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Cummings and Goings in Agriculture

by Steve Cummings

This has been a beautiful fall.  I believe the leaves are prettier now than they ever have been this year.  The harvest is almost completely over this year and the yields were better than expected, especially for the weather conditions we’ve had.  Now we just need periodic rains to help restock our water supply.

Our office will be closed Wednesday, November 21, through Friday, November 23, for the Thanksgiving holidays.  Our staff will be spending time with their families.  We will reopen on Monday, November 26.  On behalf of the Yalobusha County Extension Staff, we wish all of you a safe and happy Thanksgiving!  

As soon as we get back, I’ll be getting ready to attend the Farm Bureau State Convention in Jackson.  As usual, we will have a nice delegation to attend and we will be supporting our county Farm Bureau Queen, Andrea Stark, as she represents not only our county, but Farm Bureau’s Region IV in the Farm Bureau State Queen Contest as well.  We all know Andrea will do a good job and we wish her the best.  

Don McConnell called last week with a helpful tip.  He says, from experience, that putting white vinegar on fire ant bites helps them heal quickly and eliminates the blisters.  Wish Don had called a week or two earlier, as I got into the fire ants and still have the bites to prove it.

For those of you who ordered cheese, the MAFES Sales Store shows that your orders have been placed.  We will be picking up the cheese orders on Monday, December 3rd.  If you haven’t already done so, please pay for your orders before this date so that your cheese can be picked up.  If you have any questions, please contact our office at 675-2730.    

Horticulture Tips:

Don’t Store the Lawn Mower Just Yet

For many of us, our lawns have already experienced a light frost or two and have pretty much ceased foliar growth until next spring.  Does that mean we can put closure to our lawn mowing chores as well?  Not if you want your lawn to have that neat, groomed appearance throughout the winter.  Even though much of the lawn may have already gone dormant there will be localized areas with southern exposure or otherwise been protected and will require a hard killing frost or freeze to completely shut down growth.  As we rake leaves from the lawn we often lift grass blades of unequal lengths creating an uneven turf canopy. Therefore, once the last leaves have been raked and the lawn has gone completely dormant a final mowing slightly higher than the normal summer mowing height will leave a nice clean appearance to the turf canopy.  If your lawn did not receive a fall pre-emergent herbicide application and winter weeds are already beginning to appear you will probably need to plan on a post-emerge herbicide to control these weeds are keep the lawn mower ready to mow throughout the winter.

Winning Combination for Late Winter Color

Nobody would put flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) high on a list of underused trees. But one type of dogwood, cornelian cherry (Cornus mas), merits much more acclaim. Named for its bright-red fruits, this 20 foot tall tree bears clouds of soft-yellow blossoms in late February and early March.  For two weeks or more, its shaggy-barked limbs appear dusted with sulfur.

Similar in shape to flowering dogwood, cornelian cherry accepts a wider range of growing conditions, enduring both drought and poor, slightly alkaline soil. But given its druthers, it opts for moist, fertile, well-drained soil and light shade. For particularly handsome winter combination, try underplanting cornelian cherry with a sweep of Lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis), an evergreen ground cover.  The white and rose blossoms of the latter open at roughly the same time as the trees.  Lenten rose, like cornelian cherry prefers a slightly alkaline soil.

Plants don’t bloom to please you and me. They do so to reproduce. So you may wonder why any plant would bloom in winter, consider that insect pollinators are absent then.  The answer is that insects aren’t absent.  Many lie dormant through the cold, waiting for a mild spell to provide a midwinter meal.  On a sunny January day, they awaken briefly and head for the blooms that await them.  Insects appreciate the flowers of winter, and for different reasons, so do we.

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