Monday, September 17, 2012

Weeds, pests, and plant diseases

September 2012
The Merry Weather Garden Club met on Thursday, September 13th, 2012 at the home of Sally Neal.  Members brought refreshments so the rolling tea cart was a delightful smorgasbord of delicious snacks.
   The Meriwether Extension Service provided the program in the form of guest speaker Randy Drinkard. Drinkard has been filling in ten hours a week at the extension office and splitting his time between Meriwether and Troup Counties.  A horticulturist with vast experience and knowledge, he also writes the gardening pamphlets for UGA available from the Extension Office. Drinkard grew up in Troup County, worked for Pikes and Scotts, and was mentored by some of the fabled horticulturists like Fred Galle and Ben Pace who developed Callaway Gardens. Galle made him learn twenty plants a week and he proved to the garden club he knew his plants.
   Gardening problems and their solutions was the program topic and Drinkard began by identifying eyesores in our yards.  He showed apple tree leaves with cedar rust and recommended gardeners prune and throw away the diseased foliage. Spraying a fungicide also helps. Phomopsis or twig blight is a common disease in juniper and he encouraged owners of the disease to cut off and spray with either Daconil or Funginex. Another problem that could be removed by picking off the damaged leaf was leaf spot on wax leaf ligustrum.
   The good news was Drinkard had samples of each of the plant problems he used in his program; the bad news was all the samples came from downtown Greenville around the county office area or along our city sidewalks. Many plants have brown leaves and dead twigs at the tips of branches that are simply a result of our long term dry weather.  He recommended cutting off the dead parts as well as hoping for a long soaking rain.
   Tulip trees have been especially vulnerable these last years and he encouraged owners to buy the tree spikes that fertilize deep in the ground as the granular fertilizer we use topically sometimes takes years to get down to the roots of a tulip tree.
   Drinkard had samples of tomato blight and told the club to mulch and use Daconil. He pointed out damage done on an oak branch by the leaf skeletonizer and recommended pesticides. 
   “A weed is a plant out of place” and showed a stem of privet that some consider perfect for a hedge and others consider a weed.  Quail love the berries but privet is in the top five of noxious weeds. Round-up gets rid of privet and one club member asked how close you could spray with Round-up. No closer than the drip line of the plant, Drinkard said, because roots are underneath.  He uses a garbage can lid to push foliage aside and to make sure sprays don’t touch the plant.
   Spurge is a common low lying weed that has many varieties to annoy a gardener. Atrazine works well on it and does not damage lawns of centipede and St. Augustine.
   Smilax or “cat’s briar” was another weed he exhibited along with nut grass that not every chemical can kill.  He recommended Image for nut grass and 2-4-D or Weed be Gone for wild lettuce. Carolina dandelion and other broadleaf weeds and grass weed now can be zapped by smart chemicals that don’t kill the grass.
   Drinkard told how Carpenter bees weakened and brought down a barn and encouraged the use of Cyfluthrin as the only bug killer that would finish them off.  They chew into wood and then turn and go several inches through a board so many bees often live down a tunnel.  Applicators are made to be flexible and make the 90 degree turn to ensure the chemical gets to the bees.
  A pre-emergent like Preen may be used in flowerbeds to curb chickweed and henbit, but our hotter temperatures will also finish off the spring weeds. Coffee weeds in the vegetable garden are best removed by pulling them up! Lespedeza, in the pea family, is currently blooming now and is a popular with the DOT to plant on hillsides and areas that are too slanted to be mowed, but the seeds travel great distances and germinate in places gardeners wish they would not-so again, a weed is all in where it is found.
   Armadillos have damaged everyone’s garden and leaving chewed bubble gum was one rumored remedy plus leaving bowls of ammonia around the yard to discourage the armor shelled mammals.
   Drinkard finished by passing out book marks with 1-800-ASK-UGA1 and with web sites provided by the Georgia Center for Urban Agriculture for gardeners to use when they have questions.
   In club business: The club agreed to send out meeting notices by email and for those not using a computer continue sending postcards. Linda Wilburn explained that she had had hired Roy Curtis to pull weeds and maintain the downtown islands on a weekly basis and that she would pay $20 a week for him to take care of the island in front of the Greenville CafĂ© and the Print Shop Art Gallery. The city has not been able to maintain the downtown area since the streetscapes project was completed. $840 was needed for the rest of the year to pay for the other islands.  The club voted to give $200 and individual club members made donations to provide for almost half of the needed amount.  The Meriwether Historical Society and the Methodist Church will be asked if they can make donations as one island is alongside those properties. Donations should be made to the Greenville Economic Preservation Society in order for the donations to be tax deductible.