Planting Blueberries in the Georgia Garden

Blueberries About to Ripen
Blueberries About to Ripen

Blueberries are a tasty addition to any community garden.  The fruit is high in antioxidants,  and the plants are easy to manage.  Fall is a great time to get them in the garden.

Since blueberry bushes are perennials shrubs, it is advantageous to plant them in a community part of the garden.  Along a fence that gets plenty of sun is a possible spot.  This way no one is taking up permanent plot space with the bushes and everyone can enjoy the fruit. D. S. NeSmith, a research horticulturist from UGA, has a great publication on Home Garden Blueberries.

For community gardeners the best type of blueberries to plant is the rabbiteye type.  The most important thing to know about growing rabbiteye blueberries is that you need to plant more than one variety for cross-pollination. If you choose your varieties from slightly different ripening times, you will have a longer harvest.  For early season rabbiteyes look for Alapaha, Climax, Premier, Vernon, or Titan.  For mid-season types try  Brightwell, Powerblue, or Tifblue.  Ochlockonee, Baldwin, and Centurion are all late season varieties.  Titan was released in 2011 and it is the largest fruited rabbiteye variety available to date.   Vernon also has large fruit.

Blueberries along a community garden fence.
Blueberries along a community garden fence.

Choose a planting site that gets at least a half-day of sun.  Anything less and the plants may grow but you won’t get a large amount of fruit.  Blueberries like our typical acidic soil and need a soil pH of 4.5 to 5.2.    The standard spacing for rabbiteyes is 5 – 6 feet between plants as they can get large.   Before planting till the soil deeply, 8 to 12 inches, and make sure your site doesn’t tend to stay wet.  The best time to plant is in the fall through the very early spring. This gives time for the roots to develop before the heat of the summer.  Mulch will be needed and it is important to keep weeds and grass away from the plants.  Your local UGA Extension Agent can answer any questions you have about blueberry planting.

If you are interested in incorporating blueberry bushes into your community garden do some planning before you plant.

Is the entire community interested in blueberries?  What is the best site?  Who will care for them?  How you will divide the fruit?  Remember that deciding these things early prevents problems later on.

Happy Gardening!








The Trial Gardens at UGA announces 2014 Classic City Award Winner Plants

Merritt Melancon, News Editor with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

John Ruter, Director of The Trial Gardens at the University of Georgia and Professor of Horticulture at UGA

See original article with photos here.

Each summer the staff of The Trial Gardens at UGA selects an all-star team of plants that performed spectacularly well during the growing season.

“These Classic City Award winners are the very best plants in the trial gardens, based on year-round performance and/or eye-clutching beauty,” said John Ruter, University of Georgia horticulture professor and the gardens’ director. “We raise thousands of plants each year, and these are the best of the best.”

Since 1982, The Trial Gardens at UGA have been used as a literal testing ground for plants from around the world. By evaluating new selections of annuals and perennials, the Trial Gardens’ staff helps introduce new plants to the Southeast’s green industry and the general public.

The Trial Gardens’ plant evaluations are respected across the globe. Commercial nurseries depend on the staff’s recommendations to determine what they will grow for sale the following season.

Many of the Classic City Award-winning plants are available for sale now, but others will be available through nurseries next season. Gardeners should ask their local nurseries to stock them.

For more information about the Trial Gardens and this year’s trial results, visit

