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Planting Blueberries This Fall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blueberries are a healthy, delicious fruit. They can be baked into muffins and breads, added to cereal or eaten out of hand. They are one of the few plants that offer beauty and taste throughout most of the year. Rabbiteye blueberries are one of the easiest fruit for homeowners to grow.

Planting Blueberries

Being native to the Southeastern United States, the rabbiteye blueberry is tolerant of the high temperatures of the region. It is found growing wild in southern Georgia, Alabama and the Florida panhandle.

The best time to plant blueberries is in late fall through late winter. Around the time the plant blooms, late-season frost or freeze can occur. The plant should be put in a place where it will be the least susceptible to frost damage.

Elina Coneva, an Alabama Extension specialist in commercial horticulture, said cross-pollination is needed to produce a good berry crop and takes place when more than one cultivar of blueberries is planted.

“By selecting several cultivars with various period of ripening, you can spread out the length of your harvest season,” Coneva said. “Blueberries on the same bush do not ripen all at once. One cultivar may have berries that mature over a four-to six-week period.”

Coneva said choosing the right site for planting is important.

“If you want your blueberry plant to produce a lot of fruit, select a site that is in full sun,” Coneva said. “Choose a site with well-aerated, well-drained soil high in organic matter.”

Spacing

Growers should space plants at least 5 feet apart in a row. This will produce a hedgerow or border as the plants mature. If planting several rows of blueberries, growers should space them at least 10 to 12 feet apart. There are a few important things to remember when planting:

  • Plant blueberries at the same depth they were grown in their containers.
  • Do not pile soil on the base of the trunk.
  • When planting an individual plant, make the hole at least twice as wide as the root ball.
  • Add some form of organic matter to the soil in the planting hole or row. Compost is best, but finely ground pine bark will work, too.
  • Thoroughly mix organic matter into the planting hole.

Soil Requirements

Blueberries need an acidic soil with a pH between 4.5 and 5.2.

“If you are planting blueberries as a landscape shrub, combine them with other plants that thrive in acidic soil, such as azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias,” Coneva said.

Watering is crucial after planting, especially during the first year of growth.

“Water the plants thoroughly at planting and twice weekly for the first year until they are established. It is better to water the plants for a longer time once or twice per week than for a short time each day,” Coneva said. “Because blueberry plants have the ability to retract water from berries, adequate moisture, particularly during fruit production, is essential to producing plump, juicy berries.”

More Information

Alabama Extension has the publication Rabbiteye Blueberries that goes into detail about growing rabbiteye blueberries. For further information, contact your county Extension office.

 

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

Composting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question: Fall is finally upon us, and thankfully so. As I spend more time outdoors, enjoying the almost perfect weather, I have noticed that the leaves are beginning to fall.  How can I put these leaves to use in my landscape or garden?

Answer: Composting is simply the acceleration of the natural process of decomposition.  A process that could take years to occur in nature is compressed into a period of months, and in some cases, even weeks in the yard or garden.  The key to successful composting is maintaining the proper balance of all components involved. Have you thought about starting a compost bin? Composting is fast becoming a growing trend for homeowners, and thankfully so. Alabama produces around 2.6 million tons of solid waste every year.  Roughly 20 percent of that amount is made up of lawn and garden wastes – grass clippings, leaves, tree and/or shrub prunings, home garden refuse, and kitchen wastes.  The massive amount of solid waste produced in our state is creating disposal problems in landfills, and as a result, many disposal facilities have been forced to close.  While composting is not the only answer to this problem, it is an extremely important step in the right direction.

  • Water – 40 to 60 percent is the ideal moisture content range of the compost pile.  When squeezed, the compost should be moist, but not dripping wet.  Too much moisture results in a slowing of the decomposition process.
  • Carbon and Nitrogen – the ratio of carbon (plant residues) to nitrogen (manures, kitchen scraps, fertilizers) is very important.  The optimum ratio of carbon to nitrogen is about 30:1.  Too little nitrogen results in reduced microorganism numbers, causing a slowdown in the decomposition process.  Too much nitrogen rapidly increases microorganism growth, therefore speeding up decomposition, but can result in oxygen depletion and foul odors.
  • Temperature – as decomposition occurs, heat is generated.  In moderation, heat is beneficial because it destroys many disease organisms and weed seed.  However, temperatures above 140°F create an unsuitable environment for the microorganisms, and they begin to die.  Overheating can be prevented by turning the pile when temperatures begin to exceed recommended levels.

