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Cummings and Goings in Agriculture

Harvest is almost over.  A few late beans are all that our farmers lack.  Yields have been good, very good for the type of year we’ve had.  The extreme dry conditions proved that it is not the amount of rain one gets, but the timeliness of the rains.  Yalobusha County farmers are glad this years’ crop is almost in.

The Mississippi State Livestock and Horse Sale is this week.  The livestock sale is Nov. 15 at 1 pm at the MSU Horse Park.  Lunch will be served at 11 a.m.  The MSU horse sale is Nov. 17 at 1 pm at the MSU Horse Park as well.  Several bulls, bred heifers, and cow/calf pairs will be sold at the livestock sale.  Quarter horses, paints, and thoroughbred weanlings, yearlings, two-year-olds, and brood mares will also be offered for sale. 

Several horses and cattle have come back to Yalobusha County over the years.  If you are looking to buy or just looking for an outing, these sales could be for you. 

Fall has arrived!  We’ve had a couple of nights where the temperatures have dropped below freezing.  It won’t be long until I am ready for spring. 

 Horticulture Tips:

Colors of Fall Ultimately Require a Payback

Fall is officially here and we have a short time to enjoy the marvels of color portrayed in the leaves of the many hardwood tree species such as elm, oak, hickory, ash, sweet gum, etc. we find within our landscapes.  Ultimately, however, there is a payback.  Once this beautiful show of color eventually ends with each leaf one by one being released from the branches and softly fluttering to the ground, we are faced with the dilemma of what to do with the leaves after they cover our lawns?  

While leaves can become excellent mulch or compost they should not be left intact on your lawn.  Leaves lying on the turf canopy reduce light and air circulation necessary for healthy turf.  With a layer of leaves covering the lawn, attack and damage from diseases and insects can easily go unnoticed until the turf is totally destroyed.  A blanket of leaves covering the turf will trap moisture between the soil and the leaves providing an ideal environment for the proliferation of pathogens such as large patch (Rhizoctonia) and other diseases most prominent with the moderate temperatures of fall.  Therefore, leaves should be periodically raked, swept, or blown from the lawn or at least mulched down into the thatch with a good mulching mower.  Most leaves are an excellent source of compost, so be environmentally friendly by composting rather than burning or bagging your leaves.   

Remember, when gathering leaves, to be aware of poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. Whether you are carefully collecting leaves to make a pretty display or raking them up to move to the compost process, contact with these plants can lead to not very pretty family portraits at Thanksgiving.

Greens growers are reporting problems controlling flea beetles and stink bugs. Turnips, mustard, collards, and kale are not the preferred food of these creatures, but they are like Cajuns in that they will eat what is available and like it. The problem with managing these insects is the limited number of control measures growers can use. Endosulfan  (Thionex and other brands) can be an effective insecticide, but it has a 21-day waiting period from application to harvest. This means you can only spray once in the life cycle of the plant and the plant will be small when you apply the chemical. Other options include insecticidal soaps, malathion, neem oil and its derivatives, and horticultural oil. A dramatic solution to a heavily infested greens area may be to just harvest the good leaves and plow in the current crop, then plant another a week later. Don’t make the mistake of planting another area of the garden to greens, then plowing in the current one. The emerging plants are very attractive to flea beetles and you will just be moving your problem.

A different greens crop to try a packet’s worth is corn salad (Valerianella locusta). It is also known as lamb’s lettuce and mache and is among the most cold tolerant of all edible plants with some claims of survival in single digits F. The plant is less heat tolerant than most, so this one is a winter only selection for Mississippi gardens. It is grown just like the rest of the normal greens, but produces four- to five-inch leaves rather than the more than foot long ones we associate with collards.  Corn salad grows in rosettes close to the surface, so it is more like spinach than turnips. Also like spinach it can be eaten raw in salads or cooked. You will have to order the seed from any of a number of seed catalogues since it is rarely found in seed racks and most stores have warehoused their gardening supplies to make way for Christmas merchandise.

Winter blooming shrubs:

It’s not winter yet, so there is still plenty of time to plan for the upcoming season.  The following plants will give you good reason to explore the yard in January and February.

Wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox) is always a surprise. Related to the much more familiar sweet shrub (Calycanthus floridus), this plant greets the New Year with pale yellow, sweetly scented blossoms. You’ll probably smell the perfume long before you spot the translucent flowers. A large shrub growing 8 to 12 feet tall and wide, wintersweet enjoys full sun or light shade and well-drained soil. For best flowering, prune out the old canes after they bloom; new canes will grow 5 to 6 feet in a single year.

String four or five temperate days together in late January and you’ll see the curious, eyelash blossoms of hybrid witchhazel (Hamamelis x intermedia) unfurl. Some selections feature orange and red flowers, but one of the most popular, ‘Arnold Promise’, sports clear-yellow petals. Smelling of sweet spice, the blossoms seem immune to winter cold. Once open frost won’t kill them.  Upright and spreading, most witchhazels become very large shrubs, reaching 15 feet tall and wide. They’ll grow in either sun or light shade and like moist, acid, well-drained soil that contains lots of organic matter.

If you’ve ever wondered why that forsythia down the street has green stems, the answer is it isn’t a forsythia. Its winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum), a mounding or cascading shrub that grows 3 to 4 feet high and often twice as wide.  Usually blooming about 10 days earlier than forsythia, winter jasmine isn’t as showy because it never opens all of its flowers at once. It does remain in bloom, however, for several weeks, whereas forsythia fades after a week or so.  This vigorous grower, often used to cover slopes, prefers full sun and moist, fertile soil.  But it tolerates dry, poor soil.

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