Friday, June 26, 2009

Outdoor Writer Says "Sting Stopper" Saved His Life

Bob Epstein, past President Florida Outdoor Writers Association , was recently stung on the lip by a yellow jacket wasp. Almost perishing from an allergic reaction, Denver’s Sting Stopper was applied by his wife Barbara. All symptoms including major facial swelling, pain, and breathing returned to normal in under 2 minutes...

We carry the Denver's Sting Stopper. Great stuff, something everyone should have handy when out in the yard, on a picnic, a hike, camping or anywhere they might go in the great outdoors.

Squishy Squash

I'm growing squash for the first time this year. It's been a lot of fun watching the plants envelope and overtake the space I allotted for the two plants.

I've had squash for a few weeks now and have enjoyed a squash casserole and fried squash one night. Next I plan to make stuffed squash. Stewed squash is NOT on the menu ;-)

There are only two of us so I've been giving squash to friends and family. I had no idea how much two little plants could produce.

Now though I'm concerned that I may lose future squash. The things are rotting on the vine before they get to the picking point. They have a fuzzy mold growing on the things.

I thought maybe I was over-watering, or watering too late in the day so I've switched to morning watering. They get a fair amount of sun, but it's mostly morning sun. Around 1-ish the sun moves just enough to put them in light shade. By 2 or so they're in the shade.

My tomatoes and asparagus beans that are growing near them are doing just fine. But then again, they don't have the large shady canopy of leaves covering them.

So, after I type this I'm heading off to the nearest Internet search engine to see if I can find out what to do, if anything, about the squishy squash. Could be that it simply boils down to location, location, location and I'll have to choose a different area next year. At least that's one plant the deer don't seem to want to munch on! Thank goodness for prickly leaves and stems.

I'm open to any help from readers (assuming I have any at this point... after all, it's a brand new blog!).

Tips to prevent fire ants

(ARA) - Fire ants are very serious and territorial insects. They are not only a nuisance to your property; they can harm you, your children and your pets. Being able to identify fire ants, where they live, treatments for prevention, working with your neighbors for season-long control, and what to do if you are stung are all very important elements to educate yourself and family on in order to be fire ant-free.

Identifying fire ants and their mounds

Fire ants are small insects. They range in size from 1/16 to 1/5 of an inch long and are dark red and brown. A fire ant mound can be identified by its dome-shaped, soil-based structure that forms the upper most part of a fire ant colony. Their mounds can reach up to 12 inches or more in diameter and height and are usually found where water is nearby and the soil is damp.

Fire ants are hard workers and compile loose soil and other contents in the surrounding area to build their mounds. Mounds are typically visible in yards as soil granules form a "mound" shape, but are small and often hidden in grasses, weeds, under rocks and other landscaping. Mounds can pop up almost anywhere, but common places to watch for them include: Lawns and ornamental planting areas, patios, sidewalks, curbs, flower beds, compost piles, under trees and around electrical equipment. Be sure to keep an eye for fire ant mounds when you are enjoying parks, on golf courses, sports fields and any other places you, your kids or pets may walk through or play in.

Two-Step Method

There are two common approaches for effectively controlling fire ants -- broadcast treatments and mound treatments. For large yards and early season prevention, use a broadcast treatment, such as Over 'n Out Fire Ant Killer or AMDRO FireStrike to treat the entire yard. For smaller areas when visible mounds are present, use a mound treatment such as AMDRO Fire Ant Bait directly around individual mounds.

For the most comprehensive control, especially in the case of severe infestation, experts recommend a Two-Step Method using both broadcast and mound treatment. First use a broadcast spreader to treat your entire lawn. Then, treat particularly stubborn mounds you see with AMDRO Fire Ant Bait to eliminate fire ant activity in as little as one week.

It is an ant's nature to pick up food and bring it into the colony to feed to the queen and other ants. Ants believe that bait and AMDRO Fire Ant Bait are food. You feed the worker ants and they in turn, feed the queens. As the bait works, it destroys the colony.

