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Village of AsharokenThe small but powerful Village of Asharoken

Spring 2010 Gardening Article:  "It's That Time of Year"      By Joan G. Hauser

Ladybugs are adorable and they’re good — right? They eat aphids so your plants can flourish. Some years, I’ve actually bought them to release outdoors. There are many delightful traditions about the creatures. For example, it is said that your wish will be granted if a ladybug lands on you. After making a wish, you blow the ladybug away so it can “go home” and make your wish come true. Nice thought.

In the house, they’re not so charming. This year, I have a small infestation.
Ladybugs are great in the garden, but not so swell indoors.
Ladybugs are great in the garden, but not so swell indoors.
At first, I picked them off my sliding glass doors by sweeping them into a dustpan and cheerfully released them outside for the benefit of my flowers. However, they’re a bit too prolific. I’ve decided it may be time for more violent measures.

Since I rarely use pesticides, I plan to try the vacuuming plan. Experts suggest taking a nylon stocking, thin sock, or cut-off panty hose leg and stuffing it down the vacuum hose, fastening the top to the end of the hose with a rubber band, thus creating a filter inside the hose. Vacuum up the critters and if you still feel charitable, remove the stocking and release them into your garden.

Other more violent suggestions include the following: First, make a light trap. Put out a bowl of water with a drop of liquid soap added (to break the water tension so the ladybugs will drown) under a lamp by the window. The bugs are attracted to light. Second, dust the hard-to-reach areas where they hide with boric acid powder (Borax). They must tread on the powder to be affected.

To avoid a repeat appearance next year, check door frames, window frames, window screens and screen doors. Add weather stripping to deny them entrance next fall.

Although it’s tempting to be lulled by our extraordinary warm weather and rush everything into the ground, remember that in Suffolk County, the last frost date is not till mid to late April. Given our freaky weather, who’s to say we won’t have another frost and snow storm before then.

Epimedium, called Barrenwort or Bishop’s Cap, is perfect for very shady ground cover. It will proliferate and even live in the dry shade beneath a tree. I find the leaves of primary interest rather than the relatively short-lived late spring flowers. The overlapping 2-3 inch leaves are light green, but in the spring, the new foliage will have a pink to bronze tint.
Epimedium is an excellent ground cover for shady spots. Once established, it forms a dense mass.
Epimedium is an excellent ground cover for shady spots. Once established, it forms a dense mass.
In the fall, the leaves again become edged in bronze. In a well-protected spot, foliage will remain on the plants throughout the winter. Star shaped, four-petaled flowers dangle in clusters when they appear in mid to late spring. Depending on the cultivar, they may be white, cream, rose, lavender or yellow. Varieties may range in height from 6 to 20 inches.

Epimediums spread by means of creeping underground stems, and will, once established, form a dense mass. If you already have some, this is a good time to divide existing clumps with a sharp knife or spade; keep the division moist until they settle in. In time, you will have a sizable clump. If you are starting from scratch, plant new epimediums approximately 10 to 12 inches apart.

In late winter or very early spring, before the flowers emerge, it’s best to remove all winter damaged stems and foliage (even if this means clipping the plant back to ground level). You may also feed the plants in early spring, with a good all purpose (10-10-10) fertilizer, or apply a top-dressing of compost.

1. Plant trees, shrubs, perennials, and roses.
2. Renew mulch on beds for weed control.
3. Prune and feed established roses.
4. Get your vegetable bed ready for plants.
5. Prune early flowering shrubs and trees after bloom.
6. Sow seeds of hardy annuals, such as cornflowers, larkspur, nigella, alyssum, sweet peas, and annual poppies outdoors.
7. Sow seeds of garden peas and radishes outdoors.
8. Reseed bad spots on the lawn as long as soil is not muddy.
9. Later in the month, examine stored dahlia tubers, divide them, and place in box of moist sand or peat in order to sprout before planting outdoors.