Upcoming Events



Managing Fire Ants Workshop to be held April 27th

Every year, homeowners and farmers square off with fire ants to go to war against each other for the rights to own the lawn, pasture, and garden. When warmer weather sets in, fire ants become more active and begin building new mounds and starting new colonies.  At the same time, the homeowner starts spending more time outside and begins doing yard work and gardening. When each other eventually meet, another battle breaks out, and the annual war begins.

Red imported fire ants are originally from South America and accidentally came to the Southeastern United States on a ship through the port of Mobile in the 1930’s.  Since then, this ant species has had an enormous effect on the southeastern United States, and continues to spread into areas of North America with mild climates and adequate moisture and food.  Approximately 270 million acres in the southeastern United States are infested, including all of Alabama’s sixty-seven counties.

Winning the battle, not the war, against fire ants is the most important game plan a homeowner should have. Unfortunately, there is not a control method that will permanently eliminate fire ants despite all the numerous efforts to get rid of them. They are here to stay and will continue to be a pest problem until new, more effective, and long-term control methods are found.

However, there are a few strategies and methods that will help control fire ants in the lawn and garden areas. These temporary control strategies depend on factors such as the size of the site, its uses, how frequently and by how many people it is used, and the availability and expense of labor, as well as personal preferences. Generally, fire ant mounds can be eliminated on a site at any given time; the problem is that reinfestation from surrounding, unmanaged areas cannot be prevented. In fact, once fire ants and other predatory insects, including other ants, are eliminated from a site, reinfestation can occur without competition. Therefore, the battle of controlling fire ants on a site usually involves an ongoing effort.

Managing Fire Ants Workshop

To help you know how best manage fire ants on your property, the Tallapoosa County Extension office will host a “Managing Fire Ants Workshop” in Alexander City on Friday, April 27th.  This event will be held on the campus of Central Alabama Community College in the mutli-media room located in the Betty Carol Graham Technology Center.   Extension Agents and Specialists will be on hand to talk and show you how to control fire ants as well as update you on the latest pesticide products and control techniques.   The workshop will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and include some product application demonstrations.   Cost is $5;  No Lunch. Participants may mail in the registration form off the Event Flyer or contact the Tallapoosa County Extension office at 256-825-1050 to register.

*This workshop has been ADAI Approved for 10 pesticide re-certification points for Alabama categories: D&R, OTPS/OTPC, and HPC/HPB.

 

Do Your Research Before Buying Fruit Trees

Don’t you just love eating those fresh picked ripe peaches, apples, pears, strawberries, and grapes. Having a home orchard with lots of fruit trees and eating fresh, home-grown fruit in the summer is a dream for many people. However, wanting a home orchard and having a home orchard is two different things. It can be a wonderful thing if managed right or it can turn into a nightmare if done wrong.

Much of the success or failure of having a home orchard lies primarily on your first decision – the variety of the fruits chosen.  Simply going out and buying just any type of fruit tree from just any source is easy enough and sounds like a good idea, right?  Wrong.  Doing just that and not doing your homework can result in a very bad investment.

Before you select a fruit tree and take it home and plant it, find out what varieties of fruit trees and small fruits grow best in our area. The truth is that it is very difficult to grow most of those types of fruits you see in the grocery store.  Alabama climate conditions of hot and dry summers and mild winters just won’t let you have that perfect orchard full of fabulous fruit. That is why other states are known for growing certain fruits. Peaches tend to grow better in Georgia, oranges do well in Florida, apples are perfect in Washington, and everything grows well in California.  But don’t worry, fruit can be grown in Alabama and be grown successfully.  You just have to know which varieties will work in Alabama.

If you want to grow apples, then try these varieties: Gala, Fuji, Rome, Gingergold, Jonagold, Cumberland Spur, and Granny Smith.  There are hundreds of commercial varieties of peaches, but gardeners might wish to try Redhaven, Sweethaven, Cresthaven, Fireprince, Contender, Georgia Belle, Jefferson, and Redskin.  If you like pears, then you might want to try Orient, Kieffer, or Moonglow (soft).  AU Producer, AU Roadside, and AU Cherry are great varieties of plums.

