Upcoming Events

The War Against Lawn Weeds

Contributed by: Mallory Kelley, Regional Extension Agent

Many of you have given up the battle to treat your lawn on your own, and many of you are still waging war yourself and wondering “What am I doing wrong?” Well, if you want to get ahead of the game, a pre-emergent applied in February is the way to go! This article will hopefully give you several tips from pre and post emergent products to fertilizers to help you achieve the beautiful lawn you are hoping for. 

The most popular product out there that seems to have it all, the “one stop shop” for all your lawn needs is the “weed and feed” products. I am often asked if this is the correct way to treat the lawn.  In central Alabama, there is not a large window of time during which this product would be beneficial, but it can be used in May or early June when an extra application of fertilizer would not hurt, and the application of the pre-emergent chemical in the product will help prevent weed seeds from germinating through the summer and into the fall.

The best and most effective control of weeds in the lawn may take a little more effort than the “weed & feed”, “all in one” products, but you can save money and time in the long run applying them separately.  Pre-emergent weed killers should be selected based on the type of grass you have.  These weed control products are preventative, so they should be applied before the weeds are visible in the lawn as they prevent the seeds of the weeds from germinating.  These and can be applied any time of year except during “green-up” or to newly seeded or sprigged lawns, but again February is a great month as we will soon have spring like temperatures and spring weeds will start to germinate.  Do not reseed a lawn for 4-6 months after a pre-emergent chemical is applied and remember to always read and follow all label instructions when making applications of any chemical.  I have provided information below to access our website for a list of all Pre and Post-emergent chemicals on the market so you can correctly select the chemical that is best for your lawn situation. Don’t forget, a post-emergent herbicide is only going to kill a weed that has already begun to grow in the lawn.

Fertilizers are generally applied twice throughout the year, first in early spring during green-up and then again in mid-summer.  Fertilizer type and amounts should be based on soil test results, not guess work and anytime is a good time to have a soil test.  Soil tests will provide you with the correct type of fertilizer and amounts needed for your specific lawn. A soil test will also indicate whether lime is needed, and lime can be added at anytime of year. Remember, lime raises the soil pH.  A soil test will help you become more accurate in your fertilizer application, provide your grass with the exact nutrients it needs and save you money down the road.

For information on proper care of your turfgrass visit our publications online at www.aces.edu and search for the type of grass you have.  Also, for a list of pre and post-emergent chemicals that are available and the type of lawn they can be applied to, visit our website and search for: IPM Weed Control or access this link:  http://www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/A/ANR-0500-B/VOL2-2011/home_lawns_weed.pdf

Join us in February for our lunch and learn gardening programs in Central Alabama.

All Programs are FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC!

EVERY MONTH from 12:00-1:00, Bring a Sack Lunch, Drinks Provided!

February’s Topics and locations:

Montgomery: The 1st Wednesday of EVERY month, Armory Learning Arts Center, 1018 Madison Ave.              For more information: (334)270-4133

Topic: Home Gardening Facts, Mallory Kelley, Regional Extension Agent

Wetumpka: The 2nd Tuesday of EVERY month, Elmore Co. Extension Office, 340 Queen Ann Road     For more information: (334)567-6301

Topic: Backyard Birding and Wildlife, Hal Smith, Wild Birds Unlimited

Prattville: The 1st Thursday of EVERY month, Trinity United Methodist, 610 Fairview Ave., Prattville AL           For more information: (334)361-7273

Topic: Rose Gardens, Gloria Purnell, Master Rosarian

***Coosa: Monday, February 26 from 11:00-1:00 Coosa County Extension Office, 13999 AL Highway 22, Rockford, AL

For more information: (256)377-4713

Topic: Seed Starting and Grafting Techniques, Mallory Kelley, Regional Extension Agent






Residents Learn Gardening Tips During 1st Lunch & Learn of 2018

An impressive number of local residents learned gardening tips during the first Lunch & Learn of 2018!  The Autauga County Master Gardeners Association offers free “Lunch & Learn” meetings on the first Thursday of each month.

               January 4, 2018 Lunch & Learn Meeting in Autauga County

On January 4, 2018, Amanda Borden discussed gardening tips that  are specificic to central Alabama gardeners. Amanda is an Advanced Master Gardener, and her presentation was well received by beginner and advanced gardeners.

