Rosette Rose Disease is a serious disease that is infecting rose plants. It’s a viral disease that I’ve seen in Towns and Union counties. It can spread rapidly and kill rose plants within a couple of year of infection. Let’s talk about rosette rose disease, how to spot it, and what you can do about it.
Rosette rose disease was first found in California and Wyoming back in 1941. Since then it has spread towards the east. Rosette rose disease also infects wild roses. This is most likely the way that the disease travels. It can infect all roses and is particularly lethal to multiflora roses, which are a species of wild roses.
Mites primarily carry the disease. The eriophyid mite will feed on an infected rose. That mite will then move to an uninfected rose and pass the pathogen onto the new rose plant. Once a rose plant is infected, the pathogen travels throughout the plant. The mites will often feed on new growth of buds, stems, and leaf petioles. These mites are so small that they’re not visible to the naked eye. They ride on the wind to spread from plant to plant. It’s also possible for humans to vector the disease through grafting and pruning with tools that have the virus on them. Therefore, if you are pruning roses it’s a good practice to clean your tools with alcohol between plants.
The symptoms of rosette rose disease are usually quite clear. The shoots and foliage will have an unusual red color; the stems will look thick and succulent with long shoots. There will also be an overabundance of small, pliable thorns on the stems. New growth on the plant may have a witches broom appearance, meaning it has many branches close together.
Rosette rose disease only affects roses. However, it is a viral disease, meaning that if your rose bushes get it, they can’t be cured. There are no resistant varieties available on the market. There are some that are in research trials, so hopefully within a few years those will be commercially available. Since there is no cure let’s talk about how you can prevent your roses from contracting the disease.
The best place to start is by planting disease free material. Avoid buying plants that already look stressed and might be showing symptoms of the disease. When planting the roses leave space between plants so that the leaves and stems aren’t overlapping. This will make it a bit more difficult for the mites to travel between plants. Finally, if possible, remove wild roses from within 100 yards of your roses. This is not always feasible, but removing wild roses will decrease the chances of the disease being able to spread to your roses.
If your roses are already showing symptoms, the best course of action is to remove them. Infected plants will spread the disease to other nearby roses. The disease infects all the way down to the roots, so removing the roots is necessary to remove the virus. Bag up and dispose of all the plant material that you pull out. It’s not recommended to replant roses immediately into an area that’s been infected.
If you have questions about rosette rose disease contact your county Extension Office or email me at the address below. On July 25, the Union County Extension is putting on a Well Water Program. It will be at 5:30 in the Union County Civic Center. If you would like to attend, please RSVP with Union County Extension Office at 706-439-6030 or email me at [email protected].
I think that most people enjoy eating a handful of blueberries. Eating them always reminds me of my grandfather because he always puts them on his cereal in the morning. Blueberries grow pretty well here, but there are a few things to be aware of so let’s talk about those so that you can have a successful blueberry crop.
Blueberry bushes can be planted in the early spring or in the fall. In North Georgia, the most common type of blueberry planted is rabbiteye. There are many different varieties of rabbiteye blueberries, ranging from early to late season in ripeness. If you plant a rabbiteye variety, it is important to make sure that you plant more than one variety, as they need to be able to cross-pollinate to bear fruit. Northern highbush is another type of blueberry that can grow here. They are self-fertile, but they require more maintenance. Rabbiteye blueberries are native to Georgia.
If you are selecting a site to plant blueberries, choose a place that will receive full sun for at least half a day. They can grow in shady spots, but the fruit production will be less. Blueberries like soil with a pH of 4.5 – 5.2. This trait makes them well adapted to native soils because most of our soils will naturally be in that range. Therefore, lime is probably not needed when planting blueberries. Rabbiteyes do best with 5 – 6 feet between plants in row and 11 – 12 feet between rows. When planting make sure you don’t plant too deep. After planting prune back 1/3 to ½ of the plant. This will cause the plant to focus on developing its root system. The first year you want to pick off any blooms, because you want the plant to put its energy into growing roots and not fruit. You can apply 1 oz. of 10-10-10 after the plant has begun to put on leaves the first year. The second year after planting put out 2 oz. of 10-10-10 in March and July. Make sure not to over fertilize blueberries, as that can harm them. After the third season, apply 1 oz. of 10-10-10 per foot of height on the bush.