You won’t go wrong with varieties of figs like Brown Turkey, Celeste, Alma, LSU Gold, and LSU Purple.  Our traditional blueberry varieties are Tifblue, Premier, Brightwell, and Climax but some news ones worth planting are Alapaha, Vernon, and Yadkin.  Cardinal, Earliglow, and Chandler are a few suggested types of strawberries.  Navaho, Kiowa, Ouachita, Arapaho, and Apache are examples of blackberries that will do great.  If you like grapes, go with muscadines such as Ison, Pam, Darlene, Fry, Black Beauty, and Supreme since they will do much better than bunch grapes.

Also keep in mind where you purchase your fruit trees and small fruit crops. Always buy from a local reputable nursey, garden center, or specialty catalog source.  Many of the variety choices shipped in and sold by retail stores do not grow or do well in Alabama.  Nor are they usually labeled and named properly; you will have no idea what you are getting or what size it will be.

Regardless of what fruits you like to eat and are consider growing, pay close attention to the maintenance requirements. Having a home orchard is not a simple and easy task and can be very labor some and time consuming.  Almost all fruit plants take 3-5 years to get established before they begin producing their first crops. Many fruit trees like apples and peaches, require a strict and weekly spray program to prevent diseases and insect pests.  Almost all require yearly pruning and training, especially muscadine vines.  And if all goes well, you still have to keep the deer, squirrels, and crows at bay from eating the precious harvest before you do.

– by Shane Harris, County Extension Coordinator for Tallapoosa County.

Decorating With Nature

 

camellia blossoms on the shrub

November 14th from 9 am  to 11 am in the Extension Auditorium. 

Learn to collect plant clippings and materials from nature to create beautiful décor.

Demonstrations on Garland and wreath making along with other ideas.

Bring a bucket of your own clippings from your yard or just come and watch Mallory work her magic. Click on the link below for more information and registration.

Decorating with Nature- Tallapoosa

‘Fall Gardening Extravaganza’ Coming September 29th

We are pleased to announce that our ‘Fall Gardening Extravaganza’ will return in September!

After much success in 2014 and 2015, the Tallapoosa County Extension Office and Tallapoosa County Master Gardener Association have decided to host another grand event.  The 2017 event will be on Friday, September 29th at Central Alabama Community College in Alexander City.

We are very excited to offer another slate of well-known horticulturists and gardeners that have all agreed to come to Alexander City to speak at our 2017 “Fall Gardening Extravaganza.”  Get ready for this amazing 2017 all-star lineup of speakers as featured in the “2017 Fall Gardening Extravaganza” Event Pamphlet:

butterfly adorns the brochure cover for the "Fall Gardening Extravaganza" September 27, 2017 in Alexander City, ALChris VanCleave, speakers at the "Fall Gardening Extravaganza," Chris Van Cleave, Sara L. Van Beck, Felder Rushing, and Carol Reese“The Redneck Rosarian”, is passionate about gardening and growing roses. He was a contributor to the 2015 Southern Living Gardening Book, has appeared on P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home television show and was featured in the June 2015 issue of Southern Living Magazine. His writing is seen at HomeDepot.com and on his popular website, RedneckRosarian.com.

Sara L. Van Beck currently serves as a Corresponding Member of the Royal Horticulture Narcissus Classification Advisory Group. She has recently published Daffodils in American Gardens, 1733-1940 (2015), co-authored, with her mother Linda, Daffodils in Florida: A Field Guide to the Coastal South (2003), and has written articles for numerous other publications.

Felder Rushing is the international founder of Slow Gardening, a highly satisfying approach that focuses on finding and following personal garden bliss. He is author or co-author of 18 gardening books and a former Extension Service urban horticulture specialist who actually started the Master Gardener program in his home state of Mississippi. Felder has written thousands of gardening columns in syndicated newspapers and has had hundreds of articles and photographs published in regional and national garden magazines.

Carol Reese is an Ornamental Horticulture Specialist with UT Extension. She is a contributor to several garden magazines and writes a weekly gardening and nature column for the Jackson Sun in Jackson TN. Her talk – Take a Walk on the Wild Side –  will discuss how to create fabulous habitat and wildlife garden alive with birds, bees, and butterflies, yet have a sense of strong design and year-round appeal for the humans and other critters that enrich and entertain.

