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KeepSaralandBeautiful

14 March

Next Meeting

Meetings are held on the 2nd Thursday of each month at 12 noon at the Saraland Chamber Offices.

KSB GARDENING NEWS FROM JAMES MILES

Mayor Dr. Howard Rubenstein, Council Chair Joe McDonald, Council Members: Newton Cromer, Wayne Biggs, Natalie Moye and Veronica Hudson
December 2023 The rain that we received last month resulted in an explosion of cool-season weed seed germination. I applied a pre-emergent herbicide in some areas, but did not in an area where I plan to seed a few things. You can easily see the areas that I did not treat. After I seed these areas and the plants come up, I will follow up with a pre-emergent herbicide application. Until then, I will be hand-pulling weeds weekly. This time of year, many folks do not like the look of their landscape because of the brown plant material, leafless trees, and little to no colorful blooms. If you slow down and pay attention to the individual plants, you may see some of the beauty hidden by foliage. I love the structure and exfoliating bark of some of our trees such as River Birch, Sycamore, and some Crape Myrtles. To me, Sycamore trees look great in the winter months and the first few weeks after putting on new growth in the spring. Another observation that is easier this time of the year is damage to trees by woodpeckers. There are several woodpeckers that cause damage to our trees. This damage is usually holes in the tree that are in a line or similar pattern. The holes can be perfectly round to rectangular. Other damage (such as insects) is not uniform or in any type of pattern. The damage is typically not fatal but can attract insects and/or pathogens that may lead to additional stress and eventually death of the tree. You can place hawk, owl, and snake decoys in the trees to help deter woodpecker activity. One tip about decoys is you have to move them around, so the pests don’t get wise that they are not real. You can also paint the main trunk with white paint or Bordeaux mix as well as wrapping the trunk with chicken wire, hardware cloth, or burlap to help deter feeding activity. Woodpeckers are protected by the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, so no harassing or lethal controls are suggested. Here are a few last-minute gift ideas: Mosquito repellent devices – Thermacell is one popular small version that protects a 15’ circle. I use this for all my outdoor activities from fishing to yard work. You can also purchase refill kits. There are large-scale propane mosquito repellent devices that protect larger areas like your entire backyard. Mosquito traps – Spartan mosquito traps can protect large areas based on the number of traps you put out and how you place them. You must manage them a little because they may dry out or become full of mosquitoes and other insects. I use the traps in addition to the repellent devices and last year, I had zero bites from those pesky bloodsuckers. Seating! I believe every landscape should have some form of seating, chairs and/or benches. I like seating that is mobile, that way I can move around the landscape for different seasons or specimen blooming periods. Permanent seating is also welcome. Concrete seating lasts a long time and is maintenance-free for the most part. As far as chill hours, we have not accumulated any. The few we had accumulated were negated with warm temperatures that followed. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Enjoy the outdoors! November 2023 It is time to plant bulbs. This includes edible bulbs like onions and garlic as well as ornamental bulbs. First, select bulbs that are firm and blemish-free. When planting bulbs, a good rule of thumb is to plant in a hole three times as deep as the size of the bulb. Plant the bulb with the narrow end, or nose, pointing up. Some of the favorite bulbs that can be found at local garden centers are crocus, daffodils, iris, and tulips. If you run out of space in your landscape for bulbs that you purchased, consider planting extras in containers. Bulbs can also be dug and divided now. If you find yourself with more bulbs than you can use after dividing them, share them with fellow gardeners. As we approach the holiday season, some of us are procrastinating on purchasing gifts. I am a self-proclaimed gadget guy. I love garden tools and gadgets. In the last few years, I have invested in some of the battery-powered tools vs the corded versions. Overall, I have been very pleased with them. Last year, I wrote about the importance of battery voltage. As much as I wanted to stick with one company for consolidated batteries and chargers, it has not been possible. Historically, I like the 20- and 50-volt power tools in most cases. However, this year I found a 16.8-volt hand pruner that outperformed the 20-volt competitor. The 16.8-volt is lighter in weight and opens and closes faster than the 20-volt pruner. As you shop around for new tools check the reviews and double-check with multiple sources for price and additional reviews. Another gift idea is outdoor active wear. I have been using dri-fit and sun-blocking apparel for years. The technology has improved, the prices are more affordable, and more companies are producing a variety of items for all levels of activity and weather conditions. When purchasing this type of apparel, think about the person using it and the activity they will be engaged in. For example: regular cold gear is fine for sitting on a deer stand but cold gear active would not. The active cold gear would be good if the user is hiking or staying in motion. I have spoken with several folks who don’t feel that the cold gear worked only to discover that they chose the wrong product. In the heat of the summer, the heat gear maximizes the evaporative process. As you sweat it will cool you off. You can actually wet the material with water and get a quick chill. The heat gear can also have sunblock built into it. Most that contain sunblock technology will have a UPF rating, such as UPF 50+. Both the heat gear and cold gear can be found in loose fit or compression fit. Personally, I like the loose heat gear and compression fit cold gear. I like the compression fit cold gear because it is usually my base layer and doesn’t feel bulky under the other layers. The compression fit does take a little getting used to so if you purchase it as a gift for someone you may want to get one loose fit and one compression fit and let them decide which they prefer. The cold nights that ended October and started November pretty much ended my tomato, pepper, and eggplant production for the year. I had already started collards, cabbage, and broccoli but I was waiting for the first killing frost to take out my tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. I will plant turnips and mustards in the area where my tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants were planted. Enjoy the outdoors! October 2023 This is a transition time for gardening. I am eager to plant my fall vegetables. The temperatures are still above their comfort zone, and we are still in a drought, so the plants will be stressed. As tempting as it is to get an early start, I will wait until the temperatures cool off a bit. In addition to the stressors, I mentioned above, the worm populations are super high. We can address the drought in our garden and the high insect population, we just must give it some thought and develop a plan. My satsuma and sweet orange trees took a severe hit from the freeze back in March. I have no satsumas on my trees and only 2 sweet oranges. This growing season was a recovery period for them. The trees should rebound next year barring no freeze events. I visited a few local growers with large commercial orchards that used freeze protection back in March and they have a decent crop. Their pecan crop is also looking pretty good. This is also planting time for woody ornamentals and fruit trees. Water them well before you plant them and keep watering them for a couple of months unless we get regular rain. This is a great time to make one last herbicide treatment before the weeds go dormant. That will allow the herbicide to translocate to the roots and the weeds will not have time to regrow. Read the label to ensure you choose the appropriate product for your site and weed. For more information on weed control in home gardens follow this link: