Online training available on kudzu bug & brown marmorated stinkbug

Kudzu bug Jeremy Greene, Clemson University,
Kudzu bug Jeremy Greene, Clemson University,

Learn about two new invasive insects, the kudzu bug and the brown marmorated stinkbug, in this webinar presented by Dr. Michael Toews, Associate Professor of Entomology, University of Georgia, Tifton, GA; and Dr. Tracy Leskey, Research Entomologist, USDA ARS Appalachian Fruit Research Laboratory, Kearneysville, WV.

Click here to view the webinar which was presented on September 5, 2014.

For more webinars in this series, see All Bugs Good and Bad 2014 Webinar Series.

Herbs in the Community Garden-A Guest Post by Linda Hlozansky

Basil in a plot with peppers and tomatoes
Basil in a plot with peppers and tomatoes

Some community gardens have a common area that is available for herb planting or individuals may decide to place them in their plots.   Herbs in Southern Gardens  by UGA’s Wayne McLaurin and Sylvia McLaurin is a good place to start when thinking about planting herbs. In the garden remember, if you want good flavor, pinch off the budding flowers.  (Although, many types of herb flowers are great for pollinators).

You have grown herb plants and now you have a little (or big) herb garden. What do I do with all this stuff? An easy way to begin is to taste the herb and think about the flavor. What foods would be enhanced by that flavor? I like to throw a lot of herbs in tossed salads. Experiment with adding chives, parsley, lavender, thyme, oregano, or basil to tossed salads. Don’t put all of them in at first. Try one or two herbs initially to see what you think of the flavor addition. Later you may be loading up the salad bowl with three or more tasty herbs. Another way to start is to experiment with herbs in omelets. Eggs are a neutral flavor serving as a backdrop for the fresh vegetables and herbs you add. You may be able to add less salt as the eggs are flavored by the herbs.

A common hedge of rosemary allows all gardeners to take springs home for cooking.
A common hedge of rosemary allows all gardeners to take springs home for cooking.

Soup time is just around the corner, and soups are my favorite for adding herbs. This summer mature chives had to be removed from my garden to allow summer vegetables more space. Having a lot of chives at once was really not a problem. They were quickly washed, chopped, and frozen in small portions for addition into winter soups. Just like big onions these little onions with intense flavor are very good in soups like Beef and Barley, Chicken and Rice, or my favorite Vegetable. Again experimenting with flavors to find your favorite is fun. A guideline to help you begin is in tomato based soups try: basil, oregano, parsley and/or cilantro. For soups with chicken as the base try: thyme, parsley, sage, and or savory.

Like soups, casseroles can be flavored with herbs to your hearts (or taste buds) content. The guidelines for casseroles are similar to those outlined for soups in the paragraph above. These foods are the comfort foods that shout homemade, so make the flavor yours by adding your favorite herbs.

As we approach the winter several popular herbs won’t make it past the first frost.  Basil is tender and if you want basil in the winter you will need to dry it. One easy way to dry the plants is to cut the stalks, tie them together and hang them upside down in a dry place.  Alternately you can dry the leaves inside individually on wax paper, making sure the wax paper is dry.  More sophisticated gardeners use a food dryer/dehydrator for drying herbs.  Any way you choose you will be happy in December when you have that flavor.

Oregano, rosemary and thyme plants may survive the winter if weather conditions are favorable.  For more information on incorporating herbs in your community garden contact your local UGA Extension Agent.  He/she will be able to give you useful information to help you achieve success.

Linda Hlozansky has been a Cobb County Master Gardener since 2009.  She is a talented gardener and she cooks as well as she gardens.   Her family is very lucky!

Happy gardening!

Pansies, Violas, and More! Getting the Most Out of Winter Color Beds

Bodie Pennisi, Department of Horticulture, UGA

Cool weather is upon us and with it, pansy season!  Even though pansies are the mainstay for winter color beds, there are increasingly more plant choices available, providing an exciting palette for landscapers to play with.

