By Brent Gray
While fleas and ticks are not damaging to the turf they can be quite troublesome to humans and pets. Not only do they cause irritating painful bites but they can also transmit serious diseases.
Ticks and fleas are very hardy and can survive many months waiting for a suitable host. Depending on the species ticks may seek several hosts before completing their life cycle starting with small animals or birds then progressively seek larger mammals such as people.
To limit the potential for both fleas and ticks in your lawn the following tips will help. They are usually brought into the home lawn aboard pets or other animals including wild animals therefore, the first step is to control them on the animals that frequent the area. For your pets applying appropriate collars, repellents and insecticides will help. Do not allow them to roam wooded areas and carry ticks back into the lawn. For wild animals and strays limit their access by fencing, lights, etc. Keep vegetation cut low to discourage deer and other animals from entering the lawn. And lastly if ticks or fleas do infest your lawn use appropriate insecticidal sprays to control them. It is best to treat the entire lawn but the most obvious areas where they will be concentrated will be where pets rest, along paths or trails that are traveled by wildlife, around building perimeters and on any tall weedy vegetation.
You can also reduce the chance of being bitten by fleas and ticks by protecting yourself when working or playing where they may be. Tuck pants legs into tops of boots or socks. Keep shirttails in and use repellents such as permethrin or DEET.
First frost dates are approaching.We Mississip-pians don’t think about the effects of altitude much, but anticipated first frost dates are a function of altitude and distance. This is most obvious when we note that Oxford and Clarksdale, sixty or so miles apart, have an anticipated first frost date three weeks apart, but Hattiesburg. over 250 miles away, shares the same date with Clarksdale. Gardeners should watch the weather forecasters and make plans for the first frost. Tender vegetation can be covered, but gardeners shouldn’t wait until the last minute to locate the blankets, sheets, Reemay, or other covering articles.
Mid October is planting time for short day onion seed. Plant the seed about a half inch or slightly deeper into moist soil. This is a crop you can harvest all winter long if you sow the seed about an inch apart and regularly thin leaving wider gaps between plants with each thinning. The removed plants are used as green onions. Seeds sown now should produce scallions to make stuffing for Christmas. The last thinning to three or four inches apart in the row should be made by mid February.
Winter cover crops provide several benefits. The growth of desired plants prevents the growth of weeds. The cover crop protects the garden soil from erosion from wind and rain. Choosing a flowering cover crop provides some visual stimulus to a normally boring winter landscape. One cover crop we normally don’t think about is English peas. The old fashioned varieties like tall telephone, alderman and Thomas Laxton and some newer varieties like Cascadian Giant and Sugar Snap will grow long vines that provide good soil cover. Pea flowers are white with shadings of pink and purple.
Divide and Conquer
Early fall is a great time to divide and replant perennials. Refrain from dividing those that are just beginning their bloom cycle, like swamp sunflowers, chrysanthemums, hardy ageratums, goldenrod, and asters to name a few. You may divide the fall bloomers later in the fall after flowering is complete or these can be divided in early spring before new growth begins.
A few tips when dividing your perennials:
1. If the soil surrounding the perennials is dry, water it deeply, as the perennials will be easier to dig and divide if the soil is moist.
2. It is all right to divide a thick mat of perennials with an axe, sharp spade or machete. You will sever some roots but that’s ok. If you can tease the clumps apart with your hands that’s even better. Blasting the clump with a strong stream of water to remove the soil can also make dividing thick clumps easier.
3. Cut back any excessive top growth. Cutting the foliage back somewhat allows the “pruned” root system a better chance of maintaining the reduced top growth until new roots can form.
4. After planting your new “babies” water deeply and mulch. Continue to water these new plants well during dry periods of no rain this fall. It is critical that water be monitored closely until these plants have “rooted in.”
5. It really is not necessary to fertilize these plants now. Fertilize in the spring when you first observe new growth from the crown.