Rain was plentiful last year
By Sid Mullis| Special Columnist
Friday, January 01, 2010

Today, I will continue a tradition I started three years ago, a recap of the gardening year just past:

The big news was the amount of rain, especially the wet fall and early winter. December was the wettest on record. For the year, I measured 68.34 inches at my home in Columbia County. That is a whopping 25 inches more than what we get on average in a year. I can't remember the ground ever staying this soggy.

With an El Nino weather pattern expected to continue this winter and spring, we should continue to receive above-average precipitation.

On Jan. 6, I wrote about ''crape murder," which occurs when crape mrytles are cut back to the same knobs or fists every year. People continue to do this in spite of my best efforts to stop it. Since November, I have seen way too many homeowners butchering their crape myrtles.

On Feb. 27, I answered a question from a man who had weeds taking over his lawn because his grass was not doing well. That sentence sort of sums up the situation. If your grass is not growing well, weeds are going to be prolific. The best defense against weeds is a thick, healthy lawn.

For April 17, I discussed turf fertilizers and which ones to use. The best way to know is take a soil test. In the absence of that, probably the best all around fertilizer is a 16-4-8, because it is the most balanced.

Leaf gall and fire blight fungus infestations were problems in early May. Leaf gall occurred mostly on sasanquas, camellias and azaleas. The best control is to remove the infected leaves. Fire blight was infesting flowering pear trees and some other fruit trees. The best control is to prune the infected branches.

In early June, my family and I had an encounter with a rat snake in the yard and in the garage. I showed him to my kids and left him alone because he was not venomous. The next day I got a phone call from my wife telling me the snake had crawled though the garage window. Needless to say, she was not a happy!

For June 26, I discussed poor landscape drainage. Overly wet soils keep oxygen out and allow disease problems to develop, which happened a lot with all the rain in 2009.

Yellow jackets were the subject of the July 17 column. I destroyed a nest in my yard with a can of wasp and hornet spray and a good 2-gallon insecticide drenching. You can avoid stings if you check out any area in the yard that you will be working in for signs that there is a nest nearby.

It seemed like mushrooms were popping up everywhere from the rains in early September. Mushrooms are just the visible growth of organic matter in the soil. There is nothing that can be done to prevent them. Just make sure toddlers don't put them in their mouths.

2009 was another big year for the Asian woolly hackberry aphids, the subject for the Sept. 18 column. They are little white flies that you could see floating in the air. As all aphids do, they secrete sticky honeydew, then black sooty mold grows on it. So everything around and under the hackberry tree winds up being a black, sticky mess.

According to assistant state climatologist Pam Knox, our summer was the driest since 1998. The rainfall total at Bush Field for June, July and August was 9.33 inches. At my house, I got 18.375 inches of rain for the three months.

Mrs. Knox told me she realized that most of the Augusta area got a lot more rain than the airport. This does not surprise me; the airport seems to get less rainfall. I have often said that I think they have a pin-size hole in that rain gauge or an overhang over it.

Take-all patch disease was rampant in many St. Augustine lawns in late November. The key to preventing this disease is to make sure you get the lawn's potassium levels up where they should be. Doing this, along with other management practices, will reduce many disease problems.

Sid Mullis is the director of the University of Georgia Extension Service office for Richmond County. Contact him at (706) 821-2349 or smullis@uga.edu.

From the Friday, January 01, 2010 edition of the Augusta Chronicle
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