© Keep Saraland Beautiful. All Rights Reserved. Website design and hosting by North Mobile Internet Services, Inc.

KeepSaralandBeautiful

12 January

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
October 2022 Last month was awful dry. It is important not to fertilize or apply herbicides to drought-stressed plants. If you missed the fall application of fertilizer, don’t panic, just wait, and make your regular spring application. In order to make an application of herbicide, irrigate, wait a couple of days for the weeds to shift back to actively growing, then apply. If you didn’t apply fire ant bait last month, you can apply it this month. Just wait for a few days when the temperatures are in the 80s and no rain is forecasted. The ground needs to be dry for the baits to be effective. Follow the label of the fire ant bait product you purchase. Raised bed update: I have my beds built, filled, and planted. I have also, installed drip irrigation. It is important to maintain a regular irrigation schedule. The beauty of drip irrigation is that the top of the plants remains dry during irrigation events. The drier you keep the plants the better. With that being said, if overhead irrigation sprinklers are your only option, use them during the morning hours. The local citrus crop looks great. The dry weather of last month should help develop sugars for a great sweet harvest. Don’t get in too big of a hurry to start harvesting your satsumas. They will keep for months on the tree at optimum quality. The fruit will continue to improve after we get a couple of weeks of temperatures in the mid to low 40s. Remember to use pruners to clip the fruit from the tree and not pull. Clip the stem flush with the surface of the fruit so it does not injure other fruit. Other local favorites that are coming in this month are peanuts and pecans. Local farmers have been digging peanuts for the past couple of weeks. They are delicious and great for football season. The pecan crop is looking great, and growers are optimistic that the weather cooperates and no storms develop and damage the crop. Harvesting should begin mid to late Oct. I can’t wait! I am counting the days ‘til cool weather of fall puts our warm season plants into their dormant stage so I can put away my lawn equipment for a while. A few things I purchased this year pleasantly surprised me with their performance and durability. Battery-powered string trimmer (weed whacker), pruners, etc. I will not mention name brands, but they are all available at big box stores and local garden centers. I will give you enough intel to do some homework, they will make great gifts. For the pruners and saws, I like the 20-volt power sources. For the saw, I lean on the reciprocating power saw with a medium-toothed wood blade. For the string trimmer, I personally like the 50-volt brands. I have several close friends that have the 40-volt version, and they love them. At this point, you should be good with any brand that is 40 volts and above. I have an acre yard and my string trimmer will last long enough to weed whack the front or the back but not both. The same applies to mowers, edgers, etc. Enjoy the outdoors! September 2022 I love growing fall vegetables; my favorite is broccoli. One of the reasons broccoli is my favorite is dual harvest- ing. In addition to the florets, you can harvest and eat the leaves. They cook and taste like collards. During this transition month, I plan to construct some raised beds for my fall vegetables. I should have them ready to plant by the end of the month, just in time for October planting. There are many methods and types of raised beds, I like to use 4” X 4” posts. I like them because you can stack them, and they last longer than landscape timbers. I like to stack them at least 3 high, that gives you roughly 12” of growing media above the site soil. I fill the beds with garden soil that you can buy by the bag or in bulk. It is a mix of organic materials. You should avoid buying soil from a dirt pit, etc. those sources will contain weeds and not be the best quality for growing plants. One of the first things you want to do once you select a site for your bed is to kill the existing grass and weeds. You can do that with an herbicide, just be patient and allow the prod- uct to work before covering, tilling, or removing them. If you have weeds like Cogon grass or Virginia buttonweed in that area, you may want to pick another spot. Those weeds are very difficult to control. Here are a couple of links for more information on raised beds: https://www.aces.edu/blog/topics/lawn-garden/raised-bed-gardening/ https://www.aces.edu/blog/topics/lawn-garden/raised-bed-supply-list/ With all the rain we have been getting, I’ve noticed some of my citrus and persimmons splitting. That is normal with the high volume of rain in a short period of time. If you have tomatoes with fruit on them, they are very prone to splitting. For sanitation purposes, you may want to remove the split fruit that is not near ripening. Poinsettia transition for color: After Labor Day, bring the plant inside to a location that gets a minimum of six hours of sunlight, preferably more. This will start preparing the plant for its flowers and their colorful foliage. Growers should also start reduc- ing the frequency of fertilizer. Toward the end of the month (September), they must have at least 13 hours of uninterrupted darkness and 11 hours of bright light each day. Placing the plant in a closet, basement, or under a box can give it the required hours of darkness. During the periods of bright light, make sure to rotate the pot to ensure the plant receives even light from all sides. Just before Thanksgiving, stop the dark period treatments, reduce the amount of water and fertilizer, and place the plant in a sunny area that receives at least six hours of direct light. Enjoy the outdoors! August 2022 August can be considered a transition month for gardeners. Some gardeners take this month to rogue old plants and weed in preparation for fall planting. With the rise of food cost and some availability issues, I will stay on the topic of growing vegetables this month. Late summer can be a tough time to select which vegetables will tolerate the extreme conditions. There are a few that do well this time of year. Some that you may consider planting are, eggplants, peppers, southern peas, and okra. If you have okra plants that you planted in the spring and have slowed their production, you can revive them by cutting the plants