The September Ramble: Fertilizer Shortages And Natives Plants - 27 East

Residence

Residence / 1814716

The September Ramble: Fertilizer Shortages And Natives Plants

Number of images 7 Photos
The native Actaea simplex, or bugbane, grows in shaded woods to about 6 feet tall. In spite of its common name, it attracts honeybees like a magnet in early summer.

The native Actaea simplex, or bugbane, grows in shaded woods to about 6 feet tall. In spite of its common name, it attracts honeybees like a magnet in early summer.

Actaea var. “Brunette,” with its dark foliage and shorter habit, is a nice late-summer  landscaping plant, but it is not a pollinator and does not attract bees.

Actaea var. “Brunette,” with its dark foliage and shorter habit, is a nice late-summer landscaping plant, but it is not a pollinator and does not attract bees. ANDREW MESSINGER

The perennial Ageratum, or blue mistflower, (Conoclinium coacoelestinum) attracts honeybees in late August and September.   ANDREW MESSINGER

The perennial Ageratum, or blue mistflower, (Conoclinium coacoelestinum) attracts honeybees in late August and September. ANDREW MESSINGER

Echinacea purpurea is one of the true wildflowers in the family and attracts a number of pollinators including bees and butterflies.

Echinacea purpurea is one of the true wildflowers in the family and attracts a number of pollinators including bees and butterflies. ANDREW MESSINGER

The Korean Single Apricot chrysanthemum is the last of the mums to bloom in the fall and one of the last plants visited by honeybees.

The Korean Single Apricot chrysanthemum is the last of the mums to bloom in the fall and one of the last plants visited by honeybees. ANDREW MESSINGER

This monarch butterfly spent most of an afternoon in the flowers of the blue mistflower.

This monarch butterfly spent most of an afternoon in the flowers of the blue mistflower. ANDREW MESSINGER

Echinacea “Sombrero Salsa Red” a bit past its prime looked great in the garden a few weeks earlier but was only visited by groundhogs and no pollinators.

Echinacea “Sombrero Salsa Red” a bit past its prime looked great in the garden a few weeks earlier but was only visited by groundhogs and no pollinators. ANDREW MESSINGER

Autor

Hampton Gardener®

Hope ya’ll had a restful holiday weekend because we’re now into what’s known as the second season. The air has cooled, the soil is still warm(ish) and it’s time for more planting and transplanting as well as taking stock for next year. So let’s ramble and get on with it.

Like everything else in life, the horticulture world is now in the throes of COVID-19 part two, or delta. Shortages of goods are showing up in every facet of the garden supply chain and it hit me with a smack last weekend. It was time to put down my last application of organic lawn fertilizer. I only needed a few bags so I went down to my local home center only to find that they had no Espoma lawn products. I had to settle for one that was “natural” but not what I had hoped for. A minor glitch, but I’m told that there is a huge demand now for organic fertilizers and, of course, the attendant supply chain issues.

Fertilizers are components of materials that are blended to make specific products. These materials, both organic and chemical, come from all over the world. While there is a lot of demand, it seems the problem is not getting raw materials but getting the blended products off ships and on to trains and trucks then ultimately to local stores. If you can’t find what you want, try one or more other stores. I had a bit left over from last spring, and with the two bags of “natural” I found, I made it for this year.

A week before I put the fertilizer down I did my annual overseeding. I apply a turf seed blend at the rate of 1 pound per 1,000 square feet every year, and that scheme seems to work well for me. If you go this route it’s important to use the same mix every year (I use a sun/shade mix) and to save a few pounds for overseeding bare spots in the spring and fall. If you don’t use the same seed blend for your bare spots your lawn may end up looking like a patchwork of different kinds of grasses. Many of the East End garden centers have their own blends made just for our soils and conditions.

Bulk grass seed that’s kept dry will keep for about a year but after two years its viability can drop by as much as 50 percent. Look at the tag on the bag or print on the box. It should say it was “tested for 2021.” If it doesn’t, don’t buy it.

For many months I’ve been asking around about fall bulbs. It seemed that commodity would be subject to the supply chain issues as well since more than 90 percent of our fall-planted spring-flowering bulbs come from Holland. I mentioned a number of times that you should order early. Did you?

Now the news starts to trickle in. Holland had a very bad spring when it was cold and wet. It was also a wet summer, and as a result, the bulbs produced were smaller than usual and the harvests were well below normal. But the bulbs that were harvested needed to go into shipping containers to make the water trip across the Atlantic. Those were in short supply. And when they were available, getting the containers onto ships was the next problem. This was followed by crowded ports on this side of the Atlantic and a lack of trucks to get the containers of bulbs to wholesalers and retailers.

The result of the poor crops and distribution issues of what bulbs are/were available makes me wonder if this is the best year to plant the likes of tulips, daffodils and the scores of other spring gems that we’d be getting into the ground in October. Check your local retailers to see what they have or expect. Maybe call or email your online vendors to see what they say. Don’t be surprised if some of your orders are canceled or even late.

