Notes from Garden and Afield – Week of 2017, April 23-April 29

Article and photos by Joe Sapia

Notes from Garden and Afield in the Jersey Midlands

“From the Raritan River to the Mullica River, From the Delaware River to the Atlantic Ocean….”

Week of 2017, April 23, Sunday, to April 29, Saturday

Note: The yard references are to my house in the section of Monroe between Helmetta and Jamesburg in South Middlesex County. My yard is in a Pine Barrens outlier on the Inner Coastal Plain, the soil is loamy, and my neighborhood is on the boundary of Gardening Zones 6b (cooler) and 7a (warmer). Afield references are to the Pine Barrens around Helmetta, unless otherwise noted.

Helmetta Pond at dusk

PINE BARRENS AROUND HELMETTA: Flowering dogwoods, “Cornus florida,” are flowering. Pitch pines, “Pinus rigida,” have their “candles,” or new growth. Northern gray treefrogs, “Hyla versicolor” and northern spring peeper treefrogs, “Pseudacris crucifer crucifer,” are calling.

Flowering dogwoods in the Pine Barrens around Helmetta, specifically in an East Brunswick section of the Jamesburg Park Conservation Area.

“Candles,” or new growth, on a pitch pine in the Pine Barrens around Helmetta.

“Candles,” or new growth, on a pitch pine in the Pine Barrens around Helmetta.

SOURLAND MOUNTAIN WILDFLOWERS: This week, I drove the Piedmont geologic formation from the Delaware River in Hunterdeon County to its meeting the Inner Coastal Plain in South Middlesex County. When I crossed Sourland Mountain on the boundary of Hunterdon, Mercer, and Somerset counties, I saw spring beauties, “Claytonia virginica,” in bloom. Mayapples, “Podophyllum peltatum,” were “umbrella-ing,” their leaves in umbrella-like formation. Mayapples should be blooming about this time, although I did not notice any flowering.

Spring beauties on Sourland Mountain

Mayapples, in their umbrella look, on Sourland Mountain.

TICKS: Ticks are out. While in the woods, I have pulled deer ticks, “Ixodes scapularis,” and a lone star tick, “Amblyomma americanum,” off my clothes.

IN MY GARDEN: Lettuce is sprouting, but I still await carrots and peas.

GARDEN FLOWERING IN LAMBERTVILLE: Ornamental flowers were flourishing in Lambertville, making the town more beautiful than it already is.

Flowers in Lambertville.

SHAD ON THE DELAWARE RIVER: In talking to Lambertville locals April 28, the peak of the American shad, “Alosa sapidissima,” migration up the Delaware River had already passed. But shad were still around – and the Shad Fest wraps up April 30.

Catching shad on the Delaware River.

SNOWFALL FOR 2016-2017: The season ended with 26.5 inches of snow, the last snowfall on March 15. In terms of total snowfall, this was right about average. (The measurements were at my home and the average snowfall figure would be for my area. These recordings are unofficial.)

SUNRISE/SUNSET: For the week of April 30, Sunday, to May 6, Saturday, the sun will rise at about 5:50 a.m. to 6 a.m. and set at about 7:50 p.m. to about 8 p.m.

WEATHER: Go to the National Weather Service forecasting station for the area,

DATES TO KEEP IN MIND: For the woods, the first drenching rain around May 15 should green up the woods. For the food garden, my rule of thumb is to plant warm weather vegetables and fruits about May 20 if the weather has been warm and June 1 if the weather has been cool – Look for consistent overnight temperatures of 55 or warmer.

Joe Sapia, 60, is a lifelong Monroe resident. He is a Pine Barrens naturalist and an organic vegetable-fruit gardener.
He gardens the same backyard plot as did his Italian-American father, Joe Sr., and his Polish-immigrant, maternal grandmother, Annie Poznanski Onda. Both are inspirations for his food gardening. Joe is active with the Rutgers University Master Gardeners/Middlesex County program. He draws inspiration on the Pine Barrens around Helmetta from his mother, Sophie Onda Sapia, who lived her whole life in these Pines, and his Grandma Annie.

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