Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Corn Growers Shortcourse in Tifton

The Corn Shortcourse for 2013 is scheduled for Tuesday, January 15 at the RDC Conference Center in Tifton.

Due to good corn prices, interest in the program is expected to run high. This year's panel of three National Corn Grower Winners (from Georgia, Texas, and Missouri) is also expected to generate some strong interest.

The agenda includes presentations on Preventing Yield Losses to Diseases and Nematodes, results of 2012 Fertility Studies, Weed Control Systems, Insect Control Methods, Strategies to Manage Nitrogen, Outlook and Market Update for 2013, Strategies for Maintaining Top Yield Potential, and Knowing Your Corn's Growth and Development - A Better Way to Manage.

The day will also include a Georgia Corn Growers Association Business Meeting, refreshment break, lunch, door prizes, and trade exhibits.

For additional information, contact your local Cooperative Extension office (see righthand sidebar) or call the conference office at 229-386-3416.

Registration can be through the mail (Send your contact information and a check for the $5 registration fee to Corn Short Course, Tifton Campus Conference Center, 2360 Rainwater Road, Tifton, GA, 31793-5766) or through the online site at this link.

Registration fee at the door on the day of the event is $10.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Indoor Citrus for Gardeners Who Can't Wait for Spring

Key Lime flowers, in December.               Photo/Amy Whitney
For gardeners willing to risk potential scratches from long thorns, dwarf citrus trees grown in containers can be very rewarding. When the little trees are well-cared for, they tend to produce an abundance of sweet-smelling flowers that will, if pollinated, result in a lot of healthful, delicious fruit.

Illinois Cooperative Extension Education Specialist Sandra Mason provides a list of consistent indoor producers in the article "Add a tropical flair to your home with citrus": "Ones that bloom and fruit reliably indoors include Meyer lemon, Ponderosa lemon, Otaheite orange, Persian lime, calamondin orange and kumquats."

Although these all will bloom and fruit when grown outdoors year-round in warmer regions of the country, North Georgia is still a little too cold for most of these to survive the winter outside. Like in Illinois, gardeners in North Georgia who are tending citrus need to keep the trees indoors during the colder months.

Mason recommends keeping citrus outdoors in summer, and then moving the plants indoors when the temperatures outside get below 50 degrees F.  The plants will need to be placed near the sunniest windows, according to Mason, and humidity in their space will need to be kept fairly high.

The Mississippi State University publication "Growing Citrus in Containers in Mississippi" echoes Mason's recommendations and adds specific information on the best growing medium and fertilizers for citrus in containers.

For the growing medium, the MSU publication explains that "A good mixture is four to five parts ground pine bark and one part sand." Plants should be watered when moisture can no longer be detected "below the top inch or two of soil," and a slow-release fertilizer that contains the essential micronutrients iron, manganese, and zinc is recommended.

The MSU publication closes with this statement: "Mississippi gardeners can produce a limited amount of high quality citrus products by growing them in containers anywhere in the state. There are some challenges to this type of production, but the effort is worthwhile."

Ditto, for gardeners in Georgia!








Monday, December 10, 2012

Upcoming Events

Propagating Perennials
Friday, Jan. 11, Noon to 1:00 p.m. Free and open to the public. Bring your lunch and enjoy the presentation! Presented by Cobb County Master Gardener Electa Keil, at the County Water Lab at 660 S. Cobb Drive (the smaller brick building at the back of the property), as part of the ongoing Lunch & Learn presentation series of Cobb County Cooperative Extension's Master Gardener Volunteers of Cobb County. Electa will show us how to grow from seed and from both soft and hard wood cuttings.

The Art of Pruning
Monday, Jan. 14, 6:30 - 7:30 p.m. Free and open to the public. Presented by Cobb County Master Gardener Pam Bohlander, at East Cobb Regional Library, as part of the ongoing Gardeners Night Out presentation series of Cobb County Cooperative Extension's Master Gardener Volunteers of Cobb County.

Friday, December 7, 2012

A Soil Test Now Can Save Some Pain Later

When a lawn or garden is doing less well than we are hoping for, in spite of a lot of time and  money spent on planting, fertilizing, and watering, an answer to the question of "what's wrong?" can sometimes be found in the results of a soil test.

To encourage healthy plants, getting the soil "right" is incredibly important. A routine soil test can help by identifying the pH and the balance of major nutrients of the soil in question. In general, soils in Cobb County tend to be more acidic than most turfgrass and garden plants will do well in, but it is actually possible to apply so much limestone to the soil that the pH is raised too high.

When the pH is beyond the most optimal range (which varies, depending on the kinds of plants being grown), the plants are less able to use the nutrients that may have been added to the soil, in either fertilizer or composts.

The value of a soil test, such as one done at the soils lab at UGA, is that it will not only identify the soil's pH and nutrient levels, but it also will provide a recommendation for how much limestone (or not) and specific fertilizers should be applied to benefit the desired plants.