Beginning your compost pile is not difficult – it simply requires following a few fairly easy, but very important steps.  A successful compost pile is constructed of alternating layers of yard wastes, a source of nitrogen (if required), and soil or finished compost, which provides an inoculation of beneficial microorganisms.  You should start with a 6 inch base layer, consisting of coarse material, such as twigs or small branches.  Then add a 6 to 8 inch layer of leaves or grass clippings.  One note – other materials, such as wood chips, can be used in the place of leaves or grass clippings, but require the addition of fertilizer or manure to maintain the proper carbon to nitrogen ratio.  The final layer should consist of 1 to 2 inches of soil or finished compost.  Continue this layering pattern, omitting the base of coarse material, until the desired size is reached.  To achieve the proper internal temperature, a compost pile should be 3 to 4 feet tall.  The width of the pile can vary, but should be a size that can be easily managed, generally 3 to 4 feet.

While my comments are just a basic overview of the composting process,   I hope that I have made things a little less confusing and a lot less intimidating.  For more detailed information and answers to commonly asked composting questions, please check out the following links.  Happy gardening!

http://www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/A/ANR-0794/ANR-0794.pdf

http://www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/A/ANR-0638/ANR-0638.pdf

 

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

Mums: The Flowers of Fall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With every fall comes the beautiful displays of pumpkins, gourds, natural foliage and of course chrysanthemums. Better known as mums, these flowers have a variety of vibrant colors including golden yellow, burnt orange, deep purple, bold crimson and snowy white. If properly cared for, they can provide color all fall long. An Extension professional provides tips on purchasing and caring for mums this fall.

Varieties

There are more than 200 different varieties of mums, including annuals, perennials and small shrubs. Most people, however, associate mums with three types: reflex, pompon and spider mums.

Sallie Lee, an Alabama Extension regional agent in home grounds, gardens and home pests, said most mums are planted early in the year.

“Mums tend to make their debut every fall,” Lee said. “Most varieties are actually planted in the spring, but they are in their element later in the year.”

Planting Mums A close up of purple and yellow mums

Annual mums, also known as florist mums, are intended to be indoor plants. According to Lee, they can be planted in a sunny area but will not survive through winter.

“These are not hardy enough to last throughout the winter, especially in north Alabama,” Lee said. “Perennials on the other hand can overwinter if given a little extra treatment, such as mulching the root zones sufficiently.”

In-ground or perennial mums generally bloom longer if planted in the spring. They have access to more natural sunlight than those covered under a porch or inside a home.

Caring for Mums

If planting in-ground mums is not an option, buy a potted mum with lots of buds and not full blooms. It is tempting to buy them with buds already opened, but ones that have not blossomed will have a longer bloom period.

Access to moderate water in well-drained soil is they key to helping mums thrive. Before watering them, check the soil (in the ground or in pots) to make sure it is not too soggy. Soggy soil can lead to root rot.

Lee said that sunlight can affect the length of bloom time.

“Potted mums need indirect light rather than full sun,” said Lee. “Placing them in direct sunlight will encourage quicker blooms.”

Cooler temperatures also help sustain the bloom period, but in Alabama, there is no guarantee the weather will be cool.

Eventually, they start to lose their splendor, but don’t toss them out yet. If plants start wilting, it could be because of lack of water. Lee suggests giving them a slow, deep drink. Removing the spent blooms with your fingers or garden pruners also will encourage new blooms.

More Information Mums, pumpkins and hay bales.

Alabama Extension has a publication, Fall Garden Mum Production In Alabama. This publication is directed toward commercial mum production, but still offers valuable information for the public. For further information, contact your county Extension office and speak with a home grounds agent.

 

Featured Image: hutch photography/shutterstock.com

First In Text Image: AN NGUYEN/ shutterstock.com

Second In Text Image: Alexandar Iotzov/shutterstock.com

 

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

Garden Talk: Fall and Winter Gardening: Getting Ready for the Change! By: Sallie Lee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question: Give some suggestions now that [hopefully] our weather is moving toward “real” fall about what we can do in our gardens and yards. Is this a good time to plant things?  What about fertilizing my Bermuda grass lawn?  I don’t want to stop garden activities especially now that fall is here – how about some options?