2014 Classic City Award Winners (Commentary provided by trial supervisor Meg Green and gardens’ director John Ruter)

  • ‘Archangel Dark Rose’ Angelonia– Ball FloraPlant “This Angelonia stood out amongst the others. It started out early by out-blooming its competitors and has remained strong through the hottest temperatures. The plants are compact and sturdy.”
  • Calibrachoa ‘Superbells® Frostfire’ “Our Calibrachoas were a bit slow to bloom in early summer, however, once the flowering began, it was profuse. ‘Superbells Frostfire’ has outshone other Calibrachoas, producing countless white flowers with a yellow eye. These plants remained compact while other Calibrachoas became spindly and scraggly late in the summer.”
  • Catharanthus Cora™ Series “We had 14 colors of the Cora series of Catharanthus this summer and every one of them performed outstandingly. The plants were consistent in height and floriferousness. All tolerated the heat, humidity and irregular rains quite well.”
  • Coreopsis ‘Sunshine Suzie’ “‘Sunshine Suzie’ is not a loud plant that begs for attention, but more of a quiet surprise. The plants were compact but airy, and were constantly in nickel-sized, yellow flowers. Month after month, ‘Sunshine Suzie’ excelled in our climate.”
  • Echinacea ‘Sombrero™ Adobe Orange’ “‘Sombrero Adobe Orange’ has completely wowed us with its extraordinary beauty. The plants produced numerous large, bright orange, cone-shaped flowers. This cultivar bloomed longer than any Echinacea we have grown ever.”
  • Euphorbia ‘Star Dust Super Flash’ “Over the years, the Euphorbias have performed well in our garden. ‘Star Dust Super Flash’ outperformed the others this summer. Countless small, white flowers covered the compact plants from April through October. The plants were well behaved, not falling over, nor infringing on their neighbors.”
  • Impatiens Bounce Pink Flame “This year was a great one for our New Guinea Impatiens. So many cultivars performed extraordinarily well, including the series ‘Big Bounce’ and ‘Bounce.’ In particular, ‘Bounce Pink Flame’ grew tall, but never lodged (or bent).”
  • Heliopsis ‘Sunstruck’ “‘Sunstruck’ Heliopsis grew to a mere 6 inches in height. Its leaves are variegated and they accentuate the large, yellow flowers well. These plants withstood our heat and humidity and performed beautifully.”
  • Hibiscus ‘Royal Gems’ “‘Royal Gems’ Hibiscus has been in our garden for several years and it has impressed us this long. The plants resist the insects that decimate many other Hibiscuses. ‘Royal Gems’ produces giant, deep rosy-pink blossoms for several weeks throughout summer. Its foliage remains a healthy, lush green until frost.”
  • Lobularia ‘Bicolor Pink Stream™’ “Month after month, ‘Bicolor Pink Stream’ displayed its beauty and perfumed its environment, never surrendering to the Georgia heat. This Alyssum is truly an extraordinary cultivar.”
  • Pelargonium ‘Glitterati™ Ice Queen’ “‘Glitterati™ Ice Queen’ was grown in hanging baskets in our garden where they thrived in the hot, blazing sun. The variegated leaves did not brown in the sun, but remained healthy all summer. This geranium produced numerous orange-red blooms that were evenly distributed throughout the plants, thus creating a lovely, mounding appearance.”
  • Petunia ‘Supertunia® Morning Glory Charm’ “Petunia ‘Supertunia Morning Glory Charm’ performed perfectly through the hot summer. It quickly formed a mound of small, violet blooms with a large, white eye. This petunia was loaded with so many small blooms, even in the hottest months of the summer. It never ceased to be a perfect sphere of violet with only bits of green visible.”
  • Scaevola ‘Scalora Amethyst’ “This fan flower amazed us with its perfection throughout the summer. ‘Scalora Amethyst’ was another cultivar that was obviously a winner from early in the summer. The plants easily grew into a mat of blue blooms atop its foliage.”

Controlling Mushrooms and Other Fungi in the Landscape

Controlling Mushrooms and Other Fungi in the Landscape


Mushrooms are the visible structures of the unseen fungi growing in our landscapes. Think of mushrooms as the flowers and fruits of the fungi world. The mushrooms these fungi produce may cause a concern depending on where they are growing. Mushrooms and other fungal growths can be unsightly and are a concern since some may be toxic to children. They can be found growing in mulch, turf and landscape beds.

There are many types of mushrooms and other types of fungal growth including puffballs, stinkhorns and others. Slime molds, though not a fungus, can appear as a slimy, oily or powdery growth on lawns, mulches or wood.  To see pictures of each, click on the links in the previous two sentences.

Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to prevent mushrooms and similar organisms from growing. Many fungi get their energy from decomposing dead organic matter. They are actually a part of the natural recycling process. There are no chemicals that effectively kill all the fungi that cause mushrooms. You can remove the mushroom, but you must remove the fungus to keep the mushrooms from returning. To remove the fungus, you will need to remove the organic matter upon which it is growing.