https://www.aces.edu/blog/topics/vegetables-lawn-garden/weed-control-in-home- gardens/ Enjoy the outdoors! September 2023 Last month I wrote about the severe heat and drought effects on our landscape plants. In my 35 years in agriculture, I have not seen such widespread negative impacts from the heat and drought as I have observed this summer. Some of the surprising things I noticed were some large mature trees not only dropping leaves and/or wilting but actually dying. Yes, some are experiencing dieback for limbs, but I am referring to the entire tree succumbing to the environmental stress. Some other observations would be in cotton, peanuts, and soybean fields. I passed a few fields at the end of August that looked as if they’d been sprayed with an herbicide, though that was not the case. I spoke with a few growers during the last week of August, and they were as surprised as I was about the effects on some of their fields. One peanut grower told me that he dug a few peanuts up to check the condition. He said that they were so dry that they were already rattling in the shell, and that’s not good. I have always supported and encouraged others to support local growers and farmers. This year may be a bit more critical for some, Mother Nature has not been kind to them. This spring, in mid-March we had a severe freeze that damaged crops and in late summer extreme heat & drought conditions damaged crops. These folks need a home run to make ends meet. We are starting September off with much-needed rain so hopefully, we can get some relief from this grip of severe drought and heat. As I have mentioned in several past articles, September is our transition month for gardening. Soil moisture is key to success, both short and long-term. Here is a link to the drought monitor to help you keep track of our situation. https://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/ This month’s gardening tasks include: apply fire ant baits, renovate annual flower beds with fall plants, and roque out spent vegetable plants & weeds to prepare for fall vegetables. I have started receiving plant catalogs via email. This is a great time to sit in your landscape and make note of areas you want to enhance, change, etc. Document the amount of sun/shade, neighboring plants, size of area, etc. This will help you make wise choices of plants for the right place. A few months ago, I attended a field day and one of the topics was Roses. I must admit, in the past roses have not been in my top 20 plants to plant in my landscape. I have a few Knockout roses, but that’s it. After hearing this speaker, I was intrigued by his presentation. He started his presentation with a few horticulture facts, one fact that stuck with me is that Roses are the #1 best seller in the nation. Another tidbit he shared was that folks think of roses as high maintenance, but if you plant the right type and right variety, they are not any more demanding than any other plant. Some keys to success are: research the varieties, prune them properly & timely, plant with proper spacing for the variety of choice, and plant in full sun. One variety that he spoke about is “Peggy Martin”. This is a climbing rose with few problems, I may have to give it a try. The American Rose Society website is loaded with a wealth of useful information if you are interested in doing some homework. A friendly reminder, our 2022-2023 Fishing license expired August 31st, make sure to renew before your next trip. Enjoy the outdoors! August 2023 This heat is tough on the gardeners and plants. I have witnessed the declining health of several well-established plants in my landscape as well as in other landscapes around town. In my landscape, the soil moisture is at a satisfactory level for my plants, but the heat is causing undue stress. I have seen dieback of new growth, lack of new growth, leave curl, fruit drop, etc. Stressed plants are a target for opportunistic insects. In some cases, the insects get all the credit for the declining condition of the plant in question. If you notice this situation in your landscape, do a little research on the insect to verify if it is a primary pest or a pest of opportunity. There is not much we can do in our landscape for the excessive heat. On a small scale, you could use a 30 % to 50 % shade cloth positioned to provide shade in the late afternoon hours. This year it will be ultra critical to irrigate this fall prior to the plants going dormant to make sure that they do not go into dormancy drought stressed on top of heat stress. I was out in the garden the first week of August trying to see the full moon and I noticed a lot of insect activity. On my tomatoes, I noticed a large number of fairly large caterpillars (armyworms, tomato fruit worms, etc.). I even saw the adult moth of the tomato hornworm flying around my tomato plants looking to lay eggs. I could not get close enough to the moth to get a good photo or catch one. They are surprisingly deliberate and fast fliers. After seeing this, I adjusted the times I scout for them and resumed treatments for them. As for treatments for caterpillars, you have many choices. One word of advice on caterpillar treatment, if you use a biological like Thuricide or Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), is that these products and similar ones contain live organisms as the active ingredient. If you apply them, as the product sits on the surface of the leaves the organism has a tough time surviving this heat. If you have applied them and they have not worked, that may be the case. Biological products like that are better to use during milder weather in the fall and spring. Also, storage temperature is important. If you store your products in a shed that gets over 90° F, the effectiveness of the product will be compromised. Whatever product you decide to use always read and follow the label. This is a key time of year to address some weeds. Many weeds are flowering and producing seed heads. One technic to reduce the weed population is to prevent them from reproducing. You can do this by mowing them or killing them before they flower. If they are already in the reproduction stage with flowers or seed heads, you should carefully pull them up to keep from scattering the seeds as you remove them. If you mow or weed eat them with seeds, you will scatter the seeds. On a positive note, fall is coming. Enjoy the outdoors. July 2023 Recently, I heard a term during a webinar that piqued my interest. The term was sunken beds. Most gardeners in this area have heard, used, and even grown plants in raised beds but sunken beds, not so much. After hearing the term sunken beds, I started “doing my homework”. One of the first articles I read defined sunken beds as simple depressions or trenches in which you establish plants. All the articles I read describe the use/need for sunken beds as a method used in areas that are drought-prone, desert-like climates, and/or limited available water/moisture. A sunken bed is not just digging a depression and installing plants. You have to provide the plants with good growing media just as you would a raised bed or container. Soil prep is always the key to success. How do you accomplish this? A simplified method is to dig the depression 12” beyond your desired level and add 12” of your preferred soil/media. Now you are ready to install plants. Before we go any further, sunken beds would be wet and boggy a good bit of the time, in this area, with the rainfall we get. So, this is not a bed type that would benefit most gardeners or plants. When would this be useful to us here along the gulf coast? We will install sunken beds for Rain and/or Bog gardens. Though I have installed several rain/bog gardens through the years, I never heard or used the term sunken garden, but that is exactly what we did. Here is a link for rain garden construction: Step 5: Construct the Rain Garden - Alabama Cooperative Extension System (aces.edu) Now that we are in the “Dog Days” of summer, it is difficult to find motivation to perform gardening activities. One technique that I use for fishing also works for gardening/yard work. I get outside and start working as early as I can, that allows my body to acclimatize to the temperatures and my tolerance increases as the day’s temperatures increase. I also begin hydrating as soon as I get up and moving. Insect populations are continuing to increase and wreak havoc on many of our