The following veggies are used for height, color, texture and vegetative element:

  • Ornamental Cabbage
  • Kale
  • Swiss Chard
  • Mustards
  • Lettuces
  • Parsley
  • Cardoon (Ornamental Artichoke)
  • Oregano
  • Thyme

Other flowering winter annuals are:

  • Alyssum
  • Iberis
  • Dusty Miller
  • Cool season grasses

Perennial plants that serve as foliage accents are:

  • Sedums
  • Ivy
  • Evergreens
  • Acorus
  • Heuchera
  • Dusty Miller
  • Carex
  • Euphorbia – these can be year-round

Deer-resistant plants used as flowering accents are:

  • Dianthus
  • Snapdragons
  • Poppies
  • Scabiosa

The pansies and their cousins, the violas, are the bread and butter of the winter color beds, so let’s take a look at how we can keep them happy and flowering all winter long!  First, a few words about each of these:

Pansies and Violas: Getting the Most Out of Winter Color Beds


  • Larger, fewer blooms per plant
  • Need minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight
  • Need dead-heading
  • Slower to recover after a hard freeze


  • Small, multiple blooms per plant
  • Can tolerate some shade
  • Self-cleaning
  • Higher nutrition for better performance
Pansies and Violas: Getting the Most Out of Winter Color Beds

Planting season starts in October, which usually gives the plants ample time to grow and develop a good root system in favorable temperatures before the winter settles in.  This starts with the right foundation – the bed.

If you have existing beds, make sure you remove all plant debris from the summer planting, including any mulch.  Get a soil test, which will tell you important information about the existing nutrient levels and the soil pH. Remember that pH controls nutrient availability – too high, and the plants develop deficiencies, too low, and the plants develop toxicities.

Ideal soil pH for pansies should be between 5.4 and 5.8.  pH higher than 5.8 can lead to increased incidence of black root rot, a devastating disease on pansies and violas.  You should test the soil later in the growing season as well, because pH does change.

Make sure you add organic matter to the bed and till well, 8-12 inches deep.  Rake to create a gentle slope and trench the front edge of the bed to help with drainage.  If you are making new beds, use the following soil recipe: 60% well-aged compost, 20% gravel (#89), 10% coarse sand, and less than 10% native soil.

Pansies and Violas: Getting the Most Out of Winter Color Beds
Pre-set plants in large beds before planting.

To get a better idea of how the planting will appear – pre-set large beds.  The recommended spacing for fall planting is 8” on center and 10” on center for spring planting.

Gently remove the plant from the pot by inverting the pot and squeezing the sides to release the root ball. Before you plant, examine the root system. A healthy root system has many fine white roots and is not pot-bound.  Brown-colored, water-soaked roots are an indication of disease – you should not plant affected plants.

Make sure you plant at the same level the plants originally grew, not deeper, nor shallower.

Mulch is essential for many reasons – weed control, keeping soil temperatures higher, and preventing soil desiccation.  Small-size pine nuggets work very well.

After a thorough watering you should liquid-feed the plants for faster establishment.  In addition, top-dress the beds with a slow-release fertilizer to ensure an adequate level of fertility.

Low temperatures will become an issue as winter settles in.  Even though the soil in Georgia very rarely freezes (exception in the Mountains), soil temperatures below 45oF causes slow growth due to low uptake of nutrients.  Plants stop flowering and appear starving even if high fertility is present in the soil!

When soil temperatures drop below 60 oF, begin a liquid feed program with a formula having at least 50% nitrate nitrogen, such as calcium nitrate, potassium nitrate, or magnesium nitrate.  The reason being is that ammonia-based fertilizers are not utilized because the bacteria responsible for converting them to a form that the plant roots can absorb are not as active in temperatures below 60 oF.  Applying ammonia fertilizer is not only a waste of money but it can also compromise the health of your pansies and violas.

For best results, apply a standard 15-2-20 formula, high-nitrate pansy formula fertilizer at 4-day intervals through March 15.  These formulations also have little effect on soil pH, so nutrient deficiencies are less likely to occur.  Fertilization frequency depends on the vigor and performance of the planting – more frequent feeding may be needed when the growth is good.  If a period of warm weather occurs, cut back on the liquid feed to avoid foliar stretching during the midwinter, which may result in weak, floppy stems.  When fertilizing with liquids, apply enough liquid to saturate soil to a depth of 4- to 6-inches.

Removing frost-damaged flowers and old, faded flowers should be a top priority with pansies; not only for aesthetics but to prevent the onset of seed pods that consume the plant’s energy.  This also reduces the changes of fungal blight diseases that feed on old blossoms.  Trim lanky shoots periodically to encourage branching, compact growth and improved flowering.

Pansies and Violas: Getting the Most Out of Winter Color Beds
A healthy root system has many fine white roots and is not pot-bound.

