Chinese Privet

Just For Fun, Lifestyle

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]


Community, Just For Fun

Chrysanthemums, also called mums, are the Queen of Fall Flowers. They can have gorgeous flowers each fall and bring a lot of color to the home this time of the year. There are several nurseries around here that grow beautiful mums. Let’s talk about some of the properties of this plant and what you could do to have mums in your yard.

Mums are a member of the daisy family (Asteraceae). This is one of the biggest families in the plant kingdom with a wide variety of flowering plants. The mums were first cultivated in the 15th century B.C. in China. In the 8th century A.D., the mum made its way to Japan. They were so popular there that the mum became the official seal of the emperor. The mum was introduced to the Western world in 1753 by Karl Linnaeus, a Swedish botanist. Growers from ancient China would probably not recognize modern-day mums due to the breeding that has given them more showy flowers. Chrysanthemum is also the source of an insecticide called pyrethrum. Because this insecticide is developed from a natural source it is considered an organic insecticide.

The easiest way to have blooming mums at your house each year will be to buy them in the fall from a local nursery. However, if you are interested in growing your own mums it is possible. There are many different varieties available, so talking with a local nursery will help you choose a variety that is acclimatized to our area. They do best when planted in the spring after the last frost. Planting in the spring will give them time to develop a root system so that the following winter they will be able to survive. Well-drained soils with full sun are the best for growth. Mums need a slightly acidic soil with a pH near 6.5.

After planting fertilize mums with 5-10-5 fertilizer. The high phosphorus will assist root growth on mums. As the mum is growing in the summer pinching the tips of the mum will increase the amount of branching on the plant. More branching will lead to a fuller plant. Pinch the top half-inch to a full inch of the plant to encourage branching. Pinch every four to six weeks until August when the flower buds begin to appear.

Mums are relatively easy to take care of, but there are a couple of diseases to look out for. Some of the most common diseases are powdery mildew, blight, leaf spot, and rust. These diseases are fairly easy to control either by fungicide applications or removing the infected leaves. Spider mites and aphids can be pests of mums. They can be controlled by insecticides but good coverage of the plant is necessary to control these pests. Spider mites and aphids are capable of population explosions in a very short amount of time, therefore make sure that you completely cover the top and bottom of the leaves when spraying for these pests.

If you have questions about growing mums please contact your local Extension Office. Or send me an email at [email protected].

Cover Crops


I have talked about cover crops briefly in the past, but this week I’d like to go into more detail. Planting cover crops year after year provides many benefits to the soil. Let’s talk a little more about what a cover crop is, why you should plant one, and how to go about doing that.

A cover crop is a crop that you plant to cover the ground. (How’s that for using the word in the definition?) Most of the time cover crops are planted in the fall and grow through the winter to be
terminated in spring before you plant your garden. There are summer cover crops that can be grown, but I’m going to focus on winter cover crops, because of the time of year right now. Typically, a cover crop is a cereal grain (e.g. rye, or wheat), brassica (e.g. forage turnip or wild radish), or a legume (e.g. clover or vetch). You can also plant combinations of the three.

Cover crops benefit soil health in a multitude of ways. One of those is that cover crops help build organic matter in the soil. A cover crop like rye produces a lot of biomass, when that biomass is tilled into the soil before spring planting, it gives the microbes in the soil material to work on to turn into organic matter. Because of the rainfall and heat that we have in the southeast, organic matter will decompose faster than it’s created. Therefore giving those soil microbes materials to turn into organic matter will allow you to increase your organic matter over time.

Cover crops also reduce erosion. After pulling the crops that you had planted in the summer the soil may be left bare. A cover crop will protect that soil, and hold it in place to keep it from washing away. Cove crops can also reduce weeds. Some crops like rye will release chemicals that are like a natural herbicide. You can also use cover crops as a natural mat, that blocks sunlight, and so make it more difficult for weeds to grow. Certain cover crops like brassicas that produce a large taproot can be used to alleviate compaction. That large taproot will break up the soil and can penetrate hard layers in the soil.

All of these attributes make cover crops very beneficial to the soil. So how do you grow a cover crop? The ideal time to plant a cover crop is around Labor Day. If you’re planting a cereal grain, you’ll want to plant 3-4 pounds of seed per 1000 square feet. Brassicas need 1-2 pounds of seed per 1000 square feet. Legumes need a quarter pound per 1000 square feet because the seeds are very small. Legumes are able to fix nitrogen because they have a symbiotic relationship with bacteria. Therefore, it’s important to inoculate your soil with the appropriate bacteria if you’re putting out legumes. Allow the cover crop to grow throughout the winter. Depending on the cover crop that you use, you may need to add some fertilizer. 2-3 weeks before planting your summer plants, you’ll need to terminate the cover crop by cutting it and tilling it into the soil.