Blueberry bushes do require pruning each year. Once plants reach 6 feet high you’ll want to start cane renewal pruning. This means removing 1 – 3 of the biggest canes each winter at ground level. Over a period of 5 years the bush will be completely renewed. New canes are going to bear more fruit than old canes so it’s important to maintain this pruning process. If you have bushes that haven’t been pruned for a few years, it might take several seasons to get bushes into the 5-year rotation. After you’ve picked the fruit, you can top plants if they are over 6 feet tall. This will keep bushes at a more manageable height.
Blueberries aren’t bothered by many insects or diseases. However, one disease to look out for is mummy berry. It will cause berries to shrivel up and drop. The berries that drop carry the pathogen over to the next year. Therefore, it’s important to keep the space beneath your bushes sanitary. Remove any old berries, wood, and leaves. Placing thick mulch around the base of plants will help prevent the disease from spreading as well. Captan is an effective fungicide at controlling mummy berry if it’s sprayed at bud break and first flower.
If you have questions about growing blueberries contact your local Extension Office or send me an email at [email protected].
By: Jacob Williams, Towns-Union UGA Extension Agent
Georgia, along with much of the southeastern US, doesn’t have a positive past with erosion. Repetitive cropping of cotton in the piedmont resulted in seven inches of topsoil being washed away into the ocean. Soil takes hundreds of years to create, meaning that the loss of soil is something that will be
felt for generations. By the 1950s, new policies and programs began to change Georgia from endless
cotton fields to forestland and other uses that are less susceptible to erosion. In the mountains, there is
always a threat of erosion if we aren’t proactive with protecting our landscape. Let’s talk about why we
should care about erosion and some things that you can do to make sure that your land isn’t eroded
With the high amount of rainfall that we receive in the mountains, erosion caused by water is the
biggest concern that we have, so I’ll focus on that. Erosion is also caused by wind and gravity. According
to the US Department of Agriculture, 2 billion tons of topsoil are lost each year in the US because of erosion. The topsoil is the most nutrient-rich part of the soil, and so plants rely heavily on it for growth.
Therefore, losing topsoil is going to reduce your plant growth. Erosion can also lead to water quality
issues. Not only does the topsoil muddy up our lakes and rivers, but also the nutrients that the topsoil is
carrying can create algal blooms leading to decreased aquatic life. That is bad news for our lakes and the fish that inhabit them. Erosion can also create a hardpan that will repel water and increases surface
So let’s talk about what you can do to reduce erosion. Firstly, construction makes soil very susceptible to erosion. Removing all the vegetation from the top of the soil leaves it open to the rainfall. Whenever possible in construction, surround the project site with hay bales and silt fences, preserve the already existing vegetation, and keep any piles of loose vegetation or gravel covered.
Keep stream banks covered with vegetation and trees. Those plant roots will solidify that stream bank so that the natural erosion process will be slowed down. It will keep the stream from widening. In gardens and around the home use mulch or compost when possible to protect bare soil. This will improve water infiltration into the soil and reduce runoff.
Minimizing impermeable surfaces such as the driveway or walkway on your property will also reduce
erosion. Obviously, you will need some impermeable surfaces at your property, such as a roof for your
house. For cases like that, it’s important to design pathways for the water from those impermeable
surfaces to travel so that they can be deposited in a rain garden or pond. Rain gardens collect water
to allow the water to infiltrate back into the soil instead of having it run downhill. Usually, they have plants
that are adapted to living in damp soils.
If you have any questions about erosion or what you can do to prevent erosion at your property, please contact your local Extension Office or send me an email at [email protected].
