Got Pests?


Posted by justtracy | Posted in Invasives, Pests | Posted on 07-08-2013

August is the time of year when the only thing that seems to be going strong in your garden are pests!

Check out a new website campaign from the USDA: Hungry Pests

“Hungry Pests is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s signature outreach initiative to raise public awareness about the invasive pest threat. Its goals include:

  • Elevating the issue of invasive pests among the general public
  • Educating the public about the threats that invasive pests pose
  • Increasing awareness about safe and effective solutions to combat them

The pests targeted by the Hungry Pests initiative are federally regulated invasive species whose introduction into the United States and spread within the country is assisted by the activities of the general public. These pests have the ability to cause significant harm to U.S. agricultural and environmental resources. Through the Hungry Pests website and outreach materials, the public can learn how to Leave Hungry Pests Behind.”

You can track invasive pests by state, watch the latest public service announcement, and find other information on how you can help prevent/control the spread of invasive pests.

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Questions from the Farmers Market: Harvesting Green Beans


Posted by justtracy | Posted in Vegetables | Posted on 12-06-2013

I recently volunteered to work the Virginia Cooperative Extension MGACRA Master Gardener booth at the Spotsylvania Farmers Market (Gordon rd). I thought I would do a series of interesting questions from the general public.

“Is there a special technique for picking green beans?”

I really hadn’t thought about this much. Growing up in the midwest, we just went out and snapped beans of the bush. The gentleman went on to tell me that someone had told him he could pull the bean from the flower capsule that created it to get another pod from that flower capsule.  No, this is not how it works.

One flower = One Bean Pod

However, green beans are one of those crops that the more you pick, the more you produce. Or if you stop picking them, they think they have reached their purpose, which is to create seed.  So they stop making more flowers.  Most vegetables are annuals and like the ornamental annuals, setting seed is the end goal. So the more pods (seed) you pick, the more flowers it will produce.

Here are three great resources on growing beans, including green beans.  As you will see in the video, you can just pull the pod off or snap it off the vine.

VCE: Beans

YouTube: Harvesting Green Beans

Univ. of Illinois Ext: Beans




How to remove an invasive tree species


Posted by justtracy | Posted in Invasives, Trees | Posted on 11-06-2013

I just got a great question from someone: “Help…I am being over run by Ailanthus tree seedlings.  How can I eliminate them?”

Keep in mind this is a non-native, invasive and aggressive tree to Virginia.

You have to control the parent problem or mature trees first. They are extremely adapted to reseeding and creating the seedlings. So unless you take out/remove the parent trees, you will be fighting a never ending fight.

They are hard to kill. For the smaller seedlings and trees the best advice is to dig them out. They are actually fairly easy to remove.

For the really larger trees I would recommend having someone remove them stump and all. I highly suggest using a tree company with a certified arborist. Request the arborist come out and assess your situation to give you a quote.  You can find one via International Society of Arboriculture.

For in-between medium trees that you can’t dig out or if there are too many to pay to have removed, you can cut them down and paint the stumps with a non-selective herbicide with glyphosate as the active ingredient to paint on the fresh cuts. Pour the product in a non-reusable container and ‘paint’ the fresh cut wounds using one of those arts and craft sponges on sticks. It will get into the fresh wound and work down into the roots. I would recommend the products formulated for brush control. This method is more targeted than spraying and helps avoid killing things you want to keep.

You will have to be persistent as most invasive and aggressive species will put up a really good fight…that’s why the are so successful.

Here’s a great resource from the VA Dept of Forestery on Alianthus with tips on how to control/eliminate in your home landscape as well as what they are doing to control it in the state.


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Finney Estates Weather Station


Posted by justtracy | Posted in Weather | Posted on 09-06-2013

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Our Davis Instruments weather station is back up and running. We are now located at Finney Estates in Spotsylvania VA (22551)….otherwise known as Thornburg.

We are amateur weather observers that obsess about things like how much rainfall did we get, how cold was it last night, how hot was was it yesterday?  I also study it to predict if we are going to have a frost that evening based on dew point and other factors.

Check it out: Finney Estates Weather Station

Note: Our wind instrument is accurate but not in the optimum location yet. Still looking for someone that can mount it on our roof.