The 2017 ‘Fall Gardening Extravaganza’ will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Betty Carol Graham Technology Center located on the Central Alabama Community College campus.  Cost is only $25 per person and includes a lunch. Seating is limited and reservations are required.

“2017 Fall Gardening Extravaganza” Event Pamphlet


Must Register by calling the Tallapoosa County Extension office at 256-825-1050!

NO ONLINE REGISTRATION or PAYMENT BY CREDIT CARD

Registration Deadline is Friday, September 22, 2017

10 Facts to Know About Dogwood Trees


Loved for early spring blooms, dogwood trees are features in many Alabama landscapes and celebrated in festivals throughout the South.  The white flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), plentiful across Alabama, is an ornamental deciduous tree native to the eastern half of the United States.

10 Dogwood Facts to Know

1. Dogwood trees sport white or pink flowers. However, the true petals are not the four showy blossoms. The tightly packed cluster in the center form the real blooms. What appears to be petals are actually bracts, which is a type of leaf.

2. Flower color of the native dogwood is a creamy white. A naturally occurring variety of the native dogwood, Cornus florida rubra, has pink blooms. Many cultivated varieties are available in nurseries and landscape centers. Dogwood trees often appear in brilliant shades ranging from soft pink to deeper cherry reds. As a result, these showy bracts can attract pollinating insects to the flowers.1. Dogwood trees sport white or pink flowers. However, the true petals are not the four showy blossoms. The tightly packed cluster in the center form the real blooms. What appears to be petals are actually bracts, which is a type of leaf.

3. In addition, there are 17 species of dogwood native to North America. Gardeners are most familiar with the flowering dogwood (Cornus florida). According to Kerry Smith,  Master Gardener program coordinator for Alabama Extension, another common species is the Kousa Dogwood (Cornus kousa), or Chinese Dogwood. Kousa thrives in either full sun or shade and is much tougher than the flowering dogwood.

4. Many towns enjoy dogwood trees so much, they host annual parades or dogwood tours once the trees open their blooms in the early spring. North Carolina, Texas and Atlanta each host popular Dogwood Festivals each year. Vestavia Hills celebrates Alabama’s oldest Dogwood Festival and Trail.

5. Dogwood trees are often a preferred choice for planting because they are  low maintenance. Depending on the species planted, you might have a short, stout bush or a 25-foot tall tree. If carefully treated, a mature dogwood tree species may reach up to 30 feet in height as a result.

6. Since dogwoods grow in nature as understory trees, they prefer afternoon shade to shield them from blazing sunlight. According to Alabama Extension regional agent Sallie Lee, dogwoods are pretty versatile as a small tree. “It can be planted where larger-maturing trees would be a nuisance or a hazard,” said Lee. However, dogwoods still need room to grow. Lee advises planting dogwood trees at least 25 feet from structures to give the roots plenty of room to grow.

7. In the Southeast, the dogwood typically begins blooming in early March in the southern portion of Alabama and two to three weeks later in northern areas of the state. The bloom duration can last from two to four weeks.

8. Dogwood branches droop as the tree grows, and may need pruning to clear pedestrian or vehicle traffic. Pruning dogwoods can help shape them and improve their health. Prune if needed anytime after blooming. Alabama Extension regional Agent Mike McQueen said “since dogwoods bloom in early spring before May, wait until after they bloom to prune.”7. In the Southeast, the dogwood typically begins blooming in early March in the southern portion of Alabama and two to three weeks later in northern areas of the state. The bloom duration can last from two to four weeks.

9. Dogwoods have been used medicinally for generations. Since the bark is a rich source of bitter-tasting tannins, dogwood leaves often treated pain, fevers, backaches, dizziness, or weakness. According to McQueen, “dogwood bark was one of many barks used as a fever medicine before quinine came into general use.” Tea made from the bark was used to treat pain or fever.

10. Blooming by Easter, the tree and its flowers have inspired legends of their part in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Legend says that the bracts of the dogwood are set in the shape of a cross and bear nail marks of the Crucifixion, while the red leaves in autumn point to Jesus’s blood on Calvary.

To learn more about dogwoods, see Alabama Extension’s Selection and Care of Dogwoods at http://www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/A/ANR-1077/ANR-1077.pdf.