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – University of Georgia (UGA) Agricultural and Natural Resource Agent Jacob Williams offered a class Wednesday, April 10, at the Towns County Civic Center, educating gardeners on several topics of interest. Soil health, plant diseases, and insects were the main points of discussion at the seminar. Williams began by explaining the purpose the UGA Extension serves in Towns and Union Counties.
The organization provides researched-based answers for agricultural and natural resource based-questions, serving as a cooperative between UGA and county governments. The local extension office offers basic soil and water testing, e coli and radon screening, while providing citizens with information on matters such as land management and cultivation.
Williams explained the importance of organic matter in soil, the fine balance of pH levels, and the functions of mulch and compost. Common plant diseases discussed included mildew, Leyland Cypress disease, and root rot. “We’ve had two really wet years, back to back, and it’s been really good conditions for root rot to develop,” Williams said, adding that the best treatment is prevention by improving drainage and pulling mulch away from vunerable vegetation. Insects discussed consisted of aphids, ladybugs, Japanese beetles, and scale.
The class was interactive, and Williams answered numerous questions from those in attendance. Williams offered complementary soil testing via raffle to a lucky participant, a service typically priced at $10. Contact information for UGA Extension Agent Jacob Williams is available.
Fertilizer Part II
This week I’m going to continue talking about fertilizers, but I’m going to go into some more specifics of different types of fertilizers and their pros and cons. I’m going to talk about organic fertilizers, weed & feeds, slow release, synthetic fertilizers, and manures.
Let’s get started with organic fertilizers. There are a number of different organic fertilizers out there. Generally speaking, these fertilizers will have lower concentrations of nutrients in them. They can be less likely to burn plants because of the lower concentrations. They can be a good fit for perennial ornamentals or vegetable gardens. Plants that are heavy feeders, like corn, are going to need more organic fertilizers applied so that their nutritional demands are met. Milorganite is an organic fertilizer that studies have shown can reduce deer browsing. Milorganite can be effective but it does have an odor that comes with it. Compost is also an organic fertilizer. Again, compost is not going to be a very strong fertilizer, but it will help build the soil organic matter, improving soil health. This is going to be beneficial in the long term for your plants.
Weed & feed products can be useful if you have issues with weeds on your properties. They are usually a granular herbicide and a fertilizer mixed together. Using one of these products can make lawn management simpler because you can kill two birds with one stone. Most of the time the herbicide is a combination of 2,4-D, mecoprop, and dicamba. These are commonly used herbicides for lawn care and are effective on broadleaf plants. The only drawback to using a weed & feed product is that you are also fertilizing the plants while you are trying to kill them. As these products have a pesticide in them make sure you always read the label before using them.
Slow release fertilizers are a very good option in certain circumstances. Slow release will release its nutrition over a period of months instead of one shot like most fertilizers. This is beneficial for a lot of perennial plants. Trees typically don’t need a lot of fertilizer, and applying a strong fertilizer can actually stress trees. Slow release doesn’t cause stress on trees, and they last for a few months. If you have perennial ornamentals that need a little fertilizer but not a big shot all at one time, slow release might be the way to go.
Synthetic fertilizers are the most common ones used. These will usually have higher concentrations of nutrients, meaning you get a bigger bang for your buck. As I’ve already discussed, that may not be what you’re after. If you are doing some vegetable gardening or your soils are very deficient in nutrient synthetic fertilizers will give you the biggest boost.
Finally, I want to say something about manures as fertilizer. Similar to organic fertilizers, their nutrient concentrations will probably be low. Also, you may not know what you’re getting nutritionally if no analysis has been done. Manure can be really good for building organic matter in soil. It is easy to add too much phosphorus if you are solely relying on manure; this can lead to eutrophication downstream. Some people are concerned with weed seeds in chicken litter. Studies have been done showing that chicken litter carries very little to no weed seed in it.
There are pros and cons to many different types of fertilizers. If you have questions about fertilizers contact your local Extension Office or send me an email at [email protected].