down to about 18” tall and fertilize them. This will promote new growth, and the production will pick back up in a few weeks. The night temperatures are still too warm for tomatoes to set fruit. If you have heirloom tomato varieties that have fruit, you can save the fruit for seeds. It is a fairly simple process. Once you harvest the tomato, scoop out the seeds and place them in a jar or bowl with a screen top. Add a little water and allow the mixture to sit and almost rot, which will take about 5-7 days. That process will deteriorate the protective gelatin around each seed. Once that gelatin has deteriorated, rinse them and place on a screen or paper towel and allow to dry. At that point you can plant them or store for later use. If you store them, make sure they are completely dry. Insect populations have been building up all season. With that in mind, you need to have a plan in place for how to manage them. Better to plan ahead and not wait until you see the problem. If you opt for organic treatments, be sure to read the label for the typical mix and use information and possible restrictions like temperature and rain fall. In preparation for fall planting in September, you can have a soil test done in the area of interest if you haven’t already done so within the past couple of years. Also browse your favorite local garden centers, websites, and catalogues for new types and varieties of vegetables. An example of something new, I love broccoli, but I have never tried to grow broccolini, broccoli rabe, or broccoli Romanesco. They will be on my list this fall. July 2022 July started with some drought ending rains, giving our irrigation schedule a break. Even with regular irrigation, some plants are still not getting enough water to support a full fruit load and new growth at the same time. Thus, you may have seen fruit drop in that situation. It is nothing you are doing wrong or should do about it, it’s the plants way of protecting itself from death. A common issue that you may see as a result of increased rain events is fruit split and crack. It is usually seen more in ripe fruit than green. The best way to reduce cracking and splitting is consistent irrigation, plants need at least 1” of water a week. A last note about the rain, we will see an increase of diseases because of the soil splashing up on the plants and the increased time the leaves are wet. All of that encourages fugal and bacteria diseases on plants. What veggies do well in the heat of the summer? Cucumbers, Eggplants, Lima Beans, Peas, Peppers, and watermelons. Now is the time to plant pumpkins for Halloween. One particularly important thing to remember about growing vegetables in late summer thru fall is that the insect population is increasing every day. For this reason, I plant squash early and try to stay ahead of the insect population. Once squash vine borer shows up, I am usually in the last few days of squash harvesting and let that end the squash season for that year. With that being the case do your homework on the plants you plant to learn about pest and problems to expect and develop a plan to address them. It is best to start your control with the identification of the insect as soon as you see them. Keep in mind that not all insects are bad, so do not panic at the sight of just one or the presence of them. I recently spoke to several gardeners that intend to ramp up their vegetable production, especially coming this fall. Now is the time to scout out varieties you may be interested in planting. Check websites, catalogs, apps, etc. There are some very tasty new varieties out there that out produce some of the older standbys. Harvesting tips: harvest in the morning during the cooler temperatures, a couple of weeks before harvesting reduce irrigation to concentrate the sugar content in the produce, and don’t fertilize once the fruit/produce is set on the plants. You can plant Gladiolus, divide, and replant Iris. They will provide great fall color. Don’t forget a place to sit in your landscape. Enjoy the outdoors. June 2022 This is a great time to take soft-wood cuttings. Take them in the morning and keep them hydrated. Cuttings are taken from 3 to 5 inches of terminal hardened growth. The bottom leaves are removed from the cutting, leaving two to three leaves and the vegetative buds on the tip of the cutting. Remove flower buds. Slice off the lower end with a sharp knife or razor at an acute angle. Dip the cut stem end into rooting hormone before sticking the dipped end into a lightly moistened medium to half the cutting’s length. Firm the medium, and water the cutting. Some plants take longer to root than others; this process can range from 1 to 4 months. Some hydrangeas can be layered for a quicker and easier process of propagation. In early to midsummer, dig a trench near the plant and bend a flexible branch down into it. For better rooting, scratch the bark area that has soil contact. Cover the wounded branch section with soil and either pin it or weigh it down with a brick. Six inches to one foot of branch tip should stick out of the ground uncovered. Note: Dust the bottom of the cuttings with a rooting hormone on the wound to increase the rooting rate. Smooth and oakleaf hydrangeas can also be propagated by layering, but their colonizing habit, spreading by underground stems, makes them easy to propagate by division during the dormant season. Propagation by division is simply digging and separating the new sprout away from the colony. Lace bugs are the main nuisance insect pest found on azaleas and lantanas. These small insects have black bodies and colored or variegated, lace-like wings. They feed on the underside of leaves. The upper leaf surface opposite the feeding areas becomes speckled, and the leaf looks light or bleached and eventually turns brown. Lace bugs give off large amounts of a dark, sticky substance on the underside of leaves. The substance may drop from the plants. Black globules on the lower surface of the leaves are obvious symptoms of this insect. Apply foliar insecticides containing bifenthrin, cyfluthrin, permethrin, or acephate when the damage first appears to prevent unsightly damage. You may repeat treatment in 30 days to keep the plant damage to a minimum. The month of May had gotten awfully dry, but that rain during the last week really helped our plants. It is important not to apply fertilizers or herbicides during droughts or right before a rain event. With fertilizers, damage can occur if plants get fertilizer