Japanese Knotweed

Outdoors

By:  Eddie Ayers, County Extension Agent

Driving around the area, I have been seeing a plant that has become a problem in both Gilmer and Fannin Counties.  The weed I’m talking about is Japanese knotweed, commonly known as crimson beauty, Mexican bamboo, or Japanese fleece flower.  It was probably introduced to the U.S. as an ornamental and a plant that has flowers that bees love. It’s fairly easy to spot as it has been growing in large patches all over the area.  The leaves are alternate, 6 in. (15.2 cm) long, 3-4 in. (7.6-10 cm) wide, and are broadly-ovate or heart shaped. Flowering occurs in late summer when small, greenish-white flowers develop in long panicles in the axils of the leaves.

This native of Japan was initially useful for erosion control, as an ornamental, and for landscape screening.  It spreads quickly to form dense thickets that can alter natural ecosystems or interfere with landscaping. It is a semi-woody, bushy perennial and a member of the Polygonaceae (Knotweed) family.  Another fact about the plant is that the stem is hollow. Knotweed spreads rapidly from stout long rhizomes. Seeds are distributed by water in floodplains, transported with fill dirt, and to a lesser extent are wind-blown. Populations escaped from neglected gardens, and discarded cuttings are common methods of distribution. Once established, populations are quite persistent and can out-compete existing vegetation.

Japanese knotweed can tolerate a variety of adverse conditions including full shade, high temperatures, high salinity, and drought. It is found near water sources, in low-lying areas, waste places, utility rights of way, and around old home sites. It can quickly become an invasive pest in natural areas after escaping from cultivated gardens. It poses a significant threat to riparian areas, where it can survive severe floods. It is rapidly colonizing scoured shores and islands.

Controlling this invasive fast growing plant is very difficult.  One method that is used is grubbing. This method is appropriate for small initial populations or environmentally sensitive areas where herbicides cannot be used. Using a digging tool, remove the entire plant including all roots and runners. Juvenile plants can be hand-pulled.  Any portions of the root system not removed will potentially resprout. All plant parts, including mature fruit, should be bagged and disposed of in a trash dumpster to prevent re-establishment.

There are several herbicides that can be used, but it takes some work for them to be effective.  One treatment method is the cut stump treatment. Use this method in areas where plants are established within or around non-target plants. Cut the stem 2 inches above ground level.  Immediately apply a 20% solution of glyphosate or a 10% solution of Arsenal AC, Polaris AC or Imazapyr 4SL and water to the cross-section of the stem. A subsequent foliar application may be required to control new seedlings and resprouts.

The other spray method is foliar spraying the plants.  Use this method to control large populations. It may be necessary to precede foliar applications with stump treatments to reduce the risk of damaging non-target species.  Apply a 1% solution of glyphosate or 20%Garlon4 and water to thoroughly wet all foliage. Do not apply so heavily that herbicides will drip off leaves. The ideal time to spray is after surrounding vegetation has become dormant (October-November) to avoid affecting non-target species.  A 0.5% non-ionic surfactant is recommended in order to penetrate the leaf cuticle.

For more information, contact me in the Gilmer County UGA Extension office.

Eastern Tent Caterpillar

Outdoors

By:  Eddie Ayers, County Extension Agent

As I ride through the county I’ve noticed some webs are back in the wild cherry trees but before you start having nightmares about the webbing we had last fall, you can rest assured that this insect is different.  This culprit is the Eastern Tent Caterpillar. The webs serve as a home to the newly emerged larvae or as we like to call them, caterpillars. The eggs are timed to hatch when the cherry buds unfurl as they need to eat to grow and complete their life cycle.

Older larvae are generally black, with long brown hair and a white stripe down the middle of their backs. Along the midline is a row of blue spots with brown and yellow lines. At maturity, the caterpillars may reach a length of 2½ inches. The adults are reddish-brown moths which have two white oblique stripes on each forewing.  These are harder to notice, but they are the final step in the life cycle.