Answer:  It’s that time of year when many of us are ready to put away shorts and tank tops in favor of long sleeves and blue jeans. In this area of Alabama, in addition to the return of Football season (War Eagle!), it’s also time for yards and gardens to receive a little end of season attention.  Work these activities into your pre-game warmup or post game cool down, so both your body and yard will benefit!

What goes with football?  Or any other activity such as gardening or yard work in which muscles are utilized? Backs and shoulders in particular need protecting; muscles need to be warmed up and stretched out just as athletes do preparing for competition!

What activities are going to benefit our gardens and our bodies?  Raking leaves for use in compost or as mulch not only means we get for free what nature has so generously provided us, but we burn approximately 150 calories an hour. Depending on how many leaves are raked, once the task is completed we have exercised, cleaned up our lawns, and added a carbon source to the compost pile.  Soil amendment for flower beds and veggie gardens, right from our own back yard!

Why not plant cool-season annuals in colors of your favorite team? Either in-ground or  containers, mums (chrysanthemums), sage, aster, ornamental kale, pansies and verbena are available in a range of colors and growth habits.  So remove the tired, sad plants to your compost pile and let them become ingredients in next spring’s garden soil!  Nature loves to recycle; we can do the same by putting leaves from our trees into our flower beds and gardens instead of purchasing the same material in bags from a retail store!

Want to make changes to your landscape by moving, removing, or adding plants?  After the first kickoff of the season, start planning to plant!  Many plant sales occur during September and October, perfect for those wanting to purchase and install trees, shrubs  and bulbs that will flower next spring.  Cooler days make establishing root systems easier on plants, but keep in mind they’ll still need water to survive.  And while you’re digging holes, “dig” that about 100 calories per 15 minutes are burned off, helping to keep those game day snacks from inflating our midriffs!

Got weeds?  If you’re a gardener of any sort, you know weeds are part of life in the garden or yard.  Hand weeding is worth about 240 calories burned an hour, is the most environmentally friendly form of weeding, and makes us appreciate the tenacity of unwelcome plants.  Using a pre-emergent herbicide helps prevent cool season weeds from popping up, but it has to be applied early enough to suppress them, and we don’t get to work off those cheese Doritos!

Weeding, composting, mulching, planting, transplanting – all timely activities to embrace between ball games.  However, fertilizing our lawns is not recommended for our area unless you want bigger, healthier weeds! As our warm-season turf grasses go dormant, we can mow one last time, compost the clippings, and winterize the lawnmower. But back off “feeding” your warm season turf grass at this point.

Pruning is also good exercise, so save the calories burned with that activity until after football season is over.  While we’re trying to get back in shape after watching all those games, and get our landscapes in shape for the spring, work off about 170 calories an hour starting in mid- to- late February if plants bloom in spring.  For plants that bloom early, like forsythia (Yellow bells) and some azaleas, prune them right after they stop flowering.

Stretch to check any materials, including pesticides, stored on shelves.  Be sure they are in weather –and – child- proof containers, preferably in locked cabinets or rooms. One of those situations where an “ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, chemicals used to treat lawn and garden pests need to be handled with the respect they deserve.

Enjoy the fall and winter seasons, whether burning calories working in your yard or consuming a few watching football games.  Balance the watching and working, both your body and your yard will be in better shape!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Courtesy http://www.greenphillyblog.com/philly/set-your-leaves-to-the-curb-starting-monday-philly/

 

“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. 

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M University and Auburn University), is an equal opportunity educator and employer.  Everyone is welcome!

Community Gardens Workshop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Starting and Sustaining a Garden in Your Community

How Does Your Garden Grow?

This workshop is intended for groups in the initial steps of development as well as seasoned gardeners who would like practical “best practices” for achieving optimum gardening results.  The speakers will address a wide range of issues  from legal considerations in obtaining and using garden property to planning and maintaining a garden over time.

When:  Thursday, October 25th, 2018 9:00 AM-3:00 PM

Where:  2612 Lane Park Road Birmingham, AL.

More Information: 

The day-long workshop will cost $20 per person or $15 per person for two or more individuals from the same organization.  Seating is limited, so please register ASAP.