when they are not properly hydrated. Drought-stressed plants can be damaged by herbicides that they are normally tolerant of. Also, the targeted weeds need to be actively growing for the herbicide to be effective, not drought-stressed or drought dormant. On Saturday, June 11th, folks may fish for free (without a license) in most public waters, including freshwater and saltwater. This initiative is part of National Fishing and Boating Week, which runs June 4-12. Click here to read more: https://www.outdooralabama.com/.../free-fishing-day- june-11 Enjoy the outdoors. Take some time to watch the pine trees grow. May 2022 Last spring, I noticed a high number of carpenter bees flying around an area of my carport that had several unpainted 2 X 4’s exposed. Days later, I saw an accumulation of sawdust on items on the shelf below that board. A few weeks later, I was in a hardware store and saw carpenter bee traps. The trap was a small wooden house structure with a single ½” hole on each side and a mason jar attached to the bottom with a larger hole at the jar opening. I hung that trap in the area of interest, within a few days, I caught one. Later that year, late summer early fall, I caught several more. Mid-April of this year I caught several more. This is my testimony that the traps work if you place them in the area of activity and at the right time. Let’s talk more about carpenter bees. They are large bees that resemble bumble bees. They are also pollinators and solitary nesters. The males do not have stingers. The females have stingers, but they are difficult to provoke to sting. They nest in unpainted exposed boards. Their nesting activity can cause and lead to extensive structural damage. The entrance to the nest is a ½” hole leading to many nest chambers. The nesting boards can attract woodpeckers leading to more damage as they peck into those boards to feed on the larva. What can be done to reduce the damage? Make sure boards are painted. Wood stains are not as effective. Treat with insecticides when possible. Place traps in the area where there are unpainted boards, especially in the spring and late summer thru fall. Here is a link more information on carpenter bees: https://entnemdept.ufl.edu/CREATURES/misc/bees/xylocopa.htm While walking my dog on the last day of April, I saw adult mole crickets crawling around my and my neighbor’s lawns. Seeing them, I realized that mating is still going on and that egg hatching will be delayed. This year’s activity was delayed because of the frequent rains and cool soil temperatures. If you notice adult activity and presence in the spring, map the area and put a note on the calendar for late June early July for treatment. Don’t waste your time and money treating now. The adults are too large to kill and not feeding enough to ingest any product you apply. Follow this link for more information on mole crickets: https://www.aces.edu/blog/topics/lawn-garden/biology-and-control-of-mole-crickets/ Enjoy the outdoors. April 2022 I recently had a friend call me and ask why some of his azaleas bloomed and some didn’t. After a little investigating, we discovered that his father pruned some of them back in January. By pruning in January, which is too early, he removed all the buds that would have developed into flowers. Let his misfortune serve as a reminder to prune azaleas right after they finish blooming and finish no later than mid-summer. Have you seen fire ants on your vegetable and/or ornamental plants? If you have, look closely at the plants for insects such as aphids, scales, and mites. Ants like to feed on the honeydew that those insects produce. Honeydew is the sugar-rich excrement of aphids, scales, and mites. It is also a free and easy source of high-energy food. Honeydew is the same substance that sooty mold (blackening) grows on. Fire ants will even “farm” aphids by taking aphis to their mound for safety during harsh weather events like storms and freezes. This is a great time to apply the baits. Remember to apply when the ground is dry, no rain is forecast for a couple of hours, and the ants must be actively foraging. Here is a link for more information about managing fire ants with baits: https://www.aces.edu/blog/topics/crop-production/managing-fire-ants- with-baits/ If you have not had your mower and other power landscape equipment serviced, make sure you check the oil level before you start them. Local repair shops are getting busy with last-minute drop-offs, so be patient. With the rising cost of fertilizers and other gardening/landscape products, some gardeners are reducing inputs. Reductions can be made wisely and still maintain a productive garden and attractive landscape. Here are a few examples: If you have fertilized your lawn regularly for years and left your clippings, you can reduce or even not fertilize the lawn this year. If you must choose between lime or fertilization, always choose lime. If you have mainly annual weeds, apply pre-emergent products as discussed in previous articles and reduce the post-emergent products. Any application of pesticides should be based on the proper identification and presence of the target pest and not a set date or possibility of a problem. Several of the local schools with horticulture programs have begun marketing and selling plants of all kinds. I urge you to support them and even cooperate with them to get things that you can’t find easily. Some of them will also work with you on germinating your seed for a fee or donation. These programs help kids learn the cultural part of the horticulture industry and the business side as well as customer service. The programs depend on plant sales to expand and stay current with the industry. Enjoy the outdoors! March 2022 Peaches, plums, and nectarines are blooming or very near blooming. Bud swell through fruit development is a risky time. The risk of freeze damage is high once the bud breaks dormancy. During this time, if temperatures are forecast to drop to 32 degrees or below, you may want to have a plan to protect your blooms/fruit. You can cover with fabric, freeze cloths, arrange lighting strategically placed as to not damage the plant(s) or cause a fire, etc. Keep an eye on the weather and take action if need be. As I mentioned in a couple of articles last year, I started raising chickens back in July of 2021. I built a portable coop, chicken tractor, that I have been moving around for the past few months. As a result, they have really cleaned up an area of the garden that was covered