06/07/12 2:00pm
06/07/2012 2:00 PM

Cornell Cooperative Extension will hold an eelgrass restoration workshop, open to the public, between 3 and 5:30 p.m. Friday at the corner of New Suffolk Avenue and First Street.

CCE’s Marine Meadows Program staffers will lead the hands-on program.

Participants will be taught how to assemble eelgrass-planting discs to increase local population of sea grasses.

The event is co-sponsored by Peconic Land Trust and the New Suffolk Waterfront.

For more information contact Kathy Kennedy at 283-3195 or email her atkkennedy@peconiclandtrust.org.

The following is a video we made from a previous workshop:

04/20/12 8:00am
04/20/2012 8:00 AM

TIM KELLY PHOTO | Dandelions are arguably the most common and obvious weeds to pop up each spring.

As you roll out the lawn mower this weekend, don’t be surprised if the weeds encroaching on the Kentucky blue grass or fescue seem more abundant than in years past.

Most winter annual weeds, such as doveweed, redstem filaree and chickweed, are typically suppressed by cold weather. Due to this past mild winter, however, many weeds were nurtured through the season and are expected to come out in full force this spring.

Lawn experts say that because the winter of 2010-11 was harsh, with several feet of snow and frigid temperatures, many lawns weren’t plagued with certain weeds that are already popping up this spring.

Dr. Andy Senesac, a weed science specialist at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Long Island Horticultural Research and Extension Center in Riverhead, said he’s seeing an unusual amount of weeds.

“Last year was the first time I’ve ever noticed less crabgrass because of that crazy winter,” Dr. Senesac said. “But with this mild winter, I’m expecting more this year. We are going to see a worse year for weeds.”

Lawrence Kaiser, owner of Kaiser Maintenance in Jamesport, agreed that more weeds will pepper lawns this year and suggests homeowners use a holistic approach to managing their turf.

“A balanced fertilization program will provide a thick turf which in turn out-competes the weeds for space,” Mr. Kaiser said. “If you are unsure what fertilization requirements are needed, a simple soil test taken to Cornell Cooperative Extension or the Long Island Cauliflower Association will provide the right course of action.”

Here are suggestions for combatting some pesky winter annual weeds:





• Dandelions are arguably the most common and obvious weeds to pop up each spring. They’re hard to eliminate because the seeds are numerous and will settle quickly into any opening in a lawn. Pulling them out is challenging. The plant sends down a taproot up to 10 inches deep that breaks off easily — and the weed will regenerate if even a small portion remains.

Spraying with vinegar offers an organic alternative to garden variety herbicides such as Roundup or Weed-B-Gon, But since the vinegar used in cooking is low in acetic acid, which is what kills the weed, one option is to boil it down to increase its strength.

Vinegar and Roundup will kill grass as well as weeds so they must be sprayed on the foliage. Weed-B-Gon, however, targets only broadleaf weeds.





• Doveweed  starts growing around mid-September. In the spring, it should disappear after a few mowings. To rid your lawn of stubborn doveweed, hand removal is recommended for single plants, herbicide for larger amounts. To deter growth, a pre-emergent herbicide application is suggested in the fall.





• Redstem filaree  also begins to grow around mid-September and should also vanish after two or three spring mowings. Redstem filaree may also die back during the heat of the summer. A fall treatment with a standard turf herbicide for broadleaf weed control is the most effective method to deter future growth.





• Chickweed  can reproduce throughout the summer months. Selective herbicide treatments for lawns and hand removal combined with a pre-emergent for gardens are suggested. A fall treatment with a standard turf herbicide for broadleaf weed control will also be effective.





• Nut sedge is a hardy perennial weed that’s very difficult to control. Mr. Kaiser said hand weeding is not an option because even a small piece left behind could continue to grow and multiply. Dr. Senesac said it’s possible to remove the weed by hand as long as you’re careful to get out all the roots. Only a few non-selective herbicides can eliminate this weed, so check the label.





• Purple dead nettle is another winter annual that gets going about mid-September. This weed should disappear after a few mows in the spring. To rid your lawn of stubborn specimens, apply a selective herbicide treatment with a balanced fertilization program. To deter growth, a fall treatment with a standard turf herbicide for broadleaf weed control is recommended.





