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Cummings and Goings in Agriculture

High 70’s Not Yalobusha Christmas Weather

by Steve Cummings

Here it is, a couple of weeks from Christmas, and last weekend’s weather was in the 70’s.  Don’t get me wrong, I like Christmas shopping in the warm weather, but it is Christmas after all.  As soon as Christmas is over, I’ll start counting down until spring.

The good thing about working for the Extension Service is the time off that we get for the holidays.  Our office will be closed from December 21st through January 2nd.  Not bad if you have things to do.  

For years we had no talk of small children or grandchildren, but that’s not the case this year.  It’s constantly talk of children and grandchildren this year.  So, I may be the one with nothing to do and ready to get back to work, but then again the ladies in the office may be ready for me.  Anyway, just be aware of the Yalobusha County Extension Office holiday schedule, and if you have the Multipurpose Building rented, make arrangements in advance to pick up the keys.

Horticulture Tips:

 How to Purchase the Best Poinsettia:

No Southern Home at Christmas is complete without a poinsettia.  Here are a few basic buying tips that can make the difference between a plant that looks good all season and one that you need to throw away almost as soon as it gets home. First look at the bracts.  Bracts are not the flower of the poinsettia but actually the leaves that turn color.  When checking this foliage, make sure there are no dark spots or lesions.  Make sure the color is all the way to the edge of the bracts without any green cast, and make sure the smaller bracts, closest to the center of the plant, are colorful, too.

Next look in the very center of the plant, and you will see the true flowers called cyathia.  This tiny cluster of flowers is the best indicator of a poinsettia’s freshness.  According to the Paul Ecke Ranch (which has been growing, producing, and developing new selections for more than 80 years), a quality poinsettia has a small, tightly clustered set of buds in the center.  It these buds are open (revealing the fuzzy little structures called stamens), or are not present, pass it over. Continue to look for a plant that has good colored bracts and unopened buds (choosing one with a few opened buds is ok).

It used to be that poinsettia shoppers were limited to the red or white selections. Now we have many colors and combinations of colors and flower forms. There is even one called the Christmas Rose, which has blooms that do look more like a rose than a poinsettia.  Happy shopping!  

We don’t often think about drought in December. It is normally one of the wetter months, averaging over five inches of rain in central and southern areas and six inches is northern Mississippi. Remember how many Christmases the family has spent inside? This year the outlook is for drier than normal. Many areas, particularly in northeastern and east central Mississippi are already more than twenty inches below normal in rainfall.  Landscapes need water, even when much of it is dormant. Cold dry winds are not as drying as hot dry winds, but a good inch of water will make your evergreens more resistant to damage from freezes.

The good news for collard lovers is that Blue Max seed are again available. This Abbot and Cobb hybrid was not available for fall planting, but the Twilley seed catalogue is again listing it for sale.

The new seed catalogues are coming and, as always, there are a lot of new varieties for sale. One thing noticeable among the catalogues is the variations in pictures of the same varieties. There is a new Roma tomato with tomato spotted wilt tolerance named Muriel. The picture in the Twilley catalogue shows it as a reddish-orange fruit against a sandstone brown background. The Harris Seeds catalogue shows it as a deep, luscious red against a lighter tan background.  It is obvious that it is the same photograph, just different printing parameters make the tomato more appealing in one catalogue than the other.  

Gardening Items Are Wonderful Christmas Gifts:

The seasonal period from Thanksgiving through Christmas is a wonderful time reflecting on the fond memories of the year, giving thanks, and sharing gifts with loved ones.  The brilliantly decorated homes and businesses, Christmas carols, parties, etc. certainly help put us in a shopping mood even with having to deal with elbow to elbow crowds.   In the madness of the Christmas shopping crowds and finding gifts for those who you may think have everything here are a few tips that may help.  First, get out of the way of the masses of shoppers by heading to the lawn and garden sections of your favorite department stores or shop a specialty lawn and garden center.  The diversity of gift ideas from only a few cents to thousands of dollars even for those having everything will be surprising.  Gardening and lawn care books are instructional and very enjoyable to relax with.  Gifts such as bird feeders, birdbaths, squirrel feeders, butterfly boxes, birdhouses, etc. will encourage wildlife and add a whole new dimension to the landscape.  Lawn sculpture can be found in every shape and size.

Gifts to indicate weather conditions such as rain gauges, indoor-outdoor thermometers, and barometers are also great to have.  Any gardener is pleased to receive new tools as gifts.  A few suggested ideas in various price ranges include: pocket knives, electric grass shears, work gloves, pruners, sprinklers, pesticide sprayer, hose reel, lawn rake, garden hoe, shovel, wheel barrow, edger, leaf blower, lawn mower, etc., etc, etc.  The ideas are unlimited and the gifts can last a lifetime.  Enjoy your Christmas shopping and if you find a gift that you simply must have, you still have time to drop some hints or even wrap a present for yourself.

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