with some tough to control weeds, aerated the compacted soil, and added valuable nutrients and organic matter to the soil. I have placed them in a new area giving the old site plenty of time to make sure I won’t be harvesting any crops within 90 days of their presence to reduce any food safety concerns/risks. I recall when I raised rabbits, I used the manure in all areas of my landscape and the plants looked great and performed better than expected. I also planted cover crops (clover and ryegrass) in the area the chickens worked over. The cover crops really grew well and added even more organic matter to the soil. WINNING!!! It appears that I will have to mow my winter weeds one more time in the next couple of weeks before my warm-season grass greens up. Again, this is a result of missing the fall application of a pre-emergent. Stay on top of those pre-emergent applications. It is easy to miss a seasonal treatment if you have done it enough times to keep them out of sight, but as soon as you miss a treatment, they germinate with a vengeance. On the vegetable front, most gardeners plant by a calendar. Well, seasons and temperatures don’t always match dates on the calendar. I use a combination of soil temperature, dates, and weather trends. Here is a publication that lists soil temperatures for various vegetables: https://www.aces.edu/blog/topics/lawn-garden/soil-temperature-conditions-for-vegetable-seed-germination/ Even with optimal soil temperatures, freezing air temps can still damage/kill seedlings. I love this warming trend and the days getting longer. Get out there and enjoy the outdoors! Even the rainy days! February 2022 If you missed the fall application of pre-emergent herbicide like I did, winter weeds are starting to mature and flower. Most of them are annual weeds. One thing that can be done now is kill them with an herbicide or cut them down to prevent them from producing more seeds. Last month, I pulled out the lawnmower and mowed my yard that was mainly grown in winter weeds in an effort to prevent flowering and to give it a manicured look. Mid-February is the time to apply the pre-emergent herbicides for your warm-season weeds. As for chill hour accumulation, January weather wasn’t pleasant for the most part, but it was really good to the Gulf Coast chill hour numbers. Chill hour numbers as of February 1st Brewton, AL – 636 hours Old Model; 513 hour Modified Model Fairhope, AL – 411 hours Old Model; 370 hour Modified Model Moss Point, MS – 477 hours Old Model; 409 hours Modified Model You can start pruning most of your landscape plants after Valentine’s Day but watch the weather trends. If there is a major cold front predicted right before or a few days after the day you plan to prune, wait until the front has passed. I have been getting emails and catalogs from seed companies and garden centers. It has got me building my wish list of plants I want to try, and areas I want to expand. Last year, I wrote about my new interest in Monarch butterflies. I also stated that it took 2 years of planting Milkweed before they found my landscape. Well, my excitement about attracting Monarchs is still strong and expanding to other butterflies and their needs. Here are a few tips for you if you have an interest in plantings for Monarchs or butterflies in general. Plant more than one of the same plant. A general landscape rule is to plant odd numbers. Plant more than one species, some insects have specific preferences and variety helps cover all bases. Plant species for the larva and the adult stages of the life cycle. Plant them in groups to enhance the chances of attracting your desired insect. Plant your butterfly garden in full sun. Plant a progression of flowing plants for extended feeding periods. Now, here is some homework for you. Below is a list of common plants that attract Monarchs and other butterflies that you can research. Milkweed – attracts Monarchs Buddleia – attracts a variety of butterflies Passionflower – vining plant that attracts Gulf Fritillary and Zebra longwing Bottle brush – shrub to small tree, attracts a variety of butterflies Blazing Star – herbaceous perennial, attracts a variety of butterflies Queen Anne’s Lace – herbaceous, attracts Black Swallowtail Here is a link for more information: https://www.aces.edu/blog/topics/landscaping/butterfly-gardens/ Enjoy the outdoors! January 2022 Happy New Year! Though our temperatures are not consistently reflective of winter we can still perform some of our winter gardening activities. Continue to plant fruit trees and other hardy woody ornamental shrubs and trees. If you performed a soil test last month, add the lime according to the recommendation now. If you didn’t soil test last month, you can still do it. Start checking your favorite websites and catalogs for new varieties of plants you are generally interested in. You should check the shipping availability of them, some plants that you order now may not ship until April or May. That’s not a bad thing, just make a note on your calendar and plan ahead. The only pruning that should be done at this point is removing damaged limbs. The bulk of our regular pruning will be done mid to late February. So don’t get in too big of a hurry. Pruning too early can result in reduced cold tolerance, possible winter injury, and the plant may attempt to come out of dormancy too early. If you are like me, you still have satsumas on your trees. They are still in good shape and will keep for weeks to come on the tree better and longer than in the house or refrigerator. Once we get into February, you will need to remove all the fruit to give the plant a little time to recuperate and prepare for the next bloom crop. For those interested in vegetables the Alabama Cooperative Extension System has an app for that, “SOW”. It is free and available at the app store. It gives you planting dates and details about any vegetable you are interested in. It will give you a list of vegetables you can plant today or any date you select. Here is a link for more information: https://www.aces.edu/blog/topics/products-programs-lawn-garden/sow-planting- companion/ Chill hour numbers as of January 1st Brewton, AL – 262 hours Old Model; 139 hour Modified Model Fairhope, AL – 112 hours Old Model; 71 hour Modified Model Moss Point, MS – 173 hours Old Model; 173 hours Modified Model
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© Keep Saraland Beautiful. All Rights Reserved. Website design and hosting by North Mobile Internet Services, Inc.