Emphasizing again the soil pH, make sure you test during the season.  If the soil pH rises above 5.8, drench at 10-day intervals with either iron sulfate or aluminum sulfate (1 to 3 lbs/ 100 gal) to lower the pH.  Lightly rinse plants after application to prevent foliage injury.  Continue these corrective treatments until the soil pH drops and stays in the 5.4 to 5.8 range.

Soil temperatures usually are on the rise by March 15, so you can start using fertilizers containing ammonia nitrogen.  Use the standard fertility program for summer annuals – 200 ppm 20-20-20 (N-P-K) or a slow release/granular fertilizer during the remainder of the growing season.

For more information:

What happens to West Nile Virus in the winter?

Where, oh where, does the virus go (in the winter)?

Dr. Rosmarie Kelly, Public Health Entomologist, Georgia Department of Public Health

It’s that time of year when those in mosquito surveillance and control think fondly of consistently cooler temperatures and eagerly await that first hard frost. Of course, this is already happening in some places up north. We may have to wait a while longer in here in Georgia. But that does bring to mind the question: Where do all the mosquitoes go once the colder weather arrives?

Mosquitoes, like all insects, are cold-blooded creatures. As a result, they are incapable of regulating body heat and their temperature is essentially the same as their surroundings. Mosquitoes function best at 80 F, become lethargic at 60 F, and cannot function below 50 F. In tropical areas, mosquitoes are active year round. In temperate climates, mosquitoes become inactive with the onset of cool weather and enter diapause (hibernation) to live through the winter. Diapause induction also requires a day length shorter than 12 hours light (more than 12 hours dark). All mosquitoes pass through four developmental stages: egg, larva, pupa and adult, and diapause can occur in any of these stages depending on the species.

  • The Aedes and Ochlerotatus species, and some Culiseta species, lay eggs in dry or damp, low-lying areas or containers that are subject to flooding from accumulations of precipitation. Winter is passed in the egg stage, with hatching dependent on the presence of water, water temperature, and amounts of dissolved oxygen.
  • Coquillettidia and Mansonia species, and some Culiseta species, have larval stages that overwinter, apparently without total loss of activity, restricting development to very permanent water bodies. These species renew development towards the adult stage once water temperatures begin to rise.
  • Overwintering in Anopheles, Culex and some Culiseta species takes place in the adult stage by fertilized, non-blood-fed females. In general, these mosquitoes hide in cool, dark places waiting for temperatures to rise and days to lengthen before they seek out a blood meal and resume their lives.

What, if anything, does this mean for West Nile virus (WNV)? If the mosquitoes are infected with WNV when they enter diapause, it should overwinter with them to be transmitted to birds when the mosquitoes emerge the following spring. Temperature is the crucial factor in the amplification of the virus. Studies in various states have shown that WNV does indeed overwinter in mosquitoes. The virus does not replicate within the mosquito at lower temperatures, but is available to begin replication when temperatures increase. This corresponds with the beginning of the nesting period of birds and the presence of young birds. Circulation of virus in the bird populations allows the virus to amplify until sufficient virus is present in the mosquito populations (and vector mosquito populations are high enough) that horse and human infections begin to be detected.

In the Northeastern U.S., Culex pipiens, the northern house mosquito, is the most important vector species. This species overwinters as an adult, and has been found harboring WNV during the winter months. This mosquito goes into physiological diapauses (akin to hibernation) during the winter months, and while it may be active when temperatures get above 50°, it will not take a blood meal.

Culex quinquefasciatus, the southern house mosquito and the major vector for WNV in Georgia, also overwinters as an adult, and also goes into diapause when winter comes, and it is likely that this mosquito also harbors WNV throughout the winter months.  However, the southern house mosquitoes go into more of a behavioral diapause when temperatures are below 50°, and are quite capable of taking a blood meal (and maybe transmitting WNV) when things warm up during the winter, which is not an unlikely occurrence here in Georgia especially as one goes further south. So, although the risk for WNV transmission in the south in the winter months is very low, it is certainly possible.

Identification and Control of Spring Dead Spot

Alfredo Martinez, Turfgrass Pathologist, J.B. Workman, Graduate Assistant, Crop and Soil Sciences Department and Clint Waltz, Turfgrass Specialist

This Alert is an excerpt from the publication Identification and Control of Spring Dead Spot 

Spring dead spot Martinez
Figure 1 Multiple circular patches of dead, bleached grass are evident in the spring.

