Before I begin this week’s column I want to add some important information regarding Lyme disease prevention that I ran out of space to include last week.
The insecticide permethrin is extremely toxic to ticks, but much less toxic to mammals. However, it is also much more toxic to cats than it is to dogs. If you treat your dogs with a spot-type tick killer, it can poison your cats should they happen to lick it or come into long term contact with it.
The same is true for flea and tick collars that are sold for dogs. Do not use any tick product containing permethrin on your cats and when you treat your clothing, keep your cats away from the clothing until it is completely dry. Once the material has dried on the clothing, or if you buy permethrin pre-impregnated clothing, it is safe for your cats to lie on it or come in contact with it.
It has been a beautiful week in the valley as well as the mountains after the cold snap we experienced the week before last. I have been in the woods almost every day and it has been a joy to watch the ephemeral plants emerge, flower and begin to disappear within weeks of their first appearance.
My favorite plant, American ginseng, popped up around May 10 this year, which is a few days later than “normal.” Red trilliums, toothwort, blue cohosh and violets of all colors are in full bloom now in my forest, and the foliage on trees and shrubs appears to be doubling in size every morning. Fern fiddleheads are unfurling as well.
Most of the greenery is in the soft, lime green, color of spring that will turn deeper and deeper as the leaves begin to make more and more chloroplasts.
Chloroplasts are tiny organelles that are found within the cells of all green plants, which they most likely invaded millions of years ago, when they were free-living organisms of their own. Chloroplasts have their own DNA and they replicate and increase over the summer until about the middle of July. By mid-August they have pretty much completed the season’s worth of growth as days begin to shorten and photosynthesis wanes.
Memorial Day weekend usually signals the official beginning of the summer recreational season, but this Memorial Day is unlike any we have ever experienced before. With most of New York still on lockdown, the usual festivals, parties, weddings and gatherings that we would normally be attending are cancelled.
This forced isolation has allowed many more people to pursue gardening. Our local garden centers seem to be doing a robust business despite the social distancing they must observe. Gardening is a wonderful hobby that can provide exercise, fresh air and a sense of accomplishment that is not always a benefit of many desk jobs.
People working from home can sneak in some time for gardening and kids home from school may also be easily involved in all sorts of projects. There is a certain type of satisfaction a person feels when they successfully grow something that I believe enhances our souls and connects us with nature.
Personally, I have never felt lonely when I could spend time nurturing my gardens, or even just watching the progress of spring as it spreads from the valley to the tops of the mountains. We may have been halted or delayed in our day to day life events, but nothing stops the progress of the sun and the re-awakening of the earth that is happening right now before our eyes.
For the first time ever, for some people, there is now plenty of time to smell the roses that we were too busy to notice before COVID.
By now, most of you have had to mow your lawns at least once and despite the ads you are seeing and hearing, it is not the best time to apply lawn fertilizer. September is the best time, but a fertilizer application at the beginning of June will surely spur new growth for you to mow.
If your lawn has not “greened up” on its own by now, it is dead and you need to think about re-doing it. This is a good time to try to kill dandelions and other broad leaved weeds, using a weed and feed product, if you are so inclined.
Memorial Day weekend usually signals when it is safe to set out almost all your garden vegetables, but this year the holiday is early and those of you who garden at elevations over 1,000 feet might want to wait until early June. Better yet, buy a soil thermometer and see what the soil temperature is. Sixty degrees or higher is optimal for almost all transplants, as well as starting seeds directly.
Reach Bob Beyfuss at firstname.lastname@example.org.