This year, ACMGA membars and local residents are meeting in a new location to accommodate increased participation in the fun classes that are offered during a lunch hour, 12:00 – 1:00 PM. The ACMGA Lunch & Learn meetings are being held at Trinity United Methodist Church, 610 Fairview Avenue, Prattville, AL 36066. Expect to learn about a different topic on each first Thursday of each month! Click here to review the schedule for 2018: 2018 ACMGALL Full Page Flyer


Remember to bring your sack lunch; water or tea will be provided. This program is free and open to the public.

For more information, please contact the Autauga County Extension Office (334) 361-7273.




New Lunch and Learn Location for 2018!

To accommodate growing attendance numbers, the Autauga County Master Gardeners Association Lunch & Learn program is being moved to a new location!

Portrait of mid-adult woman proudly showing her plants

On the first Thursday of every month, the 2018 Lunch & Learn programs will be held at Trinity United Methodist Church, 610 Fairview Avenue, Prattville, AL 36066, 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. These free programs  are open to the public. Registration is not required.  Click here for a printable version of the 2018 Lunch & Learn Schedule2018 ACMGALL Full Page Flyer

Participants are encouraged to bring a sack lunch to enjoy as they learn about such topics as: shade loving plants, growing citrus trees in containers, drought tolerant plants for the South, and much more. The first meeting of 2018 will be held on January 4th, and the topic is “Gardening 101”.

Please view the attached schedule for meeting topics and speakers, or you may contact the Autauga County Extension Office at 334.361.7273 for more information.

All Bugs Good and Bad

Tune in each month for the free webinar, “All Bugs Good and Bad”.

On September 1, 2017 at 1:00 p.m. CST  speaker, Molly Keck from Texas A&M Extension, will give a very beneficial talk on “Meet our Native Pollinators”. The webinar will be recorded, so you can watch it any time.  To watch a webinar, just log in as a guest 15 minutes before the webinar begins.

Use this link: https://learn.extension.org/events/2849

(Photograph of native pollinator contributed by Dani Caroll)

2017 All Bugs Good and Bad Webinar Series: Meet Our Native Pollinators

Event starts: Friday, September 1 at 2:00 pm EDT

Event ends: Friday, September 1 at 3:00 pm EDT

Location: TBA

Pollinators have been in the news a lot in the last couple of years.  While many of us are familiar with the European honeybee, we are not so familiar with our native pollinators.  Join Molly Keck, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension as she introduces us to some of our native pollinators, their habitats, and ways to preserve them. Moderated by Dani Carroll and Sallie Lee, Regional Extension Agents, Alabama Cooperative Extension System.   Note: on September 1, the link to the live webinar opens about 15 minutes before the webinar. If you try to log in earlier, you will get an error message.

For more webinars in this series, click here:All Bugs Good and Bad Free Webinars.

The webinars are brought to you by the following eXtension Communities of Practice: Ant Pests, and Urban IPM; and by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension ServiceClemson Cooperative Extension and University of Georgia Extension.
Dani Carroll


Planting a Fall Vegetable Garden

side view of gardening activity, unrecognizable woman hands wearing gloves, with her work tool planting seeds.

Contributed by: Mallory Kelley, Regional Extension Agent

If your summer vegetable garden was a bust, you are not alone. The cool late spring weather was wonderful and all this rain after the drought in the fall was much needed, but the problems they caused on our summer vegetables has been severe.  If your tomatoes, peppers, beans and squash didn’t survive, don’t give up, you must try again and why not with a fall garden?

Fall vegetables are really my favorite to grow and I have just about decided I will leave the peppers and tomatoes to my grandfather and avoid the summer heat, afternoon rain showers and weeding all together and take my turn providing for the family in the fall.  We are blessed by our warm Alabama climate that we can grow vegetables year round.

Many cool-season vegetables, such as carrots, broc­coli, cauliflower, collards, lettuce and Brussels sprouts, produce their best flavor and quality when they are maturing during cool weather. In Alabama, the spring temperatures often heat up quickly causing vegetables such as lettuce and spinach to bolt (flower) or develop a bitter flavor.  This is why planting these veggies late in the summer or early fall when we are transitioning to cooler temps is more ideal than in the spring.

Growing a productive fall vegetable garden requires thoughtful planning and good cultural practices. In Alabama, August and September are the ideal months for planting a fall garden. For a more accurate planting schedule, determine the average date of the first killing frost in the fall, and then count backward from the frost date, using the number of days to maturity to determine the best time to plant in your area.

