forsythia in bloom

Stop weeds now, plus more on how forsythia rules our gardens

by Connie Oswald Stofko Wait until the forsythia blooms. That’s a rule of thumb for many gardening tasks in Western New York. For example, you shouldn’t prune your roses until you see forsythia blooming in your neighborhood, according to this tip from the the Western New York Rose Society. The forsythias are blooming now, or will bloom soon, in Western New York. “This is when the soil is warming up and things are popping up outside,” said David Clark, CNLP, who was honored…

spangled fritillary butterfly, red leaf, and bumble bee

Use the leaves, leave the leaves, or rake to curb?

by Connie Oswald Stofko Where do our pollinators go in the winter? A lot of them stay right here in Western New York. You may have created a welcoming habitat for them in spring, summer and autumn with native plants. Now it’s time for us to create a welcoming habitat for them during winter. It’s easy, too! Just leave the leaves. Why leave the leaves? We need pollinators, and pollinators need those fallen leaves in order to survive over the…

illustration representing virus

New virus is striking tomatoes & peppers; see more

A virus new to the United States is striking tomatoes and peppers, according to this article by Beth Mattimore in the newest edition of WNY Gardening Matters, produced by the Master Gardeners of Cornell Cooperative Extension in Erie County. Tomato brown rugose fruit virus (ToBRFV) is spread by tomato seeds. There are no current treatments or sprays that will cure infected plants. Tomato production worldwide is threatened. The virus has been seen in other parts of the world since 2015….

yard covered in lesser celandine

More on lesser celandine in WNY: questions & discussion for next year

by Connie Oswald Stofko A month ago, I published Lesser celandine is back: What to do if it’s already out of control, but I still keep getting questions from readers. I also have gotten comments on that article and previous lesser celandine articles about how bad the situation has become on their property. Let’s address some of these issues. You can’t apply herbicide once the plant has flowered. Why? Here’s the answer from Andrea Locke, coordinator of WNY PRISM (Partnership for Regional…

graphic of fertilizer bag

What do the numbers & letters on a fertilizer bag mean?

by Connie Oswald Stofko The numbers and letters on a bag of fertilizer can be confusing. Let’s take a moment to learn what all this means to our Western New York gardens. Letters on fertilizer bag The letters on the fertilizer bag represent primary nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. The abbreviations come from the periodic table of elements: N is nitrogen, P is phosphorus and K is potassium. The standard label displays the nutrients in the same order, according to…

dew on blades of grass

Reminder: Don’t fertilize lawn until spring

by Connie Oswald Stofko Your lawn is dormant now, so there’s no need to fertilize. And in New York State, you’re not permitted to use any kind of chemical fertilizer on your lawn from Dec. 1 to April 1. By prohibiting fertilizer application in winter, the New York State Nutrient Runoff Law aims to keep these chemicals from running off your lawn and polluting our waterways. Get some tips on green practices for your lawn and garden here from the…

lawn at Lakeside Sod

Best time to plant grass seed in WNY? August & September—no watering!

by Connie Oswald Stofko If you plant grass seed now in Western New York, you won’t have to water it, said Mike Braddell, part owner of Lakeside Sod in Clarence. He grows grass for a living: Lakeside Sod is a farm and their crop is grass. “We seed in August and we never water,” Braddell said. The only time they water is when they harvest sod; the extra moisture helps the sod curl into neat rolls. August through September is…

don't use lawn fertilizer with phosphorus

Don’t use phosphorus on your lawn; ‘Look for the Zero’

To keep our Western New York waterways clean, go phosphorus-free when using lawn fertilizer and “Look for the Zero.” On a fertilizer bag, you’ll see three numbers. The number in the middle is for phosphorus. For lawns, choose a fertilizer that has a zero in the middle. Excess phosphorus is a threat to many New York waterbodies, triggering algae blooms and sometimes rendering waters unswimmable and unfishable, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). That’s why…

dandelion with seeds blowing

Stop weeds before they emerge with corn gluten meal

by Connie Oswald Stofko Stop weeds before they even pop out of the ground–that’s what pre-emergent herbicides do. Pre-emergent herbicides act on seeds at the germination stage. Corn gluten meal is an organic pre-emergent herbicide. There are synthetic pre-emergent herbicides, too. These can work well on grass seed and broad-leaf seeds. However, like every herbicide, they don’t kill every type of weed. They don’t kill existing weeds. And they don’t work on plants with tap roots, such as dandelions. They…

don't use lawn fertilizer with phosphorus

Keep our waterways clean: look for zero on lawn fertilizer

Do you like swimming or fishing or clean water in general? Then help our lakes, rivers and creeks by not spreading phosphorus on your lawn. If you fertilize your lawn, look for a bag with a zero in the middle. Fertilizer labels have three numbers. The number in the middle is the percentage of phosphorus in the product, such as 22-0-15. Excess phosphorus has made many waterways in New York State un-swimmable and un-fishable, according to the New York State…