Upcoming Events

Beating Fire Ants This Fall

Fall is a great time to treat fire ants.

“Fall is a great time to treat fire ants,” Dr. Kathy Flanders, an Alabama Cooperative Extension Entomologist said. “Fall temperatures are perfect for fire ant activity and foraging, making it an opportune time to put out fire ant bait.”

While the warm weather is rolling out and cooler air moves in, fire ants are still actively foraging. Fire ants look for protein-rich foods all year, but especially in the late spring and early fall.  Foragers usually continue searching for food until temperatures drop below 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Using treatment plants like the Two-Step Methodcan provide specific and continued control of fire ants, in a cost-effective way.

Fall is an important time to protect livestock from fire ants.

Researchers have developed an interactive, customized management tool for managing fire ants in pastures and fields. Use of the management tool will allow for a cost-effective application of pesticides in hopes of knocking out a significant portion of the fire ant population before the winter season. There are also resources available with specific guidelines for management of fire ants in a livestock operation.

Dragging pastures is not a sure or complete fire ant control method, but dragging a pasture before a freeze could help control the fire ant spread in that area.

High traffic areas can include calving areas and hay storage areas. Flanders said young livestock are very vulnerable targets, but caution and diligent treatment can help prevent damage by fire ants.

Fire ants will be looking for a warm place to overwinter.

Double-checking door seals, pipe coverings and concrete foundations can help prevent a home invasion in the winter. As temperatures drop, fire ants begin searching for warm places to spend the cold months. Often, this means mounds inside the house or built against the foundation.

Alabama Cooperative Extension professionals developed management options for treating fire ants inside homes and buildings. The first and most important suggestion: treat fire ants in the surrounding landscape to prevent fire ant infestations near the home. This publication includes product names and uses, and tips for fire ant control in the home.

Fire ants may be in your pile of leaves, wood stack or winter garden.

Outdoor temperatures determine the amount of activity present in a fire ant mound. When the temperatures are right, leaf or compost piles, wood stacks and winter gardens are all likely hiding places for fire ants.

Flanders said it is important to check for fire ants before playing, working or carrying wood inside. A proactive approach to controlling fire ants in these areas would be best. This is also a time to consider a slow-acting bait for continued control going into the cold season. Treat the areas before piling up leaves to play in or for compost, treat your preferred firewood location and treat your garden before planting.

Working with neighbors or surrounding landowners can boost your chances of knocking a dent in the population.

Fire ant control is more effective when larger areas are treated. When an 80-90% control rate is acceptable, consider participating in a community- or neighborhood-wide treatment program. If the problem is widespread, a large treatment plan could be more effective than treating in small areas. Flanders said Extension professionals have developed a community-wide management program that is available for use and implementation. Find the program here.

More information can be found on the Alabama Fire Ant page and Extension Fire Ant Community of Practice page, including fire ant treatment optionsnews and tips.

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

Fall is Pecan Time









Pecans are a staple in many recipes. To ensure you have the best quality nuts for your next dish, harvest pecans as they drop from the trees.  Do not wait and try to harvest them all at one time at the end of the season.

“Harvest your pecans promptly for best quality. Don’t let them lie on wet ground for extended periods of time,” said Doug Chapman, a regional commercial horticulture agent with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

As soon as pecans fall from the tree they begin to dry and cure. This process improves the quality of the nuts until they reach their optimum appearance, aroma, flavor and texture. If the nuts get wet after initial drying the seed coat will darken and the oil in the kernel increases the fatty acid levels. This condition causes the nut to be stale and rancid. Take pecans to a dry location inside.

“Drying is one of the most important steps in assuring a high-quality appearance and flavor in pecans,” Chapman added. “If possible, spread pecans out in a dry, moderately warm place and dry several days before storing. Once dried to a crisp texture, pecans should be refrigerated or frozen.”

Crack and shell your pecans as soon as possible. Shelled pecans can also be frozen until you are ready to use them.