desirable plants. Correct identification of insects in question is critical for choosing the action taken. Early morning and late evening scouting will help you identify issues, whether it is insects or diseases. Also, be aware that there are beneficial insects that get mistaken for plant feeders. I love to see beneficial insects in my landscape. If I see beneficiaries in my landscape, I give them a chance to control the pest insects without me applying an insecticide. If I do feel the need to use an insecticide, I try my best to protect the beneficials. I protect them by following the label directions, only applying on the targets not widespread through the landscape, using products that specifically target my specific pest, and using as little of the product as possible. Surprisingly, my tomatoes still look great. I must admit, I did the best job I have ever done keeping my tomato plants disease free. I keep any leaves that touch the ground pruned off, prune the lower 3 suckers off as they develop, spaced the plants for more air circulation, and remove any leaf that developed a disease spot. With the temperatures we are experiencing now, it is pushing the night temperature limit of the plant. Once the night temperatures are 78° F and above, the pollen of tomatoes becomes sterile, and production drops off. You can plant heat-tolerant varieties to buy a little longer harvest, but they still don’t produce as much as they would in lowers temperatures. Stay cool and safe. Enjoy the outdoors. June 2023 Well, it appears that summer is here. What does that mean for gardeners? High daytime temperatures, dry soils, and rising insect populations. All 3 are like a double-edged sword, with good and bad effects on some of our plants. Native or carefully selected non-native plants are adaptive to our weather trends and need little input to perform beyond our expectations. Do your homework when selecting plants for your landscape. On the insect front, the populations are definitely on the rise. Just remember that not all insects are plant-feeders or bad. There are quite a few beneficial insects that feed on other insects or clean up our plants. Identification of any insect is critical to determining if and what actions need to be taken. Also, some plant feeding insects may be on a plant to rest and not feed. Some insects are very specific to their plant host. One fascinating event to watch when scouting for insects is wasp hunting caterpillars. I love seeing wasp hunting. I scout my vegetables 3- times a day, first thing in the morning, mid-afternoon, and dusk. Wasp can be seen hunting all day. Some insects, both predators and prey, will be active either early morning or late evening; thus, it is important to scout at different times of the day. If you planted squash, be sure to scout in the mornings for squash vine borer. This insect kind of looks like a wasp with a red body and black wings. They can be seen flying very close to the ground, navigating through the rows of plants looking for a suitable host to lay eggs on. What plant has caught my attention since the last article? Elderberry! Elderberry is putting on a great show with its clusters of white blooms. As I drive through rural areas I see it along creek banks, edges of wooded areas, and scattered in landscapes. To some gardeners it is considered a weed but to those in the know it is a treasure. As with any plant you plan to eat identification is ultra critical as there are some plants that look similar to elderberry. There has not been much research or work done in Alabama as far as cultivars go. Several other states are well ahead of us on cultivar selection. Here is a link for more information on growing elderberries: https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/plants/edibles/fruits/elderberry.html Weeds! Mad face emoji! LOL, weeds are a major consideration for gardeners. As I stated with insects, weed populations are on the rise also. It is critical to get ahead of the weed population with whichever method of weed control you choose. High numbers of large weeds not only out- compete your desirable plants, but they can also break the will of the most dedicated gardeners. Identify the weed for accurate product selection if you plan to use an herbicide and read the label to ensure no damage to your desirable plants. Free Fishing Day is a few weeks away on June 10. Each year, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) schedules a day that everyone can fish recreationally in public waters without a fishing license. Alabama's Free Fishing Day is part of National Fishing and Boating Week, which runs June 3-11, 2023. Learn more at https://www.outdooralabama.com/fishing/free-fishing-day Enjoy the outdoors. May 2023 The night temperatures winding up April and starting May are still kind of cool compared to the normal temps this time of year. That will slow the growth of some of our newly planted warm-season plants. It is important not to fertilize with nitrogen during these cool periods. The results could range from damage to the plants or loss of nitrogen before the plants take it up. Once the temperatures stabilize and start to climb you will get the benefit of applying fertilizer. May is time to fertilize your centipede grass. Fertilize according to your soil test results. If you haven’t had your soil tested for nutrients, you can use 6 lbs. of 15-0-15 per 1,000 ft2. Last year I read an article that listed May as Daylily month. There are a lot of opportunities to use daylilies in the landscape. They are fairly easy to care for and propagate to share or to place in other parts of your landscape. In the past, I have used daylilies to establish a red and yellow color scheme in my backyard. In addition to creating color themes, you can expand your daylilies to have different colors bloom each month. This is a fun affordable plant to have in your landscape. Be on the lookout for Azalea leaf gall in your landscape. In early spring you will see soft swollen areas on leaves, new shoots, and flower buds as a result of this fungal infection. If you identify this problem early and there are only a few galls, hand removal is very effective. The key is to remove the galls before they become white or pink with spores that will spread to other parts of the plant or other plants in the landscape. Don’t throw or drop the galls on the ground in the landscape, destroy the gall, or dispose of them off-site. Planting resistant varieties, proper site selection, proper spacing, and proper pruning will help reduce the pressure of this disease. Increasing air circulation and sunlight exposure will help reduce the presence of this disease also. There are a few fungicides that are labeled for this disease, read the label! I started to see photos of Cedar Apple rust galls on social media in mid-April. It appears that this year will be conducive for this disease. If you have this disease, you have a cedar tree and one of the other hosts (apple, pear, mayhaw, or quince). This disease must have both hosts to survive, so if you eliminate one you eliminate the disease. Here are a couple of links for more information: https://programs.ifas.ufl.edu/florida-4-h-forest-ecology/forest-ecology-contest/contest-stations/forest-health/diseases/cedar-apple-rust/ https://www.aces.edu/blog/topics/crop-production/quince-rust-on-mayhaw/ The last weekend of April, I harvested the last of my mustards and turnips. Those plants are starting to produce flowers (bolting). Though they are still edible, they tend to develop a slight bitter taste as the flowers mature. The bitter taste is a result of the plant sending most of the sugar to the blooms instead of to the roots and retaining some in the leaves. Enjoy the outdoors. April 2023 Most of last month we were privy to a great floral show. Local azaleas helped showcase Mobile as the azalea city. If you drove around rural areas, I hope you noticed and appreciated the additional show of wisteria, dogwoods, buckeye, and native azaleas. The dogwoods have put on a show that I have not seen in decades. I always find it fascinating that each spring a group of plants seems to outshow others and it’s a different group each time. The bloom performance of plants is a factor of a lot of things like the health of the plant the previous year, the stress level of the plant the previous fall, how many chill hours were accumulated, how many growing degree days/hours after