Saturday, August 21, 2010

Fire Ant Treatment Time

It's that time of year again. School is back in session, football is around the corner, fall harvesting will begin, and it's time to fight fire ants, says a University of Georgia entomologist.

Most people treat when they see active fire ants. "April and September are good times to apply baits, once at the start of the season and toward the end to help control before they come back in the spring," said Will Hudson, a professor with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Fire ants are most active in warm weather. Fire ant season can last 10 to 11 months out of the year in the most southern areas of Georgia.

Controlling ant colonies before they produce a mound is important. However, Hudson says that once a treatment program is in effect, timing is not all that important.

Baits and sprays

The general rule of thumb is if the area is one acre or less, don't use baits. Re-infestation is more likely from colonies outside of the yard when baits are used.

One important thing to remember is the difference between 'no mounds' and 'no ants.'

"There is a difference between eliminating ants and controlling them," he said. "Baits do not eliminate ants because there is no residual control. A new colony can still come in and be unaffected by the bait laid down prior to their arrival."

To eliminate mounds completely, apply baits every six months, Hudson said. "There will be invasion in the meantime, and you will still have fire ants, just not enough to create a new mound," he said.

The least effective treatment option for most people is individual mound treatments, according to Hudson.

Treating mounds in general is going to be an exercise of frustration, and killing an entire colony by treating just the mound is a challenge, he said.

Hudson recommends treating lawns with a registered insecticide in a liquid solution. Use a hose-end sprayer for good coverage. This should rid the lawn of fire ants for one to three months.

If you choose a granular product, measure carefully to be sure you apply the correct amount of material and get good, even coverage, he said.
Minimal impact

Baits are considered to have minimal environmental effects for those who chose not to use hazardous chemicals. Once the bait is out, there is hardly anytime for anything to come in contact with it before the ants get to it.

Other nonchemical options include using steam or boiling water.

"We recommend using boiling water to treat a mound near an area such as a well where you do not want any chemicals," Hudson said. "Using hot water is very effective, but the problem is you are not always able to boil the water right next to the area you want treated."

Carrying the boiling water can inflict serious burns, so extreme caution should be used when treating with this method.

There are products on the market that are approved by the Environmental Protection Agency and labeled as organic. Hudson says organic designation is a "slippery" definition. There is an official USDA certification and many states have their own set of regulations when labeling a product as organic. This labeling can mean the product is either a natural product or derived from a natural product.

"While there are a few products that qualify as organic, with most baits the actual amount of pesticide applied is minimal," he said.

Realistic expectations

Hudson says to be careful when choosing a product because the labels can be confusing, even deceptive, and it is difficult to make the right choice. For assistance in selecting a product, contact a pest-control professional or your local UGA Cooperative Extension agent.

"The most important thing to remember is that you need to be realistic in your expectations," Hudson said. "If you are treating mounds, you need to be prepared. You are going to chase the mounds around the yard."

By Sarah Lewis (Sarah Lewis is a student writer with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Visit for more educational articles and information.)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

25th Annual Southern Gardening Symposium at Callaway Gardens Jan 28 - 30, 2011

Early-Bird Discounts for Registration and Room through October 31, 2010

Get some inspiration for next season’s “dream garden” at the 25th annual Southern Gardening Symposium, one of the nation’s premier gardening events at beautiful Callaway Gardens®.

Make your plans to attend this January 28-30 symposium where you can listen and learn about gardening from an outstanding group of experts. Designed for novice to expert gardeners, this jam-packed schedule includes lectures, presentations and demonstrations. Though content-rich, this event provides the unique opportunity for personal interaction with the speakers throughout the weekend. Some of the outstanding speakers slated for the 2011 SGS include Michael Dirr, legendary horticulturist and hydrangea expert will speak on "Thirty years of gardening in Georgia: The great woody shrubs and trees that have successfully traveled the garden path and those yet to come"; Kari Whitley, with Scout Horticultural Consulting, will speak about the Southern garden; Erin Weston will present “My Path to the Winter Garden”; Joe Lamp’l, a.k.a. “Joe the Gardener”; Bobby Green, owner of Green Nurseries in Fairhope, AL, will discuss new and unusual camellias; and Rick Darke, photographer, lecturer, consultant and author of The Wild Garden: Expanded Edition, will lecture on “The New Wild Garden: Dynamic, Livable, Ecological.”

