Tomato Warts…..What are they?

13607029_822996601168510_6449260243882194278_nTomatoes have a unique ability of forming adventitious roots or root initials on the main stem. These portions will start as warts ranging in a variety of colors and do not always mean your plants are in danger of dying. There are several reasons your plants might have started putting on these structures and there are ways that you can treat them.

Adventitious roots are almost always a sign of some type of stress including high humidity environments, over watering or poor drainage, root damage, herbicide damage, and disease problems. Most of these are water issues that block the plant from accessing nutrients causing the plants to throw new roots in attempt to gain more nutrients or get out of oxygen deprived (Anaerobic) environments.

When these root initials appear on the lower portion of the stem you can add soil or compost up to that level and the roots will take and strengthen the plant. If you have plants that have been in the pot that are showing signs of this you can plant them deeper when you transplant them. If you have tomatoes that have not been staked or are broken and lying down you will see that they will put on the same roots trying to anchor themselves in the ground as well as give a new passage way to gain nutrients.

13620031_822996617835175_1538159410147227588_nAnytime root initials appear on your plants continue looking for the reason they are there. If you see signs of wilting try adjusting watering frequency. Look for girdled stems, short-stunted plants, browning leaves which can all indicate root injury. In order to best prevent these from forming choose a site that is well drained. Also, only water when the plant needs it and try to refrain from over watering and keeping the site saturated. Remember that these structures are forming in response to a stress. If the stress is corrected these roots will strengthen the plant. Keep and eye out and do not panic because the tomato is surprisingly tough.



Gardeners face many of the same challenges as farmers — only on a smaller scale.They have to contend with whatever Mother Nature throws at them, from drought to flood, scathing heat or frigid cold, but to top it off, there are insects, diseases and animals to contend with. Now that the garden season is at its peak, the problems are also rising. Gardeners should walk their gardens if not daily, then at least once a week. Finding a problem before it becomes a big problem, can go a long way in controlling issues. Properly identifying a problem is also important.

There are insects and diseases that can have similar symptoms. If problems are occurring over a vast group of different types of plants, chances are it is not an insect or a disease, since most insects and diseases tend to have more specific host plants, or at least start on one, and then move on to others. Deer, and other animals may not be as particular, or an improper application of a chemical will also damage across plant species. Insects are the most diverse group of organisms on Earth. There are over a million described species of insects. There is not a place on earth that doesn’t have some type of insect that lives there. Not all insects are bad. Where would be without the pollinators who provide us with crops, or butterflies which beautify the environment. Ladybugs in both their adult and larval stage eat aphids, and praying mantis eats both good and bad bugs. But there are bad bugs out there, and if not controlled, they can kill or ruin your plants. Insects can multiply rapidly in warm climates. Some years some insects are worse than others. Many yards have been plagued by the variable oak leaf caterpillar this year —in larger numbers than we can ever remember. Some years we have more tent caterpillars in the spring or fall webworms in the fall. With insects that feed on large shade trees, normally the damage is not life threatening. Repeated defoliation on young trees can be a different story, but since they are smaller they could be sprayed if warranted. Some insects feed on weakened or stressed plants, while others like tender new growth more. If you see problems on your plants, you need to start to investigate what the culprit is and then take action.  Insects feed in various ways, so identification should start with the physical damage. Some have chewing mouthparts—like caterpillars and grasshoppers which eat holes in the leaves or large sections of the foliage. Others have sucking mouthparts like aphids and lacebug insects. Think of it as inserting a straw into the leaf and then sucking out the plant juices. Instead of holes in the leaves, the foliage is marred with little specks. When enough feeding has been going on, the entire leaf surface is silvery or whitish where the chlorophyll has been taken out of the leaves. Rasping mouthparts are when an insect scrapes off the top surface of the leaf and then sucks out the sap. Mites and thrips are the culprits here. They are small insects, so the damage is silvery in appearance, but there are no holes in the leaves. Then there are tiny larvae of insects that actually feed between the surfaces of the leaves, leaving a trail of tunnels or squiggly lines in the foliage. These insects are called leaf miners, because they are basically mining out the sap in between the two surfaces of the leaves. Thankfully, they usually look worse than they are, and you can cut off the damaged leaves and be done with it.