Chrysanthemums, also called mums, are sometimes called the Queen of Fall Flowers. They can have
gorgeous flowers each fall and bring a lot of color to the home this time of the year. I have some on my
front steps and they liven up the porch as my annual zinnia are fading. There are several nurseries
around here that grow beautiful mums. Let’s talk about some of the properties of this plant and what
you could do to have mums in your yard.
Mums are a member of the daisy family (Asteraceae). This is one of the biggest families in the plant
kingdom with a wide variety of flowering plants. The mums was first cultivated in the 15 th century B.C. in
China. In the 8 th century A.D. the mum made its way to Japan. They were so popular there that the mum
became the official seal of the emperor. The mum was introduced to the Western world in 1753 by Karl
Linnaeus, a Swedish botanist. Growers from ancient China would probably not recognize modern day
mums due to the breeding that has given them more showy flowers. Chrysanthemum is also the source
for an insecticide called pyrethrum. Because this insecticide is developed from a natural source it is
considered an organic insecticide.
The easiest way to have blooming mums at your house each year will be to buy them in the fall from a
local nursery. However, if you are interested in growing your own mums it is possible. There are many
different varieties available, so talking with a local nursery will help you choose a variety that is
acclimatized to our area. They do best when planted in the spring after the last frost. Planting in the
spring will give them time to develop a root system so that the following winter they will be able to
survive. Well drained soils with full sun are the best for growth. Mums need a slightly acidic soil with a
pH near 6.5.
After planting fertilize mums with 5-10-5 fertilizer. The high phosphorus will assist root growth on
mums. As the mum is growing in the summer pinching the tips of the mum will increase the amount of
branching on the plant. More branching will lead to a fuller plant. Pinch the top half inch to full inch of
the plant to encourage branching. Pinch every four to six weeks until August when the flower buds begin
Mums are relatively easy to take care of, but there are a couple of diseases to look out for. Some of the
most common diseases are powdery mildew, blight, leaf spot, and rust. These diseases are fairly easy to
control either by fungicide applications or removing the infected leaves. Spider mites and aphids can be
pests of mums. They can be controlled by insecticides but good coverage of the plant is necessary to
control these pests. Spider mites and aphids are capable of population explosions in a very short amount
of time, therefore make sure that you completely cover the top and bottom of the leaves when spraying
for these pests.
If you have questions about growing mums please contact your local Extension Office. Or send me an
email at [email protected].
Moles and voles can be very damaging to your yard. They can dig up long tunnels through your yard and
make a meal out of the plant roots. This can leave your yard with a lumping look and wilted dying plants.
The key to treating these issues is figuring out whether you have moles or voles in your yard.
Understanding some of the differences between moles and voles is important to decide how to treat
them. Technically speaking voles are rodents, but moles are not. Moles are carnivorous animals that eat
insects and grubs that they find underground. If you look at a picture of a mole they have very large
front feet. They’re able to use these big, meaty claws to ‘swim’ through the soil creating the tunnels in
your yard. They are looking for insects to eat in the soil. They won’t eat the roots of plants, as those
aren’t in their diet.
Voles are smaller in size than a mole, looking similar to a mouse. The easiest way to tell the difference
between a vole and a mouse is that a mouse’s tail is about the same length as its body. A vole has a
much shorter tail. Voles are herbivores, meaning that they feed on plants. Bulb plants are often a
particular favorite of voles. Voles have much smaller front paws than moles do. This means that voles
are not nearly as adept at digging tunnels through the ground. Voles will often use tunnels that have
been left behind by moles.
Because moles and voles have different diets and behavior they must be treated differently for control.
There are a couple of different methods for mole control. The first one is to use a granular insecticide to
get rid of all the insects and grubs in your yard. Once the food source is removed the moles will move on
to find a new food source. A second way of removing moles is by placing a trap in their main tunnel. Go
out into your yard and tamp down all the tunnels that you can find. Wherever the ground has popped
back up the next day is the main tunnel. Repeated trapping may be necessary because a single yard
could be host to several moles. Some of the grubs that moles eat, such as earthworms, are a sign of
healthy soil. Moles also like moist soil because it is easier for digging. This means that if you do a good
job taking care of your garden you will also inadvertently be encouraging moles to tunnel!