• Hairy bittercress is a winter annual that can actually be spread by mowing, so it’s better to hand pull it before mowing and carefully put it in a bag so the seeds won’t spread to nearby areas. Spring pre-emergent application for lawns and gardens is suggested. When heavy population exists, a pre-emergent is suggested in the fall.


01/09/12 7:00am
01/09/2012 7:00 AM

CORNELL COOPERATIVE EXTENSION FILE PHOTO | With an eelgrass project now abandoned in a section of Hallock's Bay in Orient, the spot will open back up to fishermen.

A large section of Hallock’s Bay in Orient will soon be open to shellfishing, after an eelgrass restoration project there was abandoned by Cornell Cooperative Extension.

The Southold Town Trustees changed the town code to close about one-third of the bay to shellfishing five years ago when the study began, and last week the Town Board held a public hearing on changing the code again to re-open the section of the bay.

Chris Pickerell, who specializes in eelgrass habitat restoration for CCE, said his research group had tried several times to hand broadcast eelgrass seeds there. Each time, the grass grew strongly and steadily until the hot weather of mid-summer caused the young shoots to all die.

“It’s a function of lack of light, high summer water temperatures and issues relating to sediment texture,” he said. “All those things apply to Hallock’s Bay. We tried to plant it several times. It never worked in there.”

Mr. Pickerell said muddy bay bottoms like the one in Hallock’s Bay have proved to not be good places to grow eelgrass, and his research group is now planting only in sandy, cooler areas, including two successful beds in Greenport Harbor and off Paradise Point, as well as at several locations in Long Island Sound.

Mr. Pickerell said his group often hand broadcasts seeds before setting eelgrass transplants in an area, because the success of the hand broadcast seeds often gives them a better idea of whether the transplants will thrive there.

“We sometimes prospect with seeds,” he said. “We look for areas where they’ll take. We never found that spot in Hallock’s Bay.”

A public hearing to open the study area back up to shellfishing was held by the Southold Town Board on Jan. 3.


Read more about the re-opening of Hallock’s Bay in Thursday’s issue of The Suffolk Times.

10/10/11 8:00am
10/10/2011 8:00 AM

COURTESY PHOTO | Researchers at Cornell Cooperative recently discovered a concentration of nine-spotted ladybugs on the East End.

New York’s state insect is the nine-spotted ladybug, but the rare bug has barely been seen east of the Mississippi for 30 years.

At the end of July, all that changed, when a researcher with the Agricultural Stewardship Program of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County, based in Riverhead, found a nine-spotted ladybug on a sunflower while searching for the insect at Quail Hill Farm in Amagansett.

He sent his find to the directors of the Lost Ladybug Project at Cornell University in Ithaca, who visited the farm 10 days later and found 20 more nine-spotted ladybugs on the organic farm.

Professor John Losey is Cornell’s lead researcher on the project, and he was with the group that found the treasure trove of bugs.

Mr. Losey said ladybugs tend to be attracted to organic farms, where there are no pesticides and are an abundance of aphids, bean beetles and other bugs that ladybugs prey on.

“When we went back, they weren’t really on the sunflowers. They were on a large planting of green beans,” he said.

“There are a lot of aphids and bean beetles in beans, and right next to that was a planting of cosmos and zinnias. That’s where we found a lot of individuals.”

But why such a large concentration of nine-spotted ladybugs have congregated in one small area on Long Island, after being missing from the Northeast for decades, still remains a mystery. Mr. Losey said that there are likely more nine-spotted ladybugs to be found on Long Island, since his team also found another one of the bugs at another site operated by Quail Hill Farm half a mile down the road from the initial treasure trove.

“Not every homeowner is going to find one in their yard, but we encourage other people to look,” he said.

Mr. Losey’s team is collecting data from citizen scientists throughout North America, and asks volunteers to photograph all ladybugs they see so that his team can track not only where the rare ladybugs are, but where the common ones are abundant as well.

Volunteers can upload their photographs at www.lostladybug.org.

