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Alternative Leaf Clean-up: Leaf them there!

By: Kerry Stober

Question: Are there other ways I can utilize the leaves that are beginning to fall on my yard?

As Fall arrives and the trees begin their natural changes, we all start to see an excess of brown leaves appear on our lawns. Many homeowners dread blowing, raking, and bagging the leaves to dispose of them. Some may have services from their city or municipality that allows them to create piles near the street for later collection. A blanket of deciduous leaves left on your turfgrass for long periods of time can cause damage your lawn, so management is a necessary process.

To answer your question, there are definitely other methods you can utilize to keep your lawn healthy and the leaves at bay. The most common way without disposing of the material is to integrate the leaves into your compost; one point to mention- never compost leaves from plants that were showing signs of disease.

The main alternative method I want to share with you is mulching the leaves into the lawn. This way is less labor intensive than raking and bagging, and it also provides your lawn with valuable nutrient material! There has been research into the value of mulching leaves into the lawn which shows your grass will benefit over time from the decomposing leaves integrating into your soil. The leaves do not replace your regular fertilizer routine, but still have positive effects on growth and overall health. Mulching these leaves should not cause any damage or excess thatch when done properly. The main factor for mulching leaves into the lawn is using the proper equipment. Most riding or push mowers sold today have a mulching blade or deck that is made specifically for this type of purpose. You can also use a rotary mower, but you want the mower to allow the leaves to remain in place after chopping (not throw them to the side of the mower). Using a bagger attachment on the mower while mulching leaves, and then spreading them in a thin layer onto the lawn from the bag can work if your mower is a side discharge model (although this takes more effort on your part). You do not want the leaves to build up too much before mowing; any more than 2-4 inches is too thick. Wearing safety goggles and an air mask is always to good idea as mulching can produce dust and debris.

Hopefully the mulching method can save you time while also adding beneficial material in your lawn!

Garden Talk is written by Kerry Stober of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES). She is housed at the C. Beaty Hanna Horticultural and Environmental Center, which is based at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. This column includes research based information from land-grant universities around the country, including Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities. Email questions to Kerry at KDS0010@aces.edu or call 205-879-6964 x19. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M University and Auburn University), is an equal opportunity educator and employer.  Everyone is welcome!

Garden Talk: Awesome Osmanthus

Question:  I’ve been looking for plant material that will make a good hedge, but not one that looks unkempt very quickly, or become problematic because it spreads too fast.  It should be evergreen since it’s a hedge, needs little care or pruning, is not a water hog, no thorns or prickly leaves as my children will be playing near it, and have some seasonal interest other than being green.

Am I asking to have my cake and eat it too?

Answer:  Actually there are plants that fill your requirements, one in particular comes to mind. And if you’ve been to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens in the past few weeks, you’ve likely encountered it as well.

Known botanically as Osmanthus, this shrub is also known as “Sweet Olive” or “Tea Olive”, occasionally “Holly Osmanthus”, or even “Devilwood” which is a species native to southeast U.S.

Incidentally, Osmanthus comes from Greek osma (“fragrant”), and anthos (“flower”), and was brought to Europe in mid-19th century by botanist Jean Marie Delavay.

Potentially as tall as a small tree, Osmanthus normally ranges in size from 7-35’ in height, leaves opposite, simple, and entire with serrated (think kitchen knife) to coarsely toothed edges.  Those tiny fragrant flowers develop spring through fall, depending on variety. For those who aren’t familiar with Osmanthus in bloom, the scent of peaches, apricots, or orange blossoms will point your nose in the right direction.

Tolerant of full sun to part shade depending on variety and location, Osmanthus handles a range of soil types, including our clay soils, with aplomb. Pruning, while not necessary unless to tidy up or remove damaged branches, is OK, as are even heavier pruning jobs but beware that they bloom on old wood so be careful of timing.  An Osmanthus shrub heavily pruned at the wrong time may take a few years to flower before growth matures to the point of blooming.

Though most fragrant Osmanthus sport clusters of tiny white blooms, a few varieties offer orange (O. fragrans aurantiacus), or yellow flowers (‘Butter Yellow’). O. x fortunei  or Fortune’s Osmanthus develops intensely fragrant flowers in fall, with ‘San Jose’ blooms offering color from cream to orange.