And lastly there are boring insects —those that can bore holes in trees or in the stems of your squash plants. For wood boring insects, they usually go after weakened trees, but not always. Once inside, they are difficult to kill, since they construct a series of tunnels inside so contact sprays are not effective.

Squash Vine Borer
Squash Vine Borer

Squash vine borer adults are a clear winged moth that resembles a wasp. The adult female lays eggs near the base of the squash plant. When the larvae hatch, they bore into the stem of the squash plant and tunnel through,killing the plants fairly quickly.If you have holes or missing chunks of foliage in your leaves, try to find what is feeding. Sometimes you can easily spot the culprit, and sometimes you have to investigate. Many insects use camouflage to mask themselves or help them blend in. There are some common insects that we see annually on certain plants. If you are growing hardy hibiscus, the mallow sawfly may turn the leaves into lace. Cabbage worms can do the same to members of the cabbage family, and the tomato hornworm can feed on a tomato plant and destroy it quickly. Corn left unprotected is usually attacked by the corn earworm. Flea beetles are common on eggplants, and slugs love hostas.  So start by looking for the most common complaint. When grasshoppers hit, it seems like the plague of locusts—they feed on many different plants and the Japanese beetle is the bane of many a gardener in the northern tier of the state. Bagworms attack junipers and cedars first, and construct their protective sack out of the plant they are feeding on. If you can’t find what is out there, try using traps or baits to spot them, so you know how to control them. Know which are good caterpillars and which are bad. Many gardeners grow parsley and fennel to attract caterpillars and butterflies, so don’t kill them. Learn to recognize the larvae of the good and the bad bugs. Aphids are the rabbits of the insect world. These small insects give birth to living young, and when conditions are right, those newborns begin propagating as well. They can be green, yellow or black in color and often congregate along the stems or tips of tender new growth. They suck sap out and give off a sticky substance called honeydew. Where honeydew lands — car windows, patio furniture or plants, a black sooty mold can form on the leaves. Aphids attach flowers, vegetables, shrubs and even trees. Think about parking your car under a large shade tree. That sticky residue is probably the droppings of aphids feeding on the tree foliage.


Other sucking insects that give off honeydew include white flies and scale. Whiteflies commonly attack gardenias. It looks like specks of white dandruff flying off the plant. Then the foliage can be covered in the black sooty mold.  Whiteflies are also an issue on some flowering tropical’s and can get on vegetables and other ornamentals. Scale insects and mealy bugs are also common on a wide variety of plants. Camellias commonly get tea scale, while mealy bugs are soft bodied scales that attack on the underside of the foliage and in the joints where leaves are attached to the stems. Golden euonymus is frequently attacked by the euonymus scale. Scale insects are not going to kill a plant overnight, but left unchecked, they will multiply and gradually weaken a plant. Scale insects come in all sizes and shapes from tiny white and black tea and euonymus scale to the hard armored scales and the white oyster scales. The hard outer coating protects the insect inside, so typically some type of systemic approach is needed.

Whether your garden has insect or disease problems, practice good integrated pest management practices. Give your plants what they need to grow — proper plant selection for your site,then the right cultural practices including water, fertilizer and pruning. Monitor your garden regularly.  Decide how much damage you are willing to live with. When those thresholds are met, take action. Look at what is available to control the pest — physical barriers, sprays of water, pruning out damaged plants, or organic or non-organic sprays. Spraying is usually the last resort. But if you do spray, make sure that what you are using is labeled to control your pest and that you are applying it at the recommended rate. Many home gardeners think that if a little bit is good, a lot will do better, and that isn’t the case. Gardening can be challenging, but the end results outweigh the challenges. If you have problems in your garden and you don’t know the cause, take a good sample to your local county extension agent. Good photos are also beneficial. Once you can identify the problem, you are on the road to solving it.