the chill hours are satisfied, to name a few. Mother Nature did reveal her thorns in the way of heavy frost/freeze the 3rd week of March. The local produce took a big hit from the cold temps. The blueberry crop took the biggest hit. From the growers I spoke with, we are looking at a 100% loss. The peach and plums faired a little better with a 50 to 80% loss. The Satsuma crop took a hit from the Dec. freeze, the March freeze didn’t seem to be as damaging. The citrus crop in general will be 50% or better. Now that we are further outside of the risk of freeze/frost, we can follow up on pruning. You can prune out any wood that is dead and not greening up. Also, prune to train your plants’ overall structure. You should prune your azaleas after the blooms fall off and your blueberries after you harvest the last of them. Give your azaleas and blueberries a little fertilizer right after you prune them. This month, you can follow those urges to start gardening in big fashion. Fertilize your St. Augustine, Bermuda, Zoysia, and Bahia. Put out fire ant bait. Plant your warm-season vegetables, herbs, etc. Apply herbicide to actively growing weeds. Scout for insects and treat once identified. Our cool-season vegetables are about to play out but you don’t have to remove them before you plant warm-season vegetables in the same area. You can interplant them and remove the cool-season vegetables once they do play out. At that time, you should cut the cool-season vegetables off at the soil surface vs pulling them up. Pulling them up if you are interplanting could cause root damage to your remaining warm- season vegetables. If you grow peaches, plums, nectarines, apples, and pears and you want larger fruit you can achieve that by thinning. You can thin the fruit 4” to 6” apart. To get the most effective thinning results in thinning peaches, thin before the pit hardens. After the pit hardens, the size is pretty much set. That is true for plums and nectarines also. With apples and pears, there is no obvious sign that it is too late to thin. Enjoy the outdoors! March 2023 The unseasonably warm weather has our plants blooming, greening up ahead of their normal times, and making gardeners want to start springtime activities. Don’t fall victim to initiating things that could be detrimental to your plants too soon. Don’t fertilize your turf at this time, fertilize Bermuda, St. Augustine and Zoysia mid to late April and Centipede in May. Use post-emergent herbicides with caution (read the label), and keep an eye out for delayed frost damage from back in December. You may have to perform some follow up pruning as plants green up and you see limbs that do not. Winter weeds are starting to mature and take over, you will need to mow to reduce the competition and hopefully prevent them from producing seeds. I did notice some adult mole cricket activity the last week of February. Make a note of where you saw such activity to target in June with a treatment. Last year I was introduced to a plant that I never thought about growing. I had eaten the fruit purchased from grocery stores on many occasions and never was overly impressed. I met a gardener last year that has been growing this plant for years and shared the fruit from his plants with me, WOW! I was pleasantly surprised. This new to me plant is Dragon fruit cactus. It is known by several common names, such as night- blooming cereus, strawberry pear, and more. This cactus is easy to grow and requires more water than most cacti. Dragon fruit does not tolerate subfreezing temps, so you will need a plan for frost/freeze protection. You will need 2 different types to insure pollination. There are 5 types that I am familiar with, red skin – white flesh, red skin – red flesh, red skin - purple flesh, yellow skin – yellow flesh, and yellow skin – white flesh. That being said, there are more types out there. This plant needs full sun and a well-drained soil. These plants can get rather large so space them more than 3 feet from structures and other plants. Many gardeners grow the cactus but don’t get them to fruit. One reason is the blooms open at night and depend on nocturnal pollinators like moths and bats. These pollinators are not common in houses or other protected structures, resulting in lack of pollination. You can use a cotton swab to pollinate them yourself. If you start plants from seeds, it will take about 7 years to fruit production, and no certainty as to the fruit characteristics. Cuttings on the other hand can produce fruit in 1 year or less. I planted some and look forward to a new experience with these plants. Like most produce, the fresh home-grown product is so much better than what you purchase from stores. Enjoy the outdoors! February 2023 Now is a great time to find a place in your landscape to sit and just look around. If you took notes of what worked and what didn’t work in the past, review those while sitting in your landscape. Take this time to daydream. Look at your landscape and visualize what you want to improve, enlarge, reduce, or just change. You may want to incorporate a color scheme or theme. Also, if you don’t have a sitting area, I highly recommend including one. It can be mobile or fixed, the goal is to give you a place to enjoy your landscape. A mobile seat will give you the opportunity to enjoy your landscape from different vantage points. You still have time to plant woody plants and cool-season vegetables. We are at the point where you can plant Irish potatoes and sugar snaps (sweet peas). With sweet peas, you will need a trellis or netting for them to climb on. The middle of this month is the time to start pruning most of our woody plants. Start by pruning out the damaged material, then start thinning cuts. In some instances, you may need to do a renewal prune, cutting plants back close to the ground and retraining the new growth to replace the dead material. As of January 30th, the chill hours are: Brewton, AL – 542 hours Old Model; 388 hours Modified Model Fairhope, AL – 391 hours Old Model; 294 hours Modified Model Moss Point, MS – 465 hours Old Model; 368 hours Modified Model February is the month to apply pre-emergent herbicides for warm-season weeds. Make sure the product you select is labeled for the type of turfgrass you have. Also, avoid “Weed & Feed” type products as it is too early to fertilize. Enjoy the outdoors! January 2023 Happy New Year! December dealt us some brutal weather that took a toll on many plants in the landscape. Don’t be too hasty to prune your woody plants that were injured or do your routine pruning. Pruning now can promote growth that may be killed back by cold temperatures yet to come. Also, removing too much plant material can reduce the cold tolerance to the remaining material. Routine pruning for most of our woody plants, both ornamental and fruits, should be done mid-February. As of Dec. 31st, our local chill hour number are: Pascagoula: Old Model - 326 Modified Model - 240 Fairhope: Old Model - 277 Modified Model - 180 Brewton: Old Model - 368 Modified Model – 214 I tend to rely on the Modified Model because it negates any chill hours just prior to a warming trends Oct -Dec. It also takes into account that hours when the temperatures fall below 32 degrees F, they don’t help. With that being said, though the numbers seem a bit low, we are on track to accumulate adequate chill hours. A grafting/budding reminder. Now is the time to collect bud wood, also called scion wood from any plant you plan to use in grafting/budding. Keep the collected wood in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it. Wrap in moist paper towels and place in a zip top bag. You can use moist sawdust in the place of moist paper towels. If your vegetables took a hard hit from the freeze a few weeks ago, you can replant them or prepare for the next crop. You can still plant Cole crops (turnips, collards, lettuce, etc.). Late Jan thru February, you can plant sugar snaps and white potatoes. If you sent in a soil sample and received the results, you should apply the lime now as recommended. If you haven’t had a soil test done, I highly recommend getting it done this month and getting the lime down. Here’s to a prosperous gardening New Year! Enjoy the outdoors!
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KeepSaralandBeautiful

14 March

Next Meeting

Meetings are held on the 2nd Thursday of each month at 12 noon at the Saraland Chamber Offices.