Not just a handsome hedge or fragrant flower, other regions of the world cultivate  Osmanthus for use as tea, wine, or medicine. Claims of improved complexion and ridding bodies of compounds linked to cancer, diabetes, and other diseases, in addition to providing a major component for “Osmanthus wine”, only add to the lure of this plant. Its other attraction is for honey bees, as they visit its blooms during periods when nectar and pollen are being stored to feed “baby” bees or when adults are tucking away stores for the winter.

Awesome Osmanthus?  You bet!

Garden Talk is written by Sallie Lee of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES). She is housed at the C. Beaty Hanna Horticultural and Environmental Center, which is based at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. This column includes research based information from land-grant universities around the country, including Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities. Email questions to Sallie at leesall@auburn.edu or call 205-879-6964 x11. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M University and Auburn University), is an equal opportunity educator and employer.  Everyone is welcome!

2017 Farm City Poster, Essay, and Multimedia Contest

Marion County Rules: http://offices.aces.edu/marion/wp-content/uploads/sites/56/2017/08/Combined-Rules-1.pdf

State Rules: http://alabamafarmcity.org/

County Prizes Provided by the Marion County ALFA Farmer’s Federation

1st Place $50.00

2nd Place $25.00

3rd Place $15.00

**ALL submissions must be made to the Marion County Extension Office by October 31st, 2017. The Marion County Farm City Committee will select the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners. 1st Place work will be submitted by the Marion County Committee for state submission. **

DUE: October 31st, 2017 to the Marion County Extension Office.

The Alabama Farm-City Committee is excited once again to offer a Multimedia Contest, Poster Contest and Essay Contest to Marion County Youth. The contest is sponsored by Alabama Farmers Cooperative and complements the Farm-City poster and essay contests by providing students another channel to express their creativity. The 2017 theme for all three contests is “Agriculture: Food for Life.” The 2017 National Ag Day and Farm-City Week theme of “Agriculture: Food for Life” captures the essence of farming. No other industry or activity is more connected to “life” than agriculture. Farmers produce the grains, protein, fruit, vegetables, nuts and dairy products that sustain life. The food we eat is literally fuel for our bodies. Without it, life would be unsustainable. But agriculture is intertwined to “life” in other ways, too. Private farms and forestland provide habitat and food for wildlife, and support the lives of all nature’s creatures. Through conservation and environmental stewardship, farmers protect the life-giving water, air and soil on which we all depend. Life, however, is not merely a physical existence. It’s also emotional and spiritual experiences, working together to provide a healthy, well-balanced life for Earth’s inhabitants. Agriculture provides food for the “lifestyles” we enjoy because modern farming and forestry practices allow 99 percent of Americans to pursue other occupations, hobbies and volunteer activities. Without farmers providing “food for life,” our economy and culture would suffer. Food is essential. Out of necessity, people would forego science, art and other pursuits if they were forced to gather or hunt their own food. In this way, agriculture is foundational to civilization. Still, agriculture’s contributions to life continue to expand. Through biotechnology, farming is improving life around the world. Disease- and drought-resistant plants provide “food for life” in some of the poorest regions on the planet. Improved plant and animal breeding addresses nutritional and human health needs. Farms and forests generate alternative energy sources. And agricultural products are utilized every day in not only food, but also pharmaceuticals, textiles and industrial applications. Agriculture touches every aspect of our lives. From the clothes we wear and the food we eat, to the homes where we live and the cars we drive, agriculture and forest products are ever present. Farmers help conserve the resources we need and the nature we enjoy. As we celebrate National Ag Day and Farm-City Week, it’s a great opportunity to remember the diversity of “Agriculture: Food for Life.”

 

Call or email the 4-H Agent with any questions regarding this contest. (205)921-3551 or rgd0007@aces.edu Office Hours 7:30am-12:00pm 12:30pm-4:00pm Monday-Friday

Fall 4-H Horse Camp October 21st

When: Saturday, October 21st, 2017 9:00am-3:00pm

Where: Alexandria Farms 850 Grady Williams Road Hamilton 35570

Ages: 9-18

Cost: $40

What To Wear: Long Pants, Boots/Tennis Shoes (NO open toed shoes)

Payment Due: Tuesday, October 17th by 4:00pm to the Marion County Extension Office 372 7th Avenue SW Hamilton, AL 35570

Forms Completed by a parent/guardian: Friday, November 4th 4:00pm

REQUIRED FORMS: http://offices.aces.edu/marion/wp-content/uploads/sites/56/2017/08/Horse-Camp-Forms-and-Directions.pdf