Control of Mushrooms

There are several possible sources of food for fungi:

  • Buried wood, roots or other organic matter. Dig up and remove the source.
  • Thatch under lawns. De-thatching and aerating the lawn may reduce mushrooms.
  • Mulch, especially mulch that is too thick. (Greater than 3 to 4 inches in depth).
  • Piles of leaves, logs and limbs. Remove them if you need to discourage mushroom growth.

Even if you remove the food source, the mushrooms may still continue to grow. Removing the food should help to some extent. Mulches can be removed, properly composted and used again.

Some mulches are more prone to producing mushrooms and other fungal growth. Proper mulch selection, application and care can reduce mushroom problems.

  • Bark chips from mature, old pine or cypress trees decay more slowly and are less prone to mushroom problems than chips from other types of trees. However, this is only true of chips from old, mature trees. Chips from young pine or cypress trees do not have this advantage.
  • Wood or bark mulches from hardwood trees can be more prone to fungal problems than bark mulches from old pine or cypress trees. Composting these mulches before use will help reduce the chance of producing mushrooms.
  • Mulches from bark or wood products should be composted for at least 6 months before being used as mulch. Add a nitrogen source to the mulch and keep the mulch moist and turned during composting
  • Do not allow mulches to get dry. This leads to an increase in fungal activity. Then when the mulch gets wet again, mushrooms appear. Apply mulches 2 inches deep and wet the mulch well at application. Keep the mulch moist but not overly wet.
  • Finer textured wood or bark mulches can be more prone to problems. Use coarser textured mulches and/or apply mulches in a thinner layer.

Mushrooms that grow at the base of trees (also called conks) are usually an indication that the interior of the tree is decaying. This can indicate that a tree is at risk to fall. If you see mushrooms (or conks) attached to tree limbs or roots, contact a certified arborist to evaluate the tree to see if has become a hazard.

Another fungal problem we see in mulch piles involves hydrophobic fungi. When mulch is applied too deeply or is piled up in areas, the mulch can be infested by these fungi that waterproof the mulch. Water will then no longer able to penetrate the mulch and the plant roots can dry out and die – even though the plants are being watered. This is especially a problem with woody mulches that are applied too deeply. Dig into affected mulches and you will notice that they are dusty dry. To prevent problems, do not apply these mulches more than 2 inches deep.

In addition, mulch piled against the base of trees can lead to tree damage and death. Pull mulches slightly away from the trunks of all trees and shrubs.

Once you begin seeing mushrooms, it may be best to just ignore or remove the mushrooms you can see and wait for the fungus to quit producing more mushrooms. This can take a while depending on the fungus, weather, etc. These fungal fruiting structures are often short-lived but interesting to watch. Try to ‘enjoy’ your landscape oddity until it runs its course.


Some information taken from Control of Nuisance and Detrimental Molds (Fungi) in Mulches and Composts from Ohio State University

Georgia Mosquito Control Association plans for threat of chikungunya virus next spring

mosquito April Sorrow UGA
Georgia mosquito control professionals gathered in Athens this month to discuss the 2015 mosquito season. Image credit: April Sorrow, UGA.

Merritt Melancon is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

As Georgia’s mosquito season draws to a close, mosquito control professionals are looking back, evaluating the season and planning for the challenges they will face next spring.

At the top of the list of concerns, voiced at the Georgia Mosquito Control Association (GMCA) meeting this month at the University of Georgia, was chikungunya, a viral disease spread by certain mosquitoes that causes severe joint pain and flu-like symptoms. Drawing on the lessons they’ve learned from battling West Nile Virus outbreaks for the last decade, mosquito control professionals are working with UGA entomologists and Georgia’s public health officials to stay one step ahead of the painful disease come next spring.

“The GMCA meeting is a great time for mosquito control professionals in Georgia to gather and share information about emerging threats and the best efforts to protect the public from these pests and diseases,” said Elmer Gray, UGA Extension mosquito specialist and board member of the Georgia Mosquito Control Association.

The disease is rarely fatal, but it is painful and, in some cases, has caused long-term joint pain, said Rosemarie Kelly, an entomologist with Georgia Department of Public Health.

