 5-8 years and although some say it is rare, I have seen many feasting on the pollen of native dogwoods and viburnums. I suspect that those who are now growing elderberry in Vermont have seen it in recent years and are not pleased with it's presence as it has a habit of boring into the base of the shrub and moving upward as part of its life cycle. That behavior obviously kills the shrub over time. Since dogwoods and viburnums are being attacked by disease and insects, I fear for their long term survival. Elderberries for syrups and wines have become a popular crop now and they will not fare well either. Take a look at to get a better look for identification purposes.
So what's the story with the cold temperatures? Deep cold when there is little or no snow cover can kill insects and fungi depending upon what stage in their life cycle they are in. This has been well researched. The trouble we have had over the past twenty years is that winters are warmer and we haven't had the severe cold we were once used to. I remember moving to Marshfield in 1989 and that first winter we had a cold snap where the temperatures dropped to 30 below for a few days. I thought we had moved to the wrong place but that was the only time that has happened and since then temperatures rarely get to -25 and then for only a day or two.
Daylily leaf streak is a fungal experience more and more daylilies share each year. It would be nice if we got more cold which is supposed to stop that fungus. There are other fungal/rust issues with daylilies and perennial flowers that we enjoy so much so maybe, just maybe the current cold will help us out.
If you have read some good research on the impact of intense cold on bugs and diseases, please share with us. In the meantime, keep warm and continue on with planning your gardens for the coming years. Lots and lots of new plant and vegetable varieties are being released this year so there is plenty to consider. Design and's good winter fun!
Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where the quiet is interrupted only by a crackling fire in the wood stove and snoring from Karl the Wonder Dog. He loves sleeping by the stove!
George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
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Vermont Flower Farm where we are always happy to help you grow your green thumb!
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