Map from Marion County 4-H Office: http://offices.aces.edu/marion/wp-content/uploads/sites/56/2016/10/Map.pdf

                        *Make checks payable to: Allie Trentham *

For more information call or email the Marion County Extension Office 205)921-3551 or rgd0007@aces.edu Open Mon.-Fri. 7:30AM-4:00PM 372 7th Ave. SW Hamilton, AL 35570 For more specific Horse Camp questions you can call Allie Trentham (205)495-2830

 

October 4-H Newsletter

 4-H Youth Council Members from our October Youth Council Meeting

Check out the October 4-H Newsletter to see what’s coming up for Marion County 4-H’ers: http://offices.aces.edu/marion/wp-content/uploads/sites/56/2017/10/October-2017-4-H-Newsletter.pdf

Contact the Marion County Extension Office (205)921-3551 or rgd0007@aces.edu for questions.

Garden Talk: Made in the Shade – Opportunities and Challenges

Garden Talk: Made in the Shade – Opportunities and Challenges

By Sallie Lee

Question:  I have lots of shade in my landscape that came with the house we recently purchased.  I love all the trees, wouldn’t trade them for anything, but want to add some color and texture to our “tree-scape”.  While my new neighbor, who happens to be a Master Gardener, convinced me that attempting to grow a turf-type grass as groundcover is not a good idea, what other options do I have that will add beauty and value to our house and property? How do I determine how much shade I really have?

Answer: While “full sun” is relatively easy to define in most situations, “shade” is a little tougher to identify.  Consider the numerous shade conditions, from “deep” to “high or dappled” shade, in addition to shade patterns. Seasonal shifts in the intensity of shade offer another factor to consider when assessing the garden’s shade quotient.

In assessing the shade or lack of in your garden, keep these parameters in mind.

  • Number of hours of shade
  • Time of day when shade is factor
  • Intensity of sunlight on a given area

 

Shade can be measured with a light meter, although using your own eyes over a 12 hour period usually gives a pretty accurate estimate.  Cloudy days not included, visit spots in your yard or garden that need assessing, count the hours and record observations on a rough drawing of your property for future reference.

 

If your yard is full sun without a tree or shrub in sight, skip this article because you’ve got your parameters.  However, if your space is typical of the majority of properties in this area, you’ve got some shade areas even if around that single tree in the front yard.

 

Generally speaking, full shade is less than 2 hours of sunlight, part shade or part sun gets between 2 and 6 hours of sun, while full sun is 6 hours or more.  Some experts extend full sun to 8 hours or more, but whether your follow the 6 or 8 hour model, plants usually let us know if they get enough sunlight or not!

 

We realize there are degrees of sun/shade in every category. As example, full shade still receives some ambient or natural light reflected off surfaces of nearby structures, large trees, water features, etc. Very deep shade indicates a limited palate of flowering plants, but offers the opportunity to incorporate foliage plants in the area. Be aware that areas of heavy shade can be dry as well, so check moisture needs for plant material prior to installing – some ferns would work in a lot of shade but need “regular” moisture to thrive.

 

Part sun/part shade is a catch-all category for areas where there’s some of both.  The time of day is important since morning sun is considered the way to go for many sun/shade plants as it is usually less intense.  The location of shade can be important for those plants that do best in “edge” or “dappled” shade conditions.

For those planting near lakes, ponds, windows, or light-colored walls, “bright” shade applies to establishing plants in those areas.

 

Most plant descriptions include a sun/shade preference. Read the label or tag if you’re not sure of a particular plant’s “happy” place, and if the site you have in mind is not even close to what’s on the tag, either put that plant back on the shelf, or remember caveat emptor, “let the buyer beware” and plan on experimenting.

 

Contact your county Extension office for more information regarding matching plants with place (right plant/right place) so your plant choices are appropriate and your efforts successful!

Garden Talk is written by Sallie Lee of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES). She is housed at the C. Beaty Hanna Horticultural and Environmental Center, which is based at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. This column includes research based information from land-grant universities around the country, including Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities. Email questions to Sallie at leesall@auburn.edu or call 205-879-6964 x11. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M University and Auburn University), is an equal opportunity educator and employer.  Everyone is welcome!

Fig Rust

Fig Rust

Kerry Stober 9/14/2017

Question: The leaves on my fig tree are covered in brown spots and some are falling off. What can I do?

