“I wonder what it would be like to live in a world where it was always June.”
– L. M. Montgomery

Drought monitor 8-2-16It’s official now: severe drought conditions.  Like many areas, we seem to be missed by every storm going north or south of us.  But even those getting a quick dousing from the occasional ‘pop-up’ thunderstorms aren’t getting nearly enough. What’s a gardener to do?  First, respect watering bans.  Towns are worried about having enough water for people –to drink, cook, shower and flush.  Minimize your home water use any way you can.

Put away the sprinklersPut away the sprinkler.  Don’t use water unwisely.  Put away your sprinklers or, if you have an in-ground system, don’t turn it on.  Sprinklers waste water by landing on the wrong areas and by evaporating before it even hits the ground.  When you water, do so less often but deeply—shallow watering leads to shallow roots, and they will dry out quickly on hot days. The top couple of inches dry out quickly on sunny 80 and 90 degree days. Dig down with a trowel occasionally to make certain the water is going down at least 4 inches.  And now is not the time to fertilize lawns, trees or shrubs.  Plants should never be fertilized when water is scarce. Fertilizing encourages plants to put out new growth that will not have time to harden off before winter freezes cause damage.

cut backGarden maintenance.  Cut back perennials that have finished blooming.  They’ll look neater and many will surprise you with a second bloom when prevented from setting seed the first time.  Keep picking your vegetable gardens.  By picking, you are preventing your plants from going to seed so they keep producing produce.  If you have more vegetables than you can use, offer it to friends or call a local food cupboard and ask for their drop-off days.  Replant this month for a more bountiful fall crop: green beans, peas, cucumbers, carrots, kohlrabi, summer squash, early sweet corn, green onions.  Water seeded areas by hand daily until the new plants are up and a couple of inches tall.  Cover the newly planted seeds with row cover to help keep them cooler and out of pecking range of birds.  You can take the row covers off when the plants are several inches tall.

Weeds are competing for water with the othert plants in your gardenKeep weeding!  Pull them or dig them out, roots and all.  They’re competing with the plants in your garden for water.  Weeds allowed to set seed ensure that you will be working harder next year.  And, because your weeds likely are making seeds this month, go the extra step and put them in the trash, not compost.


Save our monarchs.  Some very nasty weeds are coming into seed at this time of year.  One of the worst of them is swallowwort, a relative of milkweed that confuses monarchs looking to lay their eggs.  While milkweed both feeds and acts as nursery for monarch butterflies, swallowwort is a death trap with toxic leaves.  In August, swallowwort produces seed pods.  If you see them, cut them down, bag them and send it to the trash.  Mark the spot and next year start early mowing or cutting it down as it emerges.  If you keep at it, you will eventually kill the swallowwort.

Summer-blooming hydrangeaEnjoy your hydrangeas.  It was a tough year for spring-blooming hydrangeas.  February’s warm weather fooled plants into producing buds that were then killed by April’s cold snap.  Fortunately, ever-blooming varieties were less affected and will more dependably provide you with flowers this August.

Spring bulbs.  Any remaining foliage should be cut off and removed now.  If you had areas that did not bloom well in the spring, the problem could be that the bulbs divided and are now too crowded.  Or if you weren’t happy with an area of your yard this year, dig the bulbs up carefully now, dry them in a garage or garden shed and replant them in the fall. If you’re thinking of adding bulbs for next spring, this is the month to order those new bulbs for fall planting.  The selection only narrows as summer turn to fall.


Best time to water your plants (Once Norfolk’s outdoor water ban is lifted)
Water your plants in the early morning (before 9:00 am) or in the late evening (after 4:00 pm), when it is cooler in temperature and the water is less likely to evaporate. Watering in the early morning also helps lower the chances of plant disease caused by fungus. Make sure to watrain barreler at the base of the plant so it goes straight to the roots.

Collect rainwater
When the rain falls, collect the water in rain barrels. You can place one right under a drainpipe. Try using a barrel with a faucet for easier access to the water.

Adding mulch on top of your soil can help to lock in moisture and prevent the water-stealing weeds from growing. If weeds have grown, make sure to pull them quickly so your plants do not have to compete for nourishment.

Make your paths/walkways/driveways porous
Permeable hardscapes help water percolate through, seeping into the ground beneath rather than running off the sides.

Plant selection Try using drought-tolerant plants to cut down on the amount of water. Locally native plants are a good alternative because they are already adapted well to your specific climate and rainfall levels. Ask your local nursery or surf the web for native species for your area.


Gypsy Moth Outbreak in Massachusetts, 2016
Largest outbreak since 1981

While it seems especially severe in the South Shore areas and on Cape Cod, where the outbreak is just as bad as it was in 1981, it was more widespread in that year. (In the forests of the western region of the state there is relatively little defoliation.) This outbreak has been building for several years and is definitely more extensive this year than last. Overall, the resurgence of gypsy moth has been a surprise for research entomologists like Elkinton, many of whom focused on gypsy moth back in the 1980s, when it was, without question, the most serious insect pest of shade trees in New England. (Read full article) From UMassAmherst Center for Agriculture Food and the Environment.

