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  • Spaeth Property Service

Landscaping updates for the season

General Conditions: The autumn season is rounding into form in the Pioneer Valley with cooling temperatures and increasingly shorter days. The foliage on many deciduous trees and shrubs is starting to senesce but at the time of writing, peak foliage seems to be several days away. We have yet to experience a frost in the valley bottom, although the morning of 9/24 did reach the mid-30s in several locations near the Connecticut River. After a hot and dry summer, September provided some badly needed precipitation along with more moderate temperatures. Rainfall totals for the month of September at NEWA stations in the tri-counties: 5.28” (South Deerfield), 5.69” (Westover AFB, Chicopee), 5.72” (Barnes Airport, Westfield), 5.72” (Orange Municipal Airport) and 7.05” (UMass Cold Springs Orchard, Belchertown). Additionally, the Easthampton gauge recorded 7.15”, showing locally higher amounts were possible. A heavy burst of rainfall occurred on the morning of 10/5, with an accumulation >1” at the Easthampton gauge, suggesting that October may continue the trend of above-average precipitation. The rain in September seemed to give a late season boost to the mosquito population, which had been relatively quiet for much of the summer. Lawns have greened up dramatically since the summer and continue to grow at a steady pace.

Pests/Problems: We can only hope the September rainfall relieved some of the drought stress that many woody plants were experiencing. According to the NCEI(link is external)

, rainfall from May through August was 9.53” (statewide average), well below the 100-year average of 14.83”. The deficit of >5” made this May–Aug stretch the 5th driest since record keeping began in 1895. While southern portions of the valley did fare better during the summer (especially in July) than many other parts of the Commonwealth, Franklin County routinely missed out on many of these summer storms. Wood-rotting fungi continue to emerge with hen of the woods (Grifola frondosa) and Berkeley’s polypore (Bondarzewia berkeleyi; pictured below near a dead Quercus velutina recently observed. Continue to scout for and report cases of beech leaf disease, caused by the foliar nematode Litylenchus crenaate ssp. mccannii. Numerous crabapples and apples are devoid of foliage right now due to apple scab. A variety of foliar disease fungi experience a late season resurgence with the cooler temperatures, increased shade and moisture. Damage at this time is mostly inconsequential but the buildup of overwintering inoculum can aid in disease development next spring. Many of these pathogens are passively managed during fall clean-up when the foliage is removed from the site. For conifers, needle blight pathogens can readily spread to initiate new infections at this time. Rhizosphaera needle cast of spruce is a good example. Some cankering fungi are very active during the autumn season. While the host tree or shrub is entering dormancy, these fungi will expand canker sites to avoid active host defenses. Target canker of hardwoods (Neonectria ditissima) and coral spot canker (Nectria cinnabarina) are good examples.  Reprinted with the permission of the UMASS extension.

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