If you have questions about cover crops contact your County Extension Office or email me at [email protected].

Perennial Pals: Is it Ripe?

Just For Fun, Tastebuds

(Article and photo by Jacob Williams in conjunction with Towns-Union Master Gardener Association and the UGA Extension Office)

One question that people will call me with is how to tell if a fruit or vegetable is ripe or not. Different plants ripen differently. Some will continue to ripen after they’ve been picked, others need to ripen attached to the plant. Let’s talk about what causes plants to ripen and how to tell if some common fruits and vegetables are ripe or not.

Fruits and vegetables are divided into climacteric and non-climacteric. The difference between these groups is their response to the hormone ethylene. Ethylene is a hormone that plants produce to induce ripening. Climacteric fruits and veggies will continue to ripen after they have been picked. Non-climacteric fruits and veggies won’t continue to ripen. Instead, they will soften and rot as they age. Some crops are sensitive to ethylene and so shouldn’t be stored with climacteric crops that produce ethylene.

Apples, pears, peaches, plums, potatoes, and tomatoes are some examples of climacteric plants. Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, cherries, cucumbers, eggplant, grapes, strawberries, peppers, squash, and watermelon are all examples of non-climacteric crops. Some examples of plants that are sensitive to ethylene and so shouldn’t be stored with climacteric crops are asparagus, broccoli, cucumbers, green beans, kale, onions, peas, peppers, squash, and watermelon.

Now that we know a little more about the ripening process let’s talk about how to tell when the best time to pick some of the most commonly grown crops around here are.

RipeTomatoes are an easy one to tell when they are ripe because they start to turn red. You can pick tomatoes before they are fully ripe on the vine. Because they are climacteric, they will continue to ripen. I’ve put tomatoes up in the kitchen windowsill so that they’ll ripen. Sometimes it is advantageous to pick something before it’s fully ripe so that you make sure critters don’t get it before you.

Apples and pears can be a little more challenging to tell when they are ripe. Different varieties will ripen at different times. In addition, the entire tree may not ripen at the same time. If the apple or pear stem breaks away easily from the tree then it’s ripe. Turn the fruit sideways to see if it pops off. Depending on the variety, you can use color to tell if the fruit is ripe. If you cut an apple open and the seeds are dark brown, it’s ripe.

Blueberries will be plump with a deep blue color. They also have a white powder on the skin that keeps them fresh longer.

Squash and zucchini should be harvested when they’re 4-8 inches long. They’ll both grow longer if left on the vine, and you can still eat them if they’re big, but they get tougher as they age. You should be able to push your fingernail into the skin.
Sweet corn is ripe when you can puncture a kernel with your fingernail and milky fluid comes out. As soon as corn is picked, it starts to lose flavor. Refrigerate it to retain flavor.

Pick peas when the pods have plumped out. If they start to wrinkle, they’re getting overripe. You can always open a pod to see if the seeds are swollen, but still tender. Beans are ready when you can see the seeds bulging through the sides of the pod.

Pick peppers when they are shiny green. If you let them sit on the bush longer and they start to change to orange or red and they’re getting hotter. If that’s what you’re looking for, let them sit.

If you have questions about when plants are ripe contact your County Extension Office or email me at [email protected]



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Discover Dahlonega: When you’re stuck at home – Gardening tips from the experts

Arts & Entertainment, Lifestyle

(Article by Courtney Randolph in conjunction with the Dahlonega-Lumpkin Chamber and Visitors Bureau)

Feeling a bit restless, and looking for something to do? We sure do love a good DIY, especially when it involves some vitamin D! Learn how to build your own DIY garden from JoAnn Goldenburg, owner of the Dahlonega Butterfly Farm. If vegetable gardens and medicinal plants are more your thing, learn some tips from one of our favorite doctors, Dr. Whitfield.

Follow these steps to build a thriving butterfly destination and watch the colorful visitors arrive!

What Are Host Plants? Do I Need Them?
DSC 0757 1

Photo: The Dahlonega Butterfly Farm

“HOST PLANTS are the plants where the female butterflies lay their eggs and where the caterpillars forage.  Host plants aren’t always the prettiest plants in the garden but they’ll definitely bring butterflies into your yard.  A few common host plants include Milkweed for the Monarchs, Parsley & Fennel for the Black Swallowtails, and Passion Vine for the Gulf Fritillary (to name a few).  Keep this in mind; caterpillars eat a lot!  So if you want to enjoy raising your own caterpillars – make sure to plant several host plants.”