Alabama in August and September is usually hot and dry.  If you choose to plant your fall veggies from seed during these months you must be careful to keep the soil moist.  Incorporating organic matter into the soil will help add nutrients and increase water holding capacity.  Lettuce and spinach seeds will not germinate if the soil temperature exceeds 85 degrees F so for these you may need to wait a bit longer before sowing or plant from transplants. Also remember to mulch the garden to moderate moisture levels as September and October are our driest months with very little rainfall.

You can extend your summer vegetable crop and your semi-hardy vegetables on into the fall and winter easily by protecting them from frost. In Alabama, we often enjoy several weeks of good growing conditions after the first frost. Cover growing beds, rows or individual plants with burlap or a floating row cover supported by stakes or wire to keep the material from directly touching the plants.

Most hardy vegetables require little or no frost protection, but semi-hardy vegetables should be protected or harvested before a heavy freeze.  Root crops such as carrots and radishes should be harvested or mulched heavily before a hard freeze. Mulched root crops can often be harvested well into the winter, and during mild winters, harvest may continue until spring.

So, if your summer garden was a flop, or you’re wanting to continue your progress of home vegetables into this fall and winter, it’s not too late.  There is still time to plant, especially the HARDY vegetables that can withstand a light frost such as:  Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Collards, Kale, Kohlrabi, Onions, Radishes, Spinach and Turnips.

If you have questions about any of these vegetables or others please call our Master Gardener Helpline!

March through August the Alabama Cooperative Extension System offers a Gardening Helpline for the general public each Monday through Thursday from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.  This helpline is operated by Master Gardener Volunteers who use research based information to best answer all of your gardening questions.

If you’ve got home garden questions, we’ve got answers!

Call 1-877-252-GROW (4769)


Please join us for the FREE Master Gardener Lunch and Learn Program in your area  EVERY MONTH from 12:00-1:00, Bring a Sack Lunch, Drinks Provided.

Coosa (August 1st)-11:00-1:00- Managing Fire Ants, Mallory Kelley

Montgomery (August 2nd) – Water Wisely- Drip Irrigation, Mary McCroan

Autauga (August 3rd) – Tough Native Wildflowers, Sue Webb

Elmore (August 8th)-Preserving your Gardens Bounty, Food Preservation Agent, Janet Johnson

Please join us and bring a friend!

For more information, call your local county extension office.


Be On the Watch for Ambrosia Beetles

Contributed by: Mallory Kelley, Regional Extension Agent

The Granulate Ambrosia Beetles have been causing quite a stir in home landscapes over the past few weeks.   This beetle was introduced into the United States in the early 1970’s in South Carolina and has since spread throughout the southeast and as far north as Maryland. This tiny beetle is a pest of woody ornamentals, fruit, and nut trees and can cause significant damage in nursery, landscape, and orchard settings.

Granulate ambrosia beetles emerge in early spring and attack thin-barked, deciduous trees.  Tree species most commonly reported with damage are dogwood, redbud, maple, ornamental cherry, Japanese maple, and crepe myrtle.  Other reported hosts include pecan, peach, plum, persimmon, golden rain tree, sweet gum, Shumard oak, Chinese elm, magnolia, fig, hydrangea, and azalea.

Young trees and small branches of mature trees are where these beetles attack.  Female beetles bore into the trunks and branches (1-4 inches in diameter) and excavate galleries in the wood.  In addition to boring damage, female beetles inoculate trees with ambrosia fungus, which can block xylem vessels and interfere with vascular transport.   Infested plants often die from boring damage, ambrosia fungus, or infection by a secondary pathogen.

These beetles attack seemingly healthy trees as well as stressed or unhealthy trees.  Visible symptoms include wilted foliage and strands of boring dust protruding from small holes. Serious attacks that result in tree death usually occur during the leafing-out stage.

Infestations can be easily be identified by toothpick-like strands protruding up to 1.5 inches from the bark of the host plant. The strands of boring dust are produced by the female beetle as she excavates her gallery. The strands are fragile and are easily broken off by wind or rain leaving only pencil-lead sized holes. This being the case, your tree may be infected and you would not even know it until you start seeing the dieback of the foliage.

