The leaves changing color and falling is a sign that colder weather is getting closer and closer. Trees are entering into dormancy. Dormancy is an important process to allow the tree to survive through the winter. Let’s talk a bit about how dormancy works in trees and why they need to do it.
Dormant trees will stop growing above the ground. Dormancy is partly brought on by temperature change, but even more so by the change in day length. The college word for this phenomenon is ‘photosensitive’, meaning the trees change in response to day length. Leaves will begin to change color and fall off. Leaves begin to change color because chlorophyll begins to break down. Chlorophyll is a green pigment that plants use to turn light energy to chemical energy. There are other pigments in the leaves too. As the chlorophyll breaks down the other pigments are left, resulting in the wide array of leaf color that we see. Evergreen trees like pine trees of hollies will have a needle drop in the fall and again in the spring.
As we move into winter trees will enter what’s called endo-dormancy. In endo-dormancy an unsatisfied chill hours requirement will keep plants from waking back up. Different plants have a different number of chill hours, or hours spent below 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Chill hours are supposed to keep plants from waking back up too soon. In 2019, we had a couple of days in February that were over 70 degrees. While my pale legs might like to see some sun, February is not time for plants to begin waking up, as we have more freezes that are coming. Hopefully, those plants haven’t met their chill hour requirement, so even though I’m wearing shorts, the trees are still dormant.
Endo-dormancy also makes trees cold hardy. Trees will behave in a couple of different ways to make themselves cold hardy. One strategy that trees use is to keep all their water inside their cells. Frozen water expands. If all that water froze and expanded the cells would burst. To combat this trees move minerals and hormones in to mix with the water. Mixing water drops the freezing point, so that plants’ cells don’t freeze and burst. Another strategy is to move the water out of the cells so that it can freeze safely in the intracellular space.
When spring rolls around temperatures start to rise and trees will start to bud out because they have satisfied their chill hours requirement. However, if plants start to bud out and then we have another freeze, that can kill off the buds and cause damage to the trees. We saw that happen this year with a couple of freezes in April and then one on May 10.
Evergreens will continue to need water throughout the winter. If the soil freezes for long periods, the roots can’t take up the water. Deciduous trees, trees that lose their leaves, will not need as much water. Roots in trees will continue to grow as long as soil temperatures are over 40 degrees. Soil temperatures are warmer than air temperatures in the winter because they are insulated.
If you have questions about trees and dormancy contact your County Extension Office or email me at [email protected].
In the spirit of Halloween this year, I want to talk about spiders. When I was growing up either my dad or me always had spider duty for my sister. If there is one in her general vicinity, she wants it dead. She’s actually still like that to this day; I just can’t hear her scream from a state away. The truth is that spiders may creep us out sometimes, but they do a lot of good too. So, let’s talk about spiders.
Spiders are arachnids, meaning that they have eight legs. Ticks, mites, and scorpions are also arachnids. A spider’s body is made up of two parts, the abdomen, and the cephalothorax. They come in a wide range of sizes, but the female is usually larger than the male. The smallest is Patu digua from Colombia and is only one-fifth the size of a pinhead. The largest is the goliath bird eater. It’s in the tarantula family. They weigh up to 6.2 oz. and are almost half a foot long. They’re from northern South America. Most spiders will only live for one or two years, but tarantulas can live over 20 years in captivity. A trapdoor spider in Australia lived to be 43 years old.
Even though we think of spiders as creepy crawlies, they are usually good to have around. Spiders are a general predator, meaning that they will catch and eat a wide number of different insects. This makes them beneficial in the garden. I also don’t mind having them out on the porch, because that means fewer mosquitoes. Most of the time spiders are going to be harmless to humans. Most of their bites are not dangerous for an animal our size. A couple have a powerful bite. The black widow is one that most people know. Black widows are common throughout Georgia. Like most spiders, they are timid and won’t bite unless they’re handled. They are shiny black with a red hourglass shape on their abdomen. They like to make their web in piles of trash and lumber or cracks and crevices around the home. Black widow bites are painful. The brown recluse is another species that has a painful bite. They are not seen as often in Georgia. They like to live in undisturbed areas. They are light brown with a violin-shaped body. A brown recluse bite can cause an ulcer that heals slowly and leaves a scar.
There is a new spider in northeast Georgia from the last couple of years. The joro spider. These are from the golden orb-web genus. They make large webs that have the classic spider web design. The females are black, yellow, and red making them very striking in appearance. They’ll grow to be 4 inches across, including their legs. The joro spiders are an invasive species, but they have not shown themselves to be a pest. They may actually help control stinkbug populations, which are a pest.
If you have questions about spiders contact your County Extension Office or email me at [email protected]. I cannot identify critters from the bite or rash that they leave, but can assist in the identification of an insect or spider if a specimen is brought in.
Written and Submitted By Jacob Williams
Chinese privet is an invasive weed that grows in leaps and bounds. It is capable of taking over large areas of land. The Georgia Forestry Commission consistently lists it at the top of their Dirty Dozen for non-native invasive plants. It can become a real problem in wooded areas, especially along wood lines and roadsides. Let’s talk about Chinese privet and how you can control it to keep it from overrunning our beautiful mountains.