KeepSaralandBeautiful

12 January

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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Mayor Dr. Howard Rubenstein, Council Chair Joe McDonald, Council Members: Newton Cromer, Wayne Biggs, Natalie Moye and Veronica Hudson
October 2022 Last month was awful dry. It is important not to fertilize or apply herbicides to drought-stressed plants. If you missed the fall application of fertilizer, don’t panic, just wait, and make your regular spring application. In order to make an application of herbicide, irrigate, wait a couple of days for the weeds to shift back to actively growing, then apply. If you didn’t apply fire ant bait last month, you can apply it this month. Just wait for a few days when the temperatures are in the 80s and no rain is forecasted. The ground needs to be dry for the baits to be effective. Follow the label of the fire ant bait product you purchase. Raised bed update: I have my beds built, filled, and planted. I have also, installed drip irrigation. It is important to maintain a regular irrigation schedule. The beauty of drip irrigation is that the top of the plants remains dry during irrigation events. The drier you keep the plants the better. With that being said, if overhead irrigation sprinklers are your only option, use them during the morning hours. The local citrus crop looks great. The dry weather of last month should help develop sugars for a great sweet harvest. Don’t get in too big of a hurry to start harvesting your satsumas. They will keep for months on the tree at optimum quality. The fruit will continue to improve after we get a couple of weeks of temperatures in the mid to low 40s. Remember to use pruners to clip the fruit from the tree and not pull. Clip the stem flush with the surface of the fruit so it does not injure other fruit. Other local favorites that are coming in this month are peanuts and pecans. Local farmers have been digging peanuts for the past couple of weeks. They are delicious and great for football season. The pecan crop is looking great, and growers are optimistic that the weather cooperates and no storms develop and damage the crop. Harvesting should begin mid to late Oct. I can’t wait! I am counting the days ‘til cool weather of fall puts our warm season plants into their dormant stage so I can put away my lawn equipment for a while. A few things I purchased this year pleasantly surprised me with their performance and durability. Battery- powered string trimmer (weed whacker), pruners, etc. I will not mention name brands, but they are all available at big box stores and local garden centers. I will give you enough intel to do some homework, they will make great gifts. For the pruners and saws, I like the 20-volt power sources. For the saw, I lean on the reciprocating power saw with a medium- toothed wood blade. For the string trimmer, I personally like the 50-volt brands. I have several close friends that have the 40-volt version, and they love them. At this point, you should be good with any brand that is 40 volts and above. I have an acre yard and my string trimmer will last long enough to weed whack the front or the back but not both. The same applies to mowers, edgers, etc. Enjoy the outdoors! September 2022 I love growing fall vegetables; my favorite is broccoli. One of the reasons broccoli is my favorite is dual harvesting. In addition to the florets, you can harvest and eat the leaves. They cook and taste like collards. During this transition month, I plan to construct some raised beds for my fall vegetables. I should have them ready to plant by the end of the month, just in time for October planting. There are many methods and types of raised beds, I like to use 4” X 4” posts. I like them because you can stack them, and they last longer than landscape tim- bers. I like to stack them at least 3 high, that gives you roughly 12” of growing media above the site soil. I fill the beds with garden soil that you can buy by the bag or in bulk. It is a mix of organic materials. You should avoid buying soil from a dirt pit, etc. those sources will contain weeds and not be the best qual- ity for growing plants. One of the first things you want to do once you select a site for your bed is to kill the existing grass and weeds. You can do that with an herbicide, just be patient and allow the product to work before covering, tilling, or removing them. If you have weeds like Cogon grass or Virginia buttonweed in that area, you may want to pick another spot. Those weeds are very difficult to control. Here are a couple of links for more information on raised beds: https://www.aces.edu/blog/topics/lawn- garden/raised-bed-gardening/ https://www.aces.edu/blog/topics/lawn- garden/raised-bed-supply-list/ With all the rain we have been getting, I’ve noticed some of my citrus and persimmons splitting. That is normal with the high volume of rain in a short period of time. If you have tomatoes with fruit on them, they are very prone to splitting. For sanitation purposes, you may want to remove the split fruit that is not near ripening. Poinsettia transition for color: After Labor Day, bring the plant inside to a location that gets a minimum of six hours of sunlight, prefer- ably more. This will start preparing the plant for its flowers and their colorful foliage. Growers should also start reducing the frequency of fertilizer. Toward the end of the month (September), they must have at least 13 hours of uninterrupted darkness and 11 hours of bright light each day. Placing the plant in a closet, basement, or under a box can give it the required hours of darkness. During the periods of bright light, make sure to rotate the pot to ensure the plant receives even light from all sides. Just before Thanksgiving, stop the dark period treat- ments, reduce the amount of water and fertilizer, and place the plant in a sunny area that receives at least six hours of direct light. Enjoy the outdoors! August 2022 August can be considered a transition month for gardeners. Some gardeners take this month to rogue old plants and weed in preparation for fall planting. With the rise of food cost and some availability issues, I will stay on the topic of growing vegetables this month. Late summer can be a tough time to select which vegetables will tolerate the extreme conditions. There are a few that do well this time of year. Some that you may consider planting are, eggplants, peppers, southern peas, and okra. If you have okra plants that you planted in