To register online: https://www.smore.com/cersj-community-gardens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9:00-9:15 Welcome

9:15-10:00 Land Ownership, Funding and Liability

10:00- 10:45 Garden Oversight: Leadership and Succession

10:45-11:00 Break

11:00-11:45 Siting the Garden & Choosing Crops

11:45-12:45 Lunch and Lessons Learned (panel discussion)

12:45-1:00 Break

1:00-1:45 Resources & Stakeholders

1:45-2:30 Trouble-Shooting

2:30-3:00 Questions & Feedback

 

More Information please contact:

Sallie Lee, leesall@aces.edu 205-879-6964 x 11

Bethany O’Rear, bethany@aces.edu 205-612-9524

 

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

 

 

In Alabama, Fall Brings More Aggressive Wasps and Hornets

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fall is the peak season for yellow jackets and hornets in Alabama. Many people encounter and experience painful stings from these wasps during outdoor activities.

Yellow jackets are black-and-yellow social wasps. Hornets and yellow jackets are the most common wasp groups, says Dr. Xing Ping Hu, an entomologist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

Nests

“By fall, yellow jackets and hornets reach maximum size of family members and peak  period in activities. Hornets usually construct exposed nests in the branches of trees and shrubs or on recessed structures. They also construct nests in cavities,” added Hu. Most yellow jacket species nest in the ground but some nest in buildings, in tree cavities or structural voids.

The cycle begins with a few mated overwintered females who start new nests in early spring and become foundress queens. The new nests may contain a dozen developmental cells, remain relatively calm and often overlooked.

By fall, annual nests reach maximum size and typically contain 300 to 120,000 developmental cells, depending on the species and environmental conditions. “Some species maintain large perennial colonies in South Alabama.  Multiple queens rule the colonies which are tended by thousands of workers and contain millions of cells,” said Dr. Hu.

Most of the summer, yellow jackets are predators and feed on other insects. In the fall, their diets change to preferable sugary concoctions. They are attracted to rotting fruit and tree sap, human beverages, sweet food, fruit juice and the like. They also labor long hours to collect enough food to feed and maintain the colony through the winter.

Humans should be aware of stinging wasps when in fruit orchards, flower beds, picnic areas, outdoor restaurant seating and at backyard barbecues.

Managing Yellow Jackets

“The most useful tool for managing yellow jackets is a dust applicator,” Hu said. Hand dusters and air dusters are the more common applicators. A pest control professional wearing protective garments should operate dust applicators.

Dr. Hu says air carries dust formulations deep into cavities and voids of wasp nests. The dust particles remain on the concealed surfaces awaiting contact with foraging yellow jackets, which, in turn, contaminate other nest mates.

Using wettable powder insecticides in surface-treating yellow jacket nests can accelerate the colony-elimination process. It permits sameday nest removal.

Apply aerosol and mist insecticides, such as pyrethirins, and other botanical extracts to nest cavities after dark when nest members are in the treatment zone.

Although it is necessary to close off multiple entry points for wasps from structural voids to living and work spaces, homeowners should never caulk close an exterior entrance to an active yellow jacket nest in a structure. This action alarms the trapped wasps and causes them to seek alternative escape routes to the outdoors.

Except for honeybees, all female and worker wasps and bees can sting repeatedly. With occasional stings comes the likelihood of increased sensitivity to venom.

“Be cautious of small areas bare of vegetation because they could be ground nests of yellow jackets,” added Dr. Hu.

 

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

 

Soil Sampling Programs in October

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Date:  Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Time:  12:00 PM – 1:00 PM

Where:  Alabama Green Industry

Training Center, located inside of the North Shelby County Library on Highway 119

 

The workshop is for anyone that wants to learn the correct way to collect a soil sample and how to use the soil test report. The program will cover Soil PH, Soil Group, Nutrient Rating, Lime Recommendation, Fertilization recommendation and a hands-on. There is no cost to attend, but please call the Shelby County Extension Office to register at 205-669-6763 by October 1, 2018.

 

Date:  Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Time:  6:30 PM – 7:30 PM

Location: Pelham Public Library

2000 Ballpark Road Pelham, AL. 35124

 

The workshop is for anyone that wants to learn the correct way to collect a soil sample and how to use the soil test report. The program will cover Soil PH, Soil Group, Nutrient Rating, Lime Recommendation, Fertilization recommendation and a hands-on. There is no cost to attend, but please call the Pelham Public Library to register at 205-620-6418 by October 22, 2018.

