Friday, June 26, 2009

Tips to prevent fire ants

(ARA) - Fire ants are very serious and territorial insects. They are not only a nuisance to your property; they can harm you, your children and your pets. Being able to identify fire ants, where they live, treatments for prevention, working with your neighbors for season-long control, and what to do if you are stung are all very important elements to educate yourself and family on in order to be fire ant-free.

Identifying fire ants and their mounds
Fire ants are small insects. They range in size from 1/16 to 1/5 of an inch long and are dark red and brown. A fire ant mound can be identified by its dome-shaped, soil-based structure that forms the upper most part of a fire ant colony. Their mounds can reach up to 12 inches or more in diameter and height and are usually found where water is nearby and the soil is damp.

Fire ants are hard workers and compile loose soil and other contents in the surrounding area to build their mounds. Mounds are typically visible in yards as soil granules form a "mound" shape, but are small and often hidden in grasses, weeds, under rocks and other landscaping. Mounds can pop up almost anywhere, but common places to watch for them include: Lawns and ornamental planting areas, patios, sidewalks, curbs, flower beds, compost piles, under trees and around electrical equipment. Be sure to keep an eye for fire ant mounds when you are enjoying parks, on golf courses, sports fields and any other places you, your kids or pets may walk through or play in.

Two-Step Method
There are two common approaches for effectively controlling fire ants -- broadcast treatments and mound treatments. For large yards and early season prevention, use a broadcast treatment, such as Over 'n Out Fire Ant Killer or AMDRO FireStrike to treat the entire yard. For smaller areas when visible mounds are present, use a mound treatment such as AMDRO Fire Ant Bait directly around individual mounds.

For the most comprehensive control, especially in the case of severe infestation, experts recommend a Two-Step Method using both broadcast and mound treatment. First use a broadcast spreader to treat your entire lawn. Then, treat particularly stubborn mounds you see with AMDRO Fire Ant Bait to eliminate fire ant activity in as little as one week.

It is an ant's nature to pick up food and bring it into the colony to feed to the queen and other ants. Ants believe that bait and AMDRO Fire Ant Bait are food. You feed the worker ants and they in turn, feed the queens. As the bait works, it destroys the colony.

Quite the opposite, but with the same results, fire ants unknowingly pick up Over 'n Out Fire Ant Killer on their bodies, carry it back to the mound, and distribute it to other colony members including the queen. Fire ants ingest it or absorb it through the cuticle, killing them and destroying the colony.

By using both a mound treatment and a broadcast treatment together, you achieve season-long control.

Neighborhood programs
The best way for homeowners to prevent fire ant infestations is to coordinate treatment with neighbors. A coordinated effort among neighbors maximizes the treated area, making it harder for fire ants to find a place to re-colonize. A neighborhood Two-Step Method is the most effective way to control and prevent fire ants for season-long control.

Studies show that areas with diligent neighborhood fire ant control programs, where multiple homeowners treat their lawns at the same time with the same fire ant control product, can reduce the number of active mounds by as much as 96 percent.

Treating fire ant stings
Fire ants bite and then inflict painful stings, which cause small blisters or pustules on the skin, typically up to 24 to 48 hours later. If you, your child, or your pet is stung by fire ants, it is important to follow first aid guidelines and to seek medical attention immediately if there is any suspicion of an allergic reaction. Allergic reactions include severe swelling, shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea, headaches and sweating.

If blisters occur, make sure they are clean and avoid any action that might further irritate the area, such as scratching or rubbing. Rinse the sting area with cold water and gentle soap to avoid infection and elevate the affected area of the body. You can use a cool compress or ice to reduce swelling and alleviate pain and itching.

Summer is the season to enjoy the outdoors. Now is the time to educate yourself and family on fire ants. Being able to identify fire ants and their mounds, proper treatments and handling stings are all extremely important to avoid fire ant infestation. Take time to educate yourself and family and enjoy a fire ant-free season.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Miracle gardening products most likely aren’t

From diet pills to wrinkle cream, if a product sounds too good to be true, chances are it is. Cable television and the Internet are filled with advertisements for wonder products. With gardening being a favorite outdoor activity, many of these so-called miracle products are designed with gardeners in mind.

One example is foolproof pesticides that are supposed to eradicate everything from Japanese beetles to millipedes. And herbicides that will supposedly last for months and eradicate almost any weed.