New Beginnings

For those who have lost the battle with weeds and winter kill over the past two years there is still a chance to turn it around. There was not as much turf was lost to winter kill last year as the previous winter but we did lose some due to improper timing and rates of herbicides. For example glyphosate, i.e. Roundup, is safe on dormant bermudagrass for nonselective control of winter weeds. However, this mild winter and spring warm up allowed the turf to break dormancy earlier than normal. That means that this safe application in previous years became lethal and for the most part had some severe injury on the established lawn.

Glyphosate injury to bermuagrass.  Photo: Jay McCurdy, MSU Extension
Glyphosate injury to bermuagrass.
Photo: Jay McCurdy, MSU Extension

Others have been waiting for quite some time to get out their chemical control allowing the winter and summer weeds to become a part of the landscape. Remember anytime you use any herbicide, fungicide, or insecticide always read and follow the label.

The first point to keep in mind is that a healthy lawn can battle many of the insect, weed, and disease pressures that it faces. This means that a little extra care when mowing, fertilizing and watering your lawn will help maintain its ability to outgrow/crowd out the competition. Also remember that some weeds can also be indicators for agronomic problems such as low/high pH, poor drainage, standing water, and compaction. So keep some of the next steps in mind when trying to maintain your landscape.

Insufficient light for turf grass caused by mature trees. Photo: Missouri Botanical Garden
Insufficient light for turf grass caused by mature trees.
Photo: Missouri Botanical Garden
  • The right grass has been selected for you lawn
  • Soil testing and right fertilization is being applied
  • Meeting the water and light requirement of the grass
  • Mowing at the correct height and frequency

Remember that the oak/maple that you planted in the yard 15 years ago was small enough to allow light to the base of the tree and now it shades a good portion where you are noticing some turf decline over the past couple of years. This can be solved in by a few mutualistic ways. One way is to plant a ground cover/flower bed and place some plants that can thrive in a more shaded environment.

Just keep in mind that all plants need sunlight while some can thrive on indirect sunlight. The second option is to work with a professional on trying to remove some of the branches in the tree allowing more sunlight to pass through the canopy and reach the base of the tree.

Chemical control is just one piece of the puzzle and should accompany the others stated.

Shaded areas planted with tolerant plants. Photo: Southeast Garden
Shaded areas planted with tolerant plants.
Photo: Southeast Garden

If you experiencing some declining turf or weed issues remember most grasses are pretty hardy and with just a few extra steps you can provide your family with many years of an aesthetically pleasing landscape to be proud of. For more information about establishing and maintaining your home lawn contact your local extension office and ask for a publication 1322.

There’s a Buzz in the Air

For most of us, spring and early summer bring about images of gobbling turkeys, crappie fishing, baseball games, colorful landscapes, barbecues, and emerging crops.  But, very bee-swarm[1]few of us relate this time of year to honeybee swarm season.  I would even bet that most of us have never witnessed a honeybee swarm in flight or clumped up dangling from a branch.  For this very reason, it is a fascinating and mysterious phenomenon.

The sight of swarming bees can certainly cause nightmares for some people.  However, it is a very natural behavior that honeybees exhibit during late spring and early summer.  Swarming is nature’s way of propagating the species.  With the recent decline in commercial colonies, scientist and beekeepers alike, suggest allowing a beekeeper to capture swarms that you encounter.

A honey bee colony declines in numbers throughout the winter as its food stores are depleted.  Now, there are far fewer bees in the colony than there were in the summer.  The colony will likely have a queen, 15-20 thousand worker bees, and no drones (they get the boot in the fall to conserve food resources).  At this point in late winter the bees will be huddled around remaining food stores to keep warm.

As the days get longer and the temperatures warm, the colony expands.  The queen is busy laying eggs to produce more workers and eventually drones.  The colony is extremely efficient and may have 50-80 thousand workers foraging, building comb, regulating hive temperature, guarding the colony, tending to brood or feeding the queen.  This entire process is communicated through pheromones and this is very important to remember when understanding the swarming process.