Quite the opposite, but with the same results, fire ants unknowingly pick up Over 'n Out Fire Ant Killer on their bodies, carry it back to the mound, and distribute it to other colony members including the queen. Fire ants ingest it or absorb it through the cuticle, killing them and destroying the colony.

By using both a mound treatment and a broadcast treatment together, you achieve season-long control.

Neighborhood programs

The best way for homeowners to prevent fire ant infestations is to coordinate treatment with neighbors. A coordinated effort among neighbors maximizes the treated area, making it harder for fire ants to find a place to re-colonize. A neighborhood Two-Step Method is the most effective way to control and prevent fire ants for season-long control.

Studies show that areas with diligent neighborhood fire ant control programs, where multiple homeowners treat their lawns at the same time with the same fire ant control product, can reduce the number of active mounds by as much as 96 percent.

Treating fire ant stings

Fire ants bite and then inflict painful stings, which cause small blisters or pustules on the skin, typically up to 24 to 48 hours later. If you, your child, or your pet is stung by fire ants, it is important to follow first aid guidelines and to seek medical attention immediately if there is any suspicion of an allergic reaction. Allergic reactions include severe swelling, shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea, headaches and sweating.

If blisters occur, make sure they are clean and avoid any action that might further irritate the area, such as scratching or rubbing. Rinse the sting area with cold water and gentle soap to avoid infection and elevate the affected area of the body. You can use a cool compress or ice to reduce swelling and alleviate pain and itching.

Summer is the season to enjoy the outdoors. Now is the time to educate yourself and family on fire ants. Being able to identify fire ants and their mounds, proper treatments and handling stings are all extremely important to avoid fire ant infestation. Take time to educate yourself and family and enjoy a fire ant-free season.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Apply proper fertilizer for large fruit, not plant

Fertilizer can work wonders on plants, but applying the wrong kind to tomatoes can leave you with a tall, healthy plant with no fruit, say University of Georgia Cooperative Extension experts.

“'How can my tomato plants be 8 feet tall and not produce any tomatoes?’ That's the question I answer the most," said Bob Westerfield, a UGA Extension consumer horticulturist. "It's like I have a crystal ball. I know right away that the gardener is using liquid fertilizer."

Westerfield says it's very easy to give your tomatoes and other garden vegetables too much of a good thing when you use liquid fertilizers like the ever-popular Miracle-Gro. Liquid fertilizers are hard to calibrate, and they're absorbed into the plant very quickly.

"Too much nitrogen will cause the plant to put out incredible growth but hold back on reproducing," Westerfield said. "You want the plant to reproduce, because that's where the fruit comes from. Too much fertilizer will also cause the blooms to abort. And no blooms means no tomatoes."

The key to growing tomatoes, he said, is to fertilize at planting and not again until the plant produces dime- to quarter-sized fruit.

Gardeners shouldn’t use the traditional 10-10-10 fertilizer throughout the gardening season, says Billy Skaggs, UGA Extension coordinator in Hall County.

“Once the plants are established, you need to use something with less nitrogen,” he said. “Nitrogen encourages foliage growth, and unless you are growing leafy greens, you want large fruit, not large foliage.”

The numbers on a fertilizer bag represent the mixture’s ratio. The first number represents nitrogen. The second is phosphorus. The third is potassium. For fruiting vegetables, Skaggs recommends a mixture of 5-10-15 or 6-12-12.

Using the right fertilizer mix will give you the most return on your gardening money, he said.
People are turning to vegetable gardening more and more. “I don’t know if it’s a sign of the economy or not, but it’s definitely a growing trend,” Skaggs said. “People are growing their own produce to try to help feed their families.”

Half of American families are involved in home vegetable gardening, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This can range from growing a couple of tomato plants in a container to planting a “full blown” vegetable garden, Skaggs said.

“Growing a home garden is definitely economical,” he said. “For every dollar you spend -- from seeds to fertilizer -- you get an $8 return on your investment.”

Home gardens also provide readily available, more flavorful produce. “And you know it’s fresh because you picked it from your own back yard,” he said.