Storing pecans

Pecans stored below freezing can keep for two years. Be sure kernels are dried properly before freezing. Lay the nuts out several days in a warm, dry place. Kernels should be crisp and break easily in half if dried properly.

 “Don’t store pecans in packages with apples or other fruits,” he said. “Also, don’t store them in rubber-like packages or in rooms that may be musty.”  Pecans absorb gases from the storage atmosphere, which can change the flavor and the pecan’s stability.

Caring for your pecan trees in the fall

If you need to apply lime or zinc to pecan trees, fall is a good time to do so. Soil testing will provide detailed instructions on fertilizing and liming. Clean up and destroy pops, shucks, leaves and limbs to reduce pest problems.

Pest problems

If trees have lost leaves by Nov. 1 because of aphids, downy spot, pecan scab or other damage, expect to see a reduced pecan crop next year.


Featured image by Mike Donenfeld/Shutterstock.com


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

Master Gardener Class Schedule for October!










Shelby County 2017 Regional Master Gardener Course 


October Schedule


10/4/17   Shelby County Extension Office: Woody Ornamentals & Invasive Plants    9:30am-3:00pm (Sallie Lee)

10/11/17   Shelby County Extension Office:  Home Lawns    9:30am-3:00pm (Dr. David Han)

10/18/17   Shelby County Extension Office:  Pruning    9:30am-12:00n (Bethany O’Rear)

The World of Roses    1:00pm-2:00pm (Paul Saeger)

Honey Bees    2:00pm-3:00pm (Don Driggers)

Shelby County Extension OfficeGraduation    TBD   (SCMGA)


For more information call:

Shelby County Extension Office #205-669-6763 

Nelson D. Wynn, Regional Agent, wynnnel@aces.edu /205-438-3725

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

Garden Talk: Allergies gone wild –what’s blowin’ in the wind? By Sallie Lee

Young woman sneezing into tissue.








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


Garden Talk: Stinging Caterpillars By Kerry Stober














Question: Which caterpillars can sting me?

Answer: I will start by saying that unless you are 100% certain you know the insect you are seeing is safe to touch, you should not pick it up with your bare hands and expect leave the encounter unharmed. You should not be fearful of caterpillars, but always use caution when you encounter a species with horns or hairs. Most stings produced by these larvae are mild and symptoms go away quickly.

Caterpillars are the larval form of insects in the order Lepidoptera.

There are several thousand species of caterpillars in the Eastern United States and it is estimated that they make up around 10% of the existing described species in the world.

These insects are usually described as having an easily distinguished head and 13 body segments, which have six legs in the front and most of the time have fleshy false legs in the back (the number of these can vary). They come in a huge variety of colors, shapes, and sizes, but the caterpillars I want to talk about today are the most feared – the ones that sting!

Caterpillars that sting are not using the same apparatus as a bee or ant that stings. Caterpillars that can sting have hollow projections called setae that grow from poisonous glands on their skin. People usually say these caterpillars look “hairy” or “spiky”. Not all caterpillars with setae are venomous, and some are simply trying to appear like a similar more dangerous species. This can make differentiating them a little difficult. Stinging caterpillars do not actively try to sting predators; but when they are touched, their hairy setae break off on the attacker and the poison is released.

The most common family of stinging caterpillars in Alabama are the slug caterpillars. This family includes the saddleback caterpillar, the stinging rose caterpillar, the hag moth caterpillar, and the spiny oak slug. Most of these caterpillars are solitary and can be found from summer to late fall. Almost all the caterpillars in this family have large, easy-to-see projections that bear setae. They are often brightly colored and look quite unique. The saddleback’s sting is the most painful of this group, while the others are described as being relatively mild.

Another group of stinging caterpillars is the giant silkworm. In Alabama, we often see the Io moth caterpillar and the buck moth. Both of these bear short spiny setae all over their bodies and they are some of the largest stinging caterpillars in the state.