The adult moths emerge in May and early June and lay egg masses that resemble chocolate-colored collars that encircle the smaller limbs of their host. Each egg mass is about 1 inch long. Eggs overwinter and hatch in mid-March of the following year to start the cycle again. From each egg mass, several hundred tiny feeding machines emerge, and for four to six weeks they hungrily strip the trees of their leaves. The larvae are gregarious and upon hatching they gather in the forks of the limbs and develop the web that can be seen in the trees.  This serves as their home for the larvae. From this mass of silk, the developing larvae move outward to feed on developing leaves, but they return at night and during rainy weather. The nest gradually becomes larger and larger as silk accumulates. Although the nests are most commonly seen in the forks of wild cherries, this pest can be found in other ornamental, shade and fruit trees, especially apples. While not a serious pest in the natural forest, the unsightly web insect can reduce the beauty and esthetic value of shade trees and other hardwoods in the landscape.

About four to six weeks after hatching, full-grown larvae will crawl away from their nests and accumulate on the sides of homes, on driveways and sidewalks and on various woody ornamentals in search of sites to complete the next phase of life, the pupae phase.  This phase is a shell or cocoon in which the caterpillar matures into a moth. There is concern that they may be attacking other plants, but when they do leave their web, the larvae are finished with their feeding and will do no damage to plants on which they are found. The caterpillars are primarily a nuisance and do not usually pose a danger to the overall health of a larger, well-established tree as the tree can produce another flush of foliage.  However, young fruit and ornamental trees may be damaged, so it is a good idea to remove the web from these trees.

Usually, no chemical controls are necessary or very effective.  One reason is that the web is water proof and insecticides that are applied usually do not reach the larvae but you can break open the web and apply an insecticide such as carbaryl (Sevin), BT or a pyrethroid if you would like. If you decide to use an insecticide, please read the label and follow the instructions.  In addition, the egg masses can be clipped from the limbs in late June to prevent nests from developing the following spring.

For more information about the webs in trees right now, contact me in the Gilmer County UGA Extension office.

Spring Flowering Bulbs Start Now

Outdoors

Spring Flowering Bulbs Start Now

By:  Eddie Ayers, County Extension Agent

 

Now that fall is officially here, does the thought of a long cold winter have you down?

Have you considered a landscape full of spring flowering bulbs?  It’s that burst of spring color that makes you feel good.  Best of all, most spring flowering bulbs aren’t expensive or hard to grow.

What those gorgeous spring flowers do require, though, is that you start working on this project in the fall.  Spring flowering bulbs must go through a period of cold temperatures before they will sprout in the spring.  Because of this, purchase bulbs from a commercial source now to be sure you get the high-quality bulbs you want in time to plant them.  Early spring favorites include crocus, grape hyacinth, tulip, narcissus and scilla.  Popular mid-to-late spring bulbs include hyacinth, ipheion, and tulips.

Store your new bulbs in the bottom compartment of your refrigerator until time to plant, which will be in a few weeks.  Keep them in their original packaging or put them in a paper bag full of fresh sawdust or clean straw.  Where you will plant them is an important part of the planning.  It’s not hard to decide – just think like a bulb!  You can even plant small bulbs like crocus directly into your lawn but remember that the area can’t be mowed until the foliage dies down.

Whatever bulbs you plant, and wherever you plant them, none will survive if planted in soggy, poorly drained soil.  Don’t plant them on the shady side of the house either, or under groupings of pines.  Some shade is fine.

Prepare a bulb bed by digging up the soil at least six inches deeper than you plan to set the bulbs.  Add a complete fertilizer, like 10-10-10, and garden lime according to package instructions or soil sample results and adjust for your flowerbed size, then mix soil thoroughly.  The golden rule for bulb planting is to place them upright in the soil at a depth of at least three times their diameter.  A one-inch diameter tulip can be planted three inches deep, and so on.

Space most bulbs about one bulb-diameter apart for the best color effect.  Narcissus bulbs can be spaced at twice their diameter.  Water all bulb plantings immediately to settle the soil and start root growth.  If the winter is dry, you may want to water once a month just to be safe.

Two inches of pine straw, bark chips, straw, sawdust or some other mulch will enable your bulbs to over winter successfully.  Next spring, gently check under the mulch for signs of new shoots.  Some mulch such as sawdust and leaf compost can get clumpy and heavy, to the point of hindering new shoots.  Gently removing or breaking up the mulch as the shoots appear will prevent any disappointments.