From Extension Daily

Trying New Vegetable Seeds Can Be Fun

Have you ever given much thought to the vegetable seeds you plant? Why do you plant them? Taste? Production? Disease resistance? Recommended from a friend? Many people plant the same cultivars each year and never think of planting anything else. The Extension System has taught many tomato workshops over the years and have a tomato taste test as part of the program. Many gardeners bring in some of their favorite tomatoes. We assign the tomato a number, then slice it up for tasting. Participants eat the tomatoes, not even knowing which one they brought. It is very interesting to see the participants who have grown a particular tomato for years because they thought it was the best, only to actually like several others that they have never grown. There are actually thousands of different tomato cultivars to choose from, and I do not know if someone would ever eat fruit from all of them but they can certainly have fun trying.

One question is where would someone find different tomato cultivars? Nurseries and farm supply stores have many cultivars ready for transplanting, and growing your own transplants is an option as well. Seed starting can be fun, and this opens the door to thousands of cultivars. The Extension System can help you if you have questions about growing transplants.

Tomato plants get several diseases that lower production, and cultivar selection could help decrease some of those diseases. Some of the common problems you can find resistance to include fusarium wilt and nematodes. However, resistance to verticillium wilt, alternaria stem canker, bacterial speck, gray leaf spot, tobacco mosaic wilt virus, and others are available. Tomato spotted wilt virus is common, and cultivars such as Bella Rosa, Amelia, BHN 640, Christa, Primo Red, and others are resistant. Growers can even find heat set tomatoes. Many tomatoes do not set fruit well with temperatures in the 90’s. While tomatoes do not perform well with high temperatures, the heat set tomatoes do better than others. Some of the heat set tomato cultivars include Phoenix, Red Bounty, Redline, Solar Fire, and others. Some tomatoes are more suitable for greenhouse production or high tunnel production than others, and choosing the right cultivar for those locations is very important.

Just check the tags where you purchase plants or seeds, and it will list the plant resistance. Tomatoes are not the only crop in which you can find disease resistant cultivars. If you have questions about disease resistance, seed starting, or most anything else, just call your local Extension office for additional information.

by Dr. Chip East, Regional Extension Agent for Commercial Horticulture

Dead Trees Can Be Hazardous to Your Health

Have you looked up lately? Many times after a long winter, people fail to look up and notice that something is wrong with their tree. If and when people do, they are surprised to find that a tree on their property is not doing well or has died. By mid spring, every deciduous tree that is healthy has at least shown some type of sign that it is alive by either blooming or putting on new leaves. Trees with no leaves, when they should have some, are either declining, dying, or dead. Any tree that you see that has yet to become green should raise a red flag and be labeled as a hazard.

A hazardous tree is defined as any tree that might fall and cause property damage and/or bodily harm and should be removed immediately.  This includes all trees that have dead branches, dieback in the top of the tree, extensive damaged or diseased areas, hollowed out, and/or are completely lacking foliage when they should not.

There are numerous reasons that cause trees to decline or die. Any time the most sensitive area of the tree, the roots, are attacked directly or indirectly, the tree will be harmed. Building construction near the tree, digging within the root zone, old age, and insects are the most common reasons. The traffic of heavy equipment during house construction causes soil compaction and limits the tree ability to take up nutrients and water.  Digging, for whatever reason, ultimately always severs trees roots and limits the tree’s longevity.  There is really no way to know how long a tree will live and bugs always manage to go undetected until the damage has been done.

Although the reason why a tree is unhealthy is important, your main concern should be removing that tree.  Once trees begin showing symptoms like that above, they may live several more years or could come tumbling down at any moment. Leaving them is very risky. Get rid of it and go buy yourself a new and better tree.

Herbicide Knowledge Required to Control Weeds

One of the most laborsome chores for landowners and homeowners is controlling weeds and brush.  The constant mowing, trimming, pulling, and spraying of unwanted vegetation is a constant and aggravating battle during the peak spring and summer months.  The frustration only increases when the nuisance plants just re-grow, come right back, and all that work was for no avail.   When nothing else will grow, one can bet the weeds sure will.

Herbicides are usually the method of choice to provide longterm or permanent weed control. To add fuel to the fire of frustration is when herbicides don’t seem to work or provide long lasting control.  Herbicides can be expensive and time consuming to apply,  so they better work.  A better understating of how herbicides work and plants react might be in order.