I recently heard a radio advertisement for a product that claims to kill Japanese beetles 'year-round. Being a Master Gardener, trained by the University of Georgia, I didn’t believe this claim for a minute. Unfortunately, the average homeowner or novice gardener may.

To avoid being burned by the latest revolutionary product, gardeners should read product labels thoroughly.

And it doesn’t hurt to know a little chemistry. Become familiar with potential active ingredients such as glyphosate, bifenthrin, triclopyr, cyfluthrin, imidacloprid, trifluralin and spinosad.

When using a new gardening product, ask yourself a few questions: Are there any potential hazards? Will the product harm pets, wildlife or bees? Can it be safely applied in or near vegetable gardens or near a water source?

Before you purchase a product based on a flashy TV advertisement, do some personal homework. One good resource is the Web site www.GeorgiaTurf.com. Here consumers can find unbiased research-based recommendations.

The Environmental Protection Agency's Web site at www.epa.gov/agriculture/pesticide.html lists the different types of pesticides and their requirements.

For in-depth information on managing pests, see the UGA Pest Management Handbook online at www.ent.uga.edu/pmh/ or contact your local UGA Cooperative Extension Office at 1-800-ASK-UGA1.

Know the facts before getting drawn in by advertising claims that are likely too good to be true.

By Charlie Christian
Georgia Master Gardener

Charlie Christian is a Morgan County Master Gardener and an avid gardener.
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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Prime Planting Options For Tough-To-Grow Areas

(NAPSI)-No matter how green their thumbs, many homeowners have areas in their landscapes that are beyond frustrating. In those dark, rocky or high-traffic areas, nothing will grow.

A key solution for filling in these unfriendly terrains are plants known as ground covers. This type of greenery typically sprawls, spreads, runs or colonizes by reseeding. Some ground covers will only grow in full shade, others thrive in full sun and still others will survive no matter where you grow them.

Ground covers come in a wide range of sizes, colors and textures, adding interest, beauty and uniformity to the garden. And once established, these plants usually require little or no maintenance other than a yearly feeding with a good all-purpose fertilizer.

For example, the new line of Forever & Ever GroundCovers can be an excellent solution to a homeowner's gardening headaches. Available in over 25 unique varieties, these plants can be a great way to give your landscape a boost.

Shady areas under trees or overhangs from the house often get neglected because they don't get enough sunlight for any plant to thrive. Ground covers solve that problem with several options that will grow green and dense in these areas. For instance, vinca minor varieties are short evergreen ground covers that flower throughout the early spring.

There are also several ground covers in this program that offer tough resistance in high-traffic areas where plants would normally get damaged. The Platt's Black Brass Buttons is a smart choice along walkways or in between stepping-stones. Ground covers like these offer a visually interesting way to decorate an entrance to your home other than turfgrass.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the Forever & Ever GroundCover line is that all the distinctive plants in the collection are perennials. This means that home gardeners will be able to enjoy their plantings year after year, without worrying about these tough areas the following spring.

This new ground cover collection offers numerous alternatives to traditional gardening and landscaping. These creeping perennials can help keep home gardeners happy for years to come. Forever & Ever GroundCovers are available at fine home centers and independent garden centers.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Just In Time: A New Mosquito "Killing Machine"

(NAPSI)-Mosquito season is here-and so is the need to protect ourselves from West Nile and other potentially dangerous mosquito-borne diseases.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the West Nile virus alone resulted in more than 1,300 human cases and 44 fatalities across the United States in 2008. Additionally, the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) is warning of a heightened "potential for mosquito infestations," particularly near foreclosed properties with backyard pools.

While that doesn't mean families can't enjoy the great outdoors, it does point to the need to control and prevent mosquitoes in your yard. But before you break out sprays, citronella products and other sometimes inconvenient or ineffective methods, you might want to try something completely new: the Mosquito 86 Pest Eradication System, which works as a simple attachment for your ordinary handheld yard or leaf blower to turn it into an extraordinarily effective "mosquito-killing machine."

Mosquito 86 disperses a proven mosquito-killing solution formulated as Agent E. The mist kills mosquitoes on contact and also creates a protective barrier for longer-term protection when applied to lawns, trees, bushes and gardens. Agent E is EPA-registered in all 50 states.

It takes about 15 minutes to apply the solution to the average yard and it keeps properties mosquito-free for up to three weeks, depending on rainfall. According to the manufacturer's instructions, homeowners should use it right at dusk, when mosquitoes take flight, for maximum effect.