The puss caterpillar is another common stinging larvae. It has a unique appearance, in that it is covered in a coat of long fine tan hairs. This furry creature can produce severe reactions (some have required medical attention) and has a fairly wide variety of hosts. Though petting this larvae may seem tempting, stay away!

There are several common species of caterpillars in the state that look dangerous, but are completely harmless to humans. The hickory horned devil, spiny oak worm, and hornworms all have spiky looking horns that can be scary to see, but are not venomous. There are also several hairy species, namely the walnut caterpillar, fall webworm, and sycamore tussock, which are also harmless and commonly found.

I hope that this information can be helpful to you in differentiating between the stinging and non-stinging caterpillars of Alabama, and if you are ever in doubt, don’t touch!


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

Beekeeping 101 Workshop: Sept. 19, 2017

Bee and Daisy

Beekeeping 101 Workshop

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

North Shelby County Library

(Alabama Green Industry Training Center)

5521 Cahaba Valley Road

Birmingham, AL 35242


Time: 5:45 p.m. – 7:45 p.m.


The free workshop is for beginner beekeepers.

This workshop will address beekeeping (how to get started), what is special about honeybees; how bees make honey, and why do bees swarm?


Contact Shelby County Extension Office to register by Sept. 15 (205-669-6763).


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

Garden Talk: Blossom End Rot By Bethany A. O’Rear

Question:  I am having trouble with my tomatoes. I have noticed brown spots near the base of the fruit. They start out small but continue to increase in size.  What is this disease and how can I get rid of it?

Answer:  Well, if it is any consolation, you are not alone. We have been getting several calls from folks that appear to have the same tomato malady as you.  The culprit is Blossom-end rot (BER), and is actually a physiological disorder, not a disease.  It is easily identified as a brown, leathery rot developing on or near the blossom-end of the fruit.  It starts with a dry brown, dime-sized lesion, generally increasing in diameter as the condition worsens.  In time lesions, often become covered with a black mold.

Now that you know what it is, let’s discuss the causes.  BER occurs as a result of calcium deficiency within the plant.  This deficiency is typically induced by fluctuations in the plant’s water supply.  Due to the fact that calcium is not a highly “mobile” element in the plant, even brief changes in the water supply can cause BER.  Droughty soil or damage to the roots from excessive or improper cultivation (severe root pruning) can restrict water intake preventing the plant from getting the calcium that it needs.  Also, if plants are growing in highly acidic soil or are getting too much water from heavy rain, over-irrigation, or high relative humidity, they can develop calcium deficiency and BER.

To control BER, take the following steps:

  • Keep the pH of the soil at 6.0 to 6.5.  Perform a soil test and apply the recommended rate of lime, using dolomitic or high-calcium limestone.  This step should take place 2 to 4 months before planting tomatoes.
  • Apply the required amount of fertilizer when necessary based on soil test results for tomato.  Applying too much fertilizer at one time can induce BER.  Following soil test recommendations is the surest way to fertilize properly.
  • Use mulches, such as pine straw, decomposed sawdust or newspapers, to conserve moisture.
  • Give your plants adequate water.  Tomato plants need about 1.5 inches of water per week during fruiting.  Extreme fluctuations in soil moisture can result in a greater incidence of BER.
  • This is the step that you have been waiting for.  If your plants develop BER, drench the soil around their roots with a calcium solution containing four pounds of calcium nitrate or calcium chloride per 100 gallons of water (or four level tablespoons per gallon of water). Contrary to popular belief, spraying the plants with calcium has no effect on BER.
  • Some varieties of tomato tend to be more sensitive to conditions that cause BER.  Try growing several varieties and keep notes as to their performance.
  • If you experience severe problems with BER, you should remove the infected fruits.  Once a fruit develops BER, it will not re-grow or repair the infected area.  In fact, the damaged area could serve as an entry point for disease-causing bacteria or fungi.

I hope this information has been helpful.  Following these simple steps should greatly reduce your BER woes in the future.  Happy gardening!