Chinese privet was originally brought over to the U.S. in the mid-1800s to be used as a hedge. By the 1950’s it had taken over entire forests. Privet puts on berries that birds and wildlife eat who spread the seeds and start new plants. Once established, the privet shrub will send up shoots around it to create a dense thicket that will force out native plants.
First, let’s talk about how to identify it. Privet is a semi-evergreen to evergreen, which means that it’s a lot easier to identify it during the winter because everything else has lost its leaves. It has thin bark with opposite leaves that are glossy. In early May, it puts on small white flowers that have four petals. It grows as a shrub, but it can grow up into the size of a small tree. The berries that it puts on are small, about the size of your pinky fingernail, and dark blue in color.
So, let’s talk about controlling this invasive weed. For starters, it’s good to be aware that controlling Chinese privet is not a one and done kind of deal. Repeated applications of herbicide will most likely be required. Late fall is the best time to treat privet with herbicides.
Hand pulling is an option only when plants are very small. If the plant doesn’t come up easily, it’s most likely a lateral shoot off the main plant. In this case, the main plant needs to be removed. A weed wrench is a tool that can make hand pulling of plants more effective, by allowing you to hand pull bigger plants. Brush mulching will level thickets of privet, but because it doesn’t remove the roots, and regrowth will occur. However, that regrowth will be uniform, making it easier to control with herbicides.
The two main herbicides used to treat Chinese privet are glyphosate and triclopyr. There are a couple of different ways to make the application. A foliar application from a sprayer will work if you have a concentrated enough mix. Ready to use mixes are usually not strong enough. The issue with foliar applications is drift. Nearby plants will also be affected by glyphosate.
A couple of other options are cut stump and basal bark. Cut stump will require a saw for you to cut the plant down to just a couple of inches above ground level. Then apply the triclopyr or glyphosate at a strong concentration using a brush on directly onto the tree where the stump is exposed. It may be beneficial to include a dye spray indicator so that you can tell which stumps have been treated. Basal bark means using triclopyr ester at the base of the plant, spraying the herbicide in a ring on the base. Herbicide treatments work well with controlling privet, but they can still be time-consuming. Whenever applying any kind of pesticide always read and follow the label instructions.
If you have questions about privet control contact your local Extension Office or email me at [email protected].
Have you seen moss growing on trees? Lichen is the term used for the blue green, papery growth that is often found on the bark of trees and other perennials. Sometimes folks are concerned over the growth of lichen, because they think it may be damaging their tree. Most of the time, this is not the case. Let’s talk about what lichens are, what causes them, and what you can do to control them, if necessary.
Lichens are really made up of a couple of different organisms. They usually will have fungus and algae. These organisms work together in a relationship that is mutually beneficial. Together these organisms produce the thallus, which is the leaf like growth that people see and recognize as lichen. Each organism has its own role in the relationship. The fungus provides a physical structure for growth, because the algae is slimy and has no structure. The fungus also provides water and minerals from the air or the material that the lichen is growing on. The algae are capable of photosynthesis, so they provide the carbohydrates needed for life. Some algae are also able to pull nitrogen from the atmosphere that the lichen need for development. Together they are able to combine and sustain life.
Lichens grow all over the world. Different species will grow on different surfaces. For instance lichen that you see on a rock will not grow on a tree. Different colors are also possible. Lichen will begin to grow more on a plant if that plant has lost some of its leaves. When leaves fall from a tree, more sunlight is able to penetrate to the branches and trunk of the tree that will enable the growth of more lichen. Lichen is an opportunistic grower, meaning that healthy, actively growing plants will not have as much lichen on them. If there is an abundant amount of lichen on a plant that means there could be something that is stressing your plant, allowing the opportunistic lichen to grow. That could be a nutritional deficiency, a root disease, or an insect pest among other things.
Lichen does not kill plants. An abundant amount of lichen can be an indicator that something else is affecting the plant. Because lichen doesn’t damage plants, I don’t like to recommend products to kill it. You can remove lichen manually by gently scraping it from the bark. If you see a tree that has a lot of lichen growing on it carefully examine the plant. Here are some things to look for. Has the plant already lost its leaves? Are there holes in the bark from insects boring? Has the plant been receiving enough water? Are the roots turning black or are there mushrooms growing around the base of the tree? These are all questions that will help you determine if your plant is in decline and get to the root of the issue.
If you have questions about lichen growing on your plants contact your County Extension Office or send me an email at [email protected].
Have you seen small white cottony balls on hemlock trees? If you have then that means those trees are infested with Hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA). Let’s look at why it’s important to preserve hemlocks, what is the pest that is killing them, and what you can do to save them. We are getting to the time of year when they really start to come out.
