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Landscape Message: Mar 27, 2015

Mar 27, 2015
Issue: 
2

UMass Extension's Landscape Message is an educational newsletter intended to inform and guide Green Industry professionals in the management of our collective landscape. Scouts compile and record environmental and phenological data for locations throughout Massachusetts to aid in the monitoring of plant and pest development, the planning of management strategies, and the creation of site-specific records for future reference.  Detailed reports from Extension specialists on growing conditions, pest activity, and cultural practices for the management of woody ornamentals, trees, and turf are regular features. UMass Extension has updated the following issue to provide timely management information and the latest regional news and environmental data.

The Landscape Message will be updated weekly April through June. The next message will be available on April 3, 2015. To receive immediate notification when the next Landscape Message update is posted, be sure to join our e-mail list.

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Scouting Information by Region

Regional Notes

Cape Cod Region (Barnstable):

General Conditions: Winter has kept its grip on the Cape with one exception. It was "warm" enough on 3/11 to gain 1 GDD. The rest of the reporting period was quite chilly. Most precipitation fell as cold rain, with 1.5" falling on 3/14. We didn't escape snow free - 2" fell on 3/21, the first full day of spring. The snow is gradually melting, with patches of bare ground showing through, but for the most part the landscape still is blanketed with snow. In areas of south-facing slopes where snow has melted, early crocus and snowdrops are popping up and blooming on sunny days. 'Jelena' witch hazel is in full bloom, with 'Arnold Promise' in early bloom. Birds are singing in the morning. Pests/Problems: No pest activity has been observed yet. There is considerable salt damage showing up on evergreens along roadsides and some winter desiccation of evergreens in areas away from the roads.

Southeast Region (Hanson)

No report available this week.

North Shore Region (Beverly)

General Conditions: In the two weeks since the last Landscape Message we had very variable weather on the North Shore (Long Hill). We experienced both rain and snow. The highest amount of precipitation was received on March 14th with a total of 0.65 inches of rain and about 1.5 inches of snow. The total amount of precipitation received through this two week period was 0.995 inches of rain. There was a lot of variation in temperature ranging from a low of 12 degrees Fahrenheit on March 24th to 55 degrees on March 11th. The wind speeds also ranged from a high of 21 miles per hour on March 18th to a low 3 miles per hour on March 20th. Although we still have about two feet of snow on the ground, longer days are signs that spring is here. Another sign of spring was a cluster of Tommy crocus (Crocus tommasinianus) in full bloom near the wall on a South facing side of a building. Witchhazel (Hamamelis mollis 'Brevipetala') is in full bloom, Vernal Witchhazel (Hamamelis vernalis) and Goat willow (Salix caprea) are beginning to bloom.  Pests/Problems: There is no pest activity or damage observed. There is no sign of deer browsing, there are some coyote tracks. Some rabbits have been spotted but no damage has been noticed. Pileated woodpecker has been seen a lot recently feeding on insects in large mature older tree limbs. It is still too early to determine extent of vole/rodent damage under snowpack. Some limb breakage has been seen on some yews as snow starts to melt above the shrubs.

East Region (Boston)

General Conditions: March has continued with below average daily temperatures with the exception of March 11th and 17th when we hit 59º F and 52º F degrees respectively. With an average low of 22º F and an average high of 41º F so far this month, we continue to be well below the respective monthly averages of 32º F and 46º F. The cold weather has lingered; we reached a high of only 29º F on the 18th and lows in the teens were recorded on the 23rd and 24th. Consistent winds over 10mph and gusts of over 26mph on the 23rd, made it feel as if winter had returned. We did receive minimal snowfall on two occasions adding only 1.5 inches to the yearly total; graupel fell briefly on the afternoon of the 17th. Despite the cold temperatures, the abundance of sun has assisted with the melting of the snowpack; we saw considerable snowmelt on the 14th, with temperatures reaching 41º F and an all-day rain event. Hamamelis mollis (Chinese witch hazel) is currently in full bloom as are various cultivars of Hamamelis x intermedia (hybrid witch hazel). Salix gracilistyla (rosegold pussy willow) and Salix gracilistyla var. melanocarpa (black pussy willow) are highly visible at this time due to their showy catkins. Other Salix (willow) species are also providing interest at this time of year – looking up to the canopy their younger twigs are bright yellow or orange in color. In sheltered areas, near buildings, where the snow has melted away, snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) are beginning to flower.  Pests/Problems: Snow continues to melt. In sunny areas where bare ground is visible, Ranunculus ficaria (lesser celandine) is beginning to emerge; Allium vineale (wild garlic) has also been revealed. Now is a good time to check viburnums for viburnum leaf beetle (Pyrrhalta viburni) egg masses and prune them out. Shrub damage continues to become visible as snow continues to melt.
 