Trees for America: Disaster Recovery Campaigns


Posted by justtracy | Posted in Trees | Posted on 07-06-2013

From The Arbor Day Foundation: Disaster Recovery Program at

Together, we’re providing trees to tens of thousands of residents in disaster-stricken areas. Examples include the Gulf Coast hit by Hurricane Katrina, Joplin and Northern Alabama ravaged by tornadoes, and Central Texas ravaged by drought-fueled wildfires.” 


The 17-year Cicadas are here! Get the nets and fire up the grill?


Posted by justtracy | Posted in Gardening, Insects | Posted on 09-05-2013

17 year cicadas

Photo: 17-year cicada on my Rhododendron “Northern Hi-Lights” (Northern Hi-Lights Azalea). Getting his bearings I believe before the mating season heats up, baby.

The 17-year cicadas will emerge in areas of Virginia this year and specifically, in Spotsylvania County where I live.  I have seen a significant amount of holes as evidence and I have already seen at least three winged adults and several more nymphs freshly out of those holes stumbling around. Stomp!

I have done a lot of reading on these insects to prepare myself for their arrival and take necessary precautions. They leave their underground homes and make their way up to daylight when the soil is precisely 64 degrees.  I have not heard their mating call yet however.

Their peak mating season/noise will be mid May to mid June.  It is about 5 days after you hear the males only ‘sing’ to attract females that the females will begin to lay egss. This is where the situation gets unpleasant for a woody ornamental and tree lover like myself with lots of new young plants in my yard.

The females have a sawlike apparatus to slice open twigs of trees and woody ornamentals to lay their eggs in. This is where the damage occurs. This usually leads to flagging where the end or the entire twig will die. They are particularly drawn to a sturdy, woody twig that is 1/4″ minimum to a 1/2″ maximum size.  They usually seek out Maples, Oaks, Hickories, and Fruit trees including ornamental trees. They also will use berry producing trees and shrubs like Dogwoods and Serviceberries.

Older trees are usually not significantly affected by these insects and can tolerate some damage without stress. One or two cicadas aren’t going to affect a young or ornamental tree or shrub. But a heavier volume can cause significant damage. The best advice is to be aware and assess the situation before you take action.  When you hear the cicadas, and you have trees or shrubs that are of concern to you, check them every couple of days for cicadas or flagging (noticeable dying of a twig due to the split created by the female to lay eggs). If you suspect or know that you will have a heavy presence, the most recommended method for control is a net with 1/4″ or smaller openings to cover the tree or shrub.  These nets are commonly sold at lawn and garden centers as bird netting. I have also seen the use of cheesecloth used as a cover as well.

There are also some pesticides that can help as well, especially those with active ingredients Permethrin. Only use if you have significant infestation and damage and read and follow the label. And there has been some research on the active ingredient Imidacloprid used as a systemic that shows it may decrease the amount damage caused by females. For more information on control methods, see Resource links below.

They are out and about a relatively short time so that by the end of June or early July, they will all but be a memory. Where did they go? The adults die and the eggs in the twigs hatch and fall to the ground where they burrow into the soil where they will live for 17 years. And repeat.

Why do we not get so worked up about the annual cicadas? Birds typically can handle them on their own. They love  them. But the periodic cycadas usually provide such a feast that they overwhelm our feathered friends ability to consume. And fishermen? Get your cicada flies ready. Fish also love to pounce on them as well on low branches over streams. And they 17 year cicadas are known for being loud. Really really loud.

And a side note: In my research I did read a blog from a wedding website that has actually advised all brides-to-be to avoid getting married outside in June if you are in an area affected by the 17-year cicadas. If you are attending one of those outside wedding, you may want to take your own veil.

Oh, and apparently they are pretty tasty. Gag. See link at bottom of resources for recipes.

A few facts.

They are not Locusts or even related. Locusts are swarming species of short-horned  grasshoppers in the family Arcididae in the order Orthoptera. (see

17-year cicadas are Magicicada, a genus of the 13-year and 17-year periodical cicadas of eastern North America in their only family Cicadidae and order Hemiptera. (see

Some form of cicadas do occur every year and are known as annual cicadas. Most are familiar with the species called ‘dog-days cicadas’ that come out mid summer. My mom always used to say when you heard those cicadas, it meant summer was half over. :-(

They do not eat that much. Nymphs in the ground feed on tree roots but damage is minimal and the adults feed very little during their short time mating. So damage to other perennials, annuals, vegetables or crops is not a consideration.

They do not sting or bite or swarm people or animals. They are looking for each other to mate in a short amount of time, so their activity and numbers can be creepy.