What are “nectar plants” and how do I choose which one to plant?


Photo: The Dahlonega Butterfly Farm

NECTAR PLANTS support adult butterflies (and other beneficial insects) with their sweet nectar and add beautiful seasonal color to your garden.   It’s a good idea to have a variety of nectar plants which bloom throughout the summer to give your butterflies a regular source of food.  There are hundreds of nectar plants to choose from but you’ll want to pick the right plants based on your zone and location.  North Georgia is in Zone 7a, which is great for growing Perennial Lantana, Verbena, Coreopsis, Zinnias, Black-Eyed Susan, and Buddlei.  For a seasonal pop of color you can also add annuals, Begonias, Pansies, Impatiens and Geraniums.  And don’t forget the shrubs and trees; Butterflies need a safe place to rest and sleep.


How To Create a Butterfly Garden


Photo: The Dahlonega Butterfly Farm

A SUNNY SPOT and a small water puddle are also important to complete your butterfly habitat.  Butterflies love to soak up the “sun” because they’re cold blooded and need the heat to fly. Butterflies need a water source to stay hydrated.. You can try adding a shallow dish to your garden with water or fruit juice.   As a matter of fact, some butterflies prefer fruits and will be happy to feed on rotting bananas, oranges, mangoes or even dung. Last but not least; try to eliminate or reduce the use of pesticides and herbicides.  Chemicals aren’t safe for butterflies, pets, or humans.  Butterflies need a healthy environment and so do we!”

 Top Photo provided by instagram account user, @i_shoot_people77

Gardening Tips from Dr. Whitfield

“Most of us find “sheltering in place” something to be endured until the COVID-19 pandemic is over. Plants, on the other hand, are of course happy to stay put and flourish in dirt, no less. And like most of us, they do even better when they are surrounded by nurturing companions, hence the gardening practice of companion planting.

Now that most of us are expected to spend most of our time at home, an escape to the garden for exercise and sun is a logical stress reliever to being home bound. So, what better time than this spring planting season to add to our gardening “know how”?

To that end, I would like to share some of my favorite gardening tips, especially for our first-time gardeners. So, let’s talk about frost dates, using planting calendars, and companion planting techniques which may help you grow a beautiful and productive garden.”

Frost Dates
“Frost dates can be confusing. Gardeners talk about the last “hard” or “killing” frosts and “light” frosts. A frost date is the average date of the first or last light freeze that occurs in spring or fall. Dave’s Garden website tells us that, on average, our risk of frost in Dahlonega is from October 27 through April 10. And, almost certainly, we will receive frost from November 14 through March 21. We are almost guaranteed not to get frost from May 1 through October 9. Our frost-free growing season is about 200 days. I try to be relatively conservative with frost dates and use March 30 as the last killing frost date and May 15 as the last average light frost date in Dahlonega. There will be a lot of variation in these reported dates due to local weather, microclimates or topography, but the conservative dates seem to work well for me.”
Garden Planners
“These are wonderful slide rule type planners that you can use to enter the last frost date and learn when you should start seeds indoors and/or outdoors. They provide information such as recommended plants, dates to start indoor seeds and the types of seeds to start, first outdoor planting dates, and expected harvest dates. You can also find programs on line to help you develop and save your own gardening data.

My first garden planner was called “Clyde’s Garden Planner – Clyde’s Vegetable Planting Slide Chart” which I found on line. I also have a “Garden Vegetable Guide” that United Community Bank gave away a few years ago, and it provides data such as: how easy or challenging different seeds are to grow, when to start or plant them, planting depth, row width/ spacing between seeds, days to maturity, hardiness and type of soil. The University of Georgia has a fantastic web site you can easily access. Just google: Vegetable Garden Calendar, UGA Cooperative Extension.”

What Should I Plant? What is Companion Planting?
“Said to be part experience, part folklore, and part wishful thinking, most companion planting teachings are passed down by gardeners who experimented with different pairings of plants and had some success. The companion planting technique is the result of placing various crops close to each other so they symbiotically compliment each other leading to greater vigor, growth and often better flavor. Some companion plants are used to repel and deter insect pests and diseases. Companion planting also involves separating plants that are antagonistic to each other.

