Garden and Afield, Week of April 9-April 15

Article and photos by Joe Sapia

4.19.17 - Sapia - full easter moon over Manalapan Brook

The Full Easter Moon rises over the Manalapan Brook floodplain in Monroe, Middlesex County, on the April 10-11, Monday-Tuesday, overnight. The white speck to the right of the moon is Jupiter.

Author’s 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).

FIRSTS OF THE SEASON: For the first time this season, I saw a bee, bat, and cabbage white butterfly – all on the same day, April 10. The bee was in my side yard, the cabbage white in my garden, and the bats, both flying over my yard and near woods edge at Manalapan Brook. (Also, it was the first day I heard my attic fan kick in.)

4.19.17 - Sapia - cabbage white butterfly

A cabbage white butterfly in my garden, near an oak leaf for a size comparison.

     MULCHING TREES:  Oh, no, mulch “volcanoes”! Those are the volcano-shaped mulch structures around tree trunks. Mulching is done for a variety of reasons, such as providing moisture and drainage, while serving as a buffer against yard equipment and giving the yard a neater look. But volcanoes are bad for the tree – they can lead to over-moisture and the introduction of disease. So, go for the “doughnut”:  creating a doughnut-like circle around the tree, the inner circle having no contact with the tree or its roots, the outer circle 2 to 3 inches of mulch either to the end of the root ball or the tree’s drip line.

MA’S FLOWERING QUINCE:  My family is the original owner of my house, going back to 1953. I was born in 1956 and never recall a time without Ma’s flowering quince bush. So, I figure the bush was planted soon after the family bought the property in ’53. This year, the flowering is not looking good, probably because of the warm weather inducing budding, followed by cold weather killing the buds.

4.19.17 - Sapia - flowering quince

Ma’s flowering quince not looking too good this season, probably because the flowering was affected by the warm temperatures that prompting budding, followed by cold killing the buds.

4.19.17 - Sapia - flowering quince 2012

The flowering quince during a nicer bloom in spring, 2012.

FLOWERING AT “THE MASTERS” GOLF TOURNAMENT: The Masters Golf Tournament played annually in Augusta, Georgia, is known for its flowering beauty. This year, though, Augusta had a warm winter followed by cold spring days, prompting an early bloom followed by killing freezes. So, when the Masters was played April 6 to 9, the flowering was not that vibrant.

HELMETTA POND FISHING: Helmetta Pond is a typical Pine Barrens “tea water,” acidic body of water, here in the Spotswood Outlier of the Pines. Joey Slezak, my local go-to science person, fished the Pond April 12 and caught pickerel and largemouth bass.

BIRDS SINGING: Listen to the spring songs of birds, probably asserting territory or seeking mates. This week, I heard them as early as about 5:15 a.m., or more than an hour before sunrise.

SNORTING DEER: On the overnight of the full moon, I walked across the street to Manalapan Brook, spooking some deer. At least one gave out a few loud snorts, probably alerting other deer of my presence and maybe trying to spook me. The snort is sort of spooky, but something I get a kick out of, wildlife communicating because of me. Then, the deer bolted.

MA’S FLOWERS: Ma died at 81-years-old in 1995, but, come spring, her front yard daffodils and crocuses continue blooming.

4.19.17 - Sapia - daffodils

Ma’s daffodils, still blooming in the front yard, 22 years after Ma died.

MORE NATURE NEWS FROM THE JERSEY MIDLANDS: See the observations made by naturalist Bill Simmons, Bill is the retired environmental coordinator for the Monmouth County Health Department. He also is at @BillSimmonsNJ on

SUNRISE/SUNSET: For the week of April 16, Sunday, to April 22, Saturday, the sun will rise at about 6:07 to 6:15 a.m. and set at about 7:38 to 7:44 p.m.

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

— Joseph Sapia
2017, April 15, Easter Saturday,

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. He draws inspiration on the local Pine Barrens from his mother, Sophie Onda Sapia, who lived her whole life in these Pines, and his Grandma Annie.