Voles can also be trapped. Place a mouse trap with peanut butter near an active site to catch the voles.
If you are able to get rid of the moles in your yard oftentimes the voles will also leave because they can’t
do a good job of digging their own tunnels. If you’re unsure if you have voles or moles take a slice of
apple and tie a piece of string around it. Place it in the hole and let it sit for a couple of days. When you
pull it back out, if the apple is gone you have voles (herbivores), if the apple is still there you have moles
If you have questions about vole and mole control please contact your local Extension Office or send me
an email at [email protected].
IPM is a pretty big buzz phrase out there in agriculture right now. It stands for Integrated Pest
Management. Integrated means that you employ several different types of strategies. Pest in this case
can refer to insects, diseases, weeds, or any other thing out there that you don’t want messing with your
plants. Management is important. It’s not Integrated Pest Eradication. Management means that an
acceptable threshold is found for the pest. Depending on what the pest is and what type of damage its
doing affects what is an acceptable threshold. For example, the threshold for kudzu growing in a gully or
ditch will be much higher than kudzu encroaching on your yard.
Management in IPM comes by a combination of biological, cultural, mechanical, and chemical means. By
using a combination of these practices, the idea is that pests can be managed to minimize economic,
environmental, and public health risks. IPM is a long term management strategy where chemical control
is used as a last resort.
Biological control is using natural enemies of a pest for control. Ladybugs are an excellent example
because they eat a lot of other insects that feed on garden plants. Another example is that UGA is
conducting research on beetles that will control the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid that is ravaging our
hemlocks. Cultural controls can include watering practices. A lot of fungal diseases are encouraged by
wet conditions. Another example of cultural control is selecting disease resistant varieties to plant. An
example of mechanical control is using traps for rodents or other pests to remove them. Mulch to
prevent weeds from popping up is another example. Finally, chemical control involves spraying
pesticides. When pesticides are applied they are used only where needed. Selective pesticides that are
safest for the surrounding organisms are used.
Prevention of pest problems is a big part of IPM. When IPM is used on a large production scale
quantitative thresholds will be set so that chemical sprays are used only when necessary. Spraying
chemicals is not bad or disallowed when using IPM, you just try to much more conscientious of using
sprays and use them sparingly. There are times and situations when biological, cultural, and mechanical
aren’t effective and spraying is the only effective option of control available. The goal with IPM is to
reduce the reliance on chemical applications for successful control.
You may already be using IPM without even realizing it. Using mulch around flower beds or drip
irrigation to water can be IPM. If you have a fence around your garden to keep deer and other pests out
that is part of IPM. Some ways that you could improve your use of IPM could be spraying insecticides
when beneficial insects aren’t active. When planting look to see what disease resistance your seeds have
or use plants that are from our area, oftentimes those will have natural resistance and be adapted to
The key to being successful with IPM is to be more conscientious of your surroundings and thinking long
term. If you have questions about IPM contact your local county Extension Office or send me an email at
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – The University of Georgia Towns County 4-H Extension has joined the Rosalynn Carter Butterfly Trail initiative, and a variety of plants known to beckon the insects are in full-bloom outside of the Hiawassee office at 67 Lakeview Circle.
Agricultural-Natural Resource Extension Agent Jacob Williams explained that the garden is a first-year project, planted by local 4-H students. The Rosalynn Carter Butterfly Trail, namesaked after former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, was founded in 2013 in conjunction with the Georgia Department of Education in an effort to bring awareness to the dwindling monarch butterfly population.
The project provides habitats suitable for butterflies to feed, nest, and repopulate. Numerous citizens and organizations throughout Georgia have partnered with the Trail, with over 350 gardens springing forth worldwide. A 2016 monarch count revealed that the butterfly population has decreased by 68 percent over the past 22 years, and those involved in the project hope to see the population strengthen.