KSB GARDENING NEWS FROM JAMES MILES

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Business Membership Your business can join KSB for as little as $120 per year. Your dues are used for beautification of the city. When available, Business Members are entitled to the use of a custom-built garbage receptacle to be used at your business' location as long as you are a member. We need to build partnerships with the business community and you can help! Individual Membership Join Keep Saraland Beautiful as an Individual Member for as little as $12 or join as a family for $25. Your dues are used for beautification of the city. We need volunteers to join our organization for the betterment of Saraland!
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Mayor Dr. Howard Rubenstein, Council Chair Joe McDonald, Council Members: Newton Cromer, Wayne Biggs, Natalie Moye and Veronica Hudson
December 2023 The rain that we received last month resulted in an explosion of cool-season weed seed germination. I applied a pre-emergent herbicide in some areas, but did not in an area where I plan to seed a few things. You can easily see the areas that I did not treat. After I seed these areas and the plants come up, I will follow up with a pre-emergent herbicide application. Until then, I will be hand-pulling weeds weekly. This time of year, many folks do not like the look of their landscape because of the brown plant material, leafless trees, and little to no colorful blooms. If you slow down and pay attention to the individual plants, you may see some of the beauty hidden by foliage. I love the structure and exfoliating bark of some of our trees such as River Birch, Sycamore, and some Crape Myrtles. To me, Sycamore trees look great in the winter months and the first few weeks after putting on new growth in the spring. Another observation that is easier this time of the year is damage to trees by woodpeckers. There are several woodpeckers that cause damage to our trees. This damage is usually holes in the tree that are in a line or similar pattern. The holes can be perfectly round to rectangular. Other damage (such as insects) is not uniform or in any type of pattern. The damage is typically not fatal but can attract insects and/or pathogens that may lead to additional stress and eventually death of the tree. You can place hawk, owl, and snake decoys in the trees to help deter woodpecker activity. One tip about decoys is you have to move them around, so the pests don’t get wise that they are not real. You can also paint the main trunk with white paint or Bordeaux mix as well as wrapping the trunk with chicken wire, hardware cloth, or burlap to help deter feeding activity. Woodpeckers are protected by the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, so no harassing or lethal controls are suggested. Here are a few last-minute gift ideas: Mosquito repellent devices – Thermacell is one popular small version that protects a 15’ circle. I use this for all my outdoor activities from fishing to yard work. You can also purchase refill kits. There are large-scale propane mosquito repellent devices that protect larger areas like your entire backyard. Mosquito traps – Spartan mosquito traps can protect large areas based on the number of traps you put out and how you place them. You must manage them a little because they may dry out or become full of mosquitoes and other insects. I use the traps in addition to the repellent devices and last year, I had zero bites from those pesky bloodsuckers. Seating! I believe every landscape should have some form of seating, chairs and/or benches. I like seating that is mobile, that way I can move around the landscape for different seasons or specimen blooming periods. Permanent seating is also welcome. Concrete seating lasts a long time and is maintenance-free for the most part. As far as chill hours, we have not accumulated any. The few we had accumulated were negated with warm temperatures that followed. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Enjoy the outdoors! November 2023 It is time to plant bulbs. This includes edible bulbs like onions and garlic as well as ornamental bulbs. First, select bulbs that are firm and blemish-free. When planting bulbs, a good rule of thumb is to plant in a hole three times as deep as the size of the bulb. Plant the bulb with the narrow end, or nose, pointing up. Some of the favorite bulbs that can be found at local garden centers are crocus, daffodils, iris, and tulips. If you run out of space in your landscape for bulbs that you purchased, consider planting extras in containers. Bulbs can also be dug and divided now. If you find yourself with more bulbs than you can use after dividing them, share them with fellow gardeners. As we approach the holiday season, some of us are procrastinating on purchasing gifts. I am a self- proclaimed gadget guy. I love garden tools and gadgets. In the last few years, I have invested in some of the battery-powered tools vs the corded versions. Overall, I have been very pleased with them. Last year, I wrote about the importance of battery voltage. As much as I wanted to stick with one company for consolidated batteries and chargers, it has not been possible. Historically, I like the 20- and 50-volt power tools in most cases. However, this year I found a 16.8-volt hand pruner that outperformed the 20-volt competitor. The 16.8- volt is lighter in weight and opens and closes faster than the 20-volt pruner. As you shop around for new tools check the reviews and double-check with multiple sources for price and additional reviews. Another gift idea is outdoor active wear. I have been using dri-fit and sun-blocking apparel for years. The technology has improved, the prices are more affordable, and more companies are producing a variety of items for all levels of activity and weather conditions. When purchasing this type of apparel, think about the person using it and the activity they will be engaged in. For example: regular cold gear is fine for sitting on a deer stand but cold gear active would not. The active cold gear would be good if the user is hiking or staying in motion. I have spoken with several folks who don’t feel that the cold gear worked only to discover that they chose the wrong product. In the heat of the summer, the heat gear maximizes the evaporative process. As you sweat it will cool you off. You can actually wet the material with water and get a quick chill. The heat gear can also have sunblock built into it. Most that contain sunblock technology will have a UPF rating, such as UPF 50+. Both the heat gear and cold gear can be found in loose fit or compression fit. Personally, I like the loose heat gear and compression fit cold gear. I like the compression fit cold gear because it is usually my base layer and doesn’t feel bulky under the other layers. The compression fit does take a little getting used to so if you purchase it as a gift for someone you may want to get one loose fit and one compression fit and let them decide which they prefer. The cold nights that ended October and started November pretty much ended my tomato, pepper, and eggplant production for the year. I had already started collards, cabbage, and broccoli but I was waiting for the first killing frost to take out my tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. I will plant turnips and mustards in the area where my tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants were planted. Enjoy the outdoors! October 2023 This is a transition time for gardening. I am eager to plant my fall vegetables. The temperatures are still above their comfort zone, and we are still in a drought, so the plants will be stressed. As tempting as it is to get an early start, I will wait until the temperatures cool off a bit. In addition to the stressors, I mentioned above, the worm populations are super high. We can address the drought in our garden and the high insect population, we just must give it some thought and develop a plan. My satsuma and sweet orange trees took a severe hit from the freeze back in March. I have no satsumas on my trees and only 2 sweet oranges. This growing season was a recovery period for them. The trees should rebound next year barring no freeze events. I visited a few local growers with large commercial orchards that used freeze protection back in March and they have a decent crop. Their pecan crop is also looking pretty good. This is also planting time for woody ornamentals and fruit trees. Water them well before you