Tomatoes are one of my favorite vegetables. Here is some information you may find helpful if you plan to grow your own tomatoes.
Companions for tomatoes include: amaranth, asparagus, basil, bean, borage, calendula, celery, chive, cleome, cosmos, cucumber, garlic, lemon balm, lettuce, marigold, mint, nasturtium, onion, parsley, peas, sage, stinging nettle, sow thistle, and squash. Amaranth may repel insects. Basil improves growth and flavor and repels mosquitoes and flies. Borage improves growth and flavor and repels tomato worms. Bee balm, chives, and parsley are reported to improve tomato health and flavor. Garlic repels red spider mites and garlic sprays help control late blight. Stinging nettle nearby improves taste, while sow thistle aids growth. Tomato antagonists include: cabbage and members of the Brassica family (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collards, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, rutabaga, turin), corn, fennel, and mature dill plants.
Tomatoes are in the nightshade family and it is best to avoid planting together vegetables in the same family, like eggplants, peppers, and potatoes, which are susceptible to early and late blight. Also, avoid planting your tomatoes near walnut and butternut trees as they produce juglone. Juglone is an allelopathic substance produced by walnut and butternut trees which stunts the growth of other plants.”Companion Planting Resources
“Some of my favorite resources on Companion Planting include: Carrots Love Tomatoes by Louise Riotte and Great Garden Companions by Sally Jean Cunningham. (My disclaimer: Contrary to popular belief, tomatoes and carrots may not have a symbiotic relationship. In fact there is some suggestion that tomato plants can stunt the growth of carrots.)
The glory of gardening, according to Alfred Austin, English Poet Laureate, means “hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden,” Austin says, “is to feed not just the body, but the soul.” What could be a better remedy for our couch stiffened bodies and soul stagnating confinement than putting our hands in the dirt and heads in the sun, nurturing our souls with garden creativity, in partnership with the Creator, enjoying our ever-improving garden paradises during this COVID-19 spring.”
Thank you Dr. Whitfield and JoAnn for the lovely gardening tips! Try incorporating some of these tips this spring while you stay-inplace for a gorgeous life-giving garden! You’ll thank yourself later, we promise!



Read more of Discover Dahlonega on FYN’s SUNDAY EDITION! If you’re enjoying the Sunday Edition, then consider becoming a contributor with your own articles. If you have an article that needs highlighting send it to [email protected] to become a part of our growing community of feature news.

Perrenial Pals: Managing Fire Ants in the Garden

Fetching Featured, Just For Fun
Fire Ants

(Article and photo by Jacob Williams in conjunction with Towns-Union Master Gardener Association and the UGA Extension Office)

Fire ants are very common throughout Georgia. Thankfully, we don’t have as many in the mountains as they do south of us. However, once you experience a fire ant bite, you won’t ever forget it. Another problem with fire ants is that you rarely get just one bite. Fire ants were first reported in Georgia in the 1950s. They’ve been found all the way from North Carolina to Texas, and down to Florida. Let’s talk about fire ants and things that you can do to control them so that they don’t take over your lawn or pasture.

If you can manage to get an up-close look without being bitten and stung, you’ll see that fire ants have two nodes between their abdomen at the end of their body and the thorax in the middle of their body. Fire ants generally like to stay in open grassy areas.

Fire ants are most active when temperatures are between 70 and 85. In the fall fire ants are active because they are foraging for food. This makes fall the best time to treat them. Treatment during the spring and summer is also possible, but effective population control will be less likely. When it’s really hot during the summer time fire ants will burrow deeper into the ground, making them more difficult to treat. Treatments in the summer are best done in the morning or evening when it’s cooler.

Using a bait will be the most effective way of controlling fire ants. Amdro is the main ant bait that is used for fire ants. Broadcast the bait either over the mounds, or in a four-foot circle around each mound. It’s important to know that Amdro is not labelled for use in vegetable gardens. It has to be used in scenarios where the plants growing there are not going to be eaten. If a few mounds remain after seven to ten days, a follow up application of Orthene will be effective against those problematic mounds. Take a long stick and quickly put a hole in the center of the mound. Then fill the hole with insecticide to eliminate those mounds. When applying pesticides always make sure to read and follow the label.

Pouring about 3 gallons of boiling water onto a mound will sometimes eliminate the mound, if it is done in the morning when more ants are close to the soil surface. It is also possible to coerce fire ants to move from sensitive areas by continually knocking down their colonies.

I have also seen people using orange oil mixed with soap and other ingredients. This treatment is effective because it eats away the ant’s skin. However, it will also kill any other insects, grubs, or worms that are in its path. It could also strip away the outer layer of any roots that it meets.

There are not many biological controls for fire ants in the United States because they are an invasive species. Fire ants are native to South America and have many natural enemies there. Researchers have to be very careful about introducing a natural predator, because the effects of that introduced species are unknown on our ecosystem.

If you have any questions about fire ants and fire ant control, contact your County Extension Office or send me an email at [email protected]


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