Preventative applications of pyrethroid insecticides can protect trees by preventing Granulate Ambrosia Beetles from excavating galleries.  However, once beetles are inside trees they cannot be killed with insecticides and fungicides are ineffective against the ambrosia fungus.  Thus, the timing of preventative insecticide applications is crucial to protect trees from damage by this pest.  Dr. Charles Ray, Auburn University Extension Entomologist says “recent research of the first flight of granulate ambrosia beetle in spring has found it occurs at almost exactly the same time as Bradford pears beginning to bloom.  This gives a clear sign to a homeowner of when they should apply the preventative sprays.”

If you notice the white strands protruding from the branches or main trunk of your trees or shrubs the plant parts should be removed and destroyed.

Sources: Dr. Charles Ray, Auburn University, Extension Entomologist.

North Carolina State University http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/ent/notes/O&T/trees/note111/note111.html

If you have questions on a garden-related topic, the Master Gardener Helpline is open!

Call 1-877-ALA(252)-GROW(4769)

March through August the Alabama Cooperative Extension System offers a Gardening Helpline for the general public each Monday through Thursday from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.  This helpline is operated by Master Gardener Volunteers who use research-based information to best answer all of your gardening questions.

Join us for a Gardening Lunch and Learn!

Interested in learning more about seasonal gardening topics?  Please join us for the FREE Master Gardener Lunch and Learn Program in your area EVERY MONTH from 12:00-1:00, Bring a Sack Lunch, Drinks Provided.  Call your local county office for more information! In Autauga County meetings are held in Prattville: The 1st Thursday of EVERY month, Christ Lutheran Church, 2175 Cobbs Ford Road. For more information: (334)361-7273.

ACMGA Members Give Building’s Entrance a New Look

new landscaping mulched in pine straw at the front of the building
After the work, there is a new look to the entrance!
This is the building before the ACMGA’s landscaping project.

The Autauga County Master Gardeners Association (ACGMA) has begun the first phase of giving the William Howard Smith Agricultural Building in Autaugaville a new look.

The William Howard Smith Agricultural Building is home to the Autauga County Extension Office, Autauga Forestry Commission, Farm Services Agency , and Natural Resources and Conservation Services.

In early June, Master Gardeners cleared away weeds and grass and installed beautiful flowering plants and shrubs in the entryway.

master gardeners pose for a photograph after completing the landscape project
Autauga County Master Gardeners who participated in the landscaping effort.

Master Gardener Glenn Huovenin spearheaded the effort. Huovenin said, ” With funding supplied by the Autauga County Commission, and with the help of Regional Extension Agent Mallory Kelly, we came up with a design and plant selection that will enhance the appearance of the entrance of the building”.

ACMGA members will care for the plants ensuring proper weeding, fertilization, and dead-heading of spent blooms. The ACMGA plans to extend the landscaping around the building in the near future.

Canning Class- Food Safety Is Important

Regional Extension Agent, Janice Hall, who specializeds in the area of Food Quality and Safety with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System recently held a canning class in Autaugaville.


During the June 9th workshop at the Autuaga County Extension Office in Autaugaville, Dozens of participants received information on ways to safely can fruit and vegetables. Hall stressed to participants that being careful when canning is paramount.

“Food safety practices should be followed when canning fruits and vegetables. If the proper methods are NOT followed, someone could possibly become ill or worse. The Autauga County canning workshop was designed to teach people the safe way of preserving a bountiful harvest they may have grown or purchased. A delicious triple berry jam (raspberry, blackberry, and strawberry) was prepared and properly canned during a hands on demonstration. The leftovers were spread over some hot biscuits and sampled by the participants”, Hall said.







Plant Nutrition

Contributed by: Chip East

I talk with many people each year who are having problems with their plants. Usually insects, disease, weeds, and nutrition top the list. I recommend understanding the crops you grow as well as the problems associated with those crops as this would aid in scouting.

The Extension office will be happy to talk with anyone about potential pest problems with particular crops. Insects, disease, and even weed pressure can vary from year to year depending on the environmental conditions. Keep in mind that a pest that was a major problem last year, may or may not be a problem this season. However, providing plants with proper nutrition is something the grower is also responsible for every year and should be thought about in advance of planting. Once a nutrition problem is visible, it takes time to correct the problem, and production could be greatly reduced.