You can also help control the mosquito population by ridding your yard of stagnant water and keeping your grass mowed.

"Keep your home's gutters clean and cut back long brush and overgrown shrubs, too," says Dean Hill, a landscape designer and host of DIY Network's "Grounds for Improvement." "That way, the mosquitoes have no place to hide."

For more information, visit www.mosquito86.com.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Expert tips for creating a backyard habitat for colorful summer birds

NF Note: Fayette County is blessed to have so much green space and citizens who are environmentally conscious. Spend some time enticing more wildlife to your backyard. It's a great way to spend the end of the day- just watching the birds and hearing their songs.

(ARA) - Whether city or country, bird watching is fun and you can create an environment for it in your own backyard in less time than you think. Summer is a great time to get started because the most colorful birds with beautiful songs are around to enhance your outdoor environment.

"Late May, June and July are great times to bird watch because lots of birds are nesting," says John Robinson, chief ornithologist and manager of Scotts Birding Center of Excellence. He goes on to explain that the colorful males are displaying their plumage to attract the females so you can see plenty of beautiful species. In addition, once the baby birds are old enough to leave the nest, the mother will show them where food is, making your backyard feeder a much-appreciated resource.

Robinson says there are three components to making your backyard an oasis for feathered friends:

1. Vegetation provides shelter
Having a variety of shrubs and trees in your yard makes it bird friendly. Birds use trees, shrubs and plants to hide from both the elements and their natural predators, as well as to roost or nest in. Additionally, the right types of vegetation also provide fruit or seeds for the birds to eat.

White pine, arborvitae, spruce, juniper, cedar, holly and other broadleaf and needle evergreens provide essential protection all year as well as food. Hedges of serviceberry or viburnum provide food, shelter and nesting spots. Flowers like columbine and trumpet vine attract hummingbirds with their sweet nectar.

2. Quality food nourishes
Not all bird food is created equal. Look for blends that were researched in the field and created to attract the types of birds you want to see in your backyard. Avoid filler material like milo, wheat or cracked corn.

To attract colorful birds, Robinson recommends Scotts Songbird Selections Colorful Bird Blend, which was developed by ornithologists. This mix is made from 10 high-quality ingredients that are blended in a specific ratio designed to attract more colorful birds. Results may vary by region and/or season, but Colorful Bird Blend has been proven to attract up to twice as many than with ordinary wild bird food. The mix is also less attractive to blackbirds, grackles and cowbirds, which are often considered a nuisance.

Another good option is Scotts Songbird Selections Wild Finch & Small Songbird Blend, which was scientifically mixed to attract goldfinches. Field research done across the country by Robinson, his team, and university partners, shows that while results may vary by region and/or season, this mix can attract up to two times the amount of finches as other types of ordinary wild bird food. Additionally, it also attracts other interesting small birds such as nuthatches, chickadees and native sparrows.

3. Water quenches thirst
Putting out a birdbath, especially one with a trickle or fountain, makes your garden a very popular spot. Whether you put a decorative birdbath in your backyard or simply place a large clay saucer on the ground or on top of a tree stump, make sure it has a rough surface and a shallow bowl. If you have a pond or stream, place flat rocks in them for bird perches.

Birds require fresh water, so clean birdbaths often and replace water every couple of days.

For more information and additional ideas on how to create a bird habitat in your own backyard, visit www.scottswildbirdfood.com.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Squirrel-Slip: A Real "Downer" for Squirrels

Note: I have a number of bird feeders in the yard. I've tried every trick imaginable to keep pesky squirrels from stealing the bird feed. I don't mind if they take what falls on the ground, but I hate it when they empty the feeder and keep the birds away. The only thing I haven't tried yet is one of those bird feeders that is pressure sensitive --- when a squirrel puts its weight on the bar it swirls around and tosses them off. They're not cheap, and with my luck it'd throw the silly squirrel right through one of my windows ;-) The following product looks interesting and is probably worth a try if you have a certain type of feeder. Most of my feeders hang from trees and are easily assessable to squirrels (yep, I know, why am I complaining if I'm tempting them?). One thing I have used which seems to do fairly well is a prepared pepper mix that I stir into the seeds. Problem is that it washes away with the first rain, then the squirrels are back. OK, 'nuff about MY squirrels, here's a solution for some of you who hang their feeders properly :

From backyards across the country, the one steady complaint of bird lovers is that no matter what they try, they can’t keep squirrels away from feeders; even feeders purported to be “squirrel-proof.”

