Is Cotton Burr Mulch Safe for Gardens?

Annamarie Ask CFC

A CFC friend recently wondered about using cotton burr mulch on gardens and whether it is safe. She went on to do some research of her own. Answer: Cotton is so heavily sprayed with pesticides, one wonders why the plant nurseries tout cotton burr compost? There must be chemical residues from pesticides which carry over into cotton burr compost. The …

Mosquito Control – Should I Spray My Yard?

Chris Wu Ask CFC

Q. During the warm months, I see road signs all over the Barrington area from companies offering to spray yards for mosquitoes. Is this a good practice? I worry about mosquito-born diseases, and the bugs are a nuisance. -Robert C.   A. The quick answer is definitely “no.” Spraying individual yards is a dangerous and unnecessary practice that promulgates the overuse of …

Goldenrod is Not Guilty

Diane Greening Ask CFC

Q.  I always heard that goldenrod caused fall allergies–why would I want it in my garden?   A. Goldenrod is not guilty!   Those showy goldenrod flowers attract attention and the blame–but they are designed to attract pollinators.  Heavy, sticky goldenrod pollen clings to insects traveling between plants–nearly impossible to get in your nose. Goldenrod also supports butterflies, other beneficial insects, …

Caring for Milkweeds, Part 2

cfc_admin Ask CFC

Q: I noticed yesterday that some of the milkweed seed pods are covered with bugs (immature box elder?). Is that something to worry about or just let them be? Don’t worry about them.  These are probably immature milkweed bugs  Oncopeltus fasciatus. There are two species, large and small milkweed bugs. These are probably nymphs and will become more colorful as …

Caring for Milkweeds

cfc_admin Ask CFC

Q: My butterfly weed is blooming well and attracting butterflies!  What can I do to help it continue to grow? A: Thank you for contacting us with your milkweed question. First, I’m so happy that your milkweed is thriving and blooming and attracting monarchs. It will attract other butterflies as well, like tiger swallowtails. These are native plants, and they …

What’s This?

cfc_admin Ask CFC

Q: Please identify this plant as it has grown into quite a colony in my yard.  The plants are about 2′ tall with the flower spikes.  They are definitely different from the snakeroot which is also getting aggressive!  My real concern is what kind of seed pods does it produce?  Last summer my dogs were getting thin black, slightly curved 1/2-3/4″hard seed cases that …

Where do I find neonicotinoid-free plants?

cfc_admin Ask CFC

The way you can be really sure you have neonic-free plants is to buy organic seed and raise the plants yourself. There are several good sources of organic seed online including Seeds for Change and The Natural Gardening Company. I am sure there are many others if you search online. Not only do I grow all my own vegetables from …

What’s the best replacement for my dying ash tree?

cfc_admin Ask CFC

Removing dead and dying ash trees is a sad task and an expensive one, but look on the bright side. The ash was the tree of choice for developers and municipalities looking for a fast-growing, cheap tree to plant on parkways and in yards. You can do better; consider their demise as a great opportunity to plant some native trees. …

The Chickadee’s Guide to Gardening

Diane Greening Ask CFC

What’s so important about native plants?  Doug Tallamy explains in an opinion piece originally written for The New York Times: By DOUGLAS W. TALLAMY  MARCH 11, 2015 OXFORD, Pa. — I grew up thinking little of plants. I was interested in snakes and turtles, then insects and, eventually, birds. Now I like plants. But I still like the life they …

Goldenrod Galls: Insect Inside

Diane Greening Ask CFC

After the showy flowers have turned to seed, and the leaves have dropped, it’s easier to see the shape of the stems left standing, and  to wonder: what causes the swelling on stems of goldenrods? Spindle-shaped stem swellings, balls on leaves or stems, even tight rosettes of leaves are all galls,  created by a plant in response to an insect …