Adjusting a soil's pH is a long-term project. Applications of limestone for raising the pH, or sulfur for lowering the pH, won't make a big difference right away; it takes months to work. If a soil test done now finds that the pH is too low for the desired plants (Bermudagrass, for example), then applying limestone now, or very soon, will give it more time to work ahead of the growing season.

The UGA publication Soil Testing for Home Lawns, Gardens, and Wildlife Food Plots provides instructions for taking soil samples, including that about 2 cups of soil should be brought to the local Cooperative Extension office for sending to UGA. Currently in Cobb County, the routine soil test costs $6 $8, as of Jan. 2016, and it can take seven-to-ten days to get the results, which can be returned via either email or U.S. Postal Service.



Friday, November 30, 2012

Winter Vegetable Gardens Need Water

The fall and winter vegetable garden is relatively a lot less work than the summer garden, but the plants still need to be watered and fertilized in order to be most productive.

According to the University of Georgia publication "Home Garden Broccoli,"

"Broccoli requires proper irrigation to achieve optimum growth. Water plants daily for the first week to get the crop established. Continue to irrigate broccoli every four to five days, as needed, to keep the plants healthy.
Broccoli is a fairly heavy feeder and will require additional nutrients. After initial fertilization at planting, apply 2 pounds of 5-10-15 fertilizer or equivalent per 100 square feet of bed each month during the growing season. Mulch broccoli with pine straw or leaves to keep weeds away and to preserve moisture in the soil."
Broccoli in many local gardens is nearing the end of its fall production; the big heads of florets have already been brought in and eaten - but it is not alone in needing this additional care. The task of keeping the garden soil moist and fertile will be well-rewarded when the rest of the harvest - lettuces, spinach, cabbages, kale, and more - comes to the table.
Keeping an eye on the garden's moisture level through the winter has an additional benefit of reducing the risk of cold-damage to the plants. Moist soil holds heat better than dry soils, providing an additional level of protection from freezing weather. University of Delaware's Cooperative Extension has this to say about the protective effect of moist garden soil:
"A moist soil can hold 4 times more heat than a dry soil. It will also conduct heat to the soil surface faster than a dry soil, aiding in frost prevention. In a study performed years ago, the air temperature above a wet soil was 5°F higher than that above a dry soil and the difference was maintained until 6 am the next morning."

While most of us gardeners are not going to want to be out in freezing weather tending our garden plots, there are still plenty of warm days in which being outside for the tasks will be a joy, and the resulting good food will, too.




Wednesday, November 21, 2012

About Cobb County's Burn Ban

Along with the beautiful fall color we've been enjoying for the past few weeks comes the work of clearing away a lot of fallen leaves and sometimes twigs and small branches. Some people prefer to rid their yards of the debris by raking it all into a pile and burning it to ashes.

The good news for all those folks is that burning such debris is allowed from the beginning of October through the end of April. The website for Cobb County's Fire and Emergency Services explains the laws regarding outdoor burning:
  • "Burning is allowed between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and one hour before sunset (no smoldering or hot coals remaining).
  • No burning is allowed on windy days (10 mph or higher) or on days when the atmospheric conditions (cloudy, overcast, or raining) would cause the smoke to remain low to the ground.
  • Burning must be attended by an adult who must be watching the fire at all times. Never leave a fire unattended.
  • A water hose must be on hand that can reach the fire, and can be ready to use if needed.
  • Fires must be at least 50 feet from all structures, including fences of combustible material, etc.
  • Fires may not be started with petroleum-based products."
The site also lists materials that may not be burned in the yard, including "garbage of any kind, construction material, plastic products, fiberglass, tree trunks, stumps, kudzu vines, or corn stalks. Any material that is moved from one location to a different property cannot be burned. Burning for recycling wires (to access metal) or tires (to access wheels) is not allowed. For information regarding alternative methods to dispose of yard waste, contact the Georgia Environmental Protection Division at 404-362-2537."

Following the rules does not guarantee that a homeowner won't be visited by the local fire department with a request to put the fire out. If a fire disrupts a neighbor's "enjoyment of life, use of property, or if someone with a health problem is affected," the fire may need to be extinguished.

Also, there are areas within the county in which burning is completely restricted. For more complete information, including links to maps that show those restricted areas, check the Fire Department's webpage about the burn ban.

November 2016 UPDATE:
The burn ban has been temporarily extended for 2016. See new information at "Cobb Fire Dept Extends Burn Ban Due to Drought."

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Louise's November Garden Tips

Extension staff member Louise Weyer publishes timely tips each month on the Cobb County Cooperative Extension website. Many gardeners will be wanting to spruce up their yards for the upcoming holidays, and checking her list can be a big help.

