Cummings and Goings in Agriculture

Steve Cummings

Inaugural Class Of Master Gardeners Graduate

Hopefully, the cold weather is gone for the year.  Last weeks cold snap was tough, especially after 80 plus degree-days in March. We still need a good rain even though most of the county got a shower last week.  Since we are passed Easter, it should be safe to start gardening in a big way.  Cotton will go in the ground just as soon as we get some moisture in the ground.      

Some years I worry about whether the Dogwoods will bloom by Easter.  But, that’s not the case this year, as the dogwoods were in bloom so far ahead of Easter that I forgot to mention them in the column before Easter.  The dogwoods have been truly beautiful in Yalobusha County this year.

Yalobusha County graduated its first class of Master Gardeners. This group of ladies has completed forty rigorous hours of classroom training and will become “certified” Master Gardeners upon completion of forty service hours.      

Congratulations to Sandra Beyer, Pat Brooks, Jane Franklin, Mary Lucia Holloway, Becky McMahen, and Betty Baker Thomas.

There will be both a pleasure and speed horse show at the Multipurpose Building on April 14.  The pleasure show starts at 2:00 p.m. and the speed show begins no later than 6:30 p.m. or immediately following the pleasure show.  As usual, the horse shows are open to the public with no admission fee.

The “Lunch & Learn” or “Quick Bites” program on April 19 is Spring Gardening Tips on how to have the prettiest yard in the neighborhood by Dr. Lelia Kelly. Also, if you are reading this column before noon on April 12, the “Quick Bites” program is on lawn care maintenance by Dr. Wayne Wells.  Come and bring a sack lunch as you enjoy the programs.    

Tips on Fertilizing:

Proper fertilization is a key factor in keeping your lawn healthy and beautiful. Your fertilizer program should be based on the turf species, the growing zone you are in, and the source of fertilizer you use. There are many different types of fertilizers with varying amounts of the essential nutrients within them, but the three numbers marked on the bags always represent the percentage of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. Generally, Bermuda grass and zoysia are heavy feeders of nitrogen and prefer a ratio of 4-1-2 of N-P-K, whereas centipede would do just fine on a 1-1-2 ratio of N-P-K so keep this in mind when selecting a turf fertilizer.

Plants including our lawn grasses can’t tell the difference in elemental nitrogen once it becomes usable by the plant. However, there is considerable difference in the types of fertilizer sources and their release time or availability of nitrogen to the plant.  Nitrogen fertilizer sources are classified as either “readily available” or “slow release”.  Products such as ammonium nitrate, urea, and ammonium sulfate are very water-soluble and become available very quickly.  The advantages of such fertilizer sources are that they are generally less expensive per pound of actual nitrogen and plants respond very quickly following an application.  Disadvantages are that they have greater burn potential, have a greater risk of leaching, do not give extended results, and often create a rapid flush of tender growth that is more susceptible to diseases.  

Many lawn fertilizers are characterized as slow-release formulations.  These fertilizers primarily contain some nitrogen sources that are not immediately available to the turf.  The oldest slow-release products are natural fertilizers such as compost, cottonseed meal, sewage sludge and manures, which release their nitrogen as the microorganisms in the soil break them down. Some sources combine urea with formaldehyde and many of the more modern products contain quick-release nitrogen forms that have thin plastic, sulfur, or resin coatings that allow water to dissolve them slowly.  The main thing to remember is that all these products will release their nitrogen over a longer period of time and provide more uniform vegetative growth to the turf without the potential of turf injury from over fertilization.  The initial costs of these products are generally higher but they perform much longer and reduce flushes of growth that encourage disease attack.

For more details on selecting the right fertilizer for you turf species or growing zone refer to extension publication #1322 which can be downloaded from the extension web at www.msucares.com.

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