What can a grower do to reduce the chance of having nutrition problems? Organic matter increases the soil nutrient holding capacity of the soil, so the more organic matter, the better. Planting cover crops is a good way to increase the soil’s organic matter, but it does take time and should be something you work at each year. When you have decided what crop or crops you are planning to grow, you will need to soil test. We know what plants need. What we do not know is what elements are in your soil. A soil test simply analyzes the soil. A soil test analysis from our lab at Auburn costs $7 and provides valuable information for the grower. Once we know what is in the soil, we will know how much of what element or elements to add. I recommend the growers who market produce have their soil tested for each field on a yearly basis. A soil test can be done at any time of year, but I had rather test before planting.

At planting time, we would add half the recommended nitrogen, all the phosphorus, and half the potassium. Then two to three weeks after planting, we would apply another fourth of the recommended nitrogen and potassium. Two to three weeks after the second application, I would add the other fourth of the recommended nitrogen and potassium.  Of course this is just one example, and different growers apply fertilizer in different ways. Some will apply the fertilizer in only two applications, others will use drip irrigation, and it is easy to inject fertilizer through the drip on a weekly basis. I will be glad to help anyone calculate the needed fertilizer to inject in the drip.

In addition to soil testing, an analysis can be preformed on leaf samples at our lab. A deficiency would show up in an analysis long before it is visible in the field. Many growers do this regularly on crops such as strawberries, pecan, field tomatoes, greenhouse tomatoes, and others. This test costs $16 and gives the farmer valuable information.

Some plants that appear to be nutrient deficient may not always have a problem related to nutrients. Insects, disease, and other stresses can cause plants to look off color. Strawberries can develop a bronzing color due to a spider mite infestation and adding additional nitrogen will not solve the problem.

It is common for calcium deficient tomatoes to develop blossom end rot. It is caused from a lack of calcium in the plant, but adding additional calcium may not solve the problem. I have seen many times where the grower has sufficient calcium in the soil, but the plant is showing signs of a calcium deficiency. Plant stresses from things such as improper irrigation can cause the plant not to take up the needed calcium. In this case, mulching and irrigating the plants can help with nutrient uptake. It is hard to write an article about plant nutrition without mentioning pH. More elements are available for plant uptake at a pH of around 6.0 to 6.5, and we do not know the pH without a soil test. Calcium happens to be one to the elements that is not available for the plant at a low pH.

If you can visibly see that you have a nutrition problem, it will take time to correct, so it is important to scout fields regularly for any plant problems. If you have problems, just contact your local Extension office, and we will be glad to help.

Fire Blight


Contributed by :Mallory Kelley

Fire blight affects many plant species each year, and once you know the symptoms you will start noticing it everywhere.  This spring it seems to be more prevalent and a warmer winter along with the drought stress we had in the fall is what I attribute it to. Fire Blight, caused by the bacterium Erwinia amylovora, is a common and destructive disease of pear, apple, quince, hawthorn, many other members of the rose plant family as well as several stone fruit trees. The host range of the fire blight pathogen includes nearly 130 plant species in 40 genera. Badly diseased trees and shrubs are usually disfigured and may even be killed by fire blight.

Peach tree with a shriveled rotten peach

The term fire blight describes the blackened, burned appearance of damaged flowers, twigs, and foliage. Symptoms appear in early spring. Blossoms first become water-soaked, then wilt, and finally turn brown. Fruit may be infected by the bacterium directly through the skin or through the stem. Immature fruit are initially water-soaked, turning brownish black and becoming mummified as the disease progresses. These mummies often cling to the trees for several months.

Shortly after the blossoms die, leaves on the same spur or shoot turn brown and black. As the twig and leaf blight phase progresses, leaves die and curl downward, but do not drop from the tree which produces a “shepherd’s crook” appearance. This is usually the time when this disease is noticed on a tree or shrub. Spraying at this time is pointless, sanitization is the only cure.  This means cutting back at least 12 inches behind the scorched area and sanitizing pruners between every cut.  Choosing tolerant plant varieties is an easy way to reduce the likelihood of getting fire blight. Another option is to apply antibiotics (bactericides) very early in the spring, but timing can be very tricky for complete control.  Remember, Antibiotics are protectants and not cures so they must be present to prevent the infection. The best way for a homeowner to avoid fireblight is to choose resistant varieties.

If you have gardening related questions, call the Master Gardener Helpline!

March through August,the Alabama Cooperative Extension System offers a Gardening Helpline for the general public each Monday through Thursday from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.  This helpline is operated by Master Gardener Volunteers who use research based information to best answer all of your gardening questions.

If you’ve got home garden questions, we’ve got answers!

Call 1-877-252-GROW (4769)