You may have seen soil resembling coffee grounds and noticed large worms moving quickly just below the surface – these are the invasive jumping worms in action. UMass sponsored four workshops over two days on this topic. The takeaway message is that the worms are here, and scientists are studying and experimenting in order to develop best practices for control in the home landscape. It may take some time, unfortunately.
Why should we care? The worms have a detrimental effect on the texture of soils. They migrate quickly from garden beds to surrounding woodlands and natural areas, altering ecology. We saw slides of a forest floor without any leaf litter, simply exposed soil due to a large population of jumping worms! With bare soil, the door is now open to erosion, nutrient loss, and environmental degradation.
The situation is made more complex by the fact that the adult worms die each winter in our region. They leave behind cocoons of eggs that hatch in late spring. By August, the new generation of adult worms is active. So, in spring, we do not see jumping worms in our gardens, but their cocoons may be present and invisible to the naked eye. Their past presence may be detected by the coffee grounds texture of the soil and utter absence of vegetation, in some cases.
We at Pumpkin Brook will continue to exercise caution in sourcing our plants, compost, and mulch materials. We will also take care to bare root plants whenever possible during planting and transplanting work. In addition, we may be experimenting with the application of Biochar in gardens where the worms have been active in the past. Biochar is a term used to describe black carbon produced intentionally for carbon management in the soil or for various agricultural uses. The molecular structure of this material is sharp and potentially damaging to the Invasive Jumping Worms. We will keep you posted on the Jumping Worm issue as information becomes available.
On a fun note, Priscilla attended a virtual talk by a clematis expert, Linda Beutler, curator at the Rogerson Clematis Collection in Portland, Oregon. Who knew that such a place existed?! See www.rogersonclematiscollection.org for inspiration.
This beautiful public garden specializes in the use of clematis combined with flowering trees and shrubs. Groundcover types as well as clematis that scramble up and over shrubs were featured in Linda’s slide talk. We will be following her recommendation to feed all clematis with a dose of slow-release organic fertilizer and compost in the spring.
The timing of pruning clematis was discussed. We’ll be experimenting with little or no clematis pruning this season if your site has the space. This is a method of promoting earlier bloom. Instead of cutting the plant back to the ground, we will leave stalks in place to bud out. Always ask: “Do I want the clematis to flower in partner with a nearby shrub, or to provide interest later?” If you have a clematis planted next to a small support, hard prune this plant to a maximum of two feet; if left unpruned, the vine will overwhelm the area.
Reese, Jeff, Kim, and Priscilla attended the Tower Hill Urban Tree Symposium and took in words of wisdom from Ed Gilman, Professor Emeritus at Florida State University, on Pruning Young Trees. Decades of teaching and experimenting in trial fields informed this talk. We came away with tips about pruning at planting time to correct structural defects that the grower did not address back in the nursery. For instance, reduce the number of upright stems that will eventually compete with the leader. There is space for only one leader per tree! Even heading back such stems will reduce their growth rate and thickness over time.