To learn more about the project, check out Thursday’s issue of The Suffolk Times.


06/13/11 9:57am
06/13/2011 9:57 AM

DAN GILREIN COURTEYS PHOTO | Stink bugs likes all plants; and peaches, apples, plums, cherries and blueberries are some fruits they favor.

Calverton farmer Howard Lewin can handle potato bugs; he fought back with flamethrowers when the pest infested his 70 acres of spud back in the late 1970s.

Brown marmorated stink bugs, insects originally from Asia that are now destroying acres of cropland in Maryland and Pennsylvania, are Lewin’s new worry, especially if their population on the East End reaches the numbers reported further south.

And that could soon be the case. Suffolk County is poised for a stink bug infestation, said Daniel Gilrein, an entomologist with the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Riverhead.

Mounting evidence shows there are established populations of the insect in Nassau County, and alarming numbers of the pest were found in a Fort Salonga home, Mr. Gilrein said. The growing population means the East End could be next — if not this year, then in the next few.

“It will be a problem when they come and establish in Suffolk,” Mr. Gilrein said. “The effects will be different depending on who and where you are.”

A tractor driver in Calverton last month was the first to spot one of the bugs on the East End, Mr. Gilrein said. A single bug, identified from other, less harmful pests by its white-spotted antenna, may mean more are coming to feast on their favorite foods such as tomatoes, peppers, berries and apples. The brown marmorated stink bug proliferates easily in the U.S. because it has no natural predators here, Mr. Gilrein said.

Stink bugs are nuisances for homeowners, Mr. Gilrein said. They don’t irritate skin like bed bugs, and don’t damage houses like termites. But they can leave dark marks on the leaves of ornamental landscaped plants, according to a fact sheet from Cornell.

For homeowners with small gardens, Mr. Gilrein recommends brushing the bugs off plants into bowls of soapy water — when they’re squashed, or even threatened, they expel the odor that gave them their name.

Covering plants with protective netting or screens works too, but only lasts for a short period of time, he said.

Another concern for homeowners is the bug’s wintering habits – they invade houses and other buildings in the late summer and early fall for shelter from the cold, Mr. Gilrein said. To protect against the unwelcome visitors, homeowners should seal any small cracks or crevices in siding, walls or door or window frames, he said.

Sherry Brezinski, the nursery manager at Talmage Farm Agway & Garden Center in Riverhead, has not had any home gardeners complain to her about the pests, at least not yet. She thinks she may hear more about the problem in the fall, when the bugs move indoors.

Mr. Brezinski suggests leaving the bugs alone or spraying them with an insecticide. Some beetle killer products will eliminate the pest, she said.

Anyone who suspects they found a stink bug can drop it off at Cornell’s diagnostic lab on Griffing Avenue in Riverhead, Mr. Gilrein said.

Stink bugs pose a much greater threat to farmers, as they can severely impact their livelihoods. As the bugs feed, they leave deep brown marks that may be mistaken for rot, making crops unmarketable.

“I guess I’ll just have to use a stronger insecticide,” said Jonathan Sujecki, who farms 105 acres in Calverton and is concerned about protecting his tomato crop from a stink bug invasion.

Farmers can use insecticides to combat the pest, but even those become ineffective if the population skyrockets to high levels, Mr. Gilrein said.

But the area’s organic farmers are practically defenseless against the winged invaders – few pesticides are approved for use by organic farmers, Mr. Gilrein said. Products that contain natural pyrethrins, a type of pesticide, work, but only for a very short period of time, he said, adding that those chemicals can’t control large numbers of stink bugs.

Crop covers are another option for organic farmers, he said.

Less than five percent of Long Island farms are organic, according to Long Island Farm Bureau officials.

Anthony Panarello, who owns Natural Earth Farms in Calverton, is one of the organic farmers. He worries about the pest’s effects on his 30,000 to 50,000 pounds of peppers, tomatoes and eggplants he sells each year wholesale.

“I’m concerned about what it would take to control the bug,” Mr. Panarello said.

Mr. Gilrein and the Cornell Cooperative Extension are closely monitoring any potential stink bug population on the East End.