It’s described as one of those things that, intellectually, you know you’re not going to die of, but you kind of wish you would,” she said.

The virus is spread person-to-person by container-breeding mosquitoes and was first diagnosed in the Western Hemisphere in December 2013. Since then it has spread prolifically in South America and the Caribbean.

In Georgia, there have been 21 travel-related cases of chikungunya reported to the state Department of Public Health since this summer. All of these patients had traveled on mission trips or vacations to Latin America and contracted it there.

It has yet to be spread from person-to-person in Georgia because the mosquito that spreads the disease most efficiently – the yellow fever mosquito, or Aedes aegypti – is fairly rare here. In Florida, where the yellow fever mosquito population is larger, public officials started to see locally transmitted cases of the disease this summer – 11 to date.

Even though the yellow fever mosquito is rare in Georgia, epidemiologists and entomologists are worried that the Asian tiger mosquito – an invasive mosquito that has spread to every county in the state – could also spread the virus.

Over the course of the three-day conference, mosquito control officials learned the importance of developing close relationships with their local health departments as well as how trapping and identifying mosquitos can help them determine where they need to focus mosquito eradication efforts.

In an ideal situation, mosquito control would be notified when someone is diagnosed with chikungunya, and they could work to knock down the mosquito population near that house to minimize the chance of it spreading, Kelly told the mosquito control and private pest control operators at the conference.

“The sooner you know about new cases, the sooner you get control of those mosquito populations, and the sooner you can stop the spread of the illness,” Henry Lewandowski, director of Savannah’s mosquito control program, told the crowd.

Georgians who are diagnosed with chikungunya or suspect they have it after returning from their travels should avoid mosquito exposure for 10 days. Ten days after the onset of symptoms, the virus will have left the body and can no longer be transmitted via mosquito.

As with West Nile Virus and other mosquito-borne diseases, the best defense is a good offense, Gray said. Gray recommends that Georgians routinely clear their yards of containers that can hold water, providing a breeding habitat for mosquitoes. He also recommends using a mosquito repellent containing DEET when spending time outdoors.

For more information about chikungunya, visit or search for “chikungunya” at

Understanding Formulations Used As Liquid Sprays

From the publication Insecticide Basics for the Pest Management Professional

By Daniel R. Suiter, UGA Department of Entomology & Michael E. Scharf, UFL Department of Entomology and Nematology


Formulations commonly applied as liquid sprays are:

  • emulsifiable concentrates (abbreviated as EC)
  • wettable powders (WP)
  • suspension concentrates (SC)
  • microcaps (ME [microencapsulates] and CS [capsule suspensions])


These formulations must be diluted with water before they can be applied.


Emulsifiables are formulations that allow a water-insoluble insecticide to be suspended in water. Water and oil do not mix unless an emulsifying agent is added. When an emulsifier is added to a mixture of oil and water, microscopic droplets of oil are formed that disperse throughout the water. The resultant milky-white mixture is referred to as an emulsion.


Contact insecticides must be hydrophobic (insoluble in water) in order to penetrate the insect cuticle and/or interact with target sites. Although insoluble in water, most insecticides are soluble in oil or another solvent. To form an insecticide-active emulsion, the insecticide is dissolved in the solvent. When the emulsifier is then added, the resulting milky-white emulsion contains microscopic droplets of insecticide-impregnated solvent that become dispersed evenly throughout the water, as described in the previous paragraph. This resultant formulation can then be sprayed.


The droplets in emulsifiable formulations do not settle like suspensions and, therefore, require minimal agitation in comparison to formulations that are suspensions (wettable powders, microencapsulates, suspension concentrates).


Because emulsifiables readily absorb into skin, appropriate precautions should be used to minimize contact.

WP settling
Several liquid spray formulations (wettable powders, suspension concentrates, and microcapsules) form true suspensions, and will settle out of water when given sufficient time. In these photographs, a suspension concentrate was diluted in water at 4:00 p.m. (top photograph). The following morning, the solid, particulate matter had settled to the bottom of the glass beaker (bottom photograph), and required agitation to re-suspend the product.