plant them and keep watering them for a couple of months unless we get regular rain. This is a great time to make one last herbicide treatment before the weeds go dormant. That will allow the herbicide to translocate to the roots and the weeds will not have time to regrow. Read the label to ensure you choose the appropriate product for your site and weed. For more information on weed control in home gardens follow this link: https://www.aces.edu/blog/topics/vegetables-lawn- garden/weed-control-in-home-gardens/ Enjoy the outdoors! September 2023 Last month I wrote about the severe heat and drought effects on our landscape plants. In my 35 years in agriculture, I have not seen such widespread negative impacts from the heat and drought as I have observed this summer. Some of the surprising things I noticed were some large mature trees not only dropping leaves and/or wilting but actually dying. Yes, some are experiencing dieback for limbs, but I am referring to the entire tree succumbing to the environmental stress. Some other observations would be in cotton, peanuts, and soybean fields. I passed a few fields at the end of August that looked as if they’d been sprayed with an herbicide, though that was not the case. I spoke with a few growers during the last week of August, and they were as surprised as I was about the effects on some of their fields. One peanut grower told me that he dug a few peanuts up to check the condition. He said that they were so dry that they were already rattling in the shell, and that’s not good. I have always supported and encouraged others to support local growers and farmers. This year may be a bit more critical for some, Mother Nature has not been kind to them. This spring, in mid-March we had a severe freeze that damaged crops and in late summer extreme heat & drought conditions damaged crops. These folks need a home run to make ends meet. We are starting September off with much-needed rain so hopefully, we can get some relief from this grip of severe drought and heat. As I have mentioned in several past articles, September is our transition month for gardening. Soil moisture is key to success, both short and long-term. Here is a link to the drought monitor to help you keep track of our situation. https://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/ This month’s gardening tasks include: apply fire ant baits, renovate annual flower beds with fall plants, and roque out spent vegetable plants & weeds to prepare for fall vegetables. I have started receiving plant catalogs via email. This is a great time to sit in your landscape and make note of areas you want to enhance, change, etc. Document the amount of sun/shade, neighboring plants, size of area, etc. This will help you make wise choices of plants for the right place. A few months ago, I attended a field day and one of the topics was Roses. I must admit, in the past roses have not been in my top 20 plants to plant in my landscape. I have a few Knockout roses, but that’s it. After hearing this speaker, I was intrigued by his presentation. He started his presentation with a few horticulture facts, one fact that stuck with me is that Roses are the #1 best seller in the nation. Another tidbit he shared was that folks think of roses as high maintenance, but if you plant the right type and right variety, they are not any more demanding than any other plant. Some keys to success are: research the varieties, prune them properly & timely, plant with proper spacing for the variety of choice, and plant in full sun. One variety that he spoke about is “Peggy Martin”. This is a climbing rose with few problems, I may have to give it a try. The American Rose Society website is loaded with a wealth of useful information if you are interested in doing some homework. A friendly reminder, our 2022-2023 Fishing license expired August 31st, make sure to renew before your next trip. Enjoy the outdoors! August 2023 This heat is tough on the gardeners and plants. I have witnessed the declining health of several well- established plants in my landscape as well as in other landscapes around town. In my landscape, the soil moisture is at a satisfactory level for my plants, but the heat is causing undue stress. I have seen dieback of new growth, lack of new growth, leave curl, fruit drop, etc. Stressed plants are a target for opportunistic insects. In some cases, the insects get all the credit for the declining condition of the plant in question. If you notice this situation in your landscape, do a little research on the insect to verify if it is a primary pest or a pest of opportunity. There is not much we can do in our landscape for the excessive heat. On a small scale, you could use a 30 % to 50 % shade cloth positioned to provide shade in the late afternoon hours. This year it will be ultra critical to irrigate this fall prior to the plants going dormant to make sure that they do not go into dormancy drought stressed on top of heat stress. I was out in the garden the first week of August trying to see the full moon and I noticed a lot of insect activity. On my tomatoes, I noticed a large number of fairly large caterpillars (armyworms, tomato fruit worms, etc.). I even saw the adult moth of the tomato hornworm flying around my tomato plants looking to lay eggs. I could not get close enough to the moth to get a good photo or catch one. They are surprisingly deliberate and fast fliers. After seeing this, I adjusted the times I scout for them and resumed treatments for them. As for treatments for caterpillars, you have many choices. One word of advice on caterpillar treatment, if you use a biological like Thuricide or Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), is that these products and similar ones contain live organisms as the active ingredient. If you apply them, as the product sits on the surface of the leaves the organism has a tough time surviving this heat. If you have applied them and they have not worked, that may be the case. Biological products like that are better to use during milder weather in the fall and spring. Also, storage temperature is important. If you store your products in a shed that gets over 90° F, the effectiveness of the product will be compromised. Whatever product you decide to use always read and follow the label. This is a key time of year to address some weeds. Many weeds are flowering and producing seed heads. One technic to reduce the weed population is to prevent them from reproducing. You can do this by mowing them or killing them before they flower. If they are already in the reproduction stage with flowers or seed heads, you should carefully pull them up to keep from scattering the seeds as you remove them. If you mow or weed eat them with seeds, you will scatter the seeds. On a positive note, fall is coming. Enjoy the outdoors. July 2023 Recently, I heard a term during a webinar that piqued my interest. The term was sunken beds. Most gardeners in this area have heard, used, and even grown plants in raised beds but sunken beds, not so much. After hearing the term sunken beds, I started “doing my homework”. One of the first articles I read defined sunken beds as simple depressions or trenches in which you establish plants. All the articles I read describe the use/need for sunken beds as a method used in areas that are drought-prone, desert-like climates, and/or limited available water/moisture. A sunken bed is not just digging a depression and installing plants. You have to provide the plants with good growing media just as you would a raised bed or container. Soil prep is always the key to success. How do you accomplish this? A simplified method is to dig the depression 12” beyond your desired level and add 12” of your preferred soil/media. Now you are ready to install plants. Before we go any further, sunken beds would be wet and boggy a good bit of the time, in this area, with the rainfall we get. So, this is not a bed type that would benefit most gardeners or plants. When would this be useful to us here along the gulf coast? We will install sunken beds for Rain and/or Bog gardens. Though I have installed several rain/bog gardens through the years, I never heard or used the term sunken garden, but that is exactly what we did. Here is a link for rain garden construction: Step 5: Construct the Rain Garden - Alabama Cooperative Extension System (aces.edu) Now that we are in the “Dog Days” of summer, it is difficult to find motivation to perform gardening activities. One technique that I use for fishing also