Upcoming Events

4-H Sportfishing Exhibition Day

4-H Sportfishing Exhibition Day

You’re invited to join us for our 4-H Sportfishing Exhibition Day on June 10th at the Fairhope Pier!! We’ll be learning how to cast a line, set a hook, and catch a fish! You and your family will not want to miss an opportunity like this! Fishing licenses are not required on this very special day. There will be a limited number of rods and reels available for youth to use, so please bring your own equipment if you have it. Bait will also be provided for the youth. Parents are highly encouraged to participate.

Where: 422 Fairhope Avenue

When: June 10th, 2017 from 8 am- 12 pm

Who: 4-H members and their friends and family (This will be a great way to introduce your friends to 4-H!!)

Bring a swimsuit, because we will also have access to the beach area for any family interested in a beach day with 4-H! Light refreshments will be provided, but there are restaurants near the pier for those really hungry. Parents will need to sign a water waiver before their children can participate in the activities. Please bring your own bug spray and sun block. Safety first!

Please RSVP to this event no later than June 5th by calling the Baldwin County Extension Office, 937-7176 or emailing Heather LeGrand, 4-H Foundation Regional Extension Agent at hll0004@aces.edu.

Volunteers Needed for the 2017-2018 School Year!

Volunteers Needed for the 2017-2018 School Year!

Volunteer educators present environmental lessons to Baldwin County students 2nd – 6th grade.  The training is August 17 from 8:30 am – 3:00 pm. CALL us at 251-937-7176 to register and for more information about this free training. Registration is required to attend.

 Training and materials provided!

  • Recycling
  • water cycle
  • groundwater pollution
  • energy
  • aquatic nuisance species
  • nonpoint source pollution
  •  invasive plant species
  • backyard wildlife habitat

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M University and Auburn University), is an equal opportunity educator and employer.  Everyone is welcome! Baldwin County Extension programs are supported by the Baldwin County Commission.

Beware of Lawn-Care Herbicides Damaging Trees!

Crape Myrtle.signs of herbicide damage                                                   Crape Myrtle showing signs of herbicide damage.

Beware of lawn-care herbicides damaging trees!

Herbicide damage in landscape trees seems to be a growing problem. For the past few years, every spring and early summer I receive a series of calls from homeowners with herbicide damaged trees.   In most cases, injuries occur as a result of misunderstandings or misapplied herbicides. However, many calls also coincide with lawn-care products being used to control weeds in landscape lawns.

Herbicides are useful products designed to control undesirable plants in landscapes. However, care must be taken before using these products to avoid damage or death to unintended plants and trees.  In a matter of minutes, an uninformed gardener can erase trees that have taken decades or in some cases centuries to grow and forever alter their landscapes.

While herbicide damage can be difficult to identify in trees, the most common symptoms are twisted, deformed, discolored and cupped leaves. Defoliation is common of the entire tree or select branches.  Re-sprouting leaves will often be tiny, a yellowish color and tightly clustered.  Below I outline some important lessons that every gardener must keep in mind when using herbicide products around trees to avoid disfiguring or killing their trees.

Cupping leaves.6.15.2016                                                     Cupping leaves can be a sign of herbicide damage.

Lesson 1: There are no “antidote” for herbicide damage

Once herbicides have been absorbed, options become very limited and it’s a waiting game to see how trees will react and whether they survive. Depending on the herbicide and the dose applied, the time can range from a few weeks to several years, during which time trees exhibit declining health.  If you suspect you have misapplied an herbicide, water the tree regularly to flush the soil and help the tree grow past the herbicides in its system.  If the herbicide misapplication is recent, consult a Certified Arborist about using activated charcoal.  Activated charcoal can be incorporated into the soil to help absorb and chemically bind herbicides.  Please note, however, these products have variable success.

Lesson 2: Read product labels carefully

Herbicide labels are there for a reason. They not only outline where and how to use the product, but also provide application rates and a list of safety considerations. In most cases, they also warn about possible damage if used around trees.  Be sure to read the entire label as I have seen warnings for tree damage placed near the end.  Use only the specified rates as over-application of many products could cause damage.  If you have lost your label and need information on a specific herbicide, visit this website: www.cdms.net.