So, what’s a bird lover to do when the pesky, bushy tailed creature comes looking for food? One company heard the call and took action. Kama Global, LLC, a specialty ingredients company for the cosmetics industry, developed Squirrel-Slip™—an eco-friendly, natural, safe, biodegradable product made from a blend of vegetable-based ingredients. Squirrel-Slip is not harmful to birds, squirrels, or the environment and is effective in all types of weather and temperature.

Anthony Savastano, president of Kama Global, said that Squirrel-Slip is the perfect solution to a frustrating situation. “After applying Squirrel-Slip to a feeder pole,” says Savastano, “squirrels get the surprise of their life. When they jump onto the pole, they immediately lose their grip, slide down, and slip off. After a few attempts, they simply give up and feed off the ground.”

Belinda Cook of Johns Creek, Georgia, whose property is registered with the Audubon Society as a wildlife sanctuary, says she is opposed to applying any type of petroleum-based products on her feeder poles because of the harmful effects to wildlife.

“The squirrels on my property,” says Cook, “were insatiable, diligent, and annoyingly persistent. They consumed every bit of bird food from all my feeders. With Squirrel-Slip, I now have a win-win situation all around. The birds feed peacefully, the squirrels feed off the seeds that fall to the ground, and the environment is protected.”

Craig Lampani of Chicopee, MA, had all but given up with bird feeders on his property. “Since using Squirrel-Slip, I now get to enjoy the birds and watch the squirrels slide down the poles. It’s entertainment at all levels! Squirrel-Slip works like a charm!” he says.

Squirrel-Slip can be found at Wild Bird Centers, Wild Birds Unlimited, and other retail stores where birdseed and feeders are sold.
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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Snakes of Summer Cause for Awareness, Not Fear

NF Note: As Peachtree City citizens start spending more time on the golf cart paths this summer, occasional cries of "snake" echo in the distance. Take time and learn about the snakes in Fayette County. Of course, my first advice is to "stay away from the snake."

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What to do when you see a snake in your yard:


1. Never attempt to handle any kind of snake. If you are unsure of the snake’s identification, keep your distance

2. A venomous snake will most often have a triangular-shaped head as well as elliptical pupils similar to cats’ eyes, rather than round ones.

3. Snakes are important predators that feed on rodents, insects and even other snakes. There is no need to fear a snake in your yard. Simply give them the space they need.

4. Despite the relatively low level of danger posed by venomous snakes many people consider their fear justification for killing snakes. In Georgia it is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and a year in jail to possess or kill many of nongame wildlife species, including non-venomous snakes (O.C.G.A. §27-1-28).


As temperatures rise don’t be surprised if you see more late-afternoon activity on your sidewalks and driveways, particularly of the slithering variety. Not to worry, though: Snakes can be a homeowner’s best friends, as long as you remember a few important tips.

First, snakes are best left alone. Most snake bites occur when a person tries to handle or corner a snake, prompting the animal to defend itself.

Second, of the 41 snake species known in Georgia, only six are venomous. Although telling some species apart can be difficult, becoming familiar with the colors and patterns of venomous species can enable even novices to determine whether a snake is venomous or not, providing peace of mind.

The Georgia Wildlife Resources Division will soon release “Venomous Snakes of Georgia,” a new publication intended to help the public identify venomous snakes and understand their natural roles. Other resources include the brochure “Is it a Water Moccasin?” (go to www.georgiawildlife.com; click “Conservation” and look under “Georgia Animals & Plants”) and a guide to Georgia and South Carolina snakes at www.uga.edu/srelherp/snakes/index.htm . There is also the excellent reference “Amphibians and Reptiles of Georgia” released last year by the University of Georgia Press (www.ugapress.uga.edu/).

Non-venomous snakes such as the scarlet kingsnake and eastern hognose are sometimes confused with their venomous counterparts. Venomous snakes are often identified by their triangular-shaped head. However, many snake species flatten their head when threatened. Use caution when approaching any snake, and snakes in the wild should only be handled by an experienced person and after proper identification.

As reptiles, snakes are cold-blooded and rely on external sources to heat their bodies. In the fall and winter, you are more likely to see them warming themselves on rocks, sidewalks and paved roads. During summer, many snakes avoid open areas during the hottest part of the day and may become much more active during the evening.