The queen honey bee produces a pheromone that attracts the workers to her.  This pheromone also directs the workers to build comb, forage, and tend the brood.  The queen communicates to the colony by dancing too.  The colony is very aware that it needs a viable queen for its continued survival and that her role in the colony is important.

So, the colony is working hard and the queen is busy laying to produce more workers.  Now there are thousands upon thousands of workers and the colony is becoming crowed.  So crowded in fact, that many of the workers cannot sense the presence of the queen.  This triggers the swarming tendency and the workers begin raising a new queen.

Like in most households, there is no room for more than one queen!  So, prior to the new queens emergence, the old queen swarms – taking with her between one-third and one-half of the colony.  Before leaving to establish a new hive, the bees gorge themselves on nectar.  You might witness this as a whirling swarm of bees flying across the landscape or as a swarm settled on a bush or branch.  I personally have seen them settle on swing sets, fence posts, propane tanks, patio furniture, and corn stalks.

The clumping occurs from the workers gathering around the queen (remember they are attracted to her pheromone).  For one, they are protecting her because she is vital to their survival.  And two, they are feeding her with the nectar they gorged on before swarming.  Because the queen is not the strongest of flyers, they must stop at some point and rest.  While they are resting, scout bees are sent out to look for a suitable location for the colony to live.  Swarms will not usually rest in a location for very long.  I have seen them rest in a clump for just a few minutes up to a couple of days.  They generally move on once they have located a new dwelling to occupy.

Swarms are not dangerous.  While swarming, bees are focused on finding a new home and surviving, not attacking.  They are vulnerable and do not have a home or brood to protect.  But keep in mind, it is important to keep your distance from swarming bees, because if they feel threatened it is possible they will sting.

So, if you happen to come across a bee swarm:

  • Keep your distance and please do not attempt to move or destroy them.
  • Leave them alone and allow them to move on.
  • Contact your local county Extension Agent. (He can help you find someone to come and remove them)
  • Contact your local beekeeper’s association
  • Go to:  Mississippi Beekeepers – Bees-On-The-Net  or use the link to find local beekeepers near you.

The Importance of pH and Liming

Soil pH influences many of the chemical and biological properties of soils that are important to the growth of plants.  Acid pH levels commonly decrease availability of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous to the point where plant growth can be significantly reduced.  A common technique to alleviate problems associated with acidity is by adding liming materials. Often times we solely focus on fertilizer application and neglect considering the importance pH plays in nutrient availability. The following picture illustrates the availability of nutrients to plants at different pH values. Notice the most relative availability, according to the graph, occurs at pH of 6.5 as opposed to the lesser availability at pH of 4.5 and 9.


When liming a soil, the amount applied is dependent upon several factors.  In general, sandy soils need less lime to get a desired pH change compared to fine textured soils.  This is due to sandy soils having a lower CEC (cation exchange capacity) compared to fine textured soils. CEC values are usually listed on your soil test report.  With a lower CEC, the soil will generally require less lime.  The amount of lime applied is also dependent upon the magnitude of the change in pH required.  A small change in pH requires less lime compared to a large change. The chemical composition of the liming material along with the fineness of the liming material will also determine the amount needed. The fall is a good time of year for lime applications, since lime should be applied 3 to 6 months before planting.

Ground limestone is the most common and most widely used of all liming materials. It is relatively cheap compared to the other types of lime. The two important minerals found in ground limestones are calcite and dolomite. When little or no dolomite is present it is referred to as calcitic limestone; as the magnesium content increases, it grades into dolomitic limestone.

The effectiveness of a liming material is determined by its chemical makeup. 100% pure limestone is considered to be 100% effective in its ability to neutralize acidity. Hard limestones need to be ground to sizes specified by law to increase their solubility through increasing surface area.

The following requirements are specified by Mississippi law:


Item                                                                                             Efficiency rating

Material passing a 60-mesh sieve                                                        100%

Material passing a 10-mesh sieve but not a 60-mesh sieve                 50%

Material not passing a 10-mesh sieve                                                  0%


Example:  The relative efficiency rating of calcitic limestone consisting of 80% passing a 60-mesh sieve, 17% passing a 10-mesh but not a 60-mesh sieve, and 3% not passing a 10-mesh sieve.