Margaret Roach had an interesting article in the August 29 issue of The New York Times. She wrote about Echinacea and how it’s been manipulated and hybridized to the point where many of the cultivars are no longer recognizable as Echinacea. She also noted the issues with many of the varieties now available as not being true pollinators and having little to do with the original Echinacea purpurea, or the original coneflower.

I’ve been writing about this here for at least 10 years. Many of the new varieties aren’t reliably hardy, some are not true to color, size or shape, and several of the varieties that I’ve grown as tests or trials look wonderful — but they are purely ornamental and not a bee, wasp or butterfly has visited them. Much has been written by others about this abomination on the behalf of growers and marketers. Just be aware that because the garden center sign says “Pollinator” doesn’t make it true. Nor does the plant tag that says hardy to zone 5, 6 or 7.

But I have been surprised by several plants and their ability to attract pollinators, such as honeybees, other bees and wasps. I collected seed from what was then Cimicifuga racemose, also known as black cohosh (now Actaea racemouse) several years ago when I found a few plants growing in local woods. This is a very tall white-flowering native that has a long medicinal history and is a native plant. It flowers in early summer and one of its common names is bugbane as the flower odor is said to repel insects. However, it’s a magnet for honeybees, which love it. There were thousands of bees on the plants for nearly two weeks.

The cultivated varieties of black cohosh with the darker “chocolate” foliage that flower in late August and are half the height don’t attract bees at all. Another good point for the native.

Another native (New Jersey and maybe Long Island) that’s not used enough in gardens is Conoclinium coacoelestinum, or the blue mistflower. It’s also called the perennial Ageratum. It grows to about 2 to 3 feet, flowers in late August into September and has a white cousin called “album,” which you can find in the wild. I have a 6-foot-diameter circle with half planted in the white form and the other half in the blue with a late-flowering hibiscus growing above them. Here’s another native, and yes, it was covered with honeybees for at least two weeks. They also make great cuts. Will need some invisible staking, though, before they flower as they can get sloppy in heavy rains if not supported.

For leaf peepers and those who say, “This is the year I want to spend a weekend seeing fall foliage,” you’re in for a treat. It’s supposed to be a remarkable year for leaf color in New York and New England with peak colors about a week to 10 days later than “normal.” There are a number of websites that will predict and follow the color changes that are handy but here are two that you may want to try: wapo.st/2YlmV0u and smokymountains.com/fall-foliage-map.

Looking for the last mum that flowers in the fall? That would probably be a variety called the Single Korean Apricot. It can flower in late October or early November. I’ve never seen it available locally, but it is available online. It requires no maintenance once planted and looks wonderful when mass planted. Divisions taken every two years will expand your display at no cost. Divide in the spring when foliage is about an inch tall. It’s also a great cut flower for late indoor displays. It grows in a month to about 15 inches and needs no support.

Slugs had and are having a ball this summer. Those who did early control measures reaped the rewards. If they’re still present in your garden, getting them under control now will reduce the numbers next year.

Groundhog reports continue to come in and there are now confirmed sightings east of the canal from Shinnecock Hills east to Bridgehampton then north to Noyac. I’ve pretty much confirmed that they are not native to the South Fork and may have been relocated out here but they are native to Riverhead. There was a bounty on them in the early 1900s when they were essentially wiped out. But it seems enough remained to cause our current crop. Keep growing.

AutorMore Posts from Andrew Messinger

How Apple Cider Is Made

The property next to where I grew up was a rambling old North Shore estate ... 19 Oct 2021 by Andrew Messinger

How To Grow Montauk Daisies

When I migrated from the North Shore of Long Island to the East End in ... 12 Oct 2021 by Andrew Messinger

Prepare Garden And Tools Now For Winter And Spring

Take a five-minute break. Go outside to a place on your property where you can ... 4 Oct 2021 by Andrew Messinger

Care For And Inspect Houseplants Before Their Winter Dormancy

My annual admonition that it’s time to get your houseplants inspected, protected and back indoors ... 27 Sep 2021 by Andrew Messinger

What To Know About Thatch In Lawns

It wasn’t too many years ago that if you had lawn problems in the late ... 21 Sep 2021 by Andrew Messinger

Repairs Patches Of Dead Lawn

You know that spot on your front lawn where the neighbor’s dog always seems to ... 14 Sep 2021 by Andrew Messinger

Fall Asters To Grow On Long Island

There’s change in the air and change in the gardens both cultivated and wild. September ... 30 Aug 2021 by Andrew Messinger

Top Flower Picks For Fresh Cuts From The Garden

Last week we took a quick look at cutting gardens, and I noted that they ... 23 Aug 2021 by Andrew Messinger

Create A Cutting Garden To Keep Vases Full

Everyone loves to give and receive flowers at this time of the year, and flowers ... 16 Aug 2021 by Andrew Messinger

The August Ramble

It’s been a most confusing summer for gardeners. At first it was too hot and ... 9 Aug 2021 by Andrew Messinger
logo

Welcome to our new website!

To see what’s new, click “Start the Tour” to take a tour.

We welcome your feedback. Please click the
“contact/advertise” link in the menu bar to email us.

Start the Tour
Landscape view not supported
Send this to a friend