The local extension garden boasts flora such as Blackeyed Susan, Stokes Aster, Purple Coneflower, Rattlesnake Master, Passion Fruit Vine, and Butterfly Bush. A shallow basin rests among the blooms, offering a convenient water source for visiting butterflies.
For further information on the Rosalynn Carter Butterfly Trail, visit rosalynncarterbutterflytrail.org/
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – It’s the time of year when fall webworms form cocoons in area trees, and although their nests may look like something out of a science-fiction movie, they are harmless.
Fall webworms are attracted to deciduous trees, commonly spinning their nests on hickory, walnut, birch, cherry, and crab-apple. The species is similar to the eastern tent caterpillar, but the fall webworm constructs its nest over the end of the branch rather than at the tree notches. The large conspicuous webs contain caterpillars, partially eaten leaves, and fecal droppings.
While the caterpillars may defoliate a branch or two, they rarely threaten the life of a tree. The leaves they consume would fall soon regardless, and the caterpillar stage of life ends after a few weeks.
Jacob Williams, University of Georgia (UGA) Agricultural-Natural Resource Agent for Towns and Union County, tells FYN that the extension office has received several calls about webworm nests this season.
Fall webworms begin as a pupa in a cocoon under debris on the ground, in bark crevices, and in the soil during the winter months. Adults emerge in summer, and females deposit eggs on tree leaves in masses of 300 to 400. Eggs generally hatch 10 days.
The young larvae live as a colony within the balloon-like webs, which contain leaves on which they feed. The webs expand as the larvae grow, and can often measure up to two feet long.
When nearly fully grown, caterpillars often feed outside the web at night. As food becomes scarce on a branch, caterpillars may migrate to another branch or tree. Larvae matures and pupates in the fall.
They are not considered a threat to hardwood forests, nor a threat to the health of infested trees as it occurs after the trees have already stored up much of their food reserves, late in the season.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Jacob Williams, the newly-hired University of Georgia (UGA) Agricultural-Natural Resource Agent for Towns and Union County, introduced himself to the Mountain Movers and Shakers at Sundance Grill on Friday, July 13, 2018.
Williams, a native of Birmingham, Alabama, and the son of Christian missonaries, spent his younger years overseas, learning appreciation for the position which he now holds. Williams, who graduated from Auburn University in 2016 with a Master’s degree in Agronomy, recalled time spent in North Africa, witnessing and participating in agricultural development, dairy goat projects, and equine clinics, designed to assist locals with self-sufficiency. Williams went on to work a large parcel of land in North Africa, tolling with oxen for wheat production, without the aid of modern machinery. The extension agent relayed that the experience bolstered his respect for the labor associated with agriculture. After acquiring a high school diploma in 2010, and returning to the United States to obtain a post-secondary education, Williams gained employment at Speedling in Blairsville, Georgia, a company which specializes in growning vegetable and flower seed plugs for transplant gardening.
“I heard about this extension position, it came open, and I was very excited so I applied for the position, and I was very excited that I got it,” Williams enthusiastically expressed, “I began June 1st as extension agent for Union and Towns counties. To me, it wasn’t something I was necessarily praying for at the time because I was very happy at Speedling, but it really does feel like I’m where God wants me to be.”
Williams educated the group on several of the services the extension office provides, such as soil and water quality testing, and plant disease identification. Samples are collected and shipped to the University of Georgia labratory in Athens, Georgia, for examination. Soil testing costs $10.00, plant disease determination costs $25.00, and testing of water samples for harmful agents – such as mercury or bacteria – amounts to $46.00.
In addition, the extension office offers plant identification assistance at no charge. Photographs of unknown plants can be emailed to Williams, or the plant can be brought directly to the office. Williams recommended the route of photographing plants that may be potentially poisonous.
Gardening advice is also available at no cost to residents.
Williams will divide his time between Towns and Union County, with the Hiawassee branch open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8 a.m. until noon.
Towns County Extension Office is located at 67 Lakeview Circle in downtown Hiawassee.
Jacob Williams can be reached by dialing 706-896-2024 or emailing [email protected]