Monday, November 24, 2014

Exotic Insect Found in Fayette County

Earlier this month, crape myrtle bark scale was found on a crape myrtle outside of a business on Hwy. 64 in Oakland by a plant inspector with the TDA.  Crape myrtle bark scale is an exotic species first discovered in the U.S. ten years ago in the Dallas, TX, area.  It is believed to be of Asian origin, and has already made its way to Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, and, recently, Tennessee. Last spring many trees in Germantown were infected with the scale, but now we have our first case of it in Fayette County.

The insects attach themselves to the bark and twigs of the crape myrtles and suck the sugary sap just under the bark.  Even though they are very small, about 2 mm long, it is easy to detect their presence.  As the insects feed, they secrete a sugary exudate which causes the fungus sooty mold to grow on the trunk and limbs of the tree. The black, unsightly sooty mold is the thing that a home gardener will notice first, not the insect itself.  After the sooty mold is found, look for the grey to white insects, pink eggs, and crawlers. This is the only scale insect known to attack crape myrtles, and when smashed, you will see pink “blood.” 

So, how do you keep your crape myrtles scale free?  The first thing you should do is make sure you look closely before you purchase a plant for your landscape.  These insects are primarily being spread on newly planted crape myrtles.  If you find them on your tree, there are a couple of things you can do to get control.  You can spray your tree thoroughly with horticultural oil during dormancy.  This is an organic treatment option that can be effective but it must be done while there are no leaves on your tree. The second option is to use an insecticide drench at the base of the tree.  A couple to try are Safari (dinotefuran) and Merit (imidacloprid). No matter what method you use, it is important that you first wash the trunk and branches with a brush and a mild solution of dish soap and water.  This will get rid of some females and egg masses as well as take off some of the ugly black sooty mold. 

If you find this insect on your crape myrtles, feel free to call me at Extension office at 465-5233.


Poster Winners Announced

Elise Kruzan and Payton Downs

Principal Cunningham, Kelly Moynihan, and Mr. Bradford 
Fayette County 4-H is pleased to announce our county winners for this year's poster contest. First place poster was designed by Payton Downs, a 5th grader at Fayette Academy. Second place winner was Kelly Moynihan, a 4th grader at LaGrange Moscow Elementary.  She is shown with her principal Mr. Brian Cunningham and her teacher Mr. Bradford. Third place poster went to Elise Kruzan, a 5th grader at Fayette Academy. These posters will be sent on to the western region poster art contest, but for now they are on display at the Fayette County Library in Somerville.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

To Control This Fungus, Get Out the Insecticide

Sooty mold makes an unattractive addition to any garden.  It appears as a black, often velvety fungal growth on leaves and stems of many different types of landscape plants. So, grab the fungicide? Think again on this one.

 Sooty mold indicates the presence of sucking insects such as soft scale, mealybugs, aphids, and white flies.  The insects suck the plant juices, then expel a stick substance called honeydew.  The sooty mold then grows on the honeydew.  No insects means no honeydew; no honeydew means no sooty mold.  So, the first thing to do is determine what insect you have on your plant.  Then get your infestation under control.  After that, the sooty mold will eventually wear off.  If you don't want to wait for that to happen, you can spray some of it off with a hose, or use some soapy water to wipe it away.  This time of year you could simply wait for the leaves to naturally fall off - if the plant is deciduous.  Then treat the stems and branches with a dormant oil to get rid of any scale that might be on your plant. If you need help identifying your insects and knowing what to spray, just call the Extension office and I will be happy to help! The number is 901-465-5233.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Impersonating an Insect

Usually when a gardener tells me there are holes in the leaves of their plant, I assume insect damage.
However, that is not always the case. Leaves that have been affected with shot hole disease often appear as having been chewed by an insect.  Plants in the Prunus genus such as almond, apricot, cherry, cherry-laurel, peach and plum are candidates for this problem.  Shot hole disease can be caused by a fungus or a bacteria, so treatment will depend on which type you have.  It gets the name from the multiple holes in the leaves, which have a shotgun hole appearance. The symptoms start with leaf spots which eventually dry up and fall off the leaves leaving the holes. Infected leaves can also turn yellow and fall off the tree prematurely.  The disease is usually more of a problem after a wet spring.
shot hole disease on cherry laurel