In addition to these presentations, guests can indulge their passion at the SGS Marketplace offering one-stop shopping for the gardener. You’ll find an assortment of choice plants, many of which are touted by Symposium speakers as the new “must-haves”; a superb book selection including new releases by SGS speakers; and a delightful array of garden ornaments. Garden Delights, top supplier of native azaleas in the U.S., will be offering a selection of southern classic plants. Rocky Branch Garden Center will be selling plants highlighted by SGS speakers. Blooming Idiot will offer a wide selection of herbs, annuals and perennials. Garden Solutions will be selling special seasonal plants. Petals from the Past will have heirloom varieties of favorite fruit trees and flowers as well as the specialty camellias as discussed by Bobby Green.

SGS participants will have an exciting opportunity to participate in both silent and live auctions. The auction items include books and plants recommended by speakers; garden ornaments; botanical artwork by the late-Athos Menaboni; special plants provided by Callaway Gardens’ horticulture department, Hills & Dales Estate and Auburn University; items contributed by Marketplace vendors; and much more.

Preregistration for SGS is required by Friday, January 21, 2011. The program registration fee of $245 includes Friday’s opening reception; Saturday’s continental breakfast, programs with printed materials, box lunch and evening banquet; and Sunday’s continental breakfast and programs with printed materials.

The Southern Gardening Symposium is approved for seven contact hours for Georgia Certified Landscape Professional Continuing Education Units.

Callaway Gardens provides a variety of lodging options for SGS participants. The special rate of $79 per room per night is available in the Mountain Creek Inn® (based on double occupancy). This rate includes admission to Callaway Gardens per night of stay and day of departure. Nestled in the trees, the spacious Cottages and Villas are available for the choosing. Those looking to pamper themselves will love the luxury Lodge and Spa at Callaway Gardens.

Early–bird Specials! There are two great offers for those who register by October 31st, 2010:

1) Registration: Receive $25 off the program registration fee.

2) Lodging: Receive the second night FREE when reserving the special SGS lodging rate of $125* per room in Mountain Creek® Inn.

For further information about SGS or to request a brochure, contact the Education Department at 1-800-CALLAWAY (225-5292), 706-663-5153 or

Callaway Gardens®, is in Pine Mountain, Ga., 60 minutes southwest of Atlanta and 30 minutes north of Columbus. For additional information, call 1-800-CALLAWAY (225-5292) or visit

*The above room rates are available only to registered SGS participants. Valid for Mountain Creek® Inn only and based on availability and double occupancy. Some restrictions apply. Symposium registration fee is separate.

About Callaway Gardens

For almost 60 years Callaway Gardens has provided “a place of relaxation, inspiration and a better understanding of the living world” for millions of visitors. Owned and operated by the non-profit Ida Cason Callaway Foundation, Callaway Gardens includes a garden, resort, preserve and residential community on 13,000 acres in Pine Mountain, Georgia. Highlights include a butterfly conservatory, horticultural center, discovery center, chapel, inland beach, nature trails and special events throughout the year.

In addition, Callaway Gardens offers nearly 100,000 square feet of meeting space, 923 guest rooms, restaurants, a full-service spa, shops, golf, tennis, fishing and more.

Five unique, close-knit residential communities with custom home sites, lakefront properties and cottages on the golf course –offer an ideal home away from home or full-time residence.

Callaway Gardens is home to a 4,610-acre forest preserve, which is under conservation easement. This conserved, sustainably-managed land is used for biological studies and environmental education programs.

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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Tomatoes, Cantaloupes and Sassafras

Question: Are all tomatoes red?

Answer: No. There are tomatoes that are orange, yellow, yellowish green, white (ivory) and pink (pinkish red) when ripe. Some like ‘Black Russian’ and ‘Cherokee Purple’ get their names because they are so much darker than standard red tomatoes. Some varieties are yellow or orange and marbled with red. Check seed catalogs, especially those specializing in tomatoes and heirloom varieties of vegetables, to see many tomatoes that are quite different from the ubiquitous red ones. You may also see them at farmers markets, as some small farmers are growing these specialty and heirloom varieties. It is possible to get a mental picture of the color possibilities by looking at the names of some of these less familiar varieties: ‘Big Rainbow,’ ‘Georgia Streak,’ ‘Black Cherry,’ ‘Green Grape,’ ‘Chocolate Stripe,’ ‘Emerald Apple,’ ‘Green Zebra,’ ‘White Wonder,’ ‘Sungold,’ ‘Violet Jasper,’ ‘Persimmon,’ ‘Black Prince,’ ‘Carbon’ and ‘Orange Fleshed Purple Smudge.’ If you want something different, try some of these in your garden or on your dinner plate.