the spring and have slowed their production, you can revive them by cutting the plants down to about 18” tall and fertilize them. This will promote new growth, and the production will pick back up in a few weeks. The night temperatures are still too warm for tomatoes to set fruit. If you have heirloom tomato varieties that have fruit, you can save the fruit for seeds. It is a fairly simple process. Once you harvest the tomato, scoop out the seeds and place them in a jar or bowl with a screen top. Add a little water and allow the mixture to sit and almost rot, which will take about 5- 7 days. That process will deteriorate the protective gelatin around each seed. Once that gelatin has deteriorated, rinse them and place on a screen or paper towel and allow to dry. At that point you can plant them or store for later use. If you store them, make sure they are completely dry. Insect populations have been building up all season. With that in mind, you need to have a plan in place for how to manage them. Better to plan ahead and not wait until you see the problem. If you opt for organic treatments, be sure to read the label for the typical mix and use information and possible restrictions like temperature and rain fall. In preparation for fall planting in September, you can have a soil test done in the area of interest if you haven’t already done so within the past couple of years. Also browse your favorite local garden centers, websites, and catalogues for new types and varieties of vegetables. An example of something new, I love broccoli, but I have never tried to grow broccolini, broccoli rabe, or broccoli Romanesco. They will be on my list this fall. July 2022 July started with some drought ending rains, giving our irrigation schedule a break. Even with regular irrigation, some plants are still not getting enough water to support a full fruit load and new growth at the same time. Thus, you may have seen fruit drop in that situation. It is nothing you are doing wrong or should do about it, it’s the plants way of protecting itself from death. A common issue that you may see as a result of increased rain events is fruit split and crack. It is usually seen more in ripe fruit than green. The best way to reduce cracking and splitting is consistent irrigation, plants need at least 1” of water a week. A last note about the rain, we will see an increase of diseases because of the soil splashing up on the plants and the increased time the leaves are wet. All of that encourages fugal and bacteria diseases on plants. What veggies do well in the heat of the summer? Cucumbers, Eggplants, Lima Beans, Peas, Peppers, and watermelons. Now is the time to plant pumpkins for Halloween. One particularly important thing to remember about growing vegetables in late summer thru fall is that the insect population is increasing every day. For this reason, I plant squash early and try to stay ahead of the insect population. Once squash vine borer shows up, I am usually in the last few days of squash harvesting and let that end the squash season for that year. With that being the case do your homework on the plants you plant to learn about pest and problems to expect and develop a plan to address them. It is best to start your control with the identification of the insect as soon as you see them. Keep in mind that not all insects are bad, so do not panic at the sight of just one or the presence of them. I recently spoke to several gardeners that intend to ramp up their vegetable production, especially coming this fall. Now is the time to scout out varieties you may be interested in planting. Check websites, catalogs, apps, etc. There are some very tasty new varieties out there that out produce some of the older standbys. Harvesting tips: harvest in the morning during the cooler temperatures, a couple of weeks before harvesting reduce irrigation to concentrate the sugar content in the produce, and don’t fertilize once the fruit/produce is set on the plants. You can plant Gladiolus, divide, and replant Iris. They will provide great fall color. Don’t forget a place to sit in your landscape. Enjoy the outdoors. June 2022 This is a great time to take soft-wood cuttings. Take them in the morning and keep them hydrated. Cuttings are taken from 3 to 5 inches of terminal hardened growth. The bottom leaves are removed from the cutting, leaving two to three leaves and the vegetative buds on the tip of the cutting. Remove flower buds. Slice off the lower end with a sharp knife or razor at an acute angle. Dip the cut stem end into rooting hormone before sticking the dipped end into a lightly moistened medium to half the cutting’s length. Firm the medium, and water the cutting. Some plants take longer to root than others; this process can range from 1 to 4 months. Some hydrangeas can be layered for a quicker and easier process of propagation. In early to midsummer, dig a trench near the plant and bend a flexible branch down into it. For better rooting, scratch the bark area that has soil contact. Cover the wounded branch section with soil and either pin it or weigh it down with a brick. Six inches to one foot of branch tip should stick out of the ground uncovered. Note: Dust the bottom of the cuttings with a rooting hormone on the wound to increase the rooting rate. Smooth and oakleaf hydrangeas can also be propagated by layering, but their colonizing habit, spreading by underground stems, makes them easy to propagate by division during the dormant season. Propagation by division is simply digging and separating the new sprout away from the colony. Lace bugs are the main nuisance insect pest found on azaleas and lantanas. These small insects have black bodies and colored or variegated, lace-like wings. They feed on the underside of leaves. The upper leaf surface opposite the feeding areas becomes speckled, and the leaf looks light or bleached and eventually turns brown. Lace bugs give off large amounts of a dark, sticky substance on the underside of leaves. The substance may drop from the plants. Black globules on the lower surface of the leaves are obvious symptoms of this insect. Apply foliar insecticides containing bifenthrin, cyfluthrin, permethrin, or acephate when the damage first appears to prevent unsightly damage. You may repeat treatment in 30 days to keep the plant damage to a minimum. The month of May had gotten awfully dry, but that rain during the last week really helped our plants. It is important not to apply fertilizers or herbicides during droughts