Meteorologist Dave Epstein is our go-to person for pressing weather questions on everything from winter blizzards to summer droughts. He’s also a horticulturist, meaning he’s an expert in anything that grows leaves and flowers. GBH's Morning Edition asked our audience for weather and gardening questions, and Epstein graciously answered them on the air. This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Temperatures dipped into the 20s yesterday. Does that mean the end of the season for mosquitos and ticks?
Winter is coming, but bug season still lingers, Epstein said.
Ticks, for one, don’t typically die in cold weather. They just slow down waiting for warmer temperatures.
“The ticks basically just slow down to a crawl, no pun intended,” Epstein said. “The tick season actually has been extended with all these breaks over the winter. When you get these warm weeks, even in January, I've found ticks on the dogs if there's not much snow cover and you get a warm week.”
Mosquitos will typically die off as temperatures drop, he said, though there may be a few lingering buzzers around.
“You can still get some mosquitoes, like if we get some warm weather here, there might be some of the little midges in the water that hatch and you get a couple more,” Epstein said. “But for the most part, the mosquito season ends up getting done.”
My yard is infested with jumping worms! They are gross and I have coffee ground soil everywhere! … I've read that it's recommended that you "seal them in a bag" and put them in the trash. Wouldn't it be better to kill them and return them to the soil? … Sorry for the unpleasant topic.
Jumping worms, an invasive species that lives near the top of the soil, can uproot plants and leave soil sucked of its nutrients and looking like dry coffee grounds.
“I've got them all over the place this year. I've noticed that this year, more than any other year, they are definitely problematic,” Epstein said. “Jumping worms really create a problem because they're eating that leaf matter really at the top level of the soil and they can sort of uproot your plants.”
Laurie’s idea of returning dead worms to the soil, so they can decompose and replenish the ground’s nutrients, carries a risk of re-infestation, Epstein said.
“I think that the problem with returning them into the soil is you've got to be sure they're dead,” he said. “There could be eggs in there or something like that. So I think that's why you just kind of bag them up and get rid of them.”
I had an aloe plant that has some frost damage. Will it recover inside?
That depends on the extent of the damage, Epstein said.
“If it has frost damage and it didn't go down to the roots, it'll get some new growth eventually,” he said.
The best course of action is to bring the plant inside and cut off any mushy parts.
“The aloe is kind of a mushy plant anyway, but the part that got frost damage will probably really get mushy,” he said. “I would just cut it off down to the base. As long as the root stock is OK, it'll put out some new growth here as we head through the winter and spring.”
I have hibiscus and elephant ear plants that thrived outside all summer. I brought them inside, both have dropped half their leaves and which have gone yellow.
Not all is lost for either plant, Epstein said.
“The hibiscus is going to drop leaves because it's just in shock from going out to in,” Epstein said. “But keep it inside, just light water and it should come back slowly.”
Elephant ears can go dormant and come back just fine, he said.
“It's basically a big bulb, I store that in peat moss down to the basement, and I'll start it up again in the spring,” he said.