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Cummings and Goings in Agriculture

Farmers Are Busy Across Yalobusha County

Farming has started in a big way in Yalobusha County.  Soybeans are going in the ground and it won’t be long until cotton will be planted.  Farmers are still determining the status of their corn damaged from the recent freezes.  Some will survive, but some are still in question.  Hopefully, the weather will cooperate and our farmers will have a successful year.

Our office conducts Quick Bites each Thursday from noon until 1 p.m.  This is in the form of a “Lunch & Learn” type format.  They are free and open to the public.  The next three scheduled programs are:  April 26, “Creating A Backyard Habitat”; May 3, “Protect Your Home From Termites”; and May 10 “How To Help A Hissy Fit”.  Bring a sack lunch and join us.  

There will be a Tri-Lakes Western Horse Show this Saturday, April 28, at the Yalobusha County Multipurpose Building.  The judged events start at 2 p.m. with the timed events starting no earlier than 6 p.m.  Participation has picked up in these classes, especially in the gaited classes.  As usual, these shows are free and open to the public.

Horticulture Tips:

Each spring as homeowners begin mowing, fertilizing, and watering their lawns, their first concerns are generally questions concerning turfgrass diseases.  These homeowners usually have dead circular patches in their hybrid bermudagrass lawns.  Managers of golf courses and athletic fields are quite familiar with this root-infecting disease referred to as Spring Dead Spot. The symptoms of this disease problem is quite evident now as healthy turf breaks dormancy and begins to green the diseased circular patches remain brown.  The demise and eventual death of these patchy areas actually began as early as last fall and through the winter months.  There may be one or more pathogens (Leptosphaeria spp., Gaeumannomyces spp., Ophiosphaerella sp.) infecting and colonizing the roots and stolons of the bermudagrass.  Even though the infection began as early as last summer, the symptoms were not evident then because of the turf’s regenerative capacity.  Once temperatures cooled below turf growth the disease got the better hand.

While filling in of these areas may be slow, usually the turf will recover by the end of the summer as healthy turf around these patches grows back into the dead spots.  The disease often shows back up in the same areas in following years.   A slightly lower cutting height to encourage lateral growth, keeping thatch to a minimum, aerification to stimulate root growth, and a well-balanced fertility and watering regime will speed recovery. Weed competition must also be managed. To reduce the severity of spring dead spot next winter maintain adequate potassium levels, keep thatch levels below three-quarters of an inch, and raise the mowing height towards the end of the growing season.  Fall applications of selected fungicides have given some protection.

Pruning Flowering Shrubs

Wait to prune spring flowering shrubs until they have finished blooming. Azaleas, flowering almond, forsythia, spirea, flowering quince, and Indian hawthorn will set next year’s flowerbuds during summer, so prune after they flower but before they set new buds. A general recommendation for forsythia, flowering quince, and others with an arching form is to remove one-third of the oldest and tallest shoots, cutting them to about 4 to 6 inches above the ground. For azaleas and Indian hawthorns, selectively prune each damaged or wayward branch, cutting at the point where it originates from the ground or another branch.

Easter Lilies

Keep lilies fresh by keeping the soil moist and placing the lily pot in a cool room, away from direct sunlight. After flowers fade, you can transplant the lily into the garden for bloom next year. Choose a sunny spot in a site that is well drained; bulbs in wet soil will rot. Feed with a complete fertilizer such as 9-9-6 or other bulb fertilizer, according to label directions. Your Easter lily will bloom next June.

If you have problems with squirrels eating your bulbs, the only sure fire way to prevent this is to cover the ground with a wire mesh screen (hardware cloth). Be sure to cut a hole for the stalk to come through the wire if it is a fine mesh.  Cover the wire screen with mulch and hopefully all the little critters will do is dig little holes in your mulch, hit the screen, get frustrated and move on!  

Assessing frost damage two weeks later is much less prone to error than immediately guessing if something is dead or alive immediately after the cold. Victims of the Easter weekend freeze should be either dead or alive by now. Remove all dead material and lightly fertilize the remaining plants to help them recover from what they have lost.

Sweet corn growers should notice new leaves by now. One unfortunate aspect to the cold damage is the unevenness of plant growth after the freeze. Some plants in a row had no damage at all, others had slight crisping of leaf edges, others had entire leaves lost. These plants will now grow at different rates and will produce flowers at different times.  While this doesn’t really matter in the long run, it does make decisions about when to sidedness fertilizer and when to treat with fungicides and/or insecticides a little more difficult.

The rains of last week have made us aware of fire ants since the ants have now built mounds to get out of the wet soil. When treating fire ants remember that they only come out when temperatures are at least in the 70’s, and that no fire ant treatments are allowed in the vegetable garden. One of the best ways to keep fire ants out of the vegetable garden is to use one of the baits around the outside of the garden. The ants will forage and bring the poison back to the mound.

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