Q: Why are tomato plants called vines? What is a “vine-ripened” tomato?

A: Tomato plants do not twine as morning-glory or bean vines do. They do not cling to walls or posts with rootlets the way English ivy does. They do not attach themselves with tendrils the way grape vines do. However, because of the loose, sprawling habit that requires some varieties to need staking or trellising, tomato plants are sometimes called vines. A vine-ripened tomato is a tomato that is allowed to ripen while still on the vine. It is picked when it is ripe. It is not as suitable for shipping as those picked green or nearly green and gassed with ethylene to ripen them. One note of caution: there are some sellers who will call a tomato “vine-ripened” if it is picked when it is showing any redness or color other than green. You are most likely to get truly vine-ripened tomatoes by growing them yourself or buying directly from the grower at the farm or at a farmers market.

Q: Are there any green-fleshed cantaloupes (muskmelons)?

A: There are some that have green or green with orange flesh. Two well-known varieties are ‘Rocky Ford’ and ‘Jenny Lind.’

Q: What is the difference between sassafras, red sassafras and white sassafras? Which one often grows along fences?

A: Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) is native to Georgia and grows throughout the state. Most people just call it “sassafras,” but a few people call it “red sassafras” or “white sassafras.” It is the same tree, however. It often grows along fences because birds eat the small fruit and deposit the seed in their droppings when they are resting on the fence wire or fencepost.

If you have questions about services or products regulated by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, visit our website at or write us at 19 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Room 227, Atlanta, GA 30334 or e-mail us at

Monday, June 21, 2010

Cantaloupes, Daylillies, Plant Watering and Cactus

Question: What is the difference between a mushmelon, a muskmelon and a cantaloupe?

Answer: Here in the United States these words are used interchangeably to refer to the same type of orange-fleshed melon with a netted skin. The true cantaloupe has a hard rind with a warty or scaly surface that is not netted. True cantaloupes are not commonly grown in the U.S.

Q: I have fallen in love with daylilies. I see them along the interstate and saw some beautiful ones for sale at the garden center. Can they be planted now or do I need to wait for fall?

A: They can be planted now. By visiting a your local garden center or nursery, a botanical garden or the garden of a daylily fancier, you can get a good idea of the colors you like. There are also numerous mail-order sources you may want to consider. Visit the website of the American Hemerocallis (Daylily) Society at Mail order sources may not be shipping in the summer, however, but they have a wide selection to choose from including some that the growers hybridized themselves.

Q: Is it safe to use warm or hot water on plants? For example, using water from a watering can that has been left out in the sun?

A: Extremely hot water can kill or injure plants, but it is unlikely that water would get hot enough in a watering can to do any damage. Water in a black hosepipe that has been in the broiling sun all day could get hot enough to injure or kill young or sensitive plants if they are doused with it. Drain the hose after you use it and test the temperature of the water coming out before using it on your plants.

Q: I saw cactus plants for sale that had straw-like flowers in numerous colors. Are these the actual cactus flowers?

A: No. It is a merchandising trick. The flowers you describe are strawflowers or other dried flowers stuck into the flesh of the cactus.

Consumer Q’s
Prepared by the Office of Public Affairs
Georgia Department of Agriculture
Tommy Irvin, Commissioner

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Prepare Now to Protect Plants from Japanese Beetles

Japanese beetles and other summer beetles will soon be busy chewing plants. University of Georgia Cooperative Extension agents get the most calls about these destructive garden pests in June and July. 

Adult Japanese beetles live for four to six weeks, lay eggs and die. The rest of the year, the beetles live underground in a grub stage. These plump, C-shaped white grubs literally turn up in gardens when soil is tilled in the spring. They feed on the roots of grass and other plants before maturing into adult beetles the next summer. 

Adults can fly in and out

Most homeowners rarely have grub populations large enough to cause damage to home lawns. If lawn treatments are necessary, late summer and early fall applications are most effective at killing young grubs. However, controlling the grub stage generally has little effect on the overall damage caused by adult beetles, since the adults can fly into your landscape from miles away. 

Adult beetles cause the most visible damage to plants in a very short window of time. The good news is that because the beetles only affect the leaves of trees and shrubs, plants that are otherwise healthy can tolerate significant leaf loss without long-term consequences. 

If they've dined before, they'll be back

If Japanese beetles have plagued your landscape in previous years, there's a good chance they will return to dine on their preferred plants. Japanese beetles feed on more than 300 species of broad-leaved plants, but some 50 species seem to be their preferred diet. 