Resources for further information
(Note: Check with your state extension website for the facts on Cicadas in your area)

Virginia Cooperative Extension Fact Sheet: Periodical Cicada

Virginia Tech New: Cicadas Invasion bugs some, excites others

University of Illinois Extension: Cicadas

Are you a fan of Cicadas?  Check out this site for everything you ever wanted to know about them:

The Gardner’s Network: Control of the 17-year cicada

Shrub Nets for Cicadas: TGN Pumpkin Nook

Permethrin: National Pesticide Information Center: Permethrin

From the Department of Entomology, University of Maryland: Comparison of Exclusion and Imidacloprid for Reduction of Oviposition Damage to Young Trees by Periodical Cicadas (Hemiptera: Cicadidae).

If you can’t beat ’em, eat em!  See:


Tick Season


Posted by justtracy | Posted in Gardening, Wildlife | Posted on 15-04-2013

For gardeners and pet owners, Spring and warm temperatures means the beginning of Tick season.

Links for great information on how to protect yourself and your pets. See your states Cooperative Extension website for more information as well.

CDC Ticks:

Virginia Cooperative Extension: Common Ticks of VA

Virginia Cooperative Extension: Gardening and Your Health: TICKS Ticks, Dogs & Disease



Spring Plant Sales (Fredericksburg VA area)


Posted by justtracy | Posted in Gardening | Posted on 15-04-2013

Upcoming Plant Sales in the Fredericksburg (VA) area

April 20: AHS Spring Garden Fair @ River Farm (Alexandria)

April 20-May 4: RAAI Mayfest Plant Sale; Kings Hwy

April 26 (10-1 members; 1-4 public) & Saturday, April 27 (9-4):Friends of the National Arboretum Garden Fair and Plant Sale

April 27: 9am-3pm: Tufton Farm / Monticello Heirloom Vegetables and Spring Ornamentals Open House

April 27: Maymont Plant Sale: Herbs Galore and more!

May 2-4: Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden Plant Sale 

April is for Arbor Day and Earth Day


Posted by justtracy | Posted in Gardening | Posted on 14-04-2013

Happy April!  Happy Earth Day!  Happy Arbor Day!

Are we happy yet?

Earth Day is always on April 22.  From “Each year, Earth Day — April 22 — marks the anniversary of what many consider the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970.  The first Earth Day, on April 22, 1970, activated 20 million Americans from all walks of life and is widely credited with launching the modern environmental movement. The passage of the landmark Clean Air ActClean Water ActEndangered Species Act and many other groundbreaking environmental laws soon followed. Growing out of the first Earth Day, Earth Day Network (EDN) works with over 22,000 partners in 192 countries to broaden, diversify and mobilize the environmental movement. More than 1 billion people now participate in Earth Day activities each year, making it the largest civic observance in the world.”  For more information on their programs and events in your area visit the website.

National Arbor Day is always the last Friday of April.  So in 2013, that will be April 26.  However, may states observe their own Arbor Day on different dates based on the best time to plant trees.  You can visit for official dates for each state and more information on resources and programs from Arbor Day.

And for some history on Arbor Day, see  “The first Arbor Day took place on April 10, 1872 in Nebraska. It was the brainchild of Julius Sterling Morton (1832-1902), a Nebraska journalist and politician originally from Michigan.  Throughout his long and productive career, Morton worked to improve agricultural techniques in his adopted state and throughout the United States when he served as President Grover Cleveland’s Secretary of Agriculture. But his most important legacy is Arbor Day.”

In the month of April, perform an act of kindness to the environment and either plant or hug a tree!  They do more for us than many realize.



March 23: Native Plant Sale at US Arboretum, D.C.


Posted by justtracy | Posted in Gardening, Plant Sale | Posted on 19-03-2013

I can’t wait to check out the Native Plant Sale this weekend at the US Arboretum.  The sale is a free event and open to the public.  Admission to the Arboretum is also free.  The sale is held in conjunction with their 27th Annual Lahr Native Plant Symposium. 

From the US Arboretum (Washington, D.C.) website:

Native Plant Sale 
March 23, 9:30 am – 2:00 pm

Get a jump-start on spring by shopping at this annual sale featuring local nurseries that offer an extensive collection of high quality, locally-grown native plants. Growers will be on hand to provide expert gardening information. Held in conjunction with the Lahr Native Plant Symposium. Free admission.