These are her November tips for annual and perennial plants:
Plant Lenten rose, peonies, pansies, violas, snapdragons, dianthus and spring bulbs.
Read “Winter Protection of Ornamental Plants” at www.cobbextension.com. Click on ANR, Extension Publications, scroll to article under Miscellaneous.
Read “Success with Pansies” See “Cold Protection for Ornamentals”  
Control weeds. Apply weed pre-emergent.
Dig caladium bulbs, dahlia tubers, elephant ear corms, and ornamental sweet potato tubers for winter storage.
Clean up rose beds, perennial beds.
Cut faded chrysanthemums, asters, snapdragons and dianthus to 3 inches above ground. Remove faded blooms, dry stems and foliage of perennials that die back after first frost.
Mulch to retain moisture, control soil temperature and diseases.
Top dress perennial beds with 1 to 2 inches of compost. Keep away from crowns of plants.
Fertilize previously planted spring flowering bulbs and pansies.
Gently remove fallen leaves from beds. Shred and use as mulch or compost.

To read Louise's recommendations for caring for fruits, trees and shrubs, lawns, and vegetables (hint: November is a good month for planting asparagus and onions), along with information on the Water Act, the burn ban, care of the environment, and other topics for which action can be taken this month, see her full list posted on the Cobb County Cooperative Extension website.

From the homepage, select "More information on horticulture/agriculture & natural resources," then click on the link for Cobb County Cooperative Extension Publications and Articles near the top of the page. Louise's tips are called "November Tips of the Month."

She publishes a new set every month, and the list is worth looking for. There is plenty of good information to help you keep your yard and home in good shape!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Best Time to Plant Shade Trees is Now

According to UGA Cooperative Extension's Frank Watson, fall is the perfect time to plant trees to provide summer shade in the coming years. In a recent article, he wrote, "Fall planting allows tree root systems to become established and supply the moisture needed for next spring's growth. This way your trees will get off to a great start."

Watson recommends that homeowners consider several factors in selecting the perfect tree for the proposed planting site. Among these factors are the amount of space available for the tree, whether there are any overhead wires, where the shade needs to be cast in order to provide the most help for the homeowner, the importance of flowering and/or fall color, the strength of the wood, and the pest and disease resistance desired.

The UGA publication "Shade Trees for Georgia" includes a very helpful table that addresses many of the above characterstics. The publication also explains how to plant the tree, starting with the size of the hole that needs to be dug:

"A large planting hole, two to three times the size of the root ball and with well-tilled backfill soil, will produce satisfactory results. Organic soil amendments placed in the planting hole will NOT produce a superior tree (although their use in annual and perennial beds is recommended). Research indicates that the best use of organic materials when planting trees is as mulch. Over time, mulch will decompose into the soil, adding much needed organic matter.

For best results, add organic matter or compost to the entire landscape prior to planting...

Plant at the proper depth, avoid excessive packing of the fill-soil, water the tree in after planting and mulch with 2 inches of an organic material such as pine bark or 4 inches of pine straw. Trees should receive 2 tablespoons of a 12 percent to 16 percent nitrogen fertilizer (12-4-8 or 16-4-8) per 10 square feet of root area. Do not apply large amounts of fertilizer until the trees are established, usually after the first year. After broadcasting the fertilizer evenly over the planting area under the crown of the tree, water it in.

The single best cultural requirement you can provide to a young tree is water during establishment. Establishment in the landscape is helped tremendously with as little at 40 gallons added over the first season after planting."
Taking the time to choose the right tree for the spot and to prepare the planting hole correctly will go a long way toward promoting the good health and growth of your new tree!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Upcoming Events

Gardening in Atlanta in the Winter
Friday, Nov. 9, noon to 1:00 p.m. Free and open to the public. Bring your lunch and enjoy the presentation! Presented by Cobb County Master Gardener Sue Burgess, at the County Water Lab at 660 S. Cobb Drive (the smaller brick building at the back of the property), as part of the ongoing Lunch & Learn presentation series of Cobb County Cooperative Extension's Master Gardener Volunteers of Cobb County. Sue will discuss plants that can contribute to a beautiful landscape in winter.

On the Farm or At the Market, Food Safety Training
Tuesday, Nov. 13, 5:15 to 8:45 p.m. Free, but pre-registration is required. A food safety training for farmers on small to medium-sized farms selling produce to farmers markets, CSAs, restaurants, etc. Come learn about best practices to help you keep the produce you grow safe from farm to market. At Berry College, Westcott Room 112. For more information and to register please call the Floyd County Cooperative Extension office at 706-295-6210.

Houseplants and Holiday Plants
Tuesday, Nov. 27,  6:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. Free and open to the public. Presented by Cobb County Master Gardener Linda Hlozansky, at South Cobb Regional Library, as part of the ongoing Gardeners Night Out presentation series of Cobb County Cooperative Extension's Master Gardener Volunteers of Cobb County.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Drought Continues, and Trees Still Need Water

This week's update for Georgia on the U.S. Drought Monitor website shows that Cobb County is still experiencing extreme drought conditions. Sure, we've had some rain, but we are far enough behind that the deeper soils are dry. Here is the Oct. 23 update:


Overall, the state is in better shape with regard to rain this year than it was last year, with much of the agricultural southern end completely "caught up," but here in Cobb County we will need to keep track of the rain and the soil moisture levels a while longer.