The most likely culprit of these symptoms is a common fungal disease called Fig Rust, caused by the fungus Cerotelium fici. The good news is this disease only occurs on the leaves and should not damage the fruit. Rust usually attacks younger leaves first. You may start to see yellowish spots, which then get bigger and turn into a brownish color all over the leaves. There also can be raised brown spots or lesions on the underside of the leaves. Over time, these leaves will turn completely yellow, followed by becoming brown and curled, and then falling off of the plant. Rust usually begins appearing in the late summer and, when severe, it can cause the tree to lose leaves very rapidly. This disease and loss of leaves will not kill the tree, but when it occurs many seasons in a row, you may see a reduction in yield of fruit. Rainy weather can cause this disease to be more prevalent, and unfortunately we had a particularly rainy summer followed by a series of wet tropical storms. Figs produce their best fruit in a climate with warm dry summers and cool wet winters.

Spraying to control this disease presents a bit of a problem, as there are no fungicides currently labeled for figs in Alabama. As a result, your best methods of control are going to be using cultural methods of sanitation and pruning. Prune out infected areas and rake up older dropped leaves, disposing of them by bagging or burning. You can also prune the tree to open up areas to more airflow throughout, as moist enclosed areas are more likely to become diseased.  These methods will not completely defeat this disease, but can reduce its effect on your plant’s overall health. If you water your fig plants regularly, try to avoid spraying the leaves, as we learned earlier water plays a large factor in fig rust appearance. You can also add mulch around the tree and fertilize in the spring to help keep it healthy.

The fig is a hardy tree with relatively few pest and disease issues. Keeping the area around your tree clean plays a huge role in keeping their most common pests at bay. Hopefully by following the methods, you will see less spots on your tree next year!

“Garden Talk is written by Kerry Stober of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES). She is housed at the C. Beaty Hanna Horticultural and Environmental Center, which is based at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. This column includes research based information from land-grant universities around the country, including Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities. Email questions to Kerry at KDS0010@aces.edu or call 205-879-6964 x19. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M University and Auburn University), is an equal opportunity educator and employer.  Everyone is welcome!

Lawn Burweed – Preventing the Prickly Pest

Photo courtesy of Alabama Extension

  1. Last spring, I noticed our family dog almost tip-toeing through the yard. He acted like something was pricking his feet.  When I walked in the same area, I realized that he wasn’t just acting!!  Whatever it was pricked my feet too!  On closer inspection, I found this weed that had small stickers all over it.  What is this weed and how can I prevent it from being a problem next spring?
  2. Ah – the infamous lawn burweed! As you discovered, it is a menace to man and beast alike!  I am thrilled that you asked this question now, because this time of year is the perfect time to start your plan of attack!

Lawn burweed (Soliva sessilis) is a winter annual that germinates throughout thin turf in the fall months as temperatures cool.  It is small and not very noticeable during the cold winter months. However, as temperatures warm in the early spring, lawn burweed initiates a period of rapid growth and begins to form spine-tipped burs at the base of each leaf. The seed is contained within the hooked bur.

Now that you know what it is, the most important question remains – how can you get rid of it?  The best strategy in controlling lawn burweed is to apply a preemergence herbicide, containing the active ingredients atrazine or isoxaben in late September to early October, before the winter weeds germinate. This method will kill it upon sprouting and greatly reduce its presence in your yard next spring.  One point to mention – these products are available in either a granular or liquid form.  Granular products require ½ inch of rainfall or irrigation to become active.

Just in case you have a few weeds that escape the preemergence herbicide (which is not unusual), you can also spot spray with a postemergence herbicide.  The key to success is to treat between November and February, when lawn burweed is very small and much easier to control.  During this time, the weed has yet to develop the spine-tipped burs.  Spray your lawn with a postemergence herbicide containing the active ingredients of three broadleaf weed killers: 2,4-D, dicamba, and mecoprop (MCPP).  Many brands of broadleaf herbicides on the shelf contain these ingredients.  Using the herbicide 2-4-D alone may not be quite as effective, so a three-in-one product is preferred.  Keep in mind that broadleaf herbicides are not effective unless applied when the air temperature is above 68 °F.  The window of opportunity can be very limited during the winter season.  Again, another reason to use pre-emergence herbicides in the fall.