Hemlocks are a native species that ranges from Maine to Northern Alabama. They are a keystone species that provides habitat for about 120 species of vertebrates and over 90 species of birds. Hemlocks are unique in their ability to thrive in shade. This attribute makes them common in ravines and along rivers and streams. Their proximity to streams and rivers means that they are crucial in reducing erosion and watershed protection. Hemlocks can be identified by their needles. They have short flat needles with two distinctive pale white stripes on the underside. The needles are wider at the base and taper to a rounded tip, unlike firs that have parallel sides the whole way down.
HWA is a very small insect. The white cottony sacks on the hemlock trees are egg sacks of HWA. They are an invasive species from Asia that doesn’t have a natural predator here. HWA feeds on the sap inside of hemlock trees. Wind, birds, deer, or humans can spread the HWA. Once a tree has become infected, it will die within four to 10 years. Therefore, it is important to treat trees as soon as possible after finding that they have been infected.
It is important to treat your own trees with cultural and chemical controls. Cultural controls include keeping hemlocks well mulched and watered. Hemlock trees don’t have very deep roots and droughts can make them more susceptible to infection. Don’t place any bird feeders or deer feeders near your trees. Birds and deer can carry the eggs for long distances. If you are hiking in an area that has HWA wash your clothes afterward because you may be carrying eggs. Be careful to not over-fertilize your trees as that could make them more enticing to HWA. Cultural controls may keep your trees healthy, but when they become infested, chemical controls are the only option. Chemical controls involves treating your tree with either Imidacloprid or Dinotefuran, and is the most common and effective method of control. An imidacloprid treatment will last four or five years. However, it may take one year before it is effective. Dinotefuran will last for two years in the tree and will take about four to six weeks to take effect. The ideal way to apply either of these insecticides is by soil injection or soil drench. Putting the insecticide in the soil will mean quicker uptake by the plant and reduce the chance of off target drift. If the trees are near open water, a trunk injection of insecticide is necessary, which will require a professional. Whenever applying a pesticide it is important to familiarize yourself with the label before using the product.
The Union and Towns County Extension Offices each have a soil injector that is available to be checked out. Checking it out requires a $250 dollar deposit that will be returned when the injector is brought back. I also have a soil drench kit in each office, which are simpler to use, especially if you don’t have many trees. You must provide your own insecticide.
Contact your local Extension Office or send me an email at [email protected] if you have any questions about HWA.
2020 Fannin County Canning Plant Guidelines
811 Summit Street Blue Ridge, GA 30513
Across from the Swan Drive in Marquee
The Canning Plant will begin full-time operation on July 7, 2020 by appointment only and with
COVID-19 guidelines in place.
We will take appointments for 7:30 AM, 9:10 AM, 11:50 AM, and 1:30 PM each day.
Appointments for products containing meat will not be made after the 11:50 appointment.
The canning plant will be open on Tuesday and Thursday each week from July 7 until
September 29. Appointments will be scheduled in 90 minute increments. Please alter quantity
of your product (if needed) to adhere to the 90 minute time frame.
COVID-19 guidelines are as follows:
1. Anyone with a temperature above 100.3 , with a cough, with shortness of breath, who
has been feeling ill, or who has knowingly been exposed to the COVID-19 virus should NOT
come to the canning plant. We will take the temperature of every individual as he or she
enters the Canning Plant.
2. Agriculture teachers, cannery staff, and anyone who comes to the Canning Plant will be
required to wear a face mask/covering.
3. The canning plant will be sanitized before and after each customer. Appointments are
being scheduled to ensure time for cleaning and sanitizing between customers.
4. Hand soap and disposable towels will be provided.
5. Social distancing of 6 feet will be required inside the canning facility. Please adhere to
station markers set up inside the canning plant.
6. Groups will be limited to a maximum of 3 people.
7. When your appointment time is over, you will need to leave the building and return later
for product pick up.
Customers will be required to make appointments by texting or calling Rhonda Mathews at
706-455-2545 from 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM Monday – Thursday. If no answer, then please leave a
voicemail and your call will be returned ASAP.
We encourage customers to do as much prep work as possible at home before coming to the
canning plant (ex. washing produce, snapping beans, washing jars, frying meat, cutting apples)
Dr. Michael Gwatney
All ingredients for canning various produce are the responsibility of the customer.
The cannery does not provide salt and other canning ingredients.
Basic supplies such as spoons, pots and pans, etc. are available for use while canning.
Cannery customers are reminded that the facility is operated as an educational program to the
Customers are responsible for preparing various produce according to individual recipes and
getting it in the jar/can with assistance and guidance from cannery personnel.
Once the product is placed in the jars or cans, it is then the responsibility of the customer to
clean the work area.
All products processed at this facility must be for home use only.
Basic information will be available by calling the Cannery phone number 706-632-0208 and
listening to the greeting. Please do not leave a voicemail on this line.
Staff: The cannery will be managed by the Fannin County Agricultural Education staff and
operated by the Fannin County Board of Education.
Rhonda Mathews – Young Farmer Teacher
Emily Fellenbaum – FCHS Ag Teacher
Cherie White – FCMS Ag Teacher