Valuable landscape trees are of particular concern. These need to be kept watered, in spite of the cooler temperatures and falling leaves, according to the UGA publication "Watering Trees During Winter Drought." The publication was written for the 2007 drought, but the recommendations are just as applicable in 2012:

"Dormant season watering during a winter drought is important, especially for evergreen trees and juvenile hardwood trees that have not lost their leaves. Because of lower temperatures and relative humidity, much less water is required in the dormant season, but water is still needed. Drought conditions can lead to tree decline, pest problems, and non-recoverable damage. Supplemental watering can greatly assist in maintaining tree health during droughts - both during the growing season or during the dormant season."
The publication explains how to determine the amount of water needed and how to apply it safely, with a note to avoid watering when the soil surface temperature is below 40 degrees F.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Storage and Disposal of Household Pesticides

A lot of the lawn and garden care activities for the year are winding down, and homeowners who are looking at one or more containers, each with a little bit of leftover pesticide, may be wondering what to do over the winter with those containers and their contents.

In Cobb County, there currently are no scheduled drop-off days for household hazardous waste, which means homeowners will need to take extra care in storing and/or disposing of any pesticides for which there is no immediate need.

The UGA publication Pesticide Safety for the Homeowner explains, "chemical pesticides cannot be stored in the same way as other household items. Follow these precautions:
  • Do not store pesticides near food, seed, animals or flammable materials.
  • Store pesticides in a locked place out of reach of children, unauthorized people and pets. Keep the area dry, cool, ventilated and out of direct sunlight.
  • Store the pesticide in its original container. If you must transfer it to a different container, be sure to transfer the label also. Never store pesticide in an old food or drink container, because someone may mistake it for something edible.
  • Check containers often for leaks.
  • Keep the storage area clean and well organized.
  • Have spill kits and first aid kits readily available in case of an accident.
  • Do not store pesticides for more than two years; many break down after this time."
For any leftover chemicals, the publication recommends that they be used, either by the original owner or by someone to whom it has been given, traded, or sold. If a product cannot be used, the recommendation is to "Wrap the container in several layers of newspaper and put it in the household trash (if not prohibited by the label directions)."

The publication also has recommnedations for the emptied containers: "Empty pesticide containers are considered hazardous waste unless they are properly processed. Follow these guidelines:
  • Rinse each container at least three times, add the rinse to your spray tank, and apply the mix to a labeled site.
  • Punch holes in metal, plastic or cardboard containers, crush them, wrap them in newspaper and put them in the household trash (if not prohibited by the label directions)."
The Georgia Department of Community Affairs offers additional information to Georgia residents for disposing of household hazardous wastes. In an untitled document on its website, the Georgia DCA explains that any liquid wastes should be either left outside with the lid off to evaporate (when possible) or made into a solid by adding an absorbent substance like kitty litter to the container before wrapping the container in newspaper and adding it to the household trash.

The DCA also offers a couple of observations to those who are trying to address the problem of their household hazardous waste as responsibly as possible:

1. "The often frustrating reality is that in Georgia at this time, reuse and recycling options are extremely limited."

and 2. "One lesson should be apparent: the next time you have to buy this sort of material, consider how much you really need for the job, and explore less-toxic alternatives."


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Fuzzy Orange Caterpiller

Cleaning up the garden can turn up some great (and not-so-great) surprises. One that might at first be alarming is the discovery of a fuzzy orange caterpillar.

Spilosoma virginica; Photo by Amy Whitney
Anyone who has lost a tomato plant to hornworms or to armyworms is likely to scrutinize every caterpiller fairly closely.

This particular caterpillar, though, turns out not to sting (like some other fuzzy caterpillars) and not to be a significant garden pest. It is a fairly dark specimen of Yellow Woollybear.

According to the book Garden Insects of North America by Whitney Cranshaw, many of these are more yellow, some so pale as to almost be white, but some are actually brown.

The adults are a white moth, the Virginian Tiger Moth. Cranshaw includes this information about the Fuzzy Woolleybear:

"Larvae chew foliage. Damage is rare and most commonly occurs late in the season when many hosts die, causing the yellow woolleybear to concentrate on remaining succulent crops."
The caterpillar pictured above was found in a sweet potato patch, which was being harvested at the time, so Cranshaw's information is especially apt. The caterpillar was found both when and where it would be predicted to be found.

As with all caterpillars, even though this one doesn't have any painful-to-human defenses, it is very easy to damage the larva by picking it up or trying to move it by hand. Any damage might not be immediately visible, but, to avoid harming them, caterpillars should not be handled at all. 



Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Upcoming Events

Raised Bed Gardening
Friday, Oct. 12, noon to 1:00 p.m. Free and open to the public. Bring your lunch and enjoy the presentation! Presented by Cobb County Cooperative Extension's Amy Whitney, at the County Water Lab at 660 S. Cobb Drive (the smaller brick building at the back of the property), as part of the ongoing Lunch & Learn presentation series of Cobb County Cooperative Extension's Master Gardener Volunteers of Cobb County.

Daylily Culture
Tuesday, Oct. 16,  6:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. Free and open to the public. Presented by Cobb County Master Gardener Fran Sommerville, at West Cobb Regional Library, as part of the ongoing Gardeners Night Out presentation series of Cobb County Cooperative Extension's Master Gardener Volunteers of Cobb County.

The Green Team Full Day Workshop
Thursday, Oct. 18, 8:30 a.m. - 4:15 p.m. On-site registration begins at 8:00 a.m. Program participation earns 7 CEUs, Category 24. $30 fee. Pre-register with check made out to Bartow County Extension, mailed with name, address, and contact information and request to register, to Bartow County Extension Office, 320 West Cherokee Ave., Rm. 112, Cartersville, GA, 30120. Event will be held at Chattahoochee Tech's North Metro Campus, 5198 Ross Rd., Acworth. Topics include ornamental plant diseases, turfgrass diseases, color beds, pest management in turf, insect pests of ornamentals, weeds of ornamental beds, insect pests of turf, and weed control in turf. For information, email uge1067@uga.edu or call Cobb County Extension at 770-528-4070.

Putting Your Yard to Bed: Fall Landscape and Gardening Chores
Thursday, Oct. 25, 6:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. Free and open to the public. Learn about helping your lawn and landscape survive the fall and winter and about preparing it for next spring. Topics include bed cleanup, soil preparation, lawn mower storage, pruning, and more! Presented by Cobb County Cooperative Extension's Urban Agriculture Agent Neil Tarver. Please call 770-528-4070 to pre-register.

Gardening in Atlanta in the Winter
Friday, Nov. 9, noon to 1:00 p.m. Free and open to the public. Bring your lunch and enjoy the presentation! Presented by Cobb County Master Gardener Sue Burgess, at the County Water Lab at 660 S. Cobb Drive (the smaller brick building at the back of the property), as part of the ongoing Lunch & Learn presentation series of Cobb County Cooperative Extension's Master Gardener Volunteers of Cobb County. Sue will discuss plants that can contribute to a beautiful landscape in winter.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

That Spider Time of Year

Spider populations tend to peak in the later summer and early fall, and their webs seem to be everywhere right now. Some mornings, just walking out the door can bring a homeowner face to face with a giant web spun the previous evening by an industrious spider.

Anyone who has walked into a web by accident has probably encountered one of these, which seem to be especially abundant this year:


                                                (Photo from Cobb County resident Janet A.)

The crablike spiny orb weaver (Gasteracantha elipsoides, sometimes also called the kite spider), shown above, usually exhibits some combination of white and/or yellow and black, with red, thorn-like "spines."  It may look like something from outer space, but it actually is native from North Carolina to Florida, and west all the way to California.

These spiders tend to hang out along woodland edges. Like other spiders, the spiny orb weaver eats insects, so it is a great helper in the yard.

Reference: The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Insects & Spiders, by Lorus and Margery Milne and Susan Rayfield. NY: Knopf, 1980.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Time for Planting Garlic

The harvests from summer crops in home vegetable gardens have begun to slow down, and some gardeners have been busy replacing their heat-loving tomatoes and peppers with vegetables such as lettuce and cabbage that thrive in cooler weather. For those gardeners who still have a little room for fall vegetables, or will have some room as soon as they dig up their sweet potatoes, garlic is a crop that can be planted now through November.

Garlic planted now - in early fall - will have plenty of time to develop through the cooler days ahead and in advance of bulb-formation. According to the UGA Extension publication Garlic Production for the Home Gardener,

"The reason that garlic is planted in the fall in Georgia is to permit full leaf development. As soon as bulbing starts, leaf initiation ceases. For highest yields, therefore, the cloves must be planted early enough to permit the development of large vegetative plants during the short cool days of late winter. The yield potential of the plants depends on the amount of vegetative growth before bulbing commences. Bulb growth and development in the garlic plant is favored by long days and warm temperatures."
As with most garden vegetables, soil preparation is key to successful production, but garlic especially benefits from a bed that's been well-amended with organic matter if the garden's soil is a heavy clay. Garlic grown in clay, according to the UGA publication, can become misshapen and difficult to harvest.

Gardeners interested in growing garlic this year can check the UGA publication linked above for full information on varieties, planting, care, and harvest-information.




Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Mushrooms in the Lawn

After a long, hot, dry summer that had homeowners watering weekly to keep their landscapes green and growing, the recent rains have provided a welcome reprieve from the task. When the weather cooperates, lawns stay green on their own!