Spring dead spot (SDS) is a persistent and destructive disease of bermudagrass in Georgia. The disease is particularly prevalent and damaging in north Georgia, especially in the Piedmont region. However, SDS can be observed throughout the state after harsh winters and in areas where bermudagrass has been exposed to freezing temperatures for extended periods of time. The disease has also been observed in zoysiagrass, although less frequently.

Figure 2 Sharp edges between dead and healthy grass are observed once turfgrass greens up in spring.
Figure 2 Sharp edges between dead and healthy grass are observed once turfgrass greens up in spring.


As turfgrass “greens up,” well-defined circular patches of dead, bleached-out grass are noticeable in affected areas (Figure 1). Non-infected bermudagrass resumes growth, accentuating the infected areas. Sharp edges between dead and healthy grass are observed once turfgrass greens up in spring. (Figure 2).

Roots, rhizomes and stolons are sparse and dark-colored (necrotic) (Figure 3). Leaves become bleached, gray and straw-colored. Recovery from the disease is slow. Because the turfgrass in affected patches is dead, the primary means of recovery occurs by spread of stolons into the patch. Because recovery is dependent on lateral infill of surrounding bermudagrass, symptoms can remain visible well into the

growing season. If not managed properly, these patches may reappear in the same location the following spring along with weed species that may invade the voids. Patches can get larger year after year.

Disease cycle

The fungi casuing the disease are active in the fall and spring when cool, moist conditions exist. They do not kill bermudagrass directly; instead, they make turfgrass more susceptible to cold and freezing injury by feeding on roots, rhizomes and stolons.

Spread of these fungi primarily occurs through movement of infected plants or infested soil by equipment, people, animals and running water.

Infection of the turfgrass begins when soil temperatures are less than 70 °F. Typically, in Georgia, infection of susceptible grasses begins in late September or early October and will continue as long as soil temperatures are above 50° F. Fungal growth and plant infection can resume at these temperatures in early spring, coinciding with bermudagrass transitioning from winter dormancy (also referred to as “green up”).

Disease Control

Complete control of SDS in a single growing season is uncommon. It typically takes two to four years of proper cultural management and fungicide applications before acceptable control can be achieved. This has led to SDS becoming one of the more difficult diseases for growers to manage on an annual basis.

Resistant cultivars

The primary cultivars grown and used in Georgia (e.g., Tifway, TifSport, Tifton 10, Celebration, etc.) have shown susceptibility to SDS. However, SDS tolerance has been enhanced through breeding. Most “tolerant” cultivars (e.g., Patriot) may still get the disease but not as severely. In general, cultivars with more cold tolerance have less SDS than non-cold tolerant bermudagrasses. On sites where SDS has been a chronic problem, conversion to a tolerant cultivar is an option for disease management.

Cultural practices

Cultural practices that improve the cold-hardiness of bermudagrass can be particularly effective for managing SDS.

Since high nitrogen levels can reduce the winter hardiness of bermudagrass, apply no more than ½ pound of nitrogen per 1,000 ft2 be after mid-September.

Potassium applications in the fall (September or October) that total 1 pound of K2O per 1,000 ft2 can be helpful in improving the winter hardiness of bermudagrass and thus reduce SDS severity. Potassium applications should be applied based on soil test results.

A neutral to slightly alkaline soil pH can increase SDS severity. Maintain soil pH at 5.8 to 6.2. Use acid-forming fertilizers on sites with near neutral to alkaline pH. Apply iron, manganese and other micronutrients based on soil test results.

Any soil condition that reduces bermudagrass root growth such as compaction, excessive thatch (> ½ in) and poor drainage can also increase the severity of SDS. Core aeration and other practices that reduce soil compaction and encourage the production of new roots can be helpful in managing this disease.

Chemical Control

Timing, selection and application of fungicides are important for preventative management of SDS. Research has shown that one application of fungicide in the fall when soil temperatures are between 60° and 80° F provides the best control of SDS. When disease pressure is high, growers may want to make two applications. If a second application is necessary, it should be made four to six weeks after the first application when soil temperatures remain between 60° and 80° F. For complete meteorological information, see . For improved results, it is recommended that fungicides be applied at high spray volumes (> 5.0 gal / 1,000 ft2) and/or immediately watered-in.

