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With annual plant sale May 7, Garden Club preaches caution regarding jumping worms

by | Apr 22, 2022 | Featured

plant cleaning

Hopkinton resident Kathy Hinds uses a strong stream from her garden hose to remove garden soil from the roots of a hosta division at her home. KATHLEEN CULLER/HOPKINTON GARDEN CLUB

The Hopkinton Garden Club’s annual spring plant sale is scheduled to take place on Saturday, May 7, from 8 a.m. to noon at the Hopkinton Town Common (Park Street side, due to ongoing construction). Club members will be selling perennials, many dug from their own gardens, and annuals, to include a wide variety of flowers, vegetables and herbs.

In response to the rapidly spreading jumping worm infestation across Massachusetts, club members will take the extra precaution of bare-rooting plants dug in their yard. For donated plants, club members remove the soil from the roots, rinse the roots and then place the plant in a sterile potting medium as a precaution to minimize the spread of jumping worms (JWs).

“I will be bare-rooting plants that I bring onto my property (plant’s potted soil will be discarded in a sealed bag in the trash), not just to protect against jumping worms, but also against bringing in other pests or invasives,” explained Joan Luciano, a master gardener and 28-year member of Hopkinton Garden Club.

“Jumping worms are extremely destructive to our soil and hence, our plants,” noted Ruth Gorman, a master gardener and 17-year member of Hopkinton Garden Club.  “[They] destroy soil, and all the ‘good things’ in the soil are destroyed. There is no natural predator or man-made treatment. The scientific community is working on it, but it’s not available at this time. JWs populate very, very quickly; two years ago, in the western part of the state, there was one identified sighting, and now they are all throughout the state!”

Continued Gorman: “To prevent jumping worms from coming into your yard, prevention is key. When buying soil, mulch or compost, ask your supplier, ‘What are you doing to protect against jumping worms?’ I’m shredding my own leaves and using shredded leaves as mulch; it improves the soil and is environmentally friendly. It’s really best practices to use product that is meant for your soil, native to that soil. I’m starting to brush my shoe soles to make sure no JW egg cocoons are hitching a ride in mud on my shoes.”

Added Luciano: “I’m also really worried about the JW damage to the forest floor, as JWs will thoroughly eat through the organics in the top 3 inches of soil, leaving coffee-ground castings (poop) in their voracious wake. These castings easily wash away; between erosion and lack of organics to hold in the moisture undergrowth can’t survive and trees are more susceptible to drought and pests. Our best practices are to stick to prevention protocol. We really need to take this seriously.”

More information on jumping worms will be available at the May 7 sale.

The Massachusetts Master Gardener Association’s (MMGA) trained volunteers will staff a horticultural education booth at the sale. They will help answer visitors’ questions and answer questions about the Master Gardener organization. Anyone with a plant problem or garden design issue is encouraged to bring photos.

Free soil pH testing by The MMGA will be offered at the sale. One of the most important components of a healthy garden is good soil, and pH (a numeric score indicating soil acidity or alkalinity) is one measure of soil health. When pH is too low or too high, plants cannot access needed nutrients that already might be present in the soil, negatively impacting plant performance.

If grass is doing poorly it might be because it needs more nitrogen, as it needs lime to reduce the soil’s acidity. Garden and flower beds also can benefit from testing. For both organic and non-organic gardeners, a soil test is an easy and inexpensive way to make certain soil is in good shape for whatever an individual wants to grow in their lawn and gardens, and soil tests can save money.

Different plants have different pH requirements. Iin addition to pH results, event participants will receive a two-page fact sheet listing the optimum pH for over 200 plants. For participants who need to adjust their pH, the Hopkinton Garden Club will provide a sheet of suggestions for the use of limestone (to raise) and sulfur (to lower) readings. If test results indicate the need for a more comprehensive soil test, the club will provide information on services offered by the UMass Soil and Plant Tissue Testing Lab.

Fore more information on preparing soil samples for pH testing, visit the Hopkinton Garden Club’s website (hopkintongardenclub.org), Facebook page (facebook.com/HopkintonGardenClub) or Instagram page (@hopkintongardenclub).

All members participate in the Hopkinton Garden Club’s spring plant sale, which funds the club’s town beautification efforts and education programs, to include the speaker series and the scholarship fund, as well as conservation objectives.

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