Wettable powder formulations are created by impregnating or coating a microscopic particle of an inert carrier (e.g., adsorptive clay, talc, etc.) with insecticide and various inert ingredients to enhance the wetting, spreading, and dispersing characteristics of the powder.


The inert ingredients (wetting agents) allow the dry powder to evenly disperse in and mix with water without clumping or caking.


Because wettable powders are true suspensions, constant agitation is required to keep the powder suspended in water.

Wettable powders do not readily absorb into skin, but care should be taken when using this formulation to avoid accidental inhalation.

Suspension concentrates can be considered wettable powders that have been packaged in liquid formulation. They consist of very small crystals of technical grade insecticide mixed with an extremely fine, inert dust, a small amount of water, and various other inert ingredients. The inert ingredients enhance the dispersion and mixing characteristics of the formulation when diluted with water.

Because suspension concentrates settle out of suspension, they require constant agitation (Figure 1).

Microencapsulated products are formed by encapsulating an insecticide in a microscopic, round, plastic capsule. The capsules are mixed with inert ingredients (dispersants, wetting agents, etc.) to keep them from clumping and to help the mixture flow more readily. The inert ingredients also facilitate storage and dispersion when diluted in water.

The capsule’s wall thickness determines the release rate of the insecticide to the outside environment. The insecticide seeps through the capsule’s wall and coats the outside of the capsule. As the insecticide disappears (degradation, evaporation, etc.) additional insecticide inside the capsule continues to coat the capsule surface. This process maintains a capsule that is constantly coated with a thin film of insecticide.

The manufacturer can change the characteristics of the capsule wall to slow (or accelerate) the release rate of the chemical from inside the capsule, thus altering the residual life of the treatment. Changing the characteristics of the capsule can alter the product’s odor (slower release rates result in less smell); protect the chemical from environmental degradation; influence the rate of kill by the insecticide (faster release rates mean a faster rate of kill); and reduce exposure to non-target organisms.

Because microcaps settle out of suspension, constant agitation is required.


‘Landscaping with Conifers and Ginkgo for the Southeast’ book helps with selection and care

Conifers are among the most beautiful and versatile of all landscape plants, offering year-round variety of color, form, and texture. They remain underutilized in the South, in part because of the common misconception that they are not adaptable to the climate. Laying such claims to rest, this book introduces readers to conifers that grow successfully in southern landscapes.

Gardeners in the South traditionally have relied on the mass of spectacular spring blooms as the mainstay of their landscapes. However, with the addition of conifers or cultivars of the genus ginkgo, homeowners can enjoy twelve months of low maintenance color. Tom Cox and John Ruter present a variety of conifers that grow from Virginia to Florida to Texas. They provide tips on growing, pruning, preventing disease and pest problems, and on proper selection and cultivation requirements–all unique to the Southeast.

In short, this guide includes essential information about what to buy, where to plant it, and how to maintain it. It also offers advice on what to expect from mature conifers and ginkgo while suggesting genera and species that have proved adaptable and cultivars that have performed well in the southeastern United States. Landscaping with Conifers and Ginkgo for the Southeast is a compilation of years of research and horticulture experience that will aid anyone, whether novice or professional, in creating beautiful year-round landscapes.

Comments on Landscaping with Conifers and Ginkgo for the Southeast

“Landscape selection of conifers and their cultivars for the Southeastern U.S. is now made easier. This is a guide every conifer-seeking gardener and landscaper in the region will want to consult. “–Ronald W. Lance, author of Woody Plants of the Southeastern United States: A Winter Guide

“Bravo! We finally have a reference suitable for conifer enthusiasts in the southern United States that explores not just the common conifers found in nurseries and landscapes but also introduces a plethora of species and varieties rarely encountered in the South and deserving greater use. “–Dave Creech, Director, Stephen F. Austin Gardens

“A good guide to what conifers may be used in the home landscape and any requirements necessary for their success.”–Don Howse, Porterhowse Farms


Tom Cox, past president of the American Conifer Society, is the founder and owner of Cox Arboretum and Gardens in Canton, Georgia.

John M. Ruter, Allan M. Armitage Endowed Professor of Horticulture at The University of Georgia, is a teacher, ornamental plant breeder, and has authored or coauthored over 400 publications and two books.

For more information see this article.