works for gardening/yard work. I get outside and start working as early as I can, that allows my body to acclimatize to the temperatures and my tolerance increases as the day’s temperatures increase. I also begin hydrating as soon as I get up and moving. Insect populations are continuing to increase and wreak havoc on many of our desirable plants. Correct identification of insects in question is critical for choosing the action taken. Early morning and late evening scouting will help you identify issues, whether it is insects or diseases. Also, be aware that there are beneficial insects that get mistaken for plant feeders. I love to see beneficial insects in my landscape. If I see beneficiaries in my landscape, I give them a chance to control the pest insects without me applying an insecticide. If I do feel the need to use an insecticide, I try my best to protect the beneficials. I protect them by following the label directions, only applying on the targets not widespread through the landscape, using products that specifically target my specific pest, and using as little of the product as possible. Surprisingly, my tomatoes still look great. I must admit, I did the best job I have ever done keeping my tomato plants disease free. I keep any leaves that touch the ground pruned off, prune the lower 3 suckers off as they develop, spaced the plants for more air circulation, and remove any leaf that developed a disease spot. With the temperatures we are experiencing now, it is pushing the night temperature limit of the plant. Once the night temperatures are 78° F and above, the pollen of tomatoes becomes sterile, and production drops off. You can plant heat-tolerant varieties to buy a little longer harvest, but they still don’t produce as much as they would in lowers temperatures. Stay cool and safe. Enjoy the outdoors. June 2023 Well, it appears that summer is here. What does that mean for gardeners? High daytime temperatures, dry soils, and rising insect populations. All 3 are like a double-edged sword, with good and bad effects on some of our plants. Native or carefully selected non-native plants are adaptive to our weather trends and need little input to perform beyond our expectations. Do your homework when selecting plants for your landscape. On the insect front, the populations are definitely on the rise. Just remember that not all insects are plant-feeders or bad. There are quite a few beneficial insects that feed on other insects or clean up our plants. Identification of any insect is critical to determining if and what actions need to be taken. Also, some plant feeding insects may be on a plant to rest and not feed. Some insects are very specific to their plant host. One fascinating event to watch when scouting for insects is wasp hunting caterpillars. I love seeing wasp hunting. I scout my vegetables 3-times a day, first thing in the morning, mid-afternoon, and dusk. Wasp can be seen hunting all day. Some insects, both predators and prey, will be active either early morning or late evening; thus, it is important to scout at different times of the day. If you planted squash, be sure to scout in the mornings for squash vine borer. This insect kind of looks like a wasp with a red body and black wings. They can be seen flying very close to the ground, navigating through the rows of plants looking for a suitable host to lay eggs on. What plant has caught my attention since the last article? Elderberry! Elderberry is putting on a great show with its clusters of white blooms. As I drive through rural areas I see it along creek banks, edges of wooded areas, and scattered in landscapes. To some gardeners it is considered a weed but to those in the know it is a treasure. As with any plant you plan to eat identification is ultra critical as there are some plants that look similar to elderberry. There has not been much research or work done in Alabama as far as cultivars go. Several other states are well ahead of us on cultivar selection. Here is a link for more information on growing elderberries: https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/plants/edibles/f ruits/elderberry.html Weeds! Mad face emoji! LOL, weeds are a major consideration for gardeners. As I stated with insects, weed populations are on the rise also. It is critical to get ahead of the weed population with whichever method of weed control you choose. High numbers of large weeds not only out-compete your desirable plants, but they can also break the will of the most dedicated gardeners. Identify the weed for accurate product selection if you plan to use an herbicide and read the label to ensure no damage to your desirable plants. Free Fishing Day is a few weeks away on June 10. Each year, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) schedules a day that everyone can fish recreationally in public waters without a fishing license. Alabama's Free Fishing Day is part of National Fishing and Boating Week, which runs June 3-11, 2023. Learn more at https://www.outdooralabama.com/fishing/free-fishing- day Enjoy the outdoors. May 2023 The night temperatures winding up April and starting May are still kind of cool compared to the normal temps this time of year. That will slow the growth of some of our newly planted warm-season plants. It is important not to fertilize with nitrogen during these cool periods. The results could range from damage to the plants or loss of nitrogen before the plants take it up. Once the temperatures stabilize and start to climb you will get the benefit of applying fertilizer. May is time to fertilize your centipede grass. Fertilize according to your soil test results. If you haven’t had your soil tested for nutrients, you can use 6 lbs. of 15-0-15 per 1,000 ft2. Last year I read an article that listed May as Daylily month. There are a lot of opportunities to use daylilies in the landscape. They are fairly easy to care for and propagate to share or to place in other parts of your landscape. In the past, I have used daylilies to establish a red and yellow color scheme in my backyard. In addition to creating color themes, you can expand your daylilies to have different colors bloom each month. This is a fun affordable plant to have in your landscape. Be on the lookout for Azalea leaf gall in your landscape. In early spring you will see soft swollen areas on leaves, new shoots, and flower buds as a result of this fungal infection. If you identify this problem early and there are only a few galls, hand removal is very effective. The key is to remove the galls before they become white or pink with spores that will spread to other parts of the plant or other plants in the landscape. Don’t throw or drop the galls on the ground in the landscape, destroy the gall, or dispose of them off-site. Planting resistant varieties, proper site selection, proper spacing, and proper pruning will help reduce the pressure of this disease. Increasing air circulation and sunlight exposure will help reduce the presence of this disease also. There are a few fungicides that are labeled for this disease, read the label! I started to see photos of Cedar Apple rust galls on social media in mid-April. It appears that this year will be conducive for this disease. If you have this disease, you have a cedar tree and one of the other hosts (apple, pear, mayhaw, or quince). This disease must have both hosts to survive, so if you eliminate one you eliminate the disease. Here are a couple of links for more information: https://programs.ifas.ufl.edu/florida-4-h-forest- ecology/forest-ecology-contest/contest- stations/forest-health/diseases/cedar-apple-rust/ https://www.aces.edu/blog/topics/crop- production/quince-rust-on-mayhaw/ The last weekend of April, I harvested the last of my mustards and turnips. Those plants are starting to produce flowers (bolting). Though they are still edible, they tend to develop a slight bitter taste as the flowers mature. The bitter taste is a result of the plant sending most of the sugar to the blooms instead of to the roots and retaining some in the leaves. Enjoy the outdoors. April 2023 Most of last month we were privy to a great floral show. Local azaleas helped showcase Mobile as the azalea city. If you drove around rural areas, I hope you noticed and appreciated the additional show of wisteria, dogwoods, buckeye, and native azaleas. The dogwoods have put on a show that I have not seen in decades. I always find it fascinating that each spring a group of plants seems to outshow others and it’s a different group each