Commonly attacked hosts include peach, cultivated and wild grapes, raspberry, plum, roses, apple, cherry, corn, hibiscus, hollyhock, dahlia, zinnia, elm, horse chestnut, linden, willow, crape-myrtle, elder, evening primrose and sassafras.

To manage Japanese beetles, follow these steps:
Monitor plants closely in late May and early June. This is the time when adult beetles will start arriving. The first beetles to arrive are known as "scouts." When they find a good food source, they release scents that attract other beetles. The key is to catch these scouts as soon as possible. Knock the adults off of plants and kill them by dropping them into a container of soapy water. This is a good organic control option for small infestations. Avoid installing plants that Japanese beetles prefer. Instead, plant non-attracting plants like begonias, carnations, boxwoods, columbine, daisies, dogwood, forsythia, hollies, hydrangeas, junipers and magnolias. Keep a journal of other plants that avoid beetle damage for making future garden selections.Several "lure" traps are available on the market. These traps are not recommended for general use in a small garden area because they can actually work too well and attract more beetles than would normally be present. Place traps in areas away from gardens and landscapes to lure beetles away.Control adult beetles with over-the-counter insecticides available at local garden centers. Select insecticides that contain the active ingredient carbaryl, bifenthrin, cyfluthrin, deltamethrin, lambda-cyhalothrin or permethrin. During heavy adult activity periods, sprays may be needed every 5 to 10 days to protect high-value specimen plants like roses. 
Applications of a systemic insecticide containing imidacloprid generally need to be made 20 days before anticipated Japanese beetle adult activity, which usually occurs around mid-May. Systemic treatment options are not labeled for use on plants that produce edible fruits. As always, read and follow all labeled application rates and safety precautions when using any insecticides.
By Paul Pugliese
University of Georgia

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Organic Gardening Takes More Time, Effort and Forethought

Home gardeners who want to try their hand at growing organic vegetables should lower their expectations just a little and be prepared to put in more "sweat equity."

Plan ahead

Growing organic vegetables takes extra planning. If you use organic fertilizer sources or organic soil amendments, these need to be tilled into the garden well in advance to be effective. (Ideally, this process should begin in the fall prior to spring planting.)

Organic amendments don't provide nutrients as quickly as synthetic fertilizers. So, if you want to gain the benefits of organic fertilizers, give them plenty of time to decompose. Soil microbes have to convert them into a form that plant roots can absorb. An added benefit of organic amendments is that they can act as a slow-release fertilizer throughout the season. This improves soil structure.

Less pesticides, more weeding

Growing organic vegetables takes extra work. Since you won't have the option to "shoot first and ask questions later" with herbicides and insecticides, you will need to spend extra time and energy in your garden.

Weeds must be pulled or hoed. Mulch must be applied to prevent weeds. Disease or insect damage must be pruned away from plants. The key is to catch all of these problems as early as possible to prevent them from becoming bigger problems and spreading throughout the garden.

Organic gardening requires homework. You must become familiar with common garden problems and be able to tell the "good bugs" from the "bad bugs." The last thing you want to do is get rid of beneficial bugs like lady beetles that actually help control aphids, mites and other insects.

Veggies don't have to look beautiful

Growing organic vegetables requires the gardener to lower his expectations. To understand my point, go to the produce section at your local grocery store and watch customers pick through a pile of tomatoes or apples in search of that one spotless specimen.

Unfortunately, I think we are all habitually programmed to do this. When growing organically, you can't be that picky. Small spots and blemishes can be easily cut off of fruits or vegetables. Appearances don't affect taste, especially if the produce is headed for a casserole dish.

Tips to follow

Here are a few more tips for the novice organic gardener:

• Get your soil tested by taking a sample to the local University of Georgia Cooperative Extension office. This is the most important thing to do first.

• Start small and increase garden size each year as you become more comfortable with organic techniques.

• Use basic cultural control options like mulching, pruning, proper spacing, crop rotation, using resistant varieties and planting at the proper times.

• Clean equipment periodically. A 10-percent bleach solution used on pruners and other tools after cutting away diseased plant material will minimize the spread of diseases.

• Water plants as needed and only in the early morning. This helps prevent diseases and develops strong, deep root systems.

When you have gardening questions, call your local UGA Extension office at 1-800-ASK-UGA1 and ask to speak to a certified Master Gardener. These volunteers are trained to help you solve gardening problems.

For more information, see UGA Extension publication B1011, "Growing Vegetables Organically," and other gardening factsheets at

By Paul Pugliese
University of Georgia
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