Gardening Tips

Rice Research Station Field Day

The annual Rice Research Station Field Day will be held Thursday, June 30, 2011, at the main rice station on US Hwy 90 in Crowley, La. Activities will begin with a tour of current research projects at 7:30 a.m. Tours will leave continuously until 9:15 a.m. Topics addressed during tour stops will include: Rice Variety Development ny Drs. Steve Linscombe and Xueyan Sha; Rice Weed Control by Dr. Eric Webster and Dr. Jason Bond; Rice Disease Management by Dr. Don Groth and Dr. Clayton Hollier; Rice Insect Pest Management by Dr. Mike Stout and Dr. Natalie Hummel; and Rice Fertilization Management by Dr. Dustin Harrell and Dr. Steve Phillips.

Following the tour, speakers will address the following topics: the 2012 Farm Bill by Kyle McCann, La Farm Bureau; activities of the Rice Research Board by Clarence Berken, vice president; and DU Wetlands Conservation by Jerry Holden, Ducks Unlimited. Administrators of the LSU AgCenter will also address the assembly about the current status of research and extension. Educational booths and displays will be available for viewing throughout the morning. Researchers and extension agents will be available for questions and consultations with rice producers.

The field day will conclude with a lunch at noon. All interested persons are invited and urged to attend the Rice Research Station Field Day in Crowley, La. on June 30, 2011.

Slugs in the Garden

Slugs and their cousins snails can pose a problem to vegetable and flower growers alike. These pests live under plant debris, mulch, landscape timbers and any other object that gives them shelter from heat and direct sunlight. Unfortunately, most of these shelter structures are associated with the garden. Snail and slug feeding consists of chewing holes in leaves and flowers. Low-growing plants in a shady location are the most susceptible. Impatiens and hostas seem to be particular favorites of these pests. Since much of their feeding occurs during the evening and early morning, a gardener will sometimes have fully leaved plants when he goes to bed only to arise to find ragged or totally consumed plants in the morning.

How do you control them? There are three basic methods. I recommend using all three. Even then, it is difficult to achieve total control. The first method is the most basic -- physical removal. Visit the plant bed in the early morning, with the aid of a light, and pick off slugs and snails. This gets old really quick and it isn’t very effective. The second is the use of commercial snail/slug bait. Using commercial baits according to the label is helpful in reducing the populations of both species. You have to be persistent and regularly replace the bait for this to work. Baits that contain metaldehyde have been around for a long time and are effective. Metaldehyde is toxic to dogs and cats and you should be careful when using it around pets. A newer, safer bait has iron phosphate as its active ingredient. It is also effective in snail/slug control and has no special precautions for use. The third control method is the use of snail/slug traps. The chief bait used is beer. Snails and slugs are attracted to the yeasty smell of the beer. In the early evening, sink several small, disposable, shallow bowels into the soil or mulch of the plant bed. Fill the bowels half full with fresh beer. Over the night, snails and slugs will crawl into the bowel to get the beer. The beer will wash the slime off of the animal’s underside. Without this slime for traction, the snail or slug cannot climb out of the bowel. Empty the traps in the morning and “re-bait” each evening.

There are biological control agents for snails/slugs already in most gardens. Toads feed on both pests. If you see a toad in your garden, don’t molest it. These are our friends. Without nature’s control agents, we would be up to our knees in all sorts of pests. They might not be the prettiest animals you have ever seen, but they help us. Besides, can you imagine what you look like to a toad?

Vegetables to Plant in July

We are about to start the month of July. While it is usually too hot to do much of anything in July, there are several species of vegetables that can be planted successfully this month. If soil moisture is adequate, you may direct seed broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, cabbage, collards, and winter squash. Of course these vegetables will not be ready for harvest until this fall. Many people transplant these in the fall for harvest in winter and early spring. Planting now will speed up the process and allow for fall harvest. Be sure to maintain adequate soil moisture during the growing season and manage insect pests. Thesevegetable seeds take a good bit more management than when planted later, but can be successful.

Other more traditional warm weather vegetables that can be planted in July include field peas, okra, cucumbers, squash, cantaloupes, watermelon and pumpkins. For pumpkins that are ripe for Halloween, July is the time to plant. Remember that a plant matures according to its genetic timeline, not necessarily when we want it to. My brother and I once planted pumpkins in April. We had jack-o-lanterns for the fourth of July.

July is the proper time to transplant tomatoes and bell peppers for fall production. Again, monitor watering and pest control. The drought in the spring and the constant drying winds caused many tomato and pepper problems this year. The fall is another opportunity to get production for the season.

Be sure to apply fungicides on a regular basis to control fungal leaf diseases. Virus diseases such as Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus are much less common in fall tomatoes and bell peppers than in the spring. Stink bugs are generally worse in the fall tomato crop.

6/22/2011 9:34:36 PM
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