Metro West (Acton)

General Conditions: It's only been two weeks since the last Landscape Message was submitted and one would think that more time has passed than that based on the variable and unusual weather experienced in the past fourteen days. A high temperature of 58° was recorded on the 11th; a low temperature of 11° was recorded on the 20th; hail the size of large peas pelted and bounced around in the landscape on the late afternoon on the 17th; wind gusts were recorded up to 21 mph on the 18th and have been recorded at over 15 mph on 4 additional days (the 12th, 17th, 19th and 22nd); and finally, snow fell twice, on the 15th and then again on the 21st, ushering in the spring season. Despite the recent snow fall and the fact that the ground remains covered with a foot or so of snow, some signs of spring are revealing themselves. In microclimates particularly those tucked up near the sunny sides of buildings and out in the landscape, the foliage from some of our earliest flowering bulbs can be seen emerging from the ground. Another sure sign of spring is our days are getting longer and as I write this on the 25th, sunrise is at 6:40 am and sunset is at 7:03 pm, giving us 12 hours and 23 minutes of day light! Pests/Problems: There is much damage in the landscape as a result of the record amount of snow and the ensuing snow removal operations, including ice melt damage on conifers seen growing along roadways and broken and split branches on trees and shrubs from the weight of the snow.

Central Region (Boylston)

General Conditions:  Witch Hazels are in bloom, and crocus and snow drops are emerging from under the melting snow. The snow pack is slowly receding and a few areas of turf are beginning to show. Pests/Problems: Deer remain hungry and continue to feed on evergreens that are not protected, as well as apples. We are seeing many broken branches and flattened shrubs from the snow load.

Pioneer Valley Region (Amherst)

General Conditions: March has come in like a lion and will go out like a slightly smaller and somewhat less ferocious lion, but not a lamb. Unseasonably cool weather has prevailed throughout the Pioneer Valley this reporting period, as it has throughout the northeast. The Northeast Regional Climate Center (http://www.nrcc.cornell.edu/) reports a 4-6+ negative temperature departure for the first half of March. Thankfully, it's also been drier than normal. With the significant snowpack melting at a slow rate, a lack of rainfall has kept spring flooding to a minimum (to date). A brief warm-up with high temperatures in the 50s on 3/10 and 3/11 was only a tease. Since then, high temperatures have plunged down to the lower 30s with lows in the teens. Roughly 1-3" of snow fell on the night of Friday 3/21. It even warranted road salting but was very fluffy and melted by mid-day on 3/22. Strong spring winds have only contributed to the misery many feel after this painfully long and cold winter. Gusts from 20-35 mph have been steady across the valley bottom and will likely continue into April as they usually do. A maximum wind gust of 38 mph was recorded at Barnes Airport in Westfield on 3/18. On the upside, the intensity of the March sun has melted a significant volume of snow, even though ambient air temperatures have done little to help the process on most days. The days are getting considerably longer and early signs of spring are appearing. The upper layer of soil is thawed in exposed areas but this only extends to a depth of a few inches in most locations. The long-term forecast calls for rain and a steady string of high temperatures in the upper 40s to low 50s, with a brief cool-down on Saturday 3/28. Pests/Problems: Crushed and broken branches can be seen now that the snow has receded from trees and shrubs. Browsing damage from deer and voles is also visible but doesn't appear as severe as it was in 2014. Sand and salt mixtures left behind from the multitude of winter storms are plentiful along roadsides and we can expect significant salt damage on susceptible plants within the zone of roadside distribution. It may be several weeks before the full effects of winter injury are truly visible. Affected plant parts may not yet be symptomatic until plants begin flushing new growth and dead plant parts become blackened and necrotic. Any branches that are clearly dead as a result of winter injury should be pruned as soon as possible to limit the introduction of opportunistic pathogen and insect pests. Crocuses, succulent plants and buds on spring-flowering shrubs are prime food sources for rabbits and these bothersome creatures are quite active now.