or right before a rain event. With fertilizers, damage can occur if plants get fertilizer when they are not properly hydrated. Drought- stressed plants can be damaged by herbicides that they are normally tolerant of. Also, the targeted weeds need to be actively growing for the herbicide to be effective, not drought-stressed or drought dormant. On Saturday, June 11th, folks may fish for free (without a license) in most public waters, including freshwater and saltwater. This initiative is part of National Fishing and Boating Week, which runs June 4-12. Click here to read more: https://www.outdooralabama.com/.../free-fishing-day- june-11 Enjoy the outdoors. Take some time to watch the pine trees grow. May 2022 Last spring, I noticed a high number of carpenter bees flying around an area of my carport that had several unpainted 2 X 4’s exposed. Days later, I saw an accumulation of sawdust on items on the shelf below that board. A few weeks later, I was in a hardware store and saw carpenter bee traps. The trap was a small wooden house structure with a single ½” hole on each side and a mason jar attached to the bottom with a larger hole at the jar opening. I hung that trap in the area of interest, within a few days, I caught one. Later that year, late summer early fall, I caught several more. Mid-April of this year I caught several more. This is my testimony that the traps work if you place them in the area of activity and at the right time. Let’s talk more about carpenter bees. They are large bees that resemble bumble bees. They are also pollinators and solitary nesters. The males do not have stingers. The females have stingers, but they are difficult to provoke to sting. They nest in unpainted exposed boards. Their nesting activity can cause and lead to extensive structural damage. The entrance to the nest is a ½” hole leading to many nest chambers. The nesting boards can attract woodpeckers leading to more damage as they peck into those boards to feed on the larva. What can be done to reduce the damage? Make sure boards are painted. Wood stains are not as effective. Treat with insecticides when possible. Place traps in the area where there are unpainted boards, especially in the spring and late summer thru fall. Here is a link more information on carpenter bees: https://entnemdept.ufl.edu/CREATURES/misc/bees/x ylocopa.htm While walking my dog on the last day of April, I saw adult mole crickets crawling around my and my neighbor’s lawns. Seeing them, I realized that mating is still going on and that egg hatching will be delayed. This year’s activity was delayed because of the frequent rains and cool soil temperatures. If you notice adult activity and presence in the spring, map the area and put a note on the calendar for late June early July for treatment. Don’t waste your time and money treating now. The adults are too large to kill and not feeding enough to ingest any product you apply. Follow this link for more information on mole crickets: https://www.aces.edu/blog/topics/lawn- garden/biology-and-control-of-mole-crickets/ Enjoy the outdoors. April 2022 I recently had a friend call me and ask why some of his azaleas bloomed and some didn’t. After a little investigating, we discovered that his father pruned some of them back in January. By pruning in January, which is too early, he removed all the buds that would have developed into flowers. Let his misfortune serve as a reminder to prune azaleas right after they finish blooming and finish no later than mid-summer. Have you seen fire ants on your vegetable and/or ornamental plants? If you have, look closely at the plants for insects such as aphids, scales, and mites. Ants like to feed on the honeydew that those insects produce. Honeydew is the sugar-rich excrement of aphids, scales, and mites. It is also a free and easy source of high-energy food. Honeydew is the same substance that sooty mold (blackening) grows on. Fire ants will even “farm” aphids by taking aphis to their mound for safety during harsh weather events like storms and freezes. This is a great time to apply the baits. Remember to apply when the ground is dry, no rain is forecast for a couple of hours, and the ants must be actively foraging. Here is a link for more information about managing fire ants with baits: https://www.aces.edu/blog/topics/crop- production/managing-fire-ants-with-baits/ If you have not had your mower and other power landscape equipment serviced, make sure you check the oil level before you start them. Local repair shops are getting busy with last-minute drop-offs, so be patient. With the rising cost of fertilizers and other gardening/landscape products, some gardeners are reducing inputs. Reductions can be made wisely and still maintain a productive garden and attractive landscape. Here are a few examples: If you have fertilized your lawn regularly for years and left your clippings, you can reduce or even not fertilize the lawn this year. If you must choose between lime or fertilization, always choose lime. If you have mainly annual weeds, apply pre- emergent products as discussed in previous articles and reduce the post-emergent products. Any application of pesticides should be based on the proper identification and presence of the target pest and not a set date or possibility of a problem. Several of the local schools with horticulture programs have begun marketing and selling plants of all kinds. I urge you to support them and even cooperate with them to get things that you can’t find easily. Some of them will also work with you on germinating your seed for a fee or donation. These programs help kids learn the cultural part of the horticulture industry and the business side as well as customer service. The programs depend on plant sales to expand and stay current with the industry. Enjoy the outdoors! March 2022 Peaches, plums, and nectarines are blooming or very near blooming. Bud swell through fruit development is a risky time. The risk of freeze damage is high once the bud breaks dormancy. During this time, if temperatures are forecast to drop to 32 degrees or below, you may want to have a plan to protect your blooms/fruit. You can cover with fabric, freeze cloths, arrange lighting strategically placed as to not damage the plant(s) or cause a fire, etc. Keep an eye on the weather and take action if need be. As I mentioned in a couple of articles last year, I started raising chickens back in July of 2021. I built a portable coop, chicken tractor, that I have been moving around