Garden Club of Norfolk Receives National and Many State Awards

On June 1, the GCN received four state and one national award at the Annual Meeting of the Garden Club Federation of Massachusetts. Its Public Service Announcement received a First Place in Television from the National Garden Clubs. The announcement is aired on local public TV, government channels and can be viewed here on our website. Congratulations!

The four state awards included Certificates of Merit for (1) the restoration and enhancement of the butterfly garden at Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary in Norfolk, (2) monthly flower arrangements at the Norfolk Public Library, (3) assisting a fourth grade Girl Scout troop in creating a registered Monarch Way Station at the Norfolk Cooperative Preschool,  and (4) bookmarks designed to increase membership, advertise programs, and the bake and plant sale.

MMGAGCN Awarded Grant from Massachusetts Master Gardeners Association

On April 28, 2016 the Garden Club of Norfolk was awarded the Garden Club Grant by the Massachusetts Master Gardeners.  The Garden Club Grant is offered to Massachusetts garden clubs to assist in  support, maintenance or creation of a community gardening project. We are  specifically looking for groups who would like to provide or enhance a community  space that is open to the public and that connects people to plants.

Our grant will expand and add more pollinators plants to the Butterfly Garden at Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary in Norfolk. Grant committee members are Martha Richardson (second row, second left, ), Stephanie Markham (third row, first left), and Emily Nicodemus, Michelle Noonan (not in picture), and Jessica Watson, Volunteer Coordinator at Stony Brook. Read more about our project.

A Note about Tick Awareness
Deer ticks (Ixodes scapularis), the American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis), and the lone star tick (Amblyomma americanum) are all found throughout Massachusetts. Each can carry their own complement of diseases. Adults and nymphs can be active when temperatures are above freezing and anyone working in tick habitats (wood-line areas, forested areas, and landscaped areas with ground cover) should check themselves regularly for ticks while practicing preventative measures. Have a tick and need it tested? Visit the web page of the Laboratory of Medical Zoology (www.tickdiseases.org) and click on the red ‘Test a Tick’
button for more information.
Report by Tawny Simisky, Extension Entomologist, UMass Extension Landscape, Nursery, & Urban Forestry Program

National Garden Club and Garden Club Federation of Massachusetts Announcements

Dear Garden Club Presidents,

This is not a good summer for Massachusetts gardeners – it is too hot and too dry.  I have given up looking at the five- and ten-day forecasts.  They promise rain, only to have it evaporate before reaching my town.  If you are one of the lucky areas that have received rain, please keep it to yourself.

I am up every morning at 5:30 to get watering done before the absolute ban on daytime watering in my town takes effect at 9 a.m.  Last year I built a new home.  Forced to remove aged pines that were deemed hazardous, everything on the half-acre immediately around the house was planted from scratch: a dozen trees, 50 or more shrubs and countless perennials.  Being new, they have no established root systems, thus our early morning routine.

When not watering, I’m using my summer to improve my gardening knowledge.  I’ve been privileged to attend several terrific club garden tours and summer meetings.  I visited the Newport Blue Garden with fellow Master Gardeners and attended classes at New England Wildflower Society.  I’ve been catching up on my gardening reading (especially on the 90+ degree days).

Autumn will bring even more opportunities.  If you and your fellow club members haven’t signed up for the workshops-Back to Basics (of Floral Design) or Design Mornings (create your floral design along with an expert), August is the time to do so.  Go to our website, GCFM.org, and look under the “Education” tab for more information and registration.

While you are there you’ll also see we have three schools being held this fall- Flower Show School,  Landscape Design School and Environmental School-where you can learn among friends while being taught by professionals in a relaxed setting.  Registration is again under the GCFM.org “Education” tab.

If your club maintains a Facebook presence and would like a continuing stream of horticultural hints to post to your club and community, contact Neal Sanders (neal02052@gmail.com) and he’ll add to you to the GCFM distribution list.

And now I am going to ask each of you a favor:  please email me a jpeg of one or more gardens grown by your club in your town.  I want to have these running at our October 25 Fall Meeting.  Any home or public garden designed and maintained by one or more club members is okay, but I am particularly interested in the gardens you created-or added to-as a part of the two contests; “Plant a native pollinator garden” and “Plant an heirloom plant garden”.  From what I’ve seen so far, the work you are doing is spectacular.  It should be shared!  (Here’s a garden photographer’s hint: the best photos are taken in early morning and late afternoon light.)  We will be thrilled whether your photo shows one spectacular flower or an overview of the garden.  And you can tell everyone at the meeting, “that’s one of my club’s gardens.”

Finally, more education.  One of our GCFM affiliate organizations, the Massachusetts Master Gardener Association  is offering a unique program for gardeners of all stripes on Saturday, October 1.  A day long Gardener’s Conference will be held at the Westford Academy in Westford, MA, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.   Four well known speakers from the horticultural world will be there: Margaret Roach (“The 365 Day Garden”), Ed Bowen (“The Best Plants You Never Heard Of”),  Gordon Haywood (“Fine Art as Garden Inspiration”), and Bob Solberg (“Truth About  Hostas”).  You’ll also find a gardener’s market and much more.  Registration discounts end on August 15.  More information and registration details are online at www.massmastergardener.org.

Betty Sanders
President, GCFM