Berkshire Region (Great Barrington)

General Conditions: Daytime highs have been below normal for all but one day during the past two weeks (3/11-3/24). On some days the daily high has been as much as 21 degrees F below normal. Snow cover remains for most of the area except for some exposed Southern slopes, but flat fields and protected sites have as much as 10-12 inches of snow in central and southern parts of the county with more than 16 inch-deep snow in some of the woodlands of the northern county. Due to the frequent applications of road salt this winter, groundwater in areas near roadways and which sit above highly fractured limestone bedrock, are contaminated with salt. This has been noticed in drinking water of those people with wells. Such water should not be used to irrigate houseplants or greenhouse grown plants, much less used for human consumption. Snowdrops (Galanthus) are appearing but flower buds are still tight. Pests/Problems: Symptoms of winter desiccation are common on broadleaf and needled evergreens. Fallen trees – mostly those with some decay - and broken tree limbs are a common sight. Most of this damage has been caused by very high wind events of the past two weeks. Damage to trees and shrubs by deer browsing is at high levels. Likewise, with receding snow, considerable damage to stems of woody plants caused by rabbits and rodents is becoming apparent. Where ground is now exposed, vole runs can be seen to be extensive. On a side note, there have been several reports of bird kills, primarily geese and wild turkeys. With prolonged deep snow cover this winter, it is likely that these, and perhaps other wildlife dependent upon vegetation for food, have succumbed to starvation.

Environmental Data

The following growing-degree-day (GDD) and precipitation data was collected for an approximately two week period, March 12 through March 25. Soil temperature and phenological indicators were observed on or about March 25. Total accumulated GDDs represent the heating units above a 50° F baseline temperature collected via our instruments for the 2015 calendar year. This information is intended for use as a guide for monitoring the developmental stages of pests in your location and planning management strategies accordingly.

Region/Location

GDD
(2-Week Gain)

GDD
(Total 2015 Accumulation)

Soil Temp
(°F at 4" depth)

Precipitation
(2-Week Gain in inches)

Cape Cod

1

3

frozen

2.28
(2" snow)

Southeast

n/a

1

n/a

n/a

North Shore

0

0

frozen

1.00

East

0

0

frozen

1.25

Metro West

0

0

frozen

1.33

Central

0

0

frozen

0.97

Pioneer Valley

0

0

frozen

0.64

Berkshires

0

0

frozen

0.35
(1" snow)

AVERAGE

0

1

frozen

1.12

n/a = information not available

Phenology

Phenological indicators are a visual tool for correlating plant development with pest development. The following are indicator plants and the stages of bloom observed for this period:

Indicator Plants - Stages of Flowering (BEGIN, BEGIN/FULL, FULL, FULL/END, END)
PLANT NAME (Botanic/ Common) CAPE S.E. N.S. EAST METRO W. CENT. P.V. BERK.
Acer rubrum (Red Maple) * * * * * * * *
Acer saccharinum (Silver Maple) * * * * begin * * *
Hamamelis x intermedia (Witchhazel hybrids) begin/full * begin begin/full begin/full begin/full begin *
* = no activity to report/information not available
  • CAPE COD REGION - Roberta Clark, UMass Extension Horticulturist for Barnstable County - Retired, reporting from Barnstable.
  • SOUTHEAST REGION (Wareham) - Geoffrey Njue, Green Industry Specialist, UMass Extension, reporting from Wareham.
  • SOUTHEAST REGION (Hanson) - Deborah Swanson, UMass Extension Horticulturist for Plymouth County - Retired, reporting from Hanson.
  • EAST REGION - Kit Ganshaw & Sue Pfeiffer, Horticulturists, reporting from the Arnold Arboretum, Jamaica Plain.
  • METRO WEST REGION – Julie Coop, Forester, Massachusetts Department of Conservation & Recreation, reporting from Acton.
  • CENTRAL REGION  (Boylston)-  Joann Vieira, Superintendent of Horticulture, reporting from the Tower Hill Botanic Garden, Boylston.
  • PIONEER VALLEY REGION - Nick Brazee, Plant Pathologist, UMass Extension Plant Diagnostic Lab, reporting from UMass Amherst.
  • BERKSHIRE REGION - Ron Kujawski, Horticultural Consultant, reporting from Great Barrington.

Other Relevant News / Pest Alerts

Massachusetts Ag Day at the State House is Tuesday, March 31 - How big is agriculture in Massachusetts? Approximately $492 million dollars of revenue is generated annually, and Commonwealth farmers are responsible for maintaining almost 525,000 acres of open space! Please join us on Tuesday, March 31, 2015, when farmers and agriculture officials from across the state come together to visit legislators and discuss issues and legislation which affect farms and local communities. The day's events include a program of speakers, presentation of "Agriculture Day" awards, informational exhibits and a hotly anticipated reception featuring Massachusetts' farm and specialty food products. We invite you to join us in recognizing Massachusetts' agriculture specialists and learn more about their efforts to maintain the long-term viability of Massachusetts agriculture.