However, when the lawn starts sporting mushroom caps and other unusual fungal growths as an additional effect of that rain, homeowners, especially those with pets and small children, might become concerned.

The UGA publication Recent rains have mushrooms popping up in Georgia lawns, by William Tyson and Tripp Williams, describes several mushroom types that commonly appear after the first rains following a dry spell. Most of these are not harmful to the lawn, but they can mar the expanse of green that a homeowner has worked hard to achieve, and they can be harmful to children and pets who might try to eat them.

Individual mushrooms can be hand-picked from the lawn, and the dog-vomit slime mold (its name pretty much describes its appearance) can be dispersed with a blast from the hose.

The UGA publication provides helpful information for management to reduce the incidence of these fungi in lawns:
"The best way to keep mushrooms out of your landscape is to irrigate before the lawn gets too dry. If it stays somewhat moist, the fungus will stay underground and will not produce mushrooms. The lawns that tend to be covered with the most mushrooms are those that never get watered during droughts.
"To rid your lawn of mushrooms, pull them up, kick them over or run over them with the lawn mower. This will keep them from releasing the spores that spread the fungi. Aerate your lawn to prevent further damage to your turfgrass.

"After aerating the soil, water the area to dilute any toxins and wash them through the soil profile. If a patch of grass is dead, re-establish that area next spring, and keep it moist to prevent new mushroom growth."

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Upcoming Events

Hydrangeas, the Garden Favorite
Friday, Sept. 14, noon to 1:00 p.m. Free and open to the public. Bring your lunch and enjoy the presentation! Presented by Cobb County Master Gardener Debra Stockton, at the County Water Lab at 660 S. Cobb Drive (the smaller brick building at the back of the property), as part of the ongoing Lunch & Learn presentation series of Cobb Extension's Master Gardener Volunteers of Cobb County.

Green Industry Update
Tuesday, Sept. 18, 8:30 a.m. (registration begins) to noon. Recertification credits: 21/23/24/27 = 3hours; ISA = 2.5 hours; private = 2 hours. $10 at the door; Pre-register with emily.harper@cobbcounty.org or 770-528-4070. Landscape Irrigation with Tom Shannon of Ewing Irrigation; Dormant Season Turf Care with Patrick McCullough of UGA; Fall Diseases in the Landscape with Elizabeth Little of UGA.

When Autumn Leaves Start to Fall
Tuesday, Sept. 18, 6:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. Free and open to the public. Presented by Cobb County Master Gardener Donna Kennedy, at East Cobb Regional Library, as part of the ongoing Gardeners Night Out presentation series of Cobb Extension's Master Gardener Volunteers of Cobb County.

Raised Bed Gardening
Friday, Oct. 12, noon to 1:00 p.m. Free and open to the public. Bring your lunch and enjoy the presentation! Presented by Cobb County Extension's Amy Whitney, at the County Water Lab at 660 S. Cobb Drive (the smaller brick building at the back of the property), as part of the ongoing Lunch & Learn presentation series of Cobb Extension's Master Gardener Volunteers of Cobb County.

Daylily Culture
Tuesday, Oct. 16,  6:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. Free and open to the public. Presented by Cobb County Master Gardener Fran Sommerville, at West Cobb Regional Library, as part of the ongoing Gardeners Night Out presentation series of Cobb Extension's Master Gardener Volunteers of Cobb County.

The Green Team Full Day Workshop
Thursday, Oct. 18, 8:30 a.m. - 4:15 p.m. On-site registration begins at 8:00 a.m. Program participation earns 7 CEUs, Category 24. $30 fee. Pre-register with check made out to Bartow County Extension, mailed with name, address, and contact information and request to register, to Bartow County Extension Office, 320 West Cherokee Ave., Rm. 112, Cartersville, GA, 30120. Event will be held at Chattahoochee Tech's North Metro Campus, 5198 Ross Rd., Acworth. Topics include ornamental plant diseases, turfgrass diseases, color beds, pest management in turf, insect pests of ornamentals, weeds of ornamental beds, insect pests of turf, and weed control in turf. For information, email uge1067@uga.edu or call Cobb County Extension at 770-528-4070.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Now is a Good Time for Kudzu Bug-Proofing Your Home

As the weather cools, kudzu bugs will be leaving their summer hangouts in kudzu, wisteria, pole beans, and soybean-fields and will be looking for a place to stay for the winter.

Unfortunately for many homeowners, these small, grayish-brown bugs have the same, annoying knack as ladybugs for finding their way into houses as favored places to escape the cold. Keeping the pests out may require some work, which should start in advance of cooler weather.

 
(Kudzu bugs on pole beans. Photo by Amy Whitney)


According to a UGA report on kudzu bugs, Megacopta cribraria as a Nuisance Pest, by Daniel Suiter, Lisa  Ames, Joe Eger, Jr., and Wayne Gardner, the pests were first found in the U.S. in Georgia in 2009. They had been seen in large numbers on the outsides of houses in October of that year in nine Georgia counties. Since then, they have spread across the Southeast and aggravated a lot of farmers, gardeners, and homeowners.

