What are you going to do about your garden?
If you haven’t ever witnessed the arrival of the cicadas eating and eating your young plant leaves in hours (NOT days), you might not have thought about how to best protect your new plants from the damage that can occur. While the periodical 13-year cicada (specifically known as the Brood XIX Magicicada), is an amazing insect that won’t bite or sting you, it can munch on all your baby fruit trees, garden vegetables, berry bushes and flowers.
With their mass emergences, cicadas are sometimes confused with “seventeen-year locusts,” but they are not locusts; locusts belong to the order Orthoptera. Cicadas are sucking insects, about 1.5-inches long that appear from May to July. They are most numerous in the last two weeks of May and first week of June. They are black and have reddish-orange eyes and legs. Adults have clear wings with orange veins that are held roof-like over their bodies.
Periodical cicadas damage trees above and below ground. The most obvious damage is that caused by egg laying in small twigs. This damage causes twigs to split, wither, and die, causing a symptom called “flagging.” Flagging is especially serious on young plants (four years or younger) – some of the more vulnerable trees include maple, oak, hickory, beech, ash, dogwood, hawthorn, magnolia, willow, apple, peach, cherry and pear. Flowers, vines and shrubs include: Rose of Sharon, rose, raspberry, grape, black-eyed Susan, hollies, spirea, rhododendron, viburnum, junipers, and arborvitae. More than 270 species of plants have been noted as hosts for egg laying female cicadas. Damage is also done by the nymphs that suck sap from roots. Prolonged feeding by nymphs on a tree’s root system may reduce plant growth and fruit production.
What can you do to protect your garden investment of time and money? Cicadas typically do not bother mature plantings, but they do tend to eat young ones. Choose a lightweight, white row cover or blanket to put over your tender plantings. Place netting over your baby fruit trees. Spray large groupings of cicadas off with a garden hose. Don’t use pesticides. They likely won’t help and they could hurt you.
Weeding Season Begins
How can you prevent weeds in your garden?
Nothing is more frustrating for the busy homeowner than to create a beautiful garden bed and then, just after flowers are at their peak, weeds also start to arrive in the newly mulched area and proliferate. Where did these weeds come from? Using a landscape fabric, sometimes also called “weed control fabric,” or “weed barrier fabric” is a terrific way to keep weeds from taking root above or below the fabric.
Look for a landscape fabric (and there are many to choose from) which has a lengthy guarantee. Remember that it is not just an investment in fabric you’re making, it is the total cost of your garden. You want a landscape fabric that works so you don’t have to destroy an entire garden bed by pulling up good plants that you want along with the weeds that you don’t want.
You should also look at the packaging. Does the fabric control weeds from above and below? Remember that many weeds actually arrive with your mulch or as airborne seeds in your mulch. If a plant you do not want starts to grow above the fabric, you do not want it to penetrate below the fabric – you want it to grow only slightly, then wither and die after it cannot receive enough moisture or nutrients or just remain small enough that a minute of weeding can remove it easily. Sometimes creeping plants like ground ivy can spread and cover the fabric, but are easily removed as they just peel right off of it. Several fabrics that can control weeds from above and below, have lengthy guarantees and that are available in many different sizes are made by Dalen Products (dalenproducts.com).
Landscape fabric is a chemical free alternative to keeping weeds out, but nourishing the plantings you do want in your garden bed. Fabrics are designed to let water and nutrients in and help maintain soil moisture. Many gardeners use them for this feature alone, but a garden that requires little to no weeding is a real plus.