Lesson 3: Understand the difference between foliar and soil active herbicides

The ‘activity’, or how plants absorb herbicides, is very important to avoid damaging trees. Herbicides are absorbed in two primary ways.  First, is foliar, meaning the herbicide must be sprayed onto the foliage.  This means that for the herbicide to work, it must be sprayed directly on the plant.   Using soil active herbicides is where most people get into trouble.  These herbicides are either applied as a liquid or granules and are absorbed by roots.  This means this product will affect any roots growing under the sprayed area.  So an application to kill weeds in grass can also result in trees absorbing the herbicide.  Note that some herbicides are both foliar and soil active.

Lesson 4: Beware, tree roots are far reaching

While many products that are soil active recommend staying outside the tree’s drip-line, or the farthest reaching branches, I suggest going twice the drip-line. Roots can extend two to three times a tree’s drip-line and to ensure large high value trees are not damaged, I recommend erring on the side of caution.

Lesson 5: Only spray the target plants

While this may seem obvious, there are a few common mistake made that result in non-target plants being sprayed. First, beware of spraying on windy days.  Wind can cause herbicides to drift where you don’t want them.  Second, beware of spraying the trunk or exposed roots of trees because they can absorb herbicides. Thirdly, beware that herbicides can volatilize.  Some herbicides have a tendency to go from liquid to gas after application on hot summer days.  Volatilized herbicides can rise and cause damage to tree canopies. For these chemicals, such as 2-4D, do not spray during hot days over 85 degrees.

Crape Myrtle.patchy & stunted foliage                                                     Crape Myrtle showing patchy and stunted foliage.

Lesson 6: “Weed and Feeds” contain herbicides that can damage trees

The term “weed” in lawn care “weed and feed” products contain various types of herbicides to control a variety of unwanted weeds. Unfortunately, many of these products are also damaging to trees.  In the last few months, I have seen several cases of damaged trees as a result of these products.  Common herbicides to control weeds in lawns that have the potential to damage trees include atrazine, 2-4D, dicamba, MCPP, imazaquin and metsulfuron.  Do not apply these products within the dripline of trees, and preferable twice the dripline.   Read labels carefully as the warnings for using these products around trees are often in small letters and buried deep within the document.

Lesson 7: Question your lawn-care professional

Ask your lawn care professionals about the products they are using. I have encountered multiple cases of trees damaged by herbicides used to control lawn weeds by professional companies.  Applicators are required to carry the label and Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) with them when they use the product. So they are able to access the information you need.

Lesson 8: Use other means to improve the health of your lawn

The management of landscape grasses and trees are often at odds. Trees produce dense shade, which increases weed problems.  Furthermore, the herbicides that control weeds in grasses can be damaging to trees.  Consider replacing struggling lawns with mulched beds and shade tolerant landscape plants.  The mulch will improve the health of your trees.  In areas where grass is desired, pruning can thin tree canopies to improve light penetration.  Always hire Certified Arborists to prune trees, as improper pruning can result in unhealthy or unsafe trees.

For additional information, contact Beau Brodbeck at the Baldwin County Extension Office in Bay Minette Alabama by email at brodbam@auburn.edu or by phone at 251-937-7176.

Finding Fall Color on the Gulf Coast

raised walkway between coastal forest and wetland

Fall is approaching and everyone is looking forward to fall colors. The most common bright fall colored tree is the Red Maple. There are a seemingly endless number of maple cultivars that are propagated for a variety of landscape attributes, of which fall color is a dominant factor. However, many of these cultivars locally available are native to regions ranging from Tennessee to Ohio. These maples generally come from plant hardiness zones 4 to 7 while most of Baldwin and Mobile counties is in zone 8b (hardiness zones range from zone 2 near the Canadian border to zone 10 in south Florida).