Researchers have so far set up traps to catch the bugs and are working with entomologists in Upstate New York to monitor an expected invasion, a collaborative effort called the Eastern New York Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Project.

When confronted with the possibility of a stink bug infestation, farmers like Mr. Lewin and  Mr. Sujecki griped it would be yet another issue on their lengthening list of problems, like hot weather and cucumber bugs.

But “it’s a bit more serious than their everyday problems,” Mr. Gilrein said.

04/15/11 10:00am
04/15/2011 10:00 AM

COURTESY PHOTO | Restoration ecologist Chris Pickerell (pictured) and Suffolk County Legislator Ed Romaine have been named the recipients of two annual environmental awards given by the North Fork Environmental Council.

Chris Pickerell has been named Environmental Champion of the Year for his work on coastal habitat restoration with Cornell Cooperative Extension for the past 18 years.

His team has established several eelgrass meadows in the Long Island Sound and in Shinnecock Bay in Southampton and is planning to establish more eelgrass meadows in the eastern Peconic estuary and Gardiner’s Bay.

This year he plans to restore at least one eelgrass meadow in the Peconic Bay in Greenport.

Mr. Romaine has been named the recipient of the Richard Noncarrow Environmentalist of the Year award for his long-standing efforts to preserve the North Fork environment, and his recent efforts to preserve the Sound Avenue/Route 25 corridor in Wading River.

Both awards will be given to the recipients at a NFEC meeting at Martha Clara Vineyards in Riverhead on May 13, where the environmental group will also kick off a plan to fight to keep Sound Avenue in Riverhead Town from being overdeveloped.

Mr. Pickerell said this week that his work is necessary because development pressure, dredging, algae blooms and other factors have destroyed most local eelgrass meadows in the past 25 years.

“In order to maintain productivity and diversity in our local waters, it is important that we do what we can to protect what is left and restore historic meadows wherever possible,” he said.

Mr. Pickerell’s eelgrass program, which has five full-time staff members and three vessels, began in 1994.

“2011 will be the first year that we are planning to utilize volunteers as shoreside support for our underwater planting efforts,” he said. “A new method we developed will allow us prepare our transplants on onshore and reduce planting time underwater.  We look forward to greater public involvement that will not only increase overall awareness, but should also increase the size of meadows that we can create.”

“I am honored to be recognized in this way and I accept the award on behalf of my entire team since our program truly is a team effort,” he added.  “Without the hard work and dedication of everyone involved in our program, none of this would be possible.”

Mr. Romaine is being honored for his entire body of work, including his recent effort to help define the extent of a toxic plume at the EPCAL facility in Calverton, his work on public transportation issues, his support of  efforts to curb pollution in the Peconic estuary and his backing of legislation to support research on safe ways to reduce deer tick population.

“I’m honored and delighted. I believe in protecting the environment,” said Mr. Romaine of the award on Friday. “I try to do a lot of work quietly behind the scenes, but it’s so important in many different ways…. I’m a huge supporter of alternative energy and public transportation.”

Mr. Romaine said that he’s currently working on a project to open up a dredge spoil dumping area that was  blocking the water flow at Terry Creek at Indian Island County Park in Riverhead, and is currently advocating for the shut-down of the Millstone Nuclear Power Plant near New London, Conn., among numerous other environmental issues.


04/12/11 4:30pm
04/12/2011 4:30 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | A gold finch snacks on sunflower seeds at a McDermott Avenue home in Riverhead.

Thirty-five years after Cornell Cooperative Extension began its master gardener program on the East End, the program’s spring gardening school, to be held this weekend at Riverhead High School, is still chock-full of lectures that will give even experienced gardeners ideas for projects they’ve never tried before.

Master gardeners are volunteers with gardening expertise, chosen throughout the state by Cornell, who give their time to share their knowledge in various specialty areas of a hobby that often takes a lifetime to master.

Saturday’s program includes 30 lectures, offering advice on everything from the care of houseplants to specialty vegetable gardening to soil health, roses, figs and floral design.

