As we get closer and closer to spring and plants begin to come out of their winter slumber, I’d like to talk about fertilizers. There are many different types out there. I’ll talk about some basics of fertilizers. Next week I’ll talk about some of the different types that are out there, so that you can make an informed decision about which kind fits your needs this spring.
First thing to talk about with fertilizer is what’s in it. Usually a fertilizer will have a series of three numbers on it, for example 10-10-10 or 16-4-8. These numbers are percentages. The first number is always nitrogen, the second phosphorus, and the third potassium. These can be abbreviated to N-P-K, which are the symbols for these elements on the periodic table of elements. These three elements are the most important for plant growth. That’s why we make recommendations based on them. If you had a 100 lb bag of 16-4-8, that bag is 16% N, 4% P, and 8% K. Meaning in that 100 lb bag you have 16 lbs of N, 4 lbs of P, and 8 lbs of K. Now, you make be thinking, “I paid for a 100 lb bag! Why am I only getting 28 lbs of nutrients from it?!” The rest of the poundage in that bag is probably going to be some other nutrients that are needed for planted growth, but in much smaller quantities, and other inert materials that keep those nutrients in a form that’s usable by plants; there could be a special coating on the pellets that make them easier to apply as well. But now that you have this knowledge it brings up an important point, that when purchasing a fertilizer it is good to look at how much N-P-K you are getting for your money, because it will vary.
Now let’s talk about when to apply it. It’s best to apply fertilizer when plants are actively growing. Fertilizer that is applied when plants are in a dormant state can be washed away before the plants wake up and need the fertilizer. Nitrogen is very mobile in the soil, meaning that when it rains your nitrogen will likely be leached out of the soil. Phosphorus and potassium will stick around a lot longer in the soil, but can be lost by erosion. Never apply fertilizer to a stressed plant. If the plant is wilted from lack of water applying fertilizer can do more damage to the plant.
Where you apply fertilizer is important. Don’t just dump all of it at the base of the plant, instead spread it around so that the roots growing out from the plant can reach out and receive it. Applying it too heavily in one spot can result in burn or keep the plant from properly taking up water. If you’re fertilizing trees remember that tree roots extend out beyond the canopy of the leaves, so you’re going need to make that application in a wide circumference around the tree. Fertilizer left on the leaves can burn the leaves.
Knowing how much to apply is very important. Under fertilizing can leave plants underdeveloped. Over fertilizing can result in a lot of young tender growth that is susceptible to disease or insect pests. Taking a soil test and bringing it to the Extension office, to send to the lab, will tell you exactly how much fertilizer you need for what you are growing.
If you have questions about fertilizers contact your local Extension Office or email me at Jacob.Williams@uga.edu
Yellow jackets will become the most active during the late summer and fall. I’ve received a few calls
from people saying that they have encountered some around their homes. I have a few around my own
house, so I know they’re out there! Yellow Jackets can look similar to wasps. Wasps are usually
unaggressive unless threatened. Yellow jackets have a thicker waist, shorter legs, and wings that press
more flatly against the body when resting than wasps.
Wasps’ nests are usually under eaves or beneath porch railings and have hexagonal cells. Yellow jacket
nests are usually built in old rodent holes or cavities that have been left behind by a small critter. They
can build nests in wall spaces, although this is less common. Yellow jacket nests will die out over the
winter and start anew with a new reproducing female each year. This means that yellow jacket nests will
be the easiest to eradicate in the spring while the nests are still small. The flipside is that the nests will
be harder to find in the spring because they only have a few individuals in them at that time. Nests can
grow up to 5000 yellow jackets, and will grow larger in years with a long dry spring.
Solitary yellow jackets can often be seen foraging for food for the colony. Yellow jackets feed on a
variety of insects pests. They will also eat meat and like drinking coke. They will also attack bee hives.
Yellow jackets are able to discern at a pheromone level which hives are weak. They’ll choose those hives
to attack, making them more of opportunistic pests to bees than actual predators. If they are able to get
inside past the guards, yellow jackets can take out the entire hive killing bees, eating larvae, eggs,
pupae, and honey.
Control of yellow jacket nests this time of year can be very difficult because the nests have reached a
large size. Pyrethroid insecticides that you can buy at the store will be effective at killing yellow jackets,
but only when you make contact with them when you are actively spraying. If you can block the hole
that they use as an entrance you may be able to eradicate them this way too. Yellow jackets aren’t
diggers, they use holes other critters have made, so they can be trapped inside if there is only one
entrance. There are yellow jacket traps that can be effective at controlling them too. Another method of
control is to use hot water mixed with dishwashing soap and pouring it down the hole. Whenever you
are working with yellow jackets the safest time will be at night. They will be more inactive at nighttime,
so your chances of being stung decrease. It is still a good idea to wear protective clothing. If you have a
serious yellow jacket problem it is best to call a professional to control them.
If you have any questions about yellow jacket identification or control please call your local Extension
Office or email me at Jacob.Williams@uga.edu.
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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