While there are red maples native to south Alabama, they are not commonly propagated for retail, instead cultivars like ‘Autumn Flame’ are more common. The drastic climatic differences between Ohio’s zone 4 and the Gulf Coast’s zone 8b make many red maple cultivars a poor choice. Trees planted out of their hardiness zones often become stressed due to our extreme heat and humidity and are more susceptible to a variety of pests and diseases.

Seldom do these red maple cultivars live more than a few years under ideal conditions on the Gulf Coast and most decline and die within three years. Treatment of pests like borers is difficult and only a temporary solution as the major predetermining factor is climate. Good urban forest management starts with proper tree selection for the right climatic zone, light exposure, soil type and available growing space.

As a result, it is no secret that the bright reds, oranges and yellows of a picture perfect fall in Maine are difficult to find on Alabama’s Gulf Coast. There are many factors that contribute to this reduced vibrancy in fall colors. The foremost factor is the absence of the climate needed to produce fall colors.   Fall colors depend on warm days followed by a long succession of cool crisp, but not freezing, nights to produce the biological responses necessary to allow the pigments to be produced.

For most of the year, the green pigment chlorophyll needed for photosynthesis overpowers the more subtle yellow, orange and red pigments. The shortening fall days slowly reduce the overpowering green chlorophyll while simultaneously the prescribed warm days allow trees to produce sugars that the cool nights trap in the leaves. These trapped sugars force the trees into a biological process that converts these sugars into bright yellow, orange and red pigments we call fall color.

On the Gulf Coast, the more temperate and humid nights and the lack of a long succession of cool evenings dampen this process into more subtle variations. Another factor reducing our fall colors are the tree species available to us. The maples, oaks, hickories and other northern species famous for producing fall color are generally not found on the gulf coast. Finally, the genetic variability between northern and southern trees of the same species also results in reduced fall color.

Regardless of the fact that our fall colors are more subdued, there are some good tree selections that can add color to our yards. Black Gum and Sweet Gum are two native trees that will provide excellent, if short lived, fall color. Their leaves will generally turn a red to purple color, however, both of these trees will drop their leaves early in the fall. Ginko is a beautiful choice if you hope to see a vibrant yellow tree. The leaves will persist longer and have a unique tendency to drop, almost at once, leaving a beautiful carpet of yellow leaves beneath their boughs.

For some of the brightest reds in our area try planting either a shining sumac, sourwood or a Chinese pistache.   These trees develop deep reds, however, sourwoods tend to lack uniformity with colors ranging from browns to reds, especially for trees grown in full sun.   Shining sumac, on the other hand, will produce some of the most vibrant colors in our area.

The two maples to try in our area are the Florida sugar maple, which will have a more subdued yellow to brownish orange color and the Japanese maple, which can have a wide variety of highly vibrant colors ranging from purples to glowing reds. In the chart below please see a complete list of tree selections for fall color in Mobile and Baldwin counties. Note that I have broken these down by both their size and desired light exposure as these will be important factors for their future health and survival.


Species Latin Name Fall Color Tree Size Light Exposure
Black Gum Nyssa sylvatica Red Large Full Sun
Sweet Gum Liquidambar styracifua Purple Large Full Sun
Florida Sugar Maple Acer barbatum Yellow Large Full Sun
Ginkgo Ginkgo biloba Yellow Large Full Sun
Chinese Pistache Pistacia chinensis Red Medium Full Sun
Sourwood Oxydendrom arboreum Red Medium Partial Sun
Sassafras Sassafras albidum Orange Medium Partial Sun
Japanese Maple Acer palmatum Red Small Partial Sun
Downy Serviceberry Amelanchier arborea Red Small Partial Sun
Shining Sumac Rhus copallina Red Small Full Sun


For additional information, please contact Beau Brodbeck at the Alabama Cooperative Extension Office – Baldwin County Office in Bay Minette by email (brodbam@auburn.edu) or by phone 251-937-7176.