for the past few months. As a result, they have really cleaned up an area of the garden that was covered with some tough to control weeds, aerated the compacted soil, and added valuable nutrients and organic matter to the soil. I have placed them in a new area giving the old site plenty of time to make sure I won’t be harvesting any crops within 90 days of their presence to reduce any food safety concerns/risks. I recall when I raised rabbits, I used the manure in all areas of my landscape and the plants looked great and performed better than expected. I also planted cover crops (clover and ryegrass) in the area the chickens worked over. The cover crops really grew well and added even more organic matter to the soil. WINNING!!! It appears that I will have to mow my winter weeds one more time in the next couple of weeks before my warm-season grass greens up. Again, this is a result of missing the fall application of a pre-emergent. Stay on top of those pre-emergent applications. It is easy to miss a seasonal treatment if you have done it enough times to keep them out of sight, but as soon as you miss a treatment, they germinate with a vengeance. On the vegetable front, most gardeners plant by a calendar. Well, seasons and temperatures don’t always match dates on the calendar. I use a combination of soil temperature, dates, and weather trends. Here is a publication that lists soil temperatures for various vegetables: https://www.aces.edu/blog/topics/lawn-garden/soil- temperature-conditions-for-vegetable-seed- germination/ Even with optimal soil temperatures, freezing air temps can still damage/kill seedlings. I love this warming trend and the days getting longer. Get out there and enjoy the outdoors! Even the rainy days! February 2022 If you missed the fall application of pre-emergent herbicide like I did, winter weeds are starting to mature and flower. Most of them are annual weeds. One thing that can be done now is kill them with an herbicide or cut them down to prevent them from producing more seeds. Last month, I pulled out the lawnmower and mowed my yard that was mainly grown in winter weeds in an effort to prevent flowering and to give it a manicured look. Mid- February is the time to apply the pre-emergent herbicides for your warm-season weeds. As for chill hour accumulation, January weather wasn’t pleasant for the most part, but it was really good to the Gulf Coast chill hour numbers. Chill hour numbers as of February 1st Brewton, AL – 636 hours Old Model; 513 hour Modified Model Fairhope, AL – 411 hours Old Model; 370 hour Modified Model Moss Point, MS – 477 hours Old Model; 409 hours Modified Model You can start pruning most of your landscape plants after Valentine’s Day but watch the weather trends. If there is a major cold front predicted right before or a few days after the day you plan to prune, wait until the front has passed. I have been getting emails and catalogs from seed companies and garden centers. It has got me building my wish list of plants I want to try, and areas I want to expand. Last year, I wrote about my new interest in Monarch butterflies. I also stated that it took 2 years of planting Milkweed before they found my landscape. Well, my excitement about attracting Monarchs is still strong and expanding to other butterflies and their needs. Here are a few tips for you if you have an interest in plantings for Monarchs or butterflies in general. Plant more than one of the same plant. A general landscape rule is to plant odd numbers. Plant more than one species, some insects have specific preferences and variety helps cover all bases. Plant species for the larva and the adult stages of the life cycle. Plant them in groups to enhance the chances of attracting your desired insect. Plant your butterfly garden in full sun. Plant a progression of flowing plants for extended feeding periods. Now, here is some homework for you. Below is a list of common plants that attract Monarchs and other butterflies that you can research. Milkweed – attracts Monarchs Buddleia – attracts a variety of butterflies Passionflower – vining plant that attracts Gulf Fritillary and Zebra longwing Bottle brush – shrub to small tree, attracts a variety of butterflies Blazing Star – herbaceous perennial, attracts a variety of butterflies Queen Anne’s Lace – herbaceous, attracts Black Swallowtail Here is a link for more information: https://www.aces.edu/blog/topics/landscaping/butterfl y-gardens/ Enjoy the outdoors! January 2022 Happy New Year! Though our temperatures are not consistently reflective of winter we can still perform some of our winter gardening activities. Continue to plant fruit trees and other hardy woody ornamental shrubs and trees. If you performed a soil test last month, add the lime according to the recommendation now. If you didn’t soil test last month, you can still do it. Start checking your favorite websites and catalogs for new varieties of plants you are generally interested in. You should check the shipping availability of them, some plants that you order now may not ship until April or May. That’s not a bad thing, just make a note on your calendar and plan ahead. The only pruning that should be done at this point is removing damaged limbs. The bulk of our regular pruning will be done mid to late February. So don’t get in too big of a hurry. Pruning too early can result in reduced cold tolerance, possible winter injury, and the plant may attempt to come out of dormancy too early. If you are like me, you still have satsumas on your trees. They are still in good shape and will keep for weeks to come on the tree better and longer than in the house or refrigerator. Once we get into February, you will need to remove all the fruit to give the plant a little time to recuperate and prepare for the next bloom crop. For those interested in vegetables the Alabama Cooperative Extension System has an app for that, “SOW”. It is free and available at the app store. It gives you planting dates and details about any vegetable you are interested in. It will give you a list of vegetables you can plant today or any date you select. Here is a link for more information: https://www.aces.edu/blog/topics/products-programs- lawn-garden/sow-planting-companion/ Chill hour numbers as of January 1st Brewton, AL – 262 hours Old Model; 139 hour Modified Model Fairhope, AL – 112 hours Old Model; 71 hour Modified Model Moss Point, MS – 173 hours Old Model; 173 hours Modified Model
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