Herbicide Facts

Here’s a reality check for landowners and homeowners using herbicides.  You are not going to see pesky plants melt and cry out before your eyes as if you poured water on the wicked witch from the Wizard of Oz.  One has to have realistic expectations. Herbicides today just don’t work that way.

Herbicides are effective because they hinder or stop processes in a plant that are essential for life.  This is referred to as the mode of action. They might regulate growth, effect photosynthesis, block enzymes, etc. The effect of the herbicide can be slow or fast, depending on the mode of action or plant species.

For example, glyphosate, commonly sold as Round-up, once applied to a plant, translocates through the leaves.  It then inhibits amino acids blocking a specific plant enzyme. This process can take a while to occur thus is why weeds may not show signs of yellowing or death for a week or so.

The very popular broadleaf herbicide 2-4-D kills plants by mimicking a plant hormone that is important for growth. It actually overloads the plant with hormones that causes the weed to grow itself to death.  This type of mode of action is rapid and thus has quick visible results as seen in the leaf curling, yellowing, and then death.

The timing of the herbicide application is also very critical and can vary with weed species.  This can ultimately be the difference between success or failure – joy or frustration.  As a general rule, annual weeds are best controlled with herbicides when they are small and actively growing. For biennial weeds, apply herbicides when they are in the rosette stage of growth.  Established perennials and woody brush are most vulnerable in the bud to bloom stage, which often occurs in the early fall when food reserves are moving into the roots.

Brush is defined as woody shrubs, vines or trees that are undesirable in a specific location.  If you haven’t had much success controlling certain brush thus far, then your window of opportunity could be this fall.  Some brush species are harder to control than others. Plant size often dictates which application technique is required to achieve adequate control.  One may need to consider both foliar and cut stump applications. With plants storing food reserves, this means the fall season is a great time to tackle and spray some of those hard to kill plants like kudzu, privet, poison ivy, or sweetgum.

Buyer Beware

Lastly, do your homework on what herbicides are labeled for use on specific plants and locations.  There are lots to choose from, both homeowner and commercial products, so knowing which to buy and use can be quite confusing.  You must read the label and know what the product contains.  Don’t go by brand names or trust fancy phrases and images as many products are honestly marketed for consumer confusion.  Look for the active ingredient on the label in small print and be educated on what that is and really does. Herbicides can also be very expensive as well as an costly mistake on your lawn or garden if you buy the wrong thing.

Success is knowing these facts and using it your benefit and to the demise of the weed.

by Shane Harris 

Crank up the Mower for Spring Lawn Clean-up

The sun is shining. Flowers are blooming. Bees are buzzing. And the birds are singing.  Spring is near.  It just a great time of the year to get outside, enjoy the spring weather, and do some much needed yard work.

By mid March, most home lawns look sort of ragged.  It’s not that the grass isn’t growing much or needs mowing; it’s just all those winter weeds out in the lawn have gotten bigger. Weeds can be an eyesore and you may be motivated to go out on one of those sunny days and spray them.  But don’t bother because you would likely be wasting your time, herbicide, and money. Most selective herbicides do not work on full-grown weeds. For annual weeds, like those in your lawn, they mature in early spring and begin reseeding themselves for next year. Their life cycle will be ending soon and they will begin dying. So for right now, forget using a herbicide on your lawn.

The best way to get rid of nuisance lawn weeds in the spring is to just crank up the lawn mower and cut them down. Running over the lawn a few times will help hide and suppress some of those pesky weeds that may have escaped or sneaked in and will make the lawn look much better.  Bagging the grass clippings and weeds a few times in the early spring (as well as in the late fall) will suck up those weed seeds and small debris that has gathered on the lawn the last few months.  If the lawn still has leaves and small twigs scattered around the lawn, bagging or picking them up is a must.  Excessive leaves and leftover piles of grass clippings on the lawn can serve as mulch and may smother any new growth.