A final caution:  don’t apply fertilizer just before the spring bloom because the fertilizer can damage the newly emerging flowers.  It’s best to top-dress with the necessary fertilizers in December after the cold weather has come.  For more information, contact me at the Extension office.

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Well Water Testing

Outdoors

Well Water Testing

By:  Eddie Ayers, County Extension Agent

For the most part, north Georgia did not see extreme flooding as a result of hurricane Irma as did other areas of the state, but it does bring to mind the importance of well safety. Wells that were overtopped by flood waters need to be flushed and tested for bacteria because of the potential danger of contaminants being washed into the well. UGA Extension Water Resource Management and Policy Specialist Gary Hawkins recommends pumping and flushing a minimum of 2 or 3 times the well volume to clear the system. This water should be discarded from an outside faucet and not from an inside faucet to bypass the home’s septic tank. After pumping the water, the well should be shock chlorinated then the well should be flushed again until there is no smell of chlorine bleach and, like before, the flushing step should be done through an outdoor faucet to bypass the septic system. This highly chlorinated water, if discharged to the septic tank, could cause problems with the bacterial colonies in the septic tank.

After the well is shock-chlorinated, flushed and the chlorine smell is gone (about two weeks), the well water should be tested for bacteria. Families can get their well water tested using their local county UGA Extension office.  Until the test for bacteria comes back, Hawkins strongly suggests that water for cooking or drinking be boiled before consumption. If the well contains bacteria the report will explain how to treat the well.

To calculate the volume of water that should be pumped from a well, use the following calculation.  Most of the well casings in this area are 6 inches so the factor for that size is 1.47.  That means that there are 1.47 gallons of water for every foot in depth.  Multiply the depth of water in the well by this factor to determine how much water is in the well. If your casing is not 6 inches, contact me in the Gilmer County UGA Extension office and we can get the right factor.

There are several methods to determine how much water you have flushed out, but the one that I use is to calculate how long it takes to fill a 5 gallon bucket.  Divide that time by 5 to get the output per minute.  Using this figure you can determine how many minutes you need to run the water to flush the number of gallons of water that was determined in the previous calculation. A couple of methods can be used to determine the depth of water in a well. If you can see the water in the well, lower a heavy object tied to a string down the well and measure the length of the string until you see the object touch the water. In a deep well, lower a heavy object like above until you hear the object hit the water and measure the length of string. If you cannot see the object hit the water, another way (but less accurate) is to drop a small stone into the well and count or time the seconds it takes for the stone to hit the water (you will have to listen closely for this.) Multiply the number of seconds by 32.2 and that will let you know how far the water is below the surface. Knowing the depth of the well and the depth from surface, subtract the two to get the height of the water column for calculating the volume of water in the well.

An example of this calculation is if you have a well that is 300 feet deep and the water level is 25 feet from the surface, subtracting 25 from 300 equals 275 which means you have 275 feet of water in the well.  Multiply 275 by 1.47 to get the gallons in the well.  That figure is 404.25 gallons.  Using a factor of 3 pints per 100 gallons, you would need to apply a little over 12 pints of chlorine bleach in the well.

If you have any questions about this process or for more information on well water testing, contact me at the Gilmer County UGA Extension office.

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Attracting Native Bees

Outdoors

Attracting Native Bees

By:  Eddie Ayers, County Extension Agent

 

There are approximately 4,000 species of native bees in North America and 542 species live in Georgia. Native bees nest in the ground or in cavities, like hollow stems or bored holes in wood. According to the Xerces Society, only 250 female orchard mason bees are required to pollinate an acre of apples. This same task would typically require 15,000 to 20,000 forager honeybees.

There are many reasons why native bees are more effective pollinators than honeybees. Many native species of bumblebee and mason bee are more active in colder, wetter weather than honeybees. Unlike honeybees, many native bees perform buzz pollination — the female bee grabs a flower’s stamens and vibrates her flight muscles, which releases more pollen from the anthers, the stamen’s pollen-producing structures. This behavior increases cross-pollination and even fruit size in crops. Honeybees, however, use nectar to pack pollen into their pollen baskets to carry back to the hive. This wets the pollen and makes it less viable for the next flower.

