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].
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].
Now is the time of year when chiggers are going to be most active. If you haven’t, then consider yourself fortunate, because you live a blessed life. Let’s talk about chiggers, what they are, and what you can do to protect yourself from them.
Some people call chiggers red bugs because they are tiny red mites that are less that 1/50th of an inch long. Chigger are mites that are still in their larval stage. The larval stage is the only one that bites. The other stages of the chigger life cycle either lay eggs or prey on small insects. Chiggers like to live in areas that are full of brush and debris. They can be found in leaf litter. If you have areas with tall grass, they’ll like that too. Chiggers mainly bite rodents and rabbits. So, if you have areas that make a good habitat for rodents and rabbits then there is a good chance that you’ll have mites as well. Female mites will lay their eggs in the late winter, which will hatch in the spring. Chiggers will reach peak population in mid-summer and remain active until fall. They’ll be killed off by a hard freeze.
Chiggers only bite, they don’t bury under the skin. When they bite they inject their saliva which has a skin dissolving enzyme in it. As your skin cells dissolve, they drink it up. The saliva that they inject causes irritation, which makes you itch. Chiggers can stay latched on for three or more days, so if you have a chigger bite it’s best to wash that spot with lather repeatedly, and then dab the spot with an antiseptic. That will kill most of the chiggers on you.
Chiggers typically like to bite in tight places. That means you’lloften get their bites underneath your socks, in your waist band, or armpits.
Chiggers are susceptible to dehydration. Therefore, they like to populate areas with shade and high humidity. Removing brush piles and leaves, keeping grass cut, and removing bushes will eliminate areas that they like to live. Blackberry bushes seem to be a particularly favorite habitat. Chiggers don’t like temperatures over 90 (I don’t blame them), so when our temperatures drop as summer ends, chiggers will become more active.
There are some chemicals that can be used as repellents or to kill chiggers. Products containing DEET will be effective at repelling chiggers, mosquitoes, biting flies, gnats, and ticks. You can also spray it on your clothing to keep them off your clothes. Oil of lemon eucalyptus can be used as a repellent, except for children under 3 years old. Products containing permethrin can be used on clothing to kill chiggers and ticks.
Chiggers are very aggravating to have, but hopefully this article has given you some options for how to deal with chigger bites and how to prevent them from getting on you. If you have questions about chiggers contact your county Extension Office or email me at [email protected].
On September 28 I will be hosting a Radon Education Program. This event will be virtual, but there is some limited in person seating available. Pre-registration is required for this free event. Call the Union County Extension Office at 706-439-6030 to pre-register.