60-mesh                                   .80 x 100% =   80%

10-mesh                                   .17 x 50% =       8.5%

>10-mesh                            __.03 x 0% =         0%____

Sum =              88.5%

Given this lime has a CaCO3 equivalent of 93%, its effectiveness would be 0.93 x 88.5% = 82.3%.  Thus if the lime recommendations were 1 ton of 100% CaCO3 lime per acre, it would require 2000/.82 = 2439 pounds of this particular lime.


Site Location for a Vegetable Garden

The first step in having a successful vegetable garden is proper site selection. Three main things to consider when deciding where to locate your vegetable garden is whether or not plants will have access to sunlight, fertile soil and water. Most vegetables need at least six hours of full or direct sunlight per day for optimum growth. Obviously, you want to avoid areas such as next to large trees and buildings that could block needed sunlight from plants causing future issues.

Another requirement for producing an abundance of fresh vegetables is good soil. If the soil is hard, rocky, soggy, or nutrient-poor, the vegetables will be, too. In general, vegetable garden soil should be well draining and loose with plenty of organic matter. Poorly drained, fine textured soils such as clay or soils that are too coarse like sand are not ideal. A soil with a high clay content will drain slowly, having the potential to cut off the oxygen supply to plants roots. On the other hand, if the soil is too sandy it may drain too quickly before plants are able to take up the proper amount of much needed water.

If you have a large coffee can you can check the drainage of your new garden site by demonstrating a percolation test.

Percolation Test Photo: C.Robertson Swarthmore College
Percolation Test
Photo: C.Robertson
Swarthmore College

Dig a 4 inch hole that is wide enough for the can and cutting out the bottom of the can. Firmly place the can in the hole so that nothing can escape around the outside edges of the bottom. Fill the can up and watch the water level for an hour. If less than 2 inches drains you have a poorly draining location and 5 or more inches drains then your soil drains a bit too quick. If you don’t have a coffee can you can still dig the hole and fill it with water just bear in mind that some of the water will travel laterally in the soil.

Even though a heavy clay soil like most of our soils here in the delta may be less than ideal for growing vegetables, practicing proper management strategies can help make these soils more optimum. Increasing the organic matter content of a clay soil makes it easier to work, and improves the internal drainage. Increasing the soil’s organic matter content can be done by adding manure, composted leaves, sawdust, bark, etc. Since pH and fertilizer needs vary by type of vegetable, it is important to have your soil tested to help you make the proper adjustments.

Last but definitely not least, your vegetable garden should be located close to a water source. Whether it be in row crop situation, home horticulture or vegetable gardening, water usually the most limiting factor effecting yield.  Vegetable gardens usually use about 1 – 2 inches of water per week during the growing season. Locating your garden near a water source gives you few excuses for letting the garden stress during the heat of summer or in dry weather conditions. Adequate soil moisture is important for seed germination, uniform growth, and productivity. Easy access to a garden hose means less lugging-around of watering cans, and it also helps if you decide to install soaker hoses or a drip irrigation system.

Onions irrigated by drip irrigation. Photo (Michigan State University Extension)
Onions irrigated by drip irrigation.
Photo (Michigan State University Extension)

Other factors to consider is how much produce will be needed to fulfill the needs of family and friends. Places that have been overlooked could have potential weed problems in the future. Try to steer clear from locations with morningglory, nutsedge, and bermudagrass. Also don’t forget to flag off or fence in a site to keep pets and children from playing in the garden. If there is a wildlife that frequents the area, the use of an electric fence could be the best option. Don’t hesitate to contact your local county extension office and ask questions or advice.

Prep for Planting Fruit Trees


For those who have the itch to get out and play in the dirt you can utilize the rainy weather to plan for what is ahead. Many garden to have access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Well now is the time to be taking to proper steps if you plan to plant fruit trees in your garden this year. Many gardeners often find trouble with growing fruit often because some of the cardinal rules are ignored.

