Hemlock Woolly Adelgid

Community, Lifestyle
Hemlock Woolly Adelgid

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 Jacob.Williams@uga.edu if you have any questions about HWA.

Perennial Pals: Gardening and Crops in a Fall Garden

Just For Fun, Lifestyle, Tastebuds

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

Do you usually have a fall garden? Now is the time to start thinking about one. There are some benefits to having a fall garden that we’ll get in to. Let’s talk about what vegetable crops and cover crops are an option for a fall garden and how to start your fall garden.

Garden

Clovers in a pot

Cover crops are planted in the fall and grow throughout the winter into early spring. Cover crops are beneficial to soil health and are often used in organic production. I like to think of the soil as a muscle in the body. If you work a muscle too hard or with only one exercise then you may injure the muscle by straining it or even tearing it. However, by diversifying your exercises and making sure that you’re eating properly for muscle growth you can grow stronger. Soil also requires development over time, and cover crops can help with that. Common crops are clovers and cereal crops like cereal rye, black oats, and wheat. Come springtime they can be tilled into the soil or laid down so that you can plant into them. Planting cover crops can help to develop organic matter in the soil, reduce erosion, suppress weeds, and conserve soil moisture. Around Labor Day is the ideal time to plant cover crops in our area.

Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, turnips, radishes, spinach, lettuce, beets, and onions are some good options for a fall garden. For fall gardens it is important to use mulch to protect the plants from the frost. You may need to get another soil test done on your garden to see if you need to add any fertilizer for the coming crop. Ideally, you want the plants to have 50 – 60 days to mature before the first frost. Our average first frost date is mid-October. That makes mid-August a good time to plant.

garden

Violas

There are a couple of benefits to planting in the fall that you don’t see in the summer. One of these is there are fewer insect pests around. That means you won’t need to spray as many insecticides. If you are trying to grow your garden organically that is a very good thing! There will also be fewer diseases that you have to contend with in the fall. Diseases like hot, humid conditions. As the temperature drops in the coming months diseases will become less and less of a problem. Winter weeds can still be a problem but they are not as much of a pest as summertime weeds. Use mulch to suppress weeds.

Pansies and violas are an option for flowering plants that will last through the winter and keep their flowers. Plant pansies mid-September once the temperatures have cooled down.

Gardening in the spring means working through diseases and insects. In the fall the biggest challenge will be from the temperature. As the temperature drops rapidly selecting varieties of crops that can stand the cold will be important. It can be extremely rewarding to see green growing around your house after everything else has turned brown.

If you have any questions about growing your fall garden contact your County Extension Office or email me at Jacob.Williams@uga.edu.

 

 

 

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Perennial Pals: Roadside Beauties

Just For Fun

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

In the mountains, you don’t have to look very far to see the beauty of the land. Whether it’s fog rolling off the mountains or the sun shining off the water, the beauty is apparent. However, you really don’t have to lift your eyes to the horizon to see some brilliant colors. Oftentimes, the roadsides will have some great colors for you to see in wildflowers growing on the side of the road. My wife has yelped at me more than once for veering slightly off the road trying to get a better glimpse of something flowering. Let’s talk about some of those plants that often bloom along the roadside.

Spotted Joe-Pye Weed

Joe-Pye weed is a perennial plant that grows to about 3-7 feet tall. It has leaves that come out in a whorl at each node. Usually there will be about five leaves in each whorl. It likes to grow in partial shade, so you’ll see it beneath trees. It puts on flowers starting in late July through September. The flowers range from pink to purple in groups of 4-7. The flowers are found at the top of the plant.

Jewelweed is a self-seeding annual. It also likes semi-shady areas. It is actually in the impatiens genus, which means it’s related to the impatiens that people like to plant around their house. They’ll grow 3-5 feet tall. The flowers are sac like with an orange-yellow color. In the early morning, they are covered with dew, which gives them a jewel like appearance when the sun glints off them.

Ironweed is a perennial that grows to be 3-10 feet tall. You can often find it in overgrown pastures. It blooms from August to September. It can look similar to Joe-Pye weed but the flowers are a darker purple. The leaves are also a darker green.

Perennial

Goldenrod Weed

Goldenrod is a perennial that will grow to be 2-7 feet tall. We actually have several different species of goldenrod, but they all look very similar. The flowers are yellow and create a plume that lays over at the top of the plant. It blooms in August and September. This is another one that you’ll commonly see in old fields. Sometimes people confuse it with ragweed. Ragweed pollen can cause allergies, but goldenrod is not as much of an allergen.

Butterfly weed has brilliant orange flowers. This perennial is an important pollinator plant. It grows to be about 2 feet tall with clusters of flowers at the top. As part of the Asclepias genus, it is a native milkweed. Milkweeds play a pivotal role for monarch butterflies, because they will only lay their eggs on milkweeds. Monarch caterpillars only eat milkweeds. Butterfly weed needs full sun.

Sourwood trees have finished blooming for the year, but you can still see some of the leftover seed capsules, where blooms were. The flowers look like small white bells that hang in a line. Sourwoods are found from Pennsylvania to Florida, but southern Appalachia is where they are most common. Sourwoods leaves also turn to a deep red during the fall.

If you have questions about wildflowers contact your County Extension Office or email me at Jacob.Williams@uga.edu.

 

 

 

 

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Perennial Pals: Is it Ripe?

Just For Fun, Tastebuds
Ripe

(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 Jacob.Williams@uga.edu.

 

 

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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 Jacob.Williams@uga.edu.

 

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 lonnie@fetchyournews.com to become a part of our growing community of feature news.

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