Unfortunately, most people do not notice a lawn burweed problem until warmer temperatures arrive.  However, waiting until spring is too late.  If you delay until April or May to attempt lawn burweed control, you are fighting a losing battle.  Once the weed has reached a more mature state, multiple herbicide applications may be necessary, which can increase the potential for turfgrass injury.  Because lawn burweed is a winter annual, it will begin to succumb to the warmer air temperatures (~90 °F); however, the spines have already formed and will remain after the weed withers and dies.  Mowing the area at a very low height and bagging the seeds might offer some relief.

Some severe situations may call for killing the entire area, including the turfgrass, with a non-selective herbicide, such as glyphosate.  Of course, one will have to replant grass or lay new sod but this method may be worth it, since it will ensure no more lawn burweed!

Dead or alive, lawn burweed poses a painful problem. The only solution is early identification and control.  Remember lawn burweed is an annual and will come back from seeds that develop each spring. Take action now for prickle-free turf later!

 “Garden Talk is written by Bethany A. O’Rear of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES). She is housed at the C. Beaty Hanna Horticultural and Environmental Center, which is based at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. This column includes research based information from land-grant universities around the country, including Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities. Email questions to Bethany at Bethany@aces.edu or call 205-879-6964 x15. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M University and Auburn University), is an equal opportunity educator and employer.  Everyone is welcome!

 

Garden Talk: Allergies gone wild – What’s Blowin’ in the Wind?

Photos courtesy of Herbal Academy

By Sallie Lee

Question:  My allergies, which normally give me a fit in spring and again to a lesser degree in the fall, seem to have started earlier this year and are driving me crazy!

What is with this allergy season?  I’m not imagining miserable itching watery eyes, runny nose, scratchy throat.  But for late August, this is weird! Is it that Goldenrod plant that seems to grow everywhere?  I’ve heard that’s the culprit in which case my weedeater is going to be wearing out every one of these plants that grow wild on my property.  Is there anything else I can do to get rid of the “guilty” plants?

Answer:  OK, for those who moved to Alabama during the last year or for those who have issues remembering, the word is Ragweed. Botanically known as Ambrosia spp, which sounds like a misnomer if ever there was one, this member of the Aster family becomes a topic of intense negativity about this time of year. Actually in most cases it’s a totally different  plant, Goldenrod (Solidago spp) that gets the bad rap and unfortunate eradication by misinformed homeowners and gardeners.

Why the disconnect and misdirected frustration?  Both Ragweed and Goldenrod bloom this time of year, from mid-August until “late fall.”  In addition to timing, they often grow in the same general conditions; full sun and average to slightly dry soil conditions.  The major difference between the two is that those pretty, yellow goldenrod flowers are insect pollinated while ragweed is wind pollinated.  That means to all allergy sufferers that while goldenrod pollen is heavy and sticky, just right for honeybee pollination, ragweed is wind pollinated. Considering that a single ragweed plant can produce 1 billion (yes, that many) grains of pollen per season, to paraphrase Bob Dylan, “the answer IS blowin’ in the wind.” Medical data indicates ragweed causes about 50% of all allergies blamed on pollen in North America.

This year has produced abundant flowers due in part to sufficient rainfall through most of our spring and summer.  Healthy plants produce more flowers, a boon in most gardens. But with ragweed, more flowers equal more pollen and so on, the “benefits” of which we’re currently reaping.

Other than waging war on stands of ragweed (see photos), we can take action to ameliorate ragweed’s impact on our health. Pollen counts are usually highest in the morning until about 10:00 am, so limiting outside activities during those hours can help. Conditions for enjoying the outdoors will be best right after a heavy rainfall. If you must be outdoors during heavy pollen outbursts, a facemask will help reduce exposure to pollen.

Goldenrod is a more noticeable plant so we tend to blame what is readily visible.  Goldenrod’s yellow flowers hold a nectar source that is attractive to bees including the “honey” kind and butterflies, often considered the last strong nectar source of the season for them.

Goldenrod has a fascinating history involving Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and George Washington Carver, but that’s an article for another time.

If you’re not sure which one is growing in your yard, and it could be both, contact your county Extension office for help in determining whether or not you need to take action.

 

Garden Talk is written by Sallie Lee of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES). She is housed at the C. Beaty Hanna Horticultural and Environmental Center, which is based at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. This column includes research based information from land-grant universities around the country, including Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities. Email questions to Sallie at leesall@auburn.edu or call 205-879-6964 x11. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M University and Auburn University), is an equal opportunity educator and employer.  Everyone is welcome!