Site selection should be paired with cultivar/varietal selection for all plant materials. Once you have the requirements for optimal tree growth such as full sun and well-drained soil you are able to select a location for planting. Consider checking with your local extension office or nurseries to see what kinds of disease and insect injuries that the particular variety you are interested in. Publication 736 is very helpful in identifying disease and insect problems as well as guiding you through spray scheduling for apples and pears. Keep in mind that most fruit trees are labor intensive with pruning, fertilizing and spraying. You have to be able to stay ahead of the work in order to reap the benefits. The number of trees should closely reflect the amount of time and effort you will be able to invest.

So remember a few key points in regards to growing your own fruit. Start by choosing a cultivar/variety that fits your plan. Choose a well-drained site preferably on a north facing slope to reduce the likely of losing blooms to an early spring freeze by delaying spring warm up. Fruit trees are offered sold as bareroot, rootball, or in some form of a pot. When transplanting these into the ground make sure that an appropriate sized hole is dug. Often times bareroot trees are cheaper whereas potted plants are more expensive but in many cases offer the best survivability. When digging the hole for the tree make sure that the hole is as deep as the pot but twice as wide as the pot allowing loose backfill dirt to provide room for feeder roots. When planting a bareroot tree it is sometimes necessary to leave a small crown of dirt in the bottom of the hole for support of the roots. The depth of the hole should only as deep as the soil in the pot or the roots on the bareroot stock. This will make sure that the plant will not settle too deep. For more information contact your local extension office and ask for a copy of Publication 966 for information of selection of your fruit trees.

Soil Testing in Preparation for the Growing Season

There are many factors that affect crop growth and yield production. Some of these factors cannot be controlled, such as, climate. However, factors such as soil fertility can be controlled and managed to maximize productivity. An effective way to help control soil fertility is through soil testing. Crops require large amounts of plant nutrients that must be supplied in proper balance from the soil. Managing nutrients helps to optimize productivity and profitability of crops while maximizing efficiency of nutrient use, all while keeping environmental impact at a minimum. Soil tests measure plant available nutrients and provide and index of nutrient availability in the soil. This serves as an excellent guide to profitable use of commercial liming and fertilizer. Justus von Liebig’s Law of the Minimum states that yield is proportional to the amount of the most limiting nutrient:

Every field contains a maximum of one or more and a minimum of one or more nutrients. With this minimum, be it lime, potash, phosphoric acid, magnesia, or any other nutrient, the yields stand in direct relation. It is the factor that governs and controls…yields…

In other words, crops will only produce as much as its most limiting factor allows. Routine soil testing is an outstanding tool to help identify controllable limiting factors when it comes to nutrient availability.

As humans, we are dependent upon agriculture for food, fiber, and shelter. All of which are necessary to our survival. The responsibility of producing these essentials falls on the shoulders of our farmers. However, as we depend on them for our basic needs, farmers depend on the soil for their production. Soil fertility and nutrient management are essential to the continued production of food, fiber and shelter for an ever growing world population. Proper soil fertility and nutrient management starts will soil testing.  Agricultural fields should be tested every 3 years or once per crop rotation. For spring planting, soil samples should be collected between mid-October to January. For more information, such as, good sampling technique and interpreting soil test reports visit your local county Extension Office.

Poinsettias: The Holiday Plant

New crop of red poinsettias

Poisettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) are a very popular decorative piece to homes during the holidays. They are most widely known for their lush red colored bracts or ‘leaf like’ structures to many. However, breeders now offer these plants in a variety of colors including white, pink, marbled, yellow and many more. If you can’t find the dazzle you are looking for next to the tree they offer painted and glittered plants. The flowers of these plants are often overlooked due to being small and not as flashy as the colorful bracts.

The poinsettia was introduced by Joel Poinsett, a U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, in 1825. These plants are originally small trees that are native to tropical regions such as Central America and Mexico. Poinsettias contain a white latex sap that resembles milk. Even though they are not deemed poisonous some individuals may develop rashes and some skin/eye irritation if they com in contact with the latex substance.

