General Conditions: This past October was the second warmest October on record. In southeastern MA, it was also dry. As of October 24, the MA Drought Monitor, https://www.drought.gov/drought/states/massachusetts, listed southeastern MA as “abnormally dry”. Trees and other plants were showing drought stress and soils were powdery. Rain came in over Oct. 25-26 and Hanson received 3.5 inches of much-needed rain. High winds, humidity and warm weather were the norm for that storm. Another rain event came in on October 29-30 and brought 2.10 inches of rain to the Hanson area. Extremely high wind gusts were also prevalent over that time bringing down trees, tree limbs and loss of power in many communities. All together, Hanson received 5.6 inches of rain for the month of October. More rain is needed as plants go into dormancy and hopefully the drought monitor will indicate a change for the better.
Hanson has not experienced a killing frost to date (Nov.1) and impatiens, geraniums, coleus, and sweet peppers are still looking good. The following plants remain in bloom: landscape roses, hardy Chrysanthemums like ‘Red October’, native asters, Aconitum sp., Corydalis lutea, Lamium, Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’, and one Phlox paniculata.
Like last year, and perhaps even worse than last year is the lack of display of vibrant fall foliage color in many SE MA communities. Last year’s drought and this year’s late season dry weather combined with defoliation or damage by caterpillars two years in a row has certainly taken a toll on many trees. The foliage of many trees turned brown and/or dropped prematurely and the high winds over Oct. 29-30, dropped many more leaves. The recent rains have also helped lawns in their drought recovery, although there have been reports of grubs and cutworms found in lawns that were not recovering. The warm fall has also encouraged conditions for a rebloom of some Forsythia, Rhododendron and Abeliophyllum distichum. Holly set appears to be very good this year with numerous red berries on many different types of female hollies. Remind clients that in many MA areas, it is not too late to plant spring blooming bulbs and garlic.
Hanson recorded 4,425 GDD (Growing Degree Days), base 40.
Pests/Problems: Lace bugs remain active on Rhododendron, Azalea, and Pieris. Monitor hemlocks for hemlock woolly adelgid and if found, make a note to monitor again in the spring for possible management, if needed. Winter moths should begin to emerge in a few weeks, with the majority of them usually emerging around Thanksgiving, especially after a rain and on warm nights. Slugs, snail and mosquitoes remain active but in very low numbers. However, adult deer ticks are numerous and very active and several people have reported pulling ticks off of their dogs as well as themselves. Be vigilant and continue to take precautions by using repellents, conducting deer checks frequently, and every day, after working outdoors, throw all work clothes in the dryer for ten minutes on high to kill any ticks and head for the shower. Deer ticks can be found in many areas but especially amongst leaf litter and in grassy, wooded areas.
The insects that are sometimes referred to as “fall invaders”, (stinkbugs, Asian ladybugs (Harmonia axyridis), Western Conifer Seedbugs, etc., are active and usually may be found on the south/southwest sides of buildings looking for ways to enter and find shelter to overwinter. Interestingly, I recently found a new insect, for me that was congregating on my house. I don’t know if it was trying to seek shelter or just resting. Anyway, I thought I would share the image in case you or your clients see it too. The insect is called the red-headed cricket, Phyllopalpus pulchellus.
Fall cleanups are underway, and now is a good time to continue to remove hazard trees and to plant new trees, as well. It is also a good time to reduce possible girdling damage to trees and shrubs from voles and field mice by removing mulch, grass and weeds from around the base of trees and shrubs, where these critters like to overwinter and feed.
Monarch, painted lady and red-spotted purple butterflies were just some of the butterflies seen this warm October, along with the not usually seen but beautiful, Bella moth (Utetheisa ornatrix).
Deer are actively browsing landscape plants and now might be a good time to start using a combination of repellents and/or fencing before winter weather and before increased feeding on high value plants to try and deter deer feeding. Wild turkeys are also active.