Summertime Care for Your Lake or Pond


It’s summer. It’s hot. Some things are inevitable in south Alabama. Those of you with lakes and ponds may also be experiencing another inevitability, pond weeds. Chances are at some point, you will have something growing in your pond that you don’t want, aren’t sure where it came from, and would love nothing more than to eradicate it. The good news is your Alabama Extension System is here to help. The answers to several questions can lead to ultimate (and less expensive) success. First, is it a plant or algae? What is the alkalinity of the water? Where in the pond is it growing? Have you identified it? How much of it do you have? Are you fertilizing? Where does the water that supplies your lake come from (well, spring, runoff, etc.)? Before you buy anything to kill the weed(s), let us help match the best options available to the problem you are dealing with. This may involve sending in weed and water samples but can save time and money in the long run.

Things to keep in mind:

  • The first step in weed control is to identify the weed.
  • Make absolutely certain you select an aquatically approved weed control option; read, understand, and follow all labeling instructions.
  • In the heat of the summer, treat no more than 25% of the pond/lake at one time and wait at least 14-21 days between treatments.
  • Weed control is a slow, methodical battle that is often won not with herbicides, but with nutrient control.

For additional questions or information, contact P.J. Waters, Auburn University Marine Extension and Research Center, 438-5690.

Recognizing Volunteers

During the spring, we like to recognize how important volunteers are to the Baldwin County Extension Office.  We appreciate each person that volunteers with our office.  Volunteers help us reach more families with research- based information.  We have volunteer programs that include 4-H Volunteers, Baldwin County Master Gardeners and the Master Environmental Educators.  In addition to these three programs, we have volunteers that serve as advisory members, judges for special events, guest speakers, fair volunteers and more.

Many of our 4-H volunteers are leaders of our local 4-H clubs.  They are helping youth learn how to conduct a meeting, speak before a group, prepare for a competitive event, give back to their community through service projects and learn life skills.  Our 4-H members have been busy with events such as State Archery Competition, State Livestock Show and County Competitive Event and the volunteer leaders have been at each of these events to support and encourage our 4-H’ers.


Baldwin County Master Gardeners have been very busy.  You may have met some of our volunteers at Arbor Day events, the plant sale or at the spring gardening workshops.  This time of year, Master Gardeners are answering lots of Home Gardening questions at the Master Gardener Helpline (1-877-252-GROW). This is a toll free line that provides answers about home gardens and home grounds for our region.

The Master Environmental Educators have presented information at Earth Day events this month as well as school programs. For this school year, a total of 171 lessons have been taught at 27 schools for approximately 5,200 students.  These program topics include aquatic nuisance species, backyard wildlife habitat, energy, groundwater pollution, invasive plants, nonpoint source pollution, recycling, and the water cycle.

A special thank you to all our 2015 volunteers!  If you are interested in becoming a volunteer in any of these program areas, please contact the Baldwin County Extension Office at 251-937-7176 or 928-3002/943-5061, ext. 2222.

Master Environmental Education Volunteers Needed

If you want to make a difference, consider volunteering to educate students and community groups about the importance of being good environmental stewards.  We are currently accepting applications for the Master Environmental Education Program until May 1.  The Master Environmental Education Program began in 1994.  It was created to help residents have a better understanding and appreciation for the environment in their own backyards.

Previous teaching experience or environmental knowledge is not required.  We will provide the information, training, and resource materials you will need to present educational programs.  The volunteers present programs on these topics:  aquatic nuisance species, backyard wildlife habitat, energy, groundwater pollution, invasive plant species, nonpoint source pollution, recycling, and the water cycle.  To request an application, contact the Baldwin County Extension Office.

Alabama Master Naturalist Program

egret standing on driftwood in a wetland area

The Alabama Master Naturalist program is a new statewide program whose goal is to help promote awareness, understanding, and respect of Alabama’s natural world among Alabama’s citizens and visitors. In addition, the AMN program will also develop a statewide corps of well-informed volunteers providing education, outreach, and service dedicated to the beneficial management of natural resources and natural areas within their communities.

Learn more about how you can participate today!