Cornell educator Caroline Kiang has trained about 1,200 master gardeners since she began Suffolk County’s master gardener program 29 years ago. Those gardeners then go out into the community and help beautify neighborhoods and advise community gardening groups.

“The master gardeners decentralize the effort, and we can reach more people,” said Ms. Kiang.

Jamesport resident Nancy Gilbert has been teaching in the master gardener program since 2002, not long after she and her husband, Richard Wines, left careers on Wall Street to live full time on their 15-acre farm, Winds Way, just off Peconic Bay Boulevard.

They grow it all, from vegetables to bulbs to apple trees, but Ms. Gilbert’s lectures on Saturday will focus on how to grow a garden that will attract birds.

For Ms. Gilbert, making birds comfortable in the garden is a wholistic approach to the interconnectedness of species, soil and sky.

She avoids the monoculture of lawns, which suck up water and provide little habitat for one of birds’ favorite foods: insects.

“All baby birds are fed insects,” she said, even if they are more likely to consume berries or seeds as adults.

To be a top-notch bird gardener, she says, you need to also scale back on manicuring your property. Brush piles, which are frowned upon by modern suburban landscapers, offer birds essential places to hide from predators, storms and winter’s cold.

Leaf litter left in the garden not only helps add nutrients to the soil, but helps birds to find insects and nest materials.

“And you can’t chop down every dead branch in a tree,” she added. “You’re much better off leaving some bird hotels around.”

Perhaps most importantly, gardening for the birds also involves thinking in three dimensions, as if you are imagining you could fly.

“You need to garden in layers, with ground cover, low plants, shrubs and a canopy,” she said. “Birds have to be able to move vertically. The flat green lawn with foundation plantings — it’s really too bad that became the cultural norm. It eliminates habitat.”

After changing those basic habits, Ms. Gilbert said, “It’s really about plants for food and shelter, and about water.”

“Of those variables, water is probably the most important,” she said. Birds need to keep their feathers clean in order to fly properly and keep themselves warm by puffing them up. This is most important in the winter, when many water sources are frozen, so a heated birdbath or pond is one of the essential components of Ms. Gilbert’s bird garden plan.

“They’re relatively inexpensive, and much better than pouring boiling water in a birdbath,” she said.

Most fruit- and seed-bearing plants are attractive to birds, and Ms. Gilbert likes to focus on using native elements that might already exist in gardens. Common local plants, from bayberry to cedar trees, provide ideal food sources. Other plants that many consider weeds — like milkweed, goldenrod and common mullein — are loved by birds, butterflies and honeybees.

She urges caution about several plants sold at nurseries that became wildly popular on Long Island, only to become invasive species. Barberry and winged euonymus, known as burning bush, have become famous for their escape from gardens and their stranglehold on native areas.

Ms. Gilbert urges gardeners to plant flowering dogwoods, because a fungal disease has destroyed a lot of native dogwoods, which produce a berry that birds love and that is high in lipids and vitamin C. She said much work has been done recently to breed disease-resistant dogwoods, which are available at local nurseries. She urges gardeners to ask nursery workers about the young trees’ disease resistance before buying.

For seed-loving birds, she recommends planting flowers with large seed heads, especially purple coneflower and black-eyed Susans. The birds won’t eat the seeds until the flower has withered and dried, challenging to traditional gardeners to resist the urge to deadhead their flowers.

Of course, once you start attracting songbirds, predators may not be far behind. Ms. Gilbert has seen Cooper’s hawks and sharp-shinned hawks kill smaller birds in her backyard, and feral cats are an ever-present nuisance. Gardeners need to come to terms with these predator-prey relationships. They must also realize and accept that if you plant berries for yourself in your bird garden, you’re going to have to share them with the birds.

“My attitude is, there’s enough for everybody,” she said.

Ms. Gilbert will give out more advice on planting for the birds at her workshop, scheduled at 1 p.m. and again at 2:30.


Spring Gardening School
Cornell Cooperative Extension
Saturday, April 16, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., at Riverhead High School. Admisson: $55 in advance/$60 at the door, includes four classes, meals, soil tests and plant diagnosis. Call 727-7850, ext. 345 or 347.