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Fungi, bugs and critters, oh my!

The Grass is Greener

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POSTED: June 24, 2012 3:00 p.m.

It seems it has been so long since we received any steady, sustained amount of rain that folks have forgotten what soon follows on its heels. Yes, we are seeing mushrooms ornamenting our lawns, gardens and woods. The fungi need water just like all other life forms to complete their life cycles.

First, they are almost all beneficial to our woody plants. In fact, without their buddy fungi growing in their root tips, trees could not bring in water and minerals from the soil and they would die outright or become so uncompetitive with surrounding trees that they would get shaded out and wither. So there is no reason to kill these soil fungi. Your plants need them.

Also, the mushroom is to the body of the fungus like an apple is to an apple tree. Picking an apple does not kill an apple tree, so do not waste your time messing with the mushrooms and toadstools. As a safety measure, do not touch, kick, stomp, mow or otherwise harass wild-growing mushrooms. Most of them are non-toxic, but the few that are toxic are wickedly deadly. Mushroom poisoning is one of the most agonizing deaths possible and one of the easiest to avoid. Just leave them alone and they will fade away in a few days.

The rains have also driven ants from the wet out-of-doors into the dry refuge of homes. When things dry out, the exodus will end. For the immigrants you may already be hosting, Combat gels in the inside corners of your cupboards in pencil-eraser-size dabs do an excellent job. A banded spray across door thresholds is a good barrier treatment.

Most ants in the yard are not pests, but the imported fire ant certainly makes up for all the civil and cultured native Georgia ants. It’s June, and that means it is time to put down a granular insecticide you water in to control mole crickets. A mole cricket control will take care of your ant issues at the same time. If you saw adult mole cricket tunnels in the lawn, flowerbeds or garden this past winter or spring, give some serious thought to applying a granular insecticide now.

Since we have lost dursban, several other insecticides have tried to fill dursban’s shoes with varying degrees of success. Right now, timing — getting a treatment of some type applied now — is just as important as what the treatment is, because it only takes a little bit of insecticide to kill an insect. Once they get big enough to use as fishing bait, your chances of controlling them with a soil-applied dermally-absorbed poison are nil.

The garden questions are coming in, too. Tomato diagnosis is tough without a detailed treatment history, especially when all folk bring in is a single leaf. I do not have a lab like on “NCIS,” and I look more like Ducky than Jethro, so let’s please keep the expectations somewhere in the neighborhood of reality.

Still, being an extension agent in Coastal Georgia is a great job that has given me a chance to meet some of the best people one could meet. We get some really interesting calls at the office. Most of them we can answer off the tops of our heads, some take a bit of research and sometimes it takes calling on UGA specialists or other extension agents to find the answers.

And then there are the ones that we remember for their entertainment value. We find ourselves saying at least once a week that we should write a book. Some are just priceless: No, you cannot blanch sweet corn in your dishwasher.

Gardner is the UGA extension agent for South Bryan and Glynn County.

 

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