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!

Master Gardener Class Begins! August Schedule

Gardening tools and flowers on the terrace









Shelby County 2017 Regional Master Gardener Course 


August Schedule


8/2/17   Shelby County Extension Office: Orientation & Soil Sampling    9:00am-12:00n (SCMGA & Nelson D. Wynn)

Lunch    12:00n-1:00pm (SCMGA)

Annuals, Perennials & Bulbs    1:00pm-3:00pm (Carol Beard)

8/9/17   Meet at Experiment Station:  Fruits    9:30am-12:00n (Edgar Vinson)

Tour Chilton Reg. Res. & Ext. Center    1:00pm-3:00pm (James Pitts)

8/16/17   Shelby County Extension Office:  Plant Physiology    9:30am-3:00pm (Dr. Dan Jones)

8/23/17   Shelby County Extension Office:  Weed Science & Pesticide Safety    9:30am-3:00pm (John Nabors)

8/30/17   Shelby County Extension Office:  Plant Entomology (soil samples due)    9:30am-3:00pm (Dr. Charles Ray)


For more information call:

Shelby County Extension Office #205-669-6763 

Nelson D. Wynn, Regional Agent, wynnnel@aces.edu /205-438-3725







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

Garden Talk: Boxwood Blight By Kerry Stober












Q: What is boxwood blight, and should I be worried?

A: Boxwood Blight (Cylindrocladium pseudonaviculatum) is a disease that has been in the Alabama landscape since 2013. Usually this disease comes into an established landscape on newly installed plants. It can then spread from these infected plants through splashing water and contaminated equipment or clothing.  The recent rainy weather has caused an increase in boxwood blight activity.  So, if your boxwoods have been green and healthy up until the last few weeks you might suspect boxwood blight.  This disease primarily attacks boxwoods, but can also be found on pachysandra.

The symptoms of boxwood blight are distinct. The leaves of infected plants will develop spotting, which is usually circular and tan, often described as a bullseye. The leaves will also turn brown and infected stems can rapidly drop foliage. This often becomes a cycle of the plant developing new leaves, turning spotty and brown, and then dropping those new infected leaves. If you notice an unusual amount of leaves around the base of a boxwood, this could be a good sign that you should check for these symptoms. Another common symptom is dark coloration on the stems, which can appear as lesions or striping.

Sadly, boxwood blight cannot be completely eradicated from a landscape with fungicides, but fungicides that contain chlorothalonil or tebuconazole can be used to protect existing plants. To control the spread of this disease, there are several rules a homeowner can follow. Use irrigation methods like drip hoses that do not spray water on the plants, so that you do not spread the sticky spores with splashing. Always sterilize tools after pruning, and keep the areas around the plants clear of debris. When cleaning up debris or removing infected plants, do not compost them, and dispose of them immediately, as the disease can survive for up to 5 years in this material. In landscapes with healthy boxwoods, thoroughly check any new boxwoods for all the symptoms of the sickness before installing. Try to use other plants that can serve a similar purpose to a boxwood, or try to use some of the more resistant species like Buxus microphylla var. japonica “Green Beauty” or B. harlandii.

Boxwood Blight is becoming increasingly more common, and homeowners should keep an eye out for any symptoms. Please let your county extension agent know if you suspect boxwood blight in an area, or you can also send or bring samples to the Plant Diagnostic Laboratory, located in the C. Beaty Hanna Horticulture and Environmental Center, 2612 Lane Park Road, Birmingham, 35223.

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 Bethany at kds0010@aces.edu or call 205-879-6964 x19.

ACES is committed to affirmative action, equal opportunity and the diversity of its workforce.  Educational programs of ACES serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or national origin.


Harvest to Table Recipes

Vegetable garden

Harvest. Vegetables for harvest this month include: asparagus, broad beans, broccoli, spring cabbage, kohlrabi, lettuce, salad onions, peas, early potatoes, radish, spinach and chard.  Here are some great recipes to use all these great vegetables in a delightful dish.