For more information on home gardening, contact your local UGA Cooperative Extension office at 1-800-ASK-UGA1.

(Sharon Dowdy is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Georgia blueberry crop ripe, ready and robust

A late spring freeze followed by heavy rains were a blessing for some Georgia blueberry growers. But they brought more hard work to others, according to University of Georgia experts.

The heavy rains delayed harvest of the southeast Georgia crop, causing some early concerns about highbush berry quality. “We had to work harder to make grade due to the heavy rains this spring, but it’s turning out to be good year for rabbiteye growers,” said UGA Cooperative Extension blueberry agent Danny Stanaland.

“We grow two blueberry crops in Georgia – highbush and rabbiteye,” Stanaland went on to explain. The highbush crop in some areas of southeast Georgia, which is the state’s major commercial production area, “was hit hard by the late freeze and will produce only about 35 to 50 percent of the crop.”

Robust rabbiteye crop

Fortunately, blueberry fans all over Georgia can expect a bumper crop from the rabbiteye variety.

“It will be the largest crop of rabbiteye blueberries we’ve had in several years,” Stanaland said. That’s especially good news for Georgia’s 300 blueberry growers. The majority of the crop is rabbiteye variety, and about 10 percent of the total crop is highbush variety.

“The highbush variety blooms and fruits early, making it more susceptible to the low temperatures and rain,” Stanaland said. “But, May 20 we finished harvesting highbush. That crop is gone.”

Growers are now harvesting rabbiteye berries in three phases.

“The early rabbiteye berries were wet and had some grading issues because it required more selective picking to get the good berries,” he said. “Now that it’s dry again, it’s much easier to harvest and grade, and fruit quality is very positive. We have the heaviest rabbiteye fruit set we’ve had in years. So, while we were short on highbush berries, we are going to be long on rabbiteye.”

Pick-your-own time

In the northern half of the state, where most blueberry operations are pick-your-own, growers are reporting larger-than-normal berries and an abundant crop, just in time for many markets to open this weekend.

In 2008, Georgia blueberry growers harvested more than 14,000 acres of blueberries with an off-the-farm value of close to $61 million dollars, slightly above the five-year average.

This year, growers expect to harvest between 12,000 and 14,000 acres, but that figure could surge as high as 15,000 to 20,000 acres, according to Stanaland and county Extension agent reports. About 75 percent of those acres are in southeast Georgia.

Prices are holding steady in spite of the abundance of available fruit this year, which usually drives prices down. Growers are getting about $14 per flat — or $1.40 per pound — for fresh berries, only a shade lower than last year’s price.

(Author Faith Peppers is a news editor for the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

Georgia farm organizations to share nearly $1 millionto promote, support and enhance “Specialty Crops”

Georgia Department of Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin says that nearly $1 million in federal funds are on the way from Washington for competitive grants that promote the marketing and enhancement of “specialty crops” in the state. The funds, distributed as part of the 2008 Farm Bill, are designated under the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.

Irvin says $909,576.44 in U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) funds will be awarded on a competitive basis for developmental projects that support and enhance the competitiveness of Georgia Specialty Crops. Awards will be presented for projects that can successfully measure the greatest return on investment of the federal dollars. Grants of $10,000 up to $150,000 will be awarded for up to three years.

The Georgia Specialty Crops eligible for these competitive grants include: fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, Christmas trees, turfgrass (sod) in addition to nursery and greenhouse crops.

Organizations eligible to apply include non-profit organizations, corporations, commodity associations, state and local governments, colleges and universities. Applicants must live, conduct business or have an educational affiliation in Georgia. The application deadline is 5 p.m., Friday, July 17, 2009.

Grants will not be awarded for projects that solely benefit a particular commercial product or provide a profit to a single organization, institution, or individual. Single organizations, institutions, and individuals are encouraged to participate as project partners.

To request an application for this grant program e-mail inquiries to or write Georgia Department of Agriculture, Specialty Crops Block Grant Program, 19 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. SW, Atlanta, GA 30334.