Gardening Tips: November 7, 2012

Well, we got very lucky as Hurricane Sandy wreak­ed its havoc on the New Jersey coast and New York City. Most of us expected this to be the case last year when Irene arrived, but this time the roles were reversed. We, more than most people, know what a horror the city people are ex­periencing. As a former New Jersey resident, it is very sad to see places on the Jersey Shore, where I spent much time in my youth, destroyed. This week I had my generator all set to go but never had to start it up. The salvaged firewood from trees that Irene blew down will keep me nice and warm this fall.

On Thursday, Nov. 8, I will be teaching most of a four and-a-half hour class on “Forest Pests” for the Agroforestry Resource Cen­ter of Cornell Cooperative Extension in Acra (Greene County). The class runs from noon till 4:30 p.m. and it will cover many of the common insects, diseases, weeds and other pests that affect not only forest trees but also some of the trees in our home landscapes. If you are interested in attending, you must call the ARC at 518 622-9820 asap.

There will be added emphasis on some of the newer threats to our forests such as the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid (HWA) and the Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB). The EAB and HWA are already well established in Greene, Ulster and Columbia counties and current efforts to contain their spread are underway. Officials from the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets will be on hand to discuss current quarantine regulations. These regulations are quite serious and carry significant penalties for violations. Anyone who is involv­ed in the timber industry from loggers, sawmill operators to firewood sellers and even land­scapers need to be very aware of these regulations. I believe that educated citizens will have the big­gest impact in dealing with these threats in the long run, but nothing gets someone’s serious atten­tion as much as a substantial fine for non-compliance.

I will begin the class by explaining how plants are affected by various types of pests from leaf eaters to root rotting fungi. This will be followed by case studies of some of the most serious insect pests we have to deal with. My powerpoint presentation will illustrate a num­ber of forest pests and if the weather is decent, we may go for a walk outside to look at some pests and weeds.

As some of you who read these columns regularly may know, I have never been a fan of the term “invasion biology.” My objections to this discipline have been based on the vague definitions of what is considered “native” versus what is “exotic.” As long as these definitions were more or less arbitrarily determined by geography and time of intro­duction, i.e. any­thing that arrived from Europe or Asia after 1750 is “exotic” but anything found in America before 1750 is “native,” I could not accept it as science at all. Lately, it seems that these terms are being more accurately defined by eco­system parameters, which makes much more sense. Therefore it is possible for a plant or animal that is “native” to one part of America to be “invasive” elsewhere in America, in a different ecosystem.

I have never objected to weed control or efforts to prevent pests from becoming established in new areas. I am pleased to see that “Invasion Biology” may be evolving into a science that has merit.