Marinated Asparagus                                                     

1 pound fresh asparagus

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

4 tablespoons water

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed

1/2 teaspoon parsley flakes

1/4 teaspoon salt

Cook asparagus, drain and place in a shallow baking dish.  Combine mustard with vinegar and stir to blend well.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly.  Pout over asparagus, cover and marinate in refrigerator for several hours or overnight.  Drain asparagus and serve on salad green with a dressing, if desired.  Use French or some other tomato-base dressing or use a light cheesy dressing.

Makes 5 serving.  One serving: 4 or 5 spears.

One serving contains: 42 calories, 0 mg cholesterol; 129 mg sodium; 5 g carbohydrates; 2 g protein;

2 g fat or 41% of total calories.

Analysis includes all of the marinade on the asparagus; draining will reduce calories, fat, and sodium. However, analysis does not include salad greens or dressing.

Refrigerator Slaw

6 pounds cabbage, shredded

2 teaspoons salt

2 cups chopped celery

1 cup chopped green pepper

1 cup chopped onion

2 cups sugar

2 cups water

2 cups white vinegar

1 tablespoon celery seed

1 tablespoon mustard seed

Mix together the cabbage and salt and let stand 1 hour.  Add celery, green pepper, and onion; stir well and let stand 20 minutes.  Drain well.  Mix sugar, water, vinegar, celery seed, and mustard seed in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil, pour over cabbage mixture, and toss well.  Cool.  Cover and refrigerator several hours or overnight.  This will keep in the refrigerator for 2 weeks or may be packed in a moisture-vapor-resistant container and frozen for up to 2 months.  Drain well before serving.

Makes 25 servings.  One serving: 1/2 cup.

One serving contains: 94 calories; 0 mg cholesterol; 185 mg sodium; 23 g carbohydrates; 2 g protein; -1 g fat or 4% of total calories.  Analysis includes all of the salt on the cabbage and the dressing on the salad; draining will reduce carbohydrates and sodium. 

Broccoli Casserole

2 10-ounce packages frozen chopped broccoli (7 cups of fresh chopped broccoli)

1  10 3/4-ounce can cream of mushroom soup

2 tablespoons grated onion

1 tablespoon grated lemon rind

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 cup reduced-fat, cholesterol-free mayonnaise

1/2 cup nonfat plain yogurt

3 egg whites (discard yolks)

butter-flavored vegetable cooking spray

1 cup grated reduced-fat sharp Cheddar cheese

1/4 cup dry bread crumbs

1/2 cup grated reduced-fat sharp Cheddar cheese

Cook broccoli as directed on package or as directed in the AU cookbook (pg. 388 boiling broccoli, stalk and splits in water for 9 to 12 minutes or steaming for 10 to 12 minutes).  Drain well.  Combine soup, onion, lemon rind, lemon juice, mayonnaise and yogurt.  Stir until well blended.  Beat egg whites until foamy and add to soup mixture.  Beat until well blended.  Coat a 1 1/2- quart baking dish with the cooking spray.  Layer half of the broccoli in the bottom of dish and cover with half of the soup mixture.  Sprinkle half of the 1 cup cheese over soup.  Repeat with the remaining broccoli, soup mixture and cheese.  Bake it at 350’F. for 20 minutes.  Combine bread crumbs with 1/2 cup cheese and sprinkle over hot casserole.  Return to oven for 10 minutes or until topping is light brown.

Makes 10 servings.  One serving: 1/2 cup.

One serving contains: 148 calories; 12 mg cholesterol; 393 mg sodium; 9 g carbohydrates; 9 g protein; 8 g fat or 51% of total calories.


If you have any Food Safety questions please contact our Shelby County Extension Agent:

Angela Treadaway

Office #: 205-669-6763

Cell #: 205-410-3696

Email: treadas@aces.edu


These recipes and many others can be found in the Auburn Cookbook, a publication of Alabama Extension.

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