Purchasing your poinsettias

When purchasing poinsettias for the home always look to start healthy. Look for plants that have lush coloration to leaves and bracts. Since age of the plant can be determined by the color ‘washing’. Choose a plant that doesn’t have leaves torn or milky latex showing. Also look for the small yellow flowers that are found in the center of the bracts which show that the plant is still fresh and not on the downhill slope. Lastly, check to make sure that all the stems are sturdy and their is no evidence of leaves prematurely dropping.

Pink poinsettia

Keeping your poinsettias healthy

Be careful when transporting your plants to your home and pay extra attention to them while removing their cover or slip. Anyone who has ever handles a poinsettia knows that it is very easy to destroy a perfectly healthy plant trying to tote it inside and unbag it.


Poinsettias require at least 6 hours of indirect sunlight a day and placing them in direct sunlight could cause the colorful bracts to fade. Placing plants where it can reach light from a south, east or west window is a better option than north. If the light is too intense you can you a shade to filter some of the light it receives. If there is not a good option for lighting a well lit room will help lengthen the plants health.


Water is key to any plants health but in the case of the poinsettia it is normally a detriment. Overwatering and underwatering cause the same damage and often look the same on the plant. The key is always looking at the soil prior to watering. Check the soil routinely to make sure it is dry to the touch. Also water plants outside of their decorative covers so that water can drain out of the pot freely. Be sure to dump excess water out of collection pans or saucers after watering. Never allow a poinsettia to sit in water causing over saturated soil causing root rot or other problems. Keep in mind that temperature and light will have an effect on water requirements as well.


Poinsettias can continue to flourish in color if maintained in an environment where the temperature stays between 60 to 70 degrees F. Keep this in mind when choosing a location for the plant. Watch for leaves and bracts touching window panes in the homes and vehicles. Keep plants from being exposed to hot and cool drafts within the home such as a hallway, furnace, or chimney.

Try again

For those that have the green thumb attitude you can try to maintain your poinsettia for the next holiday season. Even though it is a daunting task it can be done. In the early spring you will prune your plants back to around 8 inches in height and maintain the temperature, light and water requirements indoors until temperatures outside rise above 50 degrees F at night. At this time you can move the plant outdoors and unlike during bloom you will fertilize the plant every two to three weeks with a slow release complete fertilizer such as an Osmocote 10-10-10. Late May or early June you will need to transplant the plant into a slightly larger pot with adequate growing media such as a peat moss material. Pinch back shoot tips and branches. When temperatures fall below 60 degrees F bring the plant back inside. Remember that poinsettias are short-day length (long nights) plants to stimulate flowering and provide you with the well known colorful bracts. Around October or 10 weeks prior when you want the plant to flower, provide 14 hours of continuous hours of complete darkness while remembering it also needs 8 hours of sunlight.


Signs of Botrytis sp.

There are numerous diseases and pests that attack poinsettias. One very common foliage disease is Botrytis sp.  This plant disease can be readily identified when it develops watermarked lesions on bracts and gray, fuzzy sporulations when the temperature rises past 60 degrees F and the humidity is high. Often times this disease can be controlled with a copper sulfate fungicide. Always read and follow labeled instructions. Other ways to control this disease is to reduce leaf wetness, humidity and remove all infected portions of the plant. Having a fan stir air will also help disrupt this diseases ability to start.

Whiteflies are another problem with poinsettias. The adults eggs are placed on the underside of the leaves where the larva can hatch and feed. Other problems notable problems are spider mites, scales, and root rotting fungi,

Poisettias are a staple in homes during the holidays. With minimal care they bring enjoyment to the holidays season all the way through the New Year. These days poinsettias can be found in every shape, height and color imaginable. Just remember to thoughtful about choosing plants. Start with one that is healthy and provide the proper light, temperature, and water requirements when it gets home. Put them on display and enjoy the fellowship of the holidays with friends and family.