Don’t get me wrong, herbicides are a great way to control weeds.  However, in order for them to work properly, they must be applied at the right time of the year. Timing is critical. Unfortunately, March is not the right time to start controlling winter weeds. The month of March is more of a transition time when winter weeds are maturing, reseeding, and dying and summer weeds are starting to germinate.  Simply mowing the weeds down will suppress them and ultimately help clean up the yard. If you bag the clippings while mowing, you will also reduce the number of weeds and seeds left behind on the lawn.  Plan on applying a pre-emergence herbicide in the fall so you don’t have such a weedy lawn next year.

Remember a major weed problem in the lawn is a sign of poor management and improper cultural practices. Sound cultural or management practices such as proper fertilization and liming, adequate watering, proper mowing height, and correct turfgrass selection for the site will result in less weeds and a dense, healthy attractive lawn. If the real problem is not corrected, then the use of herbicides will provide only a short-term fix and, in all likelihood, weeds will reoccur. The key to having no weeds is having a dense, healthy lawn.

Although mowing and clean-up is okay in the early spring, applying fertilizer too early isn’t a good idea for warm season grasses. Don’t get overly anxious with wanting to force the grass to green-up.  Wait to late April and May after any chance of a late frost before fertilizing.  Don’t waste your time and money guessing; know what nutrients your lawn really needs.  This includes most weed and feed products commonly found in stores; they all contain lots of nitrogen fertilizer.  Always follow the recommendations of an official soil test.

Generally, most people wait until the lawn has gotten fairly tall and thick and may actually need baling before the first real mowing of the year is done.  No reason not to start early this year. Whether you want to have that perfect lawn or you’re just excited about riding the lawn mower again, doing a little spring clean-up will help get that lawn back into shape for another year.  There is nothing like the smell of fresh cut grass (or weeds) in the spring!

by Shane Harris

Fertilize Old Pecan Trees to Improve Production

Have you ever wondered why the nuts on your pecan tree are undeveloped?  There are several pests that pecan trees can get.  These pests include pecan scab, downy spot disease, fungal leaf scorch, pecan phylloxera, and black pecan aphids.  These pests decrease the productivity of the tree.  Homeowners can not spray big pecan trees like the commercial growers.  But, planting disease resistant trees, along with proper fertilization, will help your pecan production.

Some of the recommended pecans that are scab resistant are hard to find at nurseries and may need to be ordered a year in advance. Pecan nurseries and much more information on pecan trees are listed on the Alabama Pecan Growers Web site at www.alabamapecangrowers.com.

Cross-pollination should be considered when planting pecan trees.  A particular pecan cultivar does not receive pollen at the same time the tree sheds pollen. Generally, the more different cultivars (types) of trees in the planting, the greater the chance for cross-pollination.

If you already have an established pecan orchard, fertilization is about the only way to increase production.  Of course a soil test is the best way to know for sure how much to fertilize your pecan trees.  But if you have not had a soil test done, there are some general guidelines to follow for fertilizing your pecan trees.

You should apply the following:  1 pound of 13-13-13 per tree per year of age up to 25 pounds per tree.  Plus, 1 pound of ammonium nitrate (34-0-0) per tree per year of age up to 20 pounds per tree.  Plus, 1/10 pound of zinc sulfate per tree per year of age up to 2 pounds per tree.  Plus, 5 pounds of dolomitic limestone per tree per year age up to 100 pounds per tree.

That may sound confusing.  Basically, if your trees are more than 25 years old you need 25 pounds of 13-13-13, 20 pounds of ammonia nitrate, 2 pounds of zinc, and 100 pounds of lime per year per tree.

For large trees, apply all of the fertilizer in March.  For younger trees, apply all of the 13-13-13 fertilizer, lime, and zinc in March.  Apply half the ammonium nitrate in April and the remainder in June.

The use of a mechanical spreader may help ensure an even application of the fertilizers.  Do not disturb the soil before applying the fertilizer.  Spread it under and around the tree in an area twice the branch spread of the tree.  The dolomite lime is the cheapest, but pelletized lime is easier to spread.

Remember that many pecan trees tend to be alternate bearers.  That means if they produce a heavy crop one year they may produce a light crop the next year.  Fertilizing is very important, but there are other things you can do to increase production.

Overcrowding can be a problem.  When the trees are close together and the limbs begin to overlap you may want to remove a few limbs.  This will increase air circulation and sunlight in the canopy of the tree. Mulching the trees can also help.