The gift that keeps on giving

By Ashley Hoppers, Fannin County Extension Coordinator

The Fannin County Extension Office now has a sample drop box located next to their front door. Please leave sample along with payment in drop box for a contactless experience. Payment envelopes are provided.

Did your vegetable garden, fruit orchard, or pasture not perform as you would have hoped last year? While environmental extremes, such as excessive rain or dry spells, and pests and diseases can cause trouble, rarely is one factor to blame for an ailing garden. Regardless of what the causal agents may be, a very good place to start troubleshooting garden woes is to first take a look at the soil beneath your feet.

So, before you run out and purchase more fertilizer, consider taking the last few weeks of winter as an opportunity to submit a soil test. Healthy soil is the foundation on which a successful garden is built, yet soil sampling is often overlooked. Collecting soil samples only takes a few minutes and it often leads to people saving money on fertilizer they don’t need.

While soil testing is typically done in the fall or winter when most plants are dormant and the soil is most accessible, soil samples can be taken any time of year. One of the main reasons for fall and winter testing is because if any soil amendments need to be added, such as a lime application to adjust pH, it can take several months for the lime to react in the soil.

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Holiday Plant Care

By Ashley Hoppers, Fannin County Extension Coordinator

As we enter into the holiday season, many people enjoy decorating their homes to help them get into the holiday spirit. While some folks just have the knack for picking out the perfect gift, others may be looking for some ideas on how to communicate their well wishes. Personally, I think live plants make a wonderful holiday gift for both loved ones and colleagues.

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Christmas Tree Selection and Care

By Ashley Hoppers, Fannin County Extension Coordinator

If you choose to cut your own tree at a farm, don’t forget to dress appropriately for the occasion. Blue jeans, closed-toe shoes, and a long-sleeved shirt are all good choices, as Christmas tree shopping at a farm can be a more involved process than you may think! Gloves and long-sleeved shirts are especially helpful in protecting your hands and arms from prickly foliage and sap.

A symbol of life amidst the dark, cold winter, this time of year millions of families will be decorating their homes with evergreen trees to celebrate the holiday season. The history of the Christmas tree is fascinating, with Germany being credited for starting the tradition in the 16th century. Despite their rise of popularity in Europe, the tradition did not become customary in the United States until the latter half of the 19th century.

Of course, these trees were originally harvested from forests. It wasn’t until the mid-20th century when Christmas tree farms began to establish. While some families still harvest their own tree, nowadays the majority of Christmas trees are grown on farms. Having said that, over time the Christmas tree market has evolved to include more choices, including artificial, pre-cut trees, and those that can be obtained from local pick-your-own farms.

When it comes to cut tree options there are a number of different tree species from which you may choose, with the best-selling species being Fraser fir, Noble fir and Douglas fir. Balsam fir and Scotch pine are also popular choices. Fraser fir is the most common Christmas tree species in our region, as well as throughout the United States. In fact, Fraser firs account for approximately 98% of the trees produced in North Carolina, which is second leading producer of Christmas trees and the leading producer of Fraser fir in the U.S.

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Evergreens shed needles in the fall

By Ashley Hoppers, Fannin County Extension Coordinator

Seasonal needle loss is easy to spot on white pines, as they will shed up to one-half of their needles in early fall.

November has brought us some cooler weather, and with it the opportunity to enjoy time outdoors without the intense heat of summer. The fall color this season has been stunning and as more leaves senesce and dapple the forest floor, I’m reminded of another phase of fall. A short-lived time just after what most folks consider “peak leaf season”. Little to no green leaves remain, and the forest floor bears a striking resemblance to a blanket adorned in crimson and gold. Fallen leaves give rise to sprawling mountain views; squirrels hurriedly stock their larders. A few stubborn leaves hold fast but we know summer is at rest.

With all the emphasis we place on falling leaves, it is easy to overlook the fact that evergreen needles are falling now as well. Everyone seems to remember from their elementary school science classes that deciduous trees lose their leaves in the fall, but evergreen trees keep their needles all year. While that is essentially true, the concept is a little over simplified. While the needles of evergreen trees do persist on the tree longer than those of a maple or oak, the needles on an evergreen cannot last forever. Rather, the needles of evergreen tree species remain on the tree for 2-5 years, depending upon the tree species.

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Tips on How and When to Prune Overgrown Landscape Shrubs

By Ashley Hoppers, Fannin County Extension Coordinator

Now that cooler weather is rolling into Georgia, more and more calls and emails are reaching my desk regarding how to prune overgrown ornamentals in the home landscape. While I am happy to answer the “how”, the “when” in this instance is just as important.

If the trees and shrubs in the landscape are not grown for their flowers, then it is likely that they are species that can be pruned during the late winter, spring or summer months. Note that pruning in the fall or early winter months should be avoided, as, most plants during this time of year are not fully dormant and pruning may force new growth that can be injured by cold weather.

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Asian longhorned tick confirmed in Pickens County

By Ashley Hoppers, Fannin County Extension Coordinator

Asian longhorned ticks can infest an animal host by the hundreds, causing illness and even death. (Photo by Joe Deal, NC State Extension)

Last month, a dangerous and invasive pest, the Asian longhorned tick (Haemaphysalis longicornis), was positively identified in North Georgia. First discovered on a sheep in New Jersey in 2017, the Asian longhorned tick has now spread to 17 states in only four years. Now that it is in Georgia, UGA Extension wants to encourage livestock producers and the public to be on the lookout, as this species of tick is particularly dangerous due to its prolific reproductive cycle.

Dr. Nancy Hinkle, UGA Extension Entomology Specialist and veterinary entomologist for the state, confirmed the tick was discovered latched onto a cow on a cattle farm in Pickens County. This discovery is critically important for North Georgia cattle farmers because this marks the first Georgia case of the invasive tick, which has been found in 16 other U.S. states so far. Capably of reproducing by the hundreds, the Asian longhorned tick can kill an animal by attaching to a host by the hundreds.

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Rosellinia Needle Blight on Hemlock

By Ashley Hoppers, Fannin County Extension Coordinator

The fungus that causes Rosellinia needle blight causes hemlock needles to turn brown and mat together.

Over the past few weeks I’ve received numerous calls and emails from clients concerned over the welfare of their beloved hemlock trees. The trees of concern have all been described as having browning needles and dieback. Despite having been treated for the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, these trees do not seem to be doing well. So, what’s causing their needles to turn brown? Upon inspection of these trees, I’ve been able to confirm that the dieback is due to Rosellinia needle blight (caused by the fungus, Rosellinia Herpotrichoides).

Over recent years, Rosellinia needle blight has become more common across North Georgia, especially on young plants in dense groupings along streams or areas where it is wet. Disease incidence increases under cool, wet conditions. Rosellinia needle blight affects conifers, including hemlocks, of all sizes and ages. The disease has been observed killing young trees, but it generally does not kill large, healthy trees. In that vein, it is possible that weakened trees compromised by the hemlock woolly adelgid would be more susceptible if they were to contract Rosellinia needle blight, so be sure to inspect your trees and treat them for the hemlock woolly adelgid if you have not already.

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