 

Nelson Wynn

Regional Extension Agent

Home Grounds, Gardens and Home Pest

Office: #205-669-6763

Cell: #205-438-3725

Email: wynnnel@aces.edu

 

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

 

 

Soil Sampling Program

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soil Sampling Program

Monday, September 17, 2018

Time:       12:00 PM – 1:00PM

Where:   Chelsea Public Library

16623 Highway 208

Chelsea, Alabama 35043

 

The workshop is for anyone that wants to learn the correct way to collect a soil sample and how to use the soil test report. The program will cover Soil PH, Soil Groups, Nutrient Ratings, Lime Recommendations, and Fertilization recommendations. There is no cost to attend, but please call the Chelsea Public Library to register at #205-847-5750 by September 13, 2018.

Nelson Wynn (REA-Home Grounds, Gardens and Home Pests)

Office: #205-669-6763

Cell: #205-438-3725

Email: wynnnel@aces.edu

 

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

 

Shelby County Master Gardener Course

Gardening tools and flowers on the terrace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Course begins August 15, 2018

Where: Shelby County Extension Office

56 Kelley Lane, Columbiana, AL. 35051

When: August 15-November 7, 2018

Time: Wednesdays from 9:00am until 3:00pm (12-1 lunch)

Class Limit: 25 participants (please send in your registration form and $150 payment to guarantee your spot)

*Certification Requirements:

Complete Master Gardener Course (same year)

Volunteer 50 hours of service to community through approved projects

*Course Topics include:

Soils and Plant Nutrition, Plant Physiology, Entomology, Plant Pathology, Care of Landscape Plants, Landscape Design, Plant Selection, Lawn Care, Weed Identification, Houseplants, Vegetable Gardening, Home Orchards and Plant Propagation.

*For more information or an application contact:

Shelby County Extension Office at 205-669-6763

Nelson Wynn (Regional Extension Agent) 205-438-3725 or email: wynnnel@aces.edu

*Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 1606, Columbiana, AL. 35051

*Print the Application:

https://www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/A/ANR-1155/ANR-1155.pdf

 

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

 

Too early for tomatoes? By: Bethany O’Rear

 

 

Question:  I was out this weekend and noticed the most beautiful tomato plants at several stores in my community. I am ready to get my garden growing – can you tell me when I should plant?

Answer: Great question and quite timely, since many of us have spring fever! I have noticed the same beautiful plants at many retailers in my community, as well. And yes, it makes you want to get a head start on that delicious tomato sandwich.  However, you will need to proceed with caution.

The tomatoes that we currently enjoy are derived from tropical ancestors.  Therefore, while we have helped them adapt to more moderate conditions through plant breeding, they still need warm temperatures – air and soil – to successfully grow and produce.

To get your tomato transplants off to a great start, they should be planted in soils with a minimum temperature of 55-60˚F.  Why does the soil temperature matter?  Soils that are too cool can lead to root decay, poor (stunted) growth and disease.  So, how do you know if your soil is warm enough?  For vegetable seeds, such as beans or squash, just insert the thermometer to the depth of the seed planting.  However, for tomato transplants (or any vegetable transplant for that matter), you will need to check the temperature at a 4” depth.  Soil thermometers are available at many garden centers and hardware stores as well as online gardening sites.

You should also consider air temperature.  Tomatoes grow best with daytime temperatures of 70-80˚F and 60-70˚F at night.  Typically, our region warms to those levels during the month of May.  Now, we all know how Alabama weather fluctuates.  We can wear shorts and a t-shirt one day, and then have to don a sweater and jeans the next.  Let’s just say that you are trying to be the first in your neighborhood to pick a juicy fresh tomato, so you planted a little earlier than I recommended.  In the event of a cold snap (night time temperatures in the low to mid 30’s), your tomatoes will need some protection.  If you only have a few plants, you can cut the bottom out of milk jugs and cover each plant individually.  If that option isn’t practical, bed sheets can be used to cover several plants at a time.

So, what if you just can’t resist those gorgeous tomatoes at your local retailer?  I know, I know – the struggle is real.  Go ahead and purchase those plants.  Just be sure to plant them in a container that can easily be moved in and out of doors.

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.

 The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M University and Auburn University), is an equal opportunity educator and employer.  Everyone is welcome!