There have been mixed results from turfgrass managers around the state regarding chemical control of SDS. Those who have seen good results say they spray preventative fungicides that target SDS each year and have been doing so for several years. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind that controlling SDS takes time and control usually cannot be obtained in a single season.

A complete list of fungicides, formulations and product updates for SDS can be found in the annual Georgia Pest Management Handbook  and the Turfgrass Pest Control Recommendations for Professionals . Some fungicide options are exclusively for golf course settings. Always check fungicide labels for specific instructions, restrictions, special rates, recommendations, follow-up applications and proper handling.

This article is an excerpt from a more complete publication which can be found here.

UF research: Typical populations of bedbugs can cause harmful blood loss in humans

Information from Southern Region IPM on Bed Bug Management!
Bed bug Gary Alpert, Harvard University,
Bedbug – Gary Alpert, Harvard University,

UF research: Typical populations of bedbugs can cause harmful blood loss in humans

For years, bedbugs have been turning up in sometimes odd and random places, such as subways, movie theaters, dressing rooms and schools, but scientists believed that to flourish, the insects would need more frequent access to human blood meals.

Turns out they don’t.

A new University of Florida study, published online this month by the journal Medical and Veterinary Entomology, shows the blood-sucking insects can do much more than survive — they can even thrive — with far less access to human blood than previously believed.

The three-year study also found that it takes only about 11 weeks for one pair of bedbugs to spawn a large enough population to cause harmful blood loss in a baby, and just under 15 weeks for adult humans.

Read more of this post

Dealing with Fire Ants in the Community Garden

Fire Ants are a hazard in any vegetable garden. They can do some damage to food crops, maybe the occasional nibble in a potato or pea pod. The biggest problem is the damage they can do to gardeners! The ant stings are painful and can be a serious medical issue.

Dealing with Fire Ants in the Community Garden
Fire Ants from Stinging and Biting Pest by Elmer Gray

Entomologists agree that fire ants came in to this county through Mobile, Alabama in the early 1900s. Today, the red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta), black imported fire ant (Solenopsis richteri), and their hybrids are what we have to deal with. See the UGA Publication Stinging and Biting Pests for more background information.

Fire ant stings are so painful because the ant’s mandibles allow the insect to grab on to the victim as the ant stings. The stinger can be used more than once and afterwards the insect is not impacted and goes on to live another day.

Ants do prey on some garden pests, like caterpillars. However, they also assist other damaging insects like aphids by keeping natural enemies away.

Controlling fire ants in the community garden can be a challenge. It takes an on-going approach and the use of several methods, real integrated pest management(IPM).

Dealing with Fire Ants in the Community Garden
Photo from UGA’s Department of Entomology

Fire ants like full sunshine, just like your vegetable plants. However, they don’t tend to stay in areas that are disturbed. Garden plots that are frequently worked or compost piles that are frequently turned aren’t the ants first choice of habitat.

Some publications recommend pouring boiling water over the mounds. A supply of boiling water would be hard to come by in a community gardening setting. Also, it could be a real danger to the gardener and the vegetable plants. Digging out the mounds is also sometimes recommended. This could create very angry ants that would be inclined to attack the digger.

Fall is a good time for chemical controls.  Products containing carbaryl (Sevin), pyrethrins, and pyrethrins plus diatomaceous earth are approved for use in vegetable gardens and will kill fire ants. Be aware these products are not selective and will affect other insects as well. READ THE LABEL of any product you use and follow those directions.

Controlling Fire Ants in the Vegetable Garden, a Clemson University publication, discusses bait products approved for use in the home vegetable garden. Products containing spinosad or pyriproxyfen can be effective when used according to label instructions.  Spinosad effects the ant’s nervous system and  is considered fast acting. Pyriproxyfen prevents the development of worker ants. Products containing these ingredients include Conserve and Esteem. Be sure to place bait around the mound and not on top of the mound for the most effective use.

Using baits in the surrounding lawn or grass area can also be helpful. With any chemical product, read the label and make sure it is approved for the use you need. Do NOT use a product in the vegetable garden unless it is labeled for use in the vegetable garden. See the UGA Pest Management Handbook for more information on chemical control. UGA’s Dan Suiter is the leader of the Urban Pest Management Program and they do research on fire ant control.

The bottom line – fire ants are not easy to control. It takes diligence and a combination of approaches. Contact your local UGA Extension Agent for the latest information on dealing with fire ants.

Happy Gardening!