time. The bloom performance of plants is a factor of a lot of things like the health of the plant the previous year, the stress level of the plant the previous fall, how many chill hours were accumulated, how many growing degree days/hours after the chill hours are satisfied, to name a few. Mother Nature did reveal her thorns in the way of heavy frost/freeze the 3rd week of March. The local produce took a big hit from the cold temps. The blueberry crop took the biggest hit. From the growers I spoke with, we are looking at a 100% loss. The peach and plums faired a little better with a 50 to 80% loss. The Satsuma crop took a hit from the Dec. freeze, the March freeze didn’t seem to be as damaging. The citrus crop in general will be 50% or better. Now that we are further outside of the risk of freeze/frost, we can follow up on pruning. You can prune out any wood that is dead and not greening up. Also, prune to train your plants’ overall structure. You should prune your azaleas after the blooms fall off and your blueberries after you harvest the last of them. Give your azaleas and blueberries a little fertilizer right after you prune them. This month, you can follow those urges to start gardening in big fashion. Fertilize your St. Augustine, Bermuda, Zoysia, and Bahia. Put out fire ant bait. Plant your warm-season vegetables, herbs, etc. Apply herbicide to actively growing weeds. Scout for insects and treat once identified. Our cool-season vegetables are about to play out but you don’t have to remove them before you plant warm-season vegetables in the same area. You can interplant them and remove the cool-season vegetables once they do play out. At that time, you should cut the cool-season vegetables off at the soil surface vs pulling them up. Pulling them up if you are interplanting could cause root damage to your remaining warm-season vegetables. If you grow peaches, plums, nectarines, apples, and pears and you want larger fruit you can achieve that by thinning. You can thin the fruit 4” to 6” apart. To get the most effective thinning results in thinning peaches, thin before the pit hardens. After the pit hardens, the size is pretty much set. That is true for plums and nectarines also. With apples and pears, there is no obvious sign that it is too late to thin. Enjoy the outdoors! March 2023 The unseasonably warm weather has our plants blooming, greening up ahead of their normal times, and making gardeners want to start springtime activities. Don’t fall victim to initiating things that could be detrimental to your plants too soon. Don’t fertilize your turf at this time, fertilize Bermuda, St. Augustine and Zoysia mid to late April and Centipede in May. Use post-emergent herbicides with caution (read the label), and keep an eye out for delayed frost damage from back in December. You may have to perform some follow up pruning as plants green up and you see limbs that do not. Winter weeds are starting to mature and take over, you will need to mow to reduce the competition and hopefully prevent them from producing seeds. I did notice some adult mole cricket activity the last week of February. Make a note of where you saw such activity to target in June with a treatment. Last year I was introduced to a plant that I never thought about growing. I had eaten the fruit purchased from grocery stores on many occasions and never was overly impressed. I met a gardener last year that has been growing this plant for years and shared the fruit from his plants with me, WOW! I was pleasantly surprised. This new to me plant is Dragon fruit cactus. It is known by several common names, such as night-blooming cereus, strawberry pear, and more. This cactus is easy to grow and requires more water than most cacti. Dragon fruit does not tolerate subfreezing temps, so you will need a plan for frost/freeze protection. You will need 2 different types to insure pollination. There are 5 types that I am familiar with, red skin – white flesh, red skin – red flesh, red skin - purple flesh, yellow skin – yellow flesh, and yellow skin – white flesh. That being said, there are more types out there. This plant needs full sun and a well-drained soil. These plants can get rather large so space them more than 3 feet from structures and other plants. Many gardeners grow the cactus but don’t get them to fruit. One reason is the blooms open at night and depend on nocturnal pollinators like moths and bats. These pollinators are not common in houses or other protected structures, resulting in lack of pollination. You can use a cotton swab to pollinate them yourself. If you start plants from seeds, it will take about 7 years to fruit production, and no certainty as to the fruit characteristics. Cuttings on the other hand can produce fruit in 1 year or less. I planted some and look forward to a new experience with these plants. Like most produce, the fresh home-grown product is so much better than what you purchase from stores. Enjoy the outdoors! February 2023 Now is a great time to find a place in your landscape to sit and just look around. If you took notes of what worked and what didn’t work in the past, review those while sitting in your landscape. Take this time to daydream. Look at your landscape and visualize what you want to improve, enlarge, reduce, or just change. You may want to incorporate a color scheme or theme. Also, if you don’t have a sitting area, I highly recommend including one. It can be mobile or fixed, the goal is to give you a place to enjoy your landscape. A mobile seat will give you the opportunity to enjoy your landscape from different vantage points. You still have time to plant woody plants and cool- season vegetables. We are at the point where you can plant Irish potatoes and sugar snaps (sweet peas). With sweet peas, you will need a trellis or netting for them to climb on. The middle of this month is the time to start pruning most of our woody plants. Start by pruning out the damaged material, then start thinning cuts. In some instances, you may need to do a renewal prune, cutting plants back close to the ground and retraining the new growth to replace the dead material. As of January 30th, the chill hours are: Brewton, AL – 542 hours Old Model; 388 hours Modified Model Fairhope, AL – 391 hours Old Model; 294 hours Modified Model Moss Point, MS – 465 hours Old Model; 368 hours Modified Model February is the month to apply pre-emergent herbicides for warm-season weeds. Make sure the product you select is labeled for the type of turfgrass you have. Also, avoid “Weed & Feed” type products as it is too early to fertilize. Enjoy the outdoors! January 2023 Happy New Year! December dealt us some brutal weather that took a toll on many plants in the landscape. Don’t be too hasty to prune your woody plants that were injured or do your routine pruning. Pruning now can promote growth that may be killed back by cold temperatures yet to come. Also, removing too much plant material can reduce the cold tolerance to the remaining material. Routine pruning for most of our woody plants, both ornamental and fruits, should be done mid-February. As of Dec. 31st, our local chill hour number are: Pascagoula: Old Model - 326 Modified Model - 240 Fairhope: Old Model - 277 Modified Model - 180 Brewton: Old Model - 368 Modified Model – 214 I tend to rely on the Modified Model because it negates any chill hours just prior to a warming trends Oct -Dec. It also takes into account that hours when the temperatures fall below 32 degrees F, they don’t help. With that being said, though the numbers seem a bit low, we are on track to accumulate adequate chill hours. A grafting/budding reminder. Now is the time to collect bud wood, also called scion wood from any plant you plan to use in grafting/budding. Keep the collected wood in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it. Wrap in moist paper towels and place in a zip top bag. You can use moist sawdust in the place of moist paper towels. If your vegetables took a hard hit from the freeze a few weeks ago, you can replant them or prepare for the next crop. You can still plant Cole crops (turnips, collards, lettuce, etc.). Late Jan thru February, you can plant sugar snaps and white potatoes. If you sent in a soil sample and received the results, you should apply the lime now as recommended. If you haven’t had a soil test done, I highly recommend getting it done this month and getting the lime down. Here’s to a prosperous gardening New Year! Enjoy the outdoors!
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