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Fall Gardening

Didn’t have such a great garden this year?  It could be that your warm season veggies weren’t as happy with the cooler temps and overcast skies we had during this year’s growing season.  However, those same conditions may make for an excellent fall garden.  Fall gardens are usually more difficult to manage because you are fighting with high heat and increased weed and insect pressure. But the heat may not be so bad this time around.  So, before you put away your gardening gloves, you may want to give the following vegetables a shot:


·         Collards-  ‘Georgia’ and ‘Vates’

·         Kale- ‘Dwarf Blue Curled Vates’

·         Lettuce- ‘ Salad Bowl’, ‘Red Sails’, and ‘Black Seeded Simpson’

·         Mustard- ‘Savannah’, Tender Green’, and Southern Giant Curled’

·         Radish- ‘White Icicle’, ‘Cherry Bell’, and ‘Champion’

·         Spinach- ‘Tyee’ and ‘Melody’

·         Turnip Greens- ‘ Seven Top’ and ‘All Top’


All of these should be able to tolerate a frost.  The average first frost dates for Bolivar and Brownsville are Oct. 11 and Oct. 8, respectively.  I have always heard that it is Oct. 15 for Somerville, but I can’t find that information in any University of Tennessee publication, so I couldn’t swear to the accuracy of it.  If you are interested in a fall garden, we have a free publication that lists the foods commonly grown in the fall in Tennessee backyard gardens as well as what varieties to try, how far apart to space the seeds or plants, and how many days it will take before they are ready to harvest.  It also lists the expected yield of each one per 100’ row.  Included is a discussion on how to time planting based on your first frost date.  To get a copy, just call 465-5233 or email and ask for the Fall Vegetable Gardens publication. Better yet, click on this link.  UT Extension offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age, religion, disability or veteran status and is an Equal Opportunity employer.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Top Tomato Named

On Saturday, July 19, the second annual tomato contest was held at Tractor Supply.  Mr. Dave Gincher won the blue ribbon in all three categories. His ‘Caspian Pink’ tomato was the largest in circumference at 14 ¼” as well as the heaviest at just over 1 lb. 4 oz.  The second place tomato in these two categories was a ‘Golden Boy’ grown by Mr. David Lee.  In the tastiest tomato category, Dave Gincher’s ‘Juliette’ tomato took the top slot with a ‘Celebrity’ tomato grown by Joeann Millington in second and Mr. David Lee’s ‘Golden Boy’ coming in third.

David Lee, Joeann Millington, and Dave Gichner


If you want to grow prize winning tomatoes for yourself, follow these tips. 
  • Rotate the location of your tomatoes so that they are planted in the same place four years or more apart.
  • Plant them in a sunny spot.  6 hrs. or more of sun a day is best.
  • Spray a preventative fungicide such as chlorothalonil every 7-10 days.
  • Scout your tomatoes for insects frequently. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

New Exotic May Be Bugging Fayette County Growers Soon

There is a new pest making its way to Fayette County.  You won’t notice when it arrives unless you grow or buy local blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, grapes, cherries, or persimmons.  The new insect is the spotted wing drosophila, a very small fly.  The fly is native to Southeast Asia but arrived in California in 2008.  It has been making itself at home, and now can be found in 27 states, including 20 counties in Tennessee.


The insect attacks small fruit by laying eggs in the berries as they start to ripen.  Each female can lay 350 eggs, and then her daughters are ready to lay all of their eggs 20 days later.  The damage looks like a circular sunken in place in the fruit with a very small larvae inside. When the insect finally arrives in Fayette County, fruit growers will have to spray insecticides weekly to keep their fruit free of extra protein from the fly larvae. 

No one can predict when the spotted wing drosophila will make it to Fayette County, but it could be any time.  In fact, this summer we set up traps in a local blueberry orchard and tested ripe fruit for larvae.  None were found, and the blueberries are growing wonderfully without the use of any insecticide sprays.  That’s good news for now, but it is unfortunately only a matter of time. For more information about how to detect the larvae in your fruit, or any other plant and soil science related question, call the UT Extension office at 901-465-5233. Or, visit or more pictures and information.