Here are some of my thoughts to make you think twice before settling down to picnicking, partying or putting this holiday weekend:
• Bring in house plants that have been vacationing outdoors this summer. Check the drainage holes of flower pots for slugs, snails, pillbugs and millipedes before moving potted plants indoors. The dark, humid environment of a drainage hole is a favorite hiding spot for these pests during daylight hours.
• Harvest fall-bearing raspberries at least every other day. Allowing fruit to over ripen tends to attract sap beetles, which feed on the berries. Canes of fall bearing raspberries now producing fruit will yield another crop next summer. So, do not prune these after picking the fruit.
• Make a fertilizer application to lawns this week or next. The consensus among lawn experts is that a Labor Day application of fertilizer is the single most important one for lawns. Not only are lawns recovering from the stresses of summer, but this is the time when grass plants initiate new growth. A boost from fertilizer now will help thicken lawns that may have become thinned during the summer.
• Check tomatoes for signs of splitting. When heavy rains, such as we've had this week, follow a dry period, tomatoes that are ripe or are starting to ripen often will split. This happens because rapid uptake of water causes the inside of the tomato to swell or expand faster than the skin will grow. Cherry tomatoes are most prone to splitting. The split fruit are still edible, but harvest and use them quickly.
• Don't get angry with Rover over that yellowy slime that looks like dog barf on the lawn, garden debris, compost pile, or wood chip mulch. Rover has not been partying with the neighbors. That yucky stuff is slime mold -- commonly called "dog vomit" slime mold. It is a fungus-like organism that feeds on the micro-organisms residing in decaying vegetation. It causes no harm, except, perhaps, to Rover's reputation.
• Pay attention to trees and shrubs whose leaves are showing pre-mature color change and/or are dropping their leaves now. This is most often a symptom of stress. Before pushing the panic button, try to determine the source of stress. It could be the result of growing on a poor site with poor drainage, gravelly soil, or soil compaction, or it could be due to disease infections such as wilt disease, root rot or leaf spots and blights, or insect infestations. Some of these problems can be taken care of by employing pest management strategies -- raking up and destroying infected leaves in fall, applications of dormant sprays in early spring, soil aeration.
This is not a good time to be sweet. Being so will attract yellowjackets. Yellowjackets are one of several species of wasps that are most aggressive at this time of year. Perhaps it is because they know their fate. Most of these wasps are males and they'll die with the onset of cold weather. The other members of wasp colonies are queens. The aggressive behavior of the males is most likely related to protecting the queens, who will remain alive through the winter and re-establish colonies in spring.
So, what does this have to do with being sweet? Well, in late summer, the diet of these aggressive male wasps changes from one of mostly protein (derived by snacking on other insects, such as cutworms) to one high in sugars. That's why they attracted to that apple you are eating or that soda you are about to drink. I really don't know if they are attracted to people who are soooo sweet, but I intend to get grumpy and stay that way until a hard freeze. Now, get outta my way! Oh, before you go, have a happy, but not too sweet, Labor Day weekend.