The report offers these suggestions for defending a home from invasion by these pests:

"...homeowners should ensure that screening is placed over possible routes of insect entry into the house; that screens on windows are well-seated and without holes; and that soffit, ridge, and gable vents are properly screened. In locations where screening cannot be used, such as around pipe penetrations, steel wool can be stuffed into these openings to prevent the entry of M. cribraria. Lastly, doors should establish a tight seal when closed, and doorsweeps should be installed."

The report also cautions against crushing any kudzu bugs that are found indoors, since "...this action may stain indoor surfaces and/or result in odors that may prove difficult to eliminate. Rather, insects should be vacuumed and the bagged insects then placed in hot, soapy water."

 


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Sales Tax Holiday for WaterSense Products

October 5-7 is a good time to commit to saving water in Georgia. That’s because purchases of WaterSense-labeled products will be exempt from state and local sales taxes.

WaterSense-labeled toilets, showerheads, faucets, irrigation controllers and other products use at least 20 percent less water, and perform as well as or better than conventional models. Independent, third parties certify that WaterSense-labeled products meet U.S. E.P.A. criteria for water efficiency.

Replacing a standard showerhead with a WaterSense-labeled one can save thousands of gallons of water a year. Replacing an old toilet with a water-efficient one will save more than two gallons a flush. Besides saving money on the sales tax, residents who purchase a WaterSense-labeled toilet may qualify for a rebate.

Details about which utilities offer rebates, either directly or through the Metro Water District are available at www.northgeorgiawater.org/toiletrebate.

The sales tax holiday on WaterSense-labeled products will start Friday, October 5 at 12:01 a.m. and will continue through the weekend until 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, October 7.

WaterSense-labeled products with a sales price of $1,500 or less purchased for noncommercial home or personal use during the sales tax holiday will be Georgia state and local sales tax-free.

To searchfor WaterSense-labeledproducts, visit
http://www.epa.gov/watersense/product_search.html.

Visit Cobb County Water System at http://water.cobbcountyga.gov/index.html to find out about our other activities promoting waterefficiency.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Avoid Mosquitoes to Avoid WNV

Mosquitoes may seem to be ever-present in some yards, but in others, the return of actual rainfall means the return of great swarms of the biting pests. This summer, those biting pests have already transmitted West Nile Virus to three individuals in Cobb County, according to a news release of the Georgia Department of Public Health.

To reduce the risk of of contracting West Nile Virus (WNV), people are being encouraged by the DPH to observe the "Five Ds of WNV prevention":

Dusk - Mosquitoes carrying WNV usually bite at dusk and dawn. Staying indoors at these times can help people avoid infection.

Dawn - People who must be outside at dawn (or at dusk) should protect themselves from mosquito bites as much as possible.

Dress - Loose-fitting, long sleeved shirts and long pants reduce the amount of skin that mosquitoes can get to.

DEET - Exposed skin should be covered with an insect repellent containing the chemical DEET, which is the most effective repellent for mosquitoes.

Drain - Any containers holding standing water should be emptied, since these can become breeding spots for virus-carrying mosquitoes.

WNV can be reliably diagnosed only through a lab test, but, according to the DPH, "symptoms of WNV include headache, fever, neck discomfort, muscle and joint aches, swollen lymph nodes and a rash that usually develop three to 15 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito."

While mosquitoes are the source for the spread of this particular virus, plenty of other pests in the yard can cause irritating bites. If you are unsure about the identity of a biting insect, the UGA publication "Stinging and Biting Pests" provides helpful information to help you identify and control your yard's pests. If you are unsure of an insect's identity, it can be brought to the Cobb County Extension office for identification.


  



   

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Let Us Grow Lettuces

Lettuce is a cool weather crop, along with other garden favorites such as collards, kale, spinach, Swiss chard, broccoli, cilantro, and cabbage. "Cool weather crops" are those that are more tender, flavorful, and generally successful if they mature while the weather is cool. Many gardeners plant these crops in the early spring, taking advantage of our beautiful spring weather, but these can also be planted in late summer to mature as the weather cools in early fall.

Most garden lettuces will reach maturity, if planted from seed, within 50 to 70 days, depending on the variety. That means that lettuce planting can begin now, to reach maturity just before and in the several weeks following the first frost. The first frost in our area usually arrives toward the end of October or early in November. Some gardeners make two, three, or more plantings of lettuce, to keep the leafy greens coming through the fall and early winter.

According to UGA Cooperative Extension's publication "Home Garden Lettuce," this particular crop will grow well in most home gardens provided that its basic requirements are met. In addition to the usual garden-veggie requirements of 10-12 hours of sunlight and "fertile sandy loam soils that are well supplied with organic matter," lettuce will grow best with a slightly acid soil pH of 6.0 to 6.5.

