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Gotta Prune Those Plants? Maybe Not.

Pruning? Think twice!
Pruning? Think twice!

When it comes to yard work during the wintertime, pruning plants is considered by far the top chore. It is common in January and February to see your neighbor and other homeowners spending their Saturdays cutting on the plants around their home. They are working away cutting back those plants.  All this interesting work and the funny shaped plants left behind might inspire you to go get your pruning shears out and go ahead and prune your plants.

Before you do that, ask yourself this important question: Just why are you pruning those plants?  Because your neighbor is pruning theirs?  The fact is you may NOT need to prune your plants.

The practice of pruning plants is somewhat overrated and many times not even necessary. If done correctly, pruning is a technique used to aid in the health and beauty of ornamental plants.  Pruning should be done to remove dead and poor growth, and somewhat control the plant’s size and shape.  It will encourage flower or fruit production, and can discourage disease and promote growth by letting light and air into the interior of the plant.

More importantly, pruning encourages re-growth. The simple translation: pruning stimulates growth.  It triggers growth at the cut and/or other places.  All those branches and limbs that were just cut will grow right back and typically twice as thick.  The result is more to be pruned later and more yard work for yourself.  There is no stopping a plant from reaching its mature size; its genetics.

Many people who prune their plants do not understand why they are doing it, nor do they know how to do it properly. Plants should not be pruned just because your neighbor was pruning theirs or because someone said it was a good idea. Care-free pruning, especially if done wrong, can actually do more harm than good.

The key is to have a logical reason to prune or not. An answer of “it has gotten too big” is usually just an excuse and result of having a big plant in a small space.  Be smart on plant selection and know the mature size before planting it.

When to prune is also important and depends on the type of plant and the reason for pruning. For almost all plants, however, fall and early winter are bad pruning times, because the tender re-growth stimulated by pruning will be damaged by cold weather. February tends to be the best time for most plants, especially evergreens and fruit crops. However, when it comes to flowering plants, the general rule of thumb is this: if the plant begins blooming before May, prune immediately after blooms fade; if the plant begins to bloom in May or later, prune in late February or early March, before the start of new spring growth.

Extension has plenty of resources and expertise on how to properly prune fruit trees, crape myrtles, roses, muscadines, and all other plants. Contact our office and we can help. If your plants look fine and are doing great, then there may be no reason to prune.

For more information, contact the Coffee County Extension Office, call 334-894-5596 or visit www.aces.edu.

Thanks to Shane Harris, CEC Tallapoosa County, for this article.

Armadillos Give Homeowners Headaches

armadillo-bannerThe state of Alabama is blessed with an abundance of wildlife diversity – deer, turkeys, fish, birds, butterflies, etc.  But not all wildlife are looked upon favorably or welcomed residents.  Of all the wildlife related calls the county Extension offices receive, the number one concern tends to always be about armadillos.  Yes, I’m referring to those “possums on the half-shell”.  Those critters that like to wander into your backyard at night and dig holes in the lawn, garden, and flowers beds. They are nuisance animals that cause unsightly damage and give homeowners headaches.

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Deer Food Plot Tips

Deer Food Plot Tips

Most folks in the Deep South are in the midst of firing up their tractors or ATVs and getting winter food plots installed on their whitetail properties. Winter food plots serve as a supplement to a white-tailed deer’s diet during a time of nutritional stress after mast crops are no longer available. A few tips for your winter food plots:

A clover food plot. Clover, in addition to other types of vegetation, can help attract deer.
A clover food plot. Clover, in addition to other types of vegetation, can help attract deer.
  • Always take a soil sample! Lime and fertilizer recommendations will allow you to prep your soil so that your plot is not a bust.

Send in one sample box per food plot. Label your boxes so that you will remember which one belongs to which plot when you receive the results. Soil test boxes can be picked up at the Coffee County Extension Office and sent to the Auburn Soil lab. The quickest way to receive test results is by selecting to have them returned via Email. For each plot, take three separate samples per acre, mix together in a bucket, then take an adequate amount of that plots total mix and place in a test box and label for that individual food plot. Repeat this process for each separate food plot you plan to plant.

  • Do not buy a food plot mix based on what the front of the bag looks like or says! 

There are all kinds of mixes out there and some are really great. But a lot of times you are not getting your money’s worth. Always look at the label to see what percentages of actual seed are in the bag. Many times the majority of seed may be a plant that has the least nutritional value or browse preference for whitetail deer, such as Ryegrass. We suggest buying individual bags of seed and mixing it yourself or planting them separately. For example, in a 1.5 acre plot, you could plant .5 acre of clover, .5 acre of oats and .5 acre of winter peas.

  • Think about placement and variety.

Be strategic in your food plot placement. Just because there has historically been a food plot in one area doesn’t mean it’s the best spot to have it. Look at an aerial map and perform scouting. Strategically placing a food plot based on bedding areas, water sources, and travel corridors can lead to greater success. Being smart about what you plant is also important. If someone is planting wheat as a cover crop on several fields nearby, you most likely do not want to plant wheat in your small plots. As previously mentioned, planting two or three different types of vegetation in a single plot can make it more attractive to deer and allow for extended usage later into the season.

For more information on deer tips, contact Jordan Graves, Regional Extension Agent for Forestry, Wildlife and Natural Resources. He may be reached at the Coffee County Extension Office at 334-894-5596 or by email at JDG0041@auburn.edu.