Pine Beetles in Home Landscapes

This summer and early fall has left many areas without essential rainfall for field crops and plants in home landscapes. However, many home gardeners do not look much above eye level when maintaining a landscape and with this approach our trees are easily looked over or ‘under’. Just like your raised beds and your lawns, the oldest trees in the landscape need water and nutrients. When there is a lack of essential elements the plants become stressed and less likely to fight off diseases and insect attacks.

Even though the MS Delta is not known for Pine (Pinus spp) as the rest of the state, there are numerous pines in the home landscapes across the region. The drought has opened many of them up to pine beetle attacks. While there are many different beetles that can attack, we generally on focus on southern pine beetle (SPB), Ips species beetle, and black turpentine beetle (BTB). It is not common for the SPB to infest urban areas like the Ips and black turpentine beetle, however, the SPB has taken the wrap for the largest economic impact on the commercial industry where the stands of trees are dense and movement away from the original tree can occur easily.SBP IPS and Black Turpentine Beetles

Ips beetle is about the same size as the SPB (1/6 to 1/8 Inch long) but will have spines located at the end of their abdomen and have light brown to red to a darker color as it matures.. Black turpentine beetle is much larger (3/8 inch) but has the same dark brown to black appearance as the SPB. These beetles bore into the trees and will excavate galleries girdling the stems to lay eggs just beneath the bark and the larvae will feed until maturity and exit through the bark give a “shot-hole” appearance.

'Shot-hole' emergence made by mature beetles exit.
“Shot-hole” emergence made by mature beetles exit.

These steps will be repeated throughout generations can overwinter in lower portions of stems, stumps, and felled trees. Ips beetle carry spores of a fungus that disrupts the vascular system not allowing water to reach the top causing death. BTB and SPB will release pheromones calling others to the tree and when populations get high the girdling of the stem does the same as the fungus.

Since it is rare to see some of these beetles it is best to know some of the signs and symptoms that an infestation will exhibit.

First you will see portions of the crown die back.

First stages of branch decline shown
First stages of branch decline shown

Upon closer inspection you will find pitch tubes if the tree is still able to form resin.

Entry point made by beetles forming pitch tubes
Entry point made by beetles forming pitch tubes.

Other observations would be boring dust around the tree or just outside the bark, increased woodpecker activity, sloughing bark, shedding limbs, and galleries beneath the bark.

Boring dust (frass) caught in resin
Boring dust (frass) caught in resin.

Generally homeowners will not notice the problem until the pine has exhibited red topped or severe decline in the crown. At this point it is very unlikely that it will live.

Pine that has been severely damaged.
Pine that has been severely damaged.

The best management for these beetles in an urban setting is to keep them in an optimal growing environment.  Make sure the most established trees as well as newly placed trees receive at least 1 inch of water per week. Maintain proper fertility  and reduce acts of compaction or disruption of roots. Routine pruning should be done correctly and during winter.  If trees on the property have been attacked be sure to cut and remove/destroy all portions of the tree.

According to an article written by Dr. Blake Layton, Extension Entomologist, there are a few chemical options available to homeowners to control BTB and SPB but since Ips beetles stay in the crown sprays are ineffective. Formulations of permethrin can be sprayed multiple times of year by a homeowner to get a longer span of control while a licensed professional can use a products called Onyx that will last much longer each time it is sprayed. Always read and follow label directions. Most of the time chemical control is not economical due to cost and the way it is applied. In order to have an effective trunk spray you must wet the bark until the point of drip and also spray 10-12 ft for BTB and at least up to the bottom live branches or middle of the crown for SPB. Since Ips beetles live in the crown sprays are very ineffective.

For the most part pine beetles need a weak tree to attack so tree health is the best defense. Remember that the trees need just as much care as the flowers planted next to the mailbox. Preventative maintenance such as providing adequate fertilization and water will provide the trees and other plant materials with the health to help fight off insect and disease pressure. Remove and destroy all infected material and correctly prune injured trees to reduce the likelihood of decline. Contact your local extension office and also visit P2369 Insect Pests of ornamental plants in the home landscapes