Lettuce can be planted in rows or broadcast across the bed. The seeds are very small, and care should be taken to not let them sink too deeply into the soil, so that they are covered by only 1/8 to 1/4 inch of soil that is tamped down lightly with the back of a hoe or with the gardener's hand.

The "Home Garden Lettuce" publication specifies that the crop needs to be fertilized both at planting and again as the season progresses:

At planting time, "In the absence of a soil test, incorporate 3 to 4 pounds of 5-10-10 fertilizer per 100 square feet of garden area." Then, "After the initial fertilizer application at planting, apply 2 pounds of 5-10-15 per 100 square feet of bed each month during the growing season."
If the gardener had a soil sample from the garden tested for nutrients in advance of planting, the gardener should, instead, follow the fertilizer recommendations that came with those test results.

For organic gardens, managing the soil for soluble nutrients requires a different timetable. The Cornell University Cooperative Extension publication "Production Guide for Organic Lettuce" explains that nutrients are released through the actions of soil-dwelling microorganisms as they decompose organic matter such as compost, animal manures, and green manures that have been incorporated into the soil: "In a long-term organic nutrient management approach, most of the required crop nutrients would be in place as organic matter before the growing season starts." Essentially, this means that, if enough organic matter is in place, much of the needed "fertilizer" is already in the garden.

In an organically managed garden, nutrient release takes place throughout the season, but it happens more slowly in cooler weather and in gardens that are new or newly transitioning to an organic approach. For lettuce, the necessary nutrients "can be supplemented by highly soluble organic amendments such as poultry manure composts or organically approved bagged fertilizer products." Examples of bagged fertilizer products include blood meal, soy meal, and alfalfa meal. Organic gardeners should follow the package recommendations for application of these products.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Upcoming Events

Turfgrass
Tuesday, 28 Aug., 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Free and open to the public.
Presented by Turfgrass Specialist Becky Griffin, at Mt. View Regional Library, as part of the ongoing Gardeners Night Out presentation series of  Cobb Extension's Master Gardener Volunteers of Cobb County.

Seeding and Overseeding Fescue
Thursday, Sept. 6, 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Free and open to the public. Please register by calling 770-528-4070.
Presented by Cobb County Urban Agriculture Agent Neil Tarver, at the UGA Cobb County Exension Office at 678 South Cobb Drive, in the second floor classroom. Learn the fundamentals of soil prep, seeding, mainenance and more, just in time for planting.

Hydrangeas, the Garden Favorite
Friday, Sept. 14, noon to 1:00 p.m.
Free and open to the public. Bring your lunch and enjoy the presentation!
Presented by Cobb County Master Gardener Debra Stockton, at the County Water Lab at 660 S. Cobb Drive (the smaller brick building at the back of the property), as part of the ongoing Lunch & Learn presentation series of Cobb Extension's Master Gardener Volunteers of Cobb County.

Green Industry Update
Tuesday, Sept. 18, 8:30 a.m. (registration begins) to noon.
Recertification credits: 21/23/24/27 = 3hours; ISA = 2.5 hours; private = 2 hours.
$10 at the door; Pre-register with emily.harper@cobbcounty.org or 770-528-4070.
Landscape Irrigation with Tom Shannon of Ewing Irrigation; Dormant Season Turf Care with Patrick McCullough of UGA; Fall Diseases in the Landscape with Elizabeth Little of UGA.

When Autumn Leaves Start to Fall
Tuesday, Sept. 18, 6:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
Free and open to the public.
Presented by Cobb County Master Gardener Donna Kennedy, at East Cobb Regional Library, as part of the ongoing Gardeners Night Out presentation series of Cobb Extension's Master Gardener Volunteers of Cobb County.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Drought Still a Danger for Trees

In spite of recent rains, Cobb County is still experiencing Extreme Drought conditions, as shown on the U.S. Drought Monitor website of the National Drought Mitigation Center.  Conditions have been dry enough for long enough that many trees that have not been watered adequately are showing signs of drought stress.

Different plants will show the stress differently, but in general, leaves may curl, wilt, turn yellow or brown, or drop off completely. Maple trees, for example, tend to lose leaves from the ends of their furthest twigs, almost giving them the look of having just had a burr haircut. Since symptoms of drought stress can resemble damage caused by diseases and insects, calling the Extension Office to check for other possible causes of problems is a good idea.

Instructions for providing adequate water to trees are included in the section on irrigation in the UGA Cooperative Extension publication "Shade and Street Tree Care”:

"Apply water to mature trees after two to four weeks without normal rainfall. Water deeply and infrequently to recharge the root zone. Check the depth of water penetration by pushing a thin steel rod into the soil. The probe will push easily through wet soil but with difficulty through dry soil. Probe the soil two to three days after watering to determine depth of penetration, and make sure the water is reaching a depth of 12 to 18 inches. Allow the tree to absorb the water before the next irrigation."