Adding native bee nesting sites to your garden is one of the easiest ways to increase pollinator numbers. The most common types of nests are drilled wood or bundles of hollow tubes, like straws or thin bamboo. Nests should be placed 3 to 8 feet off the ground and positioned facing south or east.

To build a nest, cut 6- to 8-inch pieces of bamboo, cardboard straw, or pieces of pithy or hollow-stemmed plants, like elderberry and blackberry. These tubes should have a back or stop, so things like straws should be placed in a wooden box. Bundles should contain between 15 and 25 straws or tubes and can be mounted to structures or trees. PVC pipe cut a few inches longer than the straws is a good host for the straws. Because it is cut longer, it protects the straws from rain.

To make a drilled wood nest, drill a 3- to 5-inch hole in untreated wood without going all the way through the wood. Then, drill a variety of holes, from one-quarter of an inch to three-eighths of an inch, all approximately three-quarters of an inch apart. Holes that are smaller in diameter should be 3 to 4 inches deep, and holes more than one-fourth of an inch in diameter should be 4 to 5 inches deep.

The native bees that will fill these cavities will primarily be univoltine species, meaning they produce a single generation each year. These bees typically live for four to six weeks, and they are entirely focused on reproducing, laying eggs and storing food for the next generation. Female bees will make individual cells in the cavities, where they will lay one egg and pack away little balls of pollen they collect on an average of two to 20 foraging flights. Once enough is food stored, they seal the cell with clay or grass and begin work on the next cell. It takes about 24 hours for these female bees to complete one cell.

One female native bee may produce 20 to 40 eggs in her life, which will typically fill two to five straws or cavities. These cavities will sit, sealed over, until environmental cues like temperature and humidity trigger the emergence of the next generation of adults. For more information about pollinators, contact me at the Gilmer County UGA Extension office. Josh Fuder, Cherokee County ANR Extension Agent with UGA Extension, provided information for this article.

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Fall Shrub Care

Outdoors

Fall Shrub Care

By:  Eddie Ayers, County Extension Agent

 

It’s that time of year when we must start looking ahead and planning for the upcoming winter.  The shrubs in our landscape will benefit greatly from a little bit of tender loving care this fall.  Shrubs going into the winter that are hungry (lacking fertilizer) have a much greater chance of winter injury and poor growth the following spring if we don’t give them some attention now.

Azaleas which are rapidly turning yellow or the older leaves are yellowing and falling off indicate a lack of nitrogen going into winter.  The leaves on the red flowered selections often turn reddish-brown before the leaves fall off. Late summer and early fall is the ideal time to prevent this yellowing from occurring.  If you’re seeing these symptoms now, it’s not too late to take corrective measures.  Taking a soil sample and following the recommendations is best, but if you feel you don’t have time to take a soil test, apply a balanced slow release fertilizer that contains a small amount of nitrogen.

A little light pruning in the fall can also do miracles in shaping up shrubs for the winter season.  Evergreen hollies and magnolias can be saved until you want to cut foliage for winter decorations.  Light pruning in the fall is used to remove long branches and any dead, damaged or diseased branches.  Remove those branches that interfere with the driveway, mowing the lawn or the walkway.  The pruning cuts should be made back into the interior of the plant at a point where the branch is attached to a larger stem. Sheering evergreens in fall is not recommended since they will produce another flush of growth that is too tender to survive the winter. Too much pruning in the fall makes plants much more susceptible to winter damage and death.  Also, pruning in the fall will remove flowers from next year’s spring blooming shrubs so fall pruning should be done lightly and only to shape the plants and remove dead and diseased limbs.

If you have time to take a soil sample, its $9 a bag and one sample covers about 15 acres. We have the bags and testing instructions in the office but generally, just dig down about 3 or 4 inches in 6 different areas, mix it altogether in a small bucket, pour it in a pint size plastic baggie and bring it by the office. We can transfer it to the soil sample bag and send it to the soil, plant and water lab for testing at the University of Georgia. We collect soil samples all week and send them to Athens on Friday mornings. It takes about a week to get the results and recommendations.

For more information about fall pruning and soil testing, contact me at the Gilmer County UGA Extension office.

 

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Tree Topping

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