About half of Georgia’s snake species give live birth. The young of all others are born from eggs, hatching within 40-80 days, depending on the species.

Newborn snakes can be seen from mid-summer to fall. Also, as the days grow hotter, many snakes will leave their usual hiding spots looking for prey that may be found close to dwindling water sources.

Adults of many of Georgia’s smaller snake species are often mistakenly assumed to be newborns. Although snakes in the state range from the eastern indigo, with recorded lengths up to 8 feet, 4 inches, to the crowned snake, which grows only 13 inches long, several non-venomous species commonly found in residential areas are small. These include worm, ringneck and brown snakes, which each average about 12 inches in length as adults.

All snakes are an essential part of Georgia’s wildlife resources. Fear or negative attitudes about snakes often stem from a lack of knowledge of their habits and role in the ecosystem. The majority of snakes found throughout the state are non-venomous, harmless and usually beneficial to man. A greater understanding of their importance as predator and prey often brings a greater appreciation for these admittedly not so “warm and fuzzy” animals with which we share our yards, gardens and forests.

If you spot a venomous snake in an area where it represents a danger to children or pets, you can contact Wildlife Resources for a list of private wildlife removal specialists.

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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Reflecting Your Personality with Outdoor Lighting

Tips for highlighting spring in bloom

Liz Bowen loves to garden in the back yard of her Fayetteville home. Her cobblestone circular path is lined with seasonal flowers and decorative shrubbery. The pièce de résistance is the two handsome arbors that provide protective archways adorned with creeping vines.

Enjoying the season of spring in bloom from her back window at night allows Bowen to relax and meditate upon the beauty of her yard. Glowing flowers and reflective lighting on the 8 foot high arbors expands her living space into the evening hours and safety lights guide her down the circular path without breaking the atmosphere of serene beauty.

In order to create an outdoor evening living space that reflects your garden’s beauty here are some tips you can apply that can enhance the mood and attractiveness of your flora.

  • Create a low and even glow on flowers and shrubbery that is dim but light enough to identify the color, shape and fullness of the variety of seasonal foliage that accents the property
  • Keep lighted pathways soft enough to blend into and augment the entire lighting portrait but spaced evenly enough to provide an invitation to take a leisurely stroll through the garden
  • Up lighting from the base of a tree or tall architectural feature such as a pergola can add a sense of sky and height making a smaller yard appear larger
  • Create a focal point in the yard by accenting a key feature or floral area with higher intensity lighting to draw the eye and direct it to that feature

Author Jason Paulk, owner of Nite Time Decor by Paulk Outdoors located in Locust Grove, has provided landscaping, outdoor lighting and outdoor holiday decorating services to the community since 2002. For more information visit www.nitetimedecor.com or call 678-583-4455.

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The Springer Dog Exerciser Helps You and Your Dog Stay Fit

NF Note: Dogs are our constant companions when either running or using the golf cart on the paths of Peachtree City. This sounds like it could make life easier as some of the larger dogs are trained to run with their owners.

(BUSINESS WIRE)--If you want a safe way to take your dog with you on bike rides, the Springer dog exerciser might be the perfect answer.

Available through Springer America (http://www.springeramerica.com), the Springer is a fun, inexpensive way to stay active with your best friend beside you. Springer America President Kjell Ottesen says, “Thanks to recent improvements, the Springer fits most regular, touring and mountain bikes and works with more dogs than ever -- and is still fast and easy to install.”

“My dogs especially love riding with me through greenways and parks. Just like people, they get bored following the same routes, so I take them to new places around town to let them smell different scents,” says Catherine “Jake” Jacobson, owner of Team Happy Dog, a professional dog walker in Raleigh, NC. She bikes daily to keep her high-energy charges fit, from rat terriers to Rhodesian Ridgebacks to labs, golden retrievers and Boston terriers.

To help with the initial adjustment, walk beside your bike with the dog attached to the Springer arm for a few minutes. According to Jacobson, “90% of my dogs love the Springer right from the beginning.”

Used by over 600,000 bicyclists, mushers and K9 corps worldwide, the Springer features a low-mounted, heavy-duty steel spring to absorb up to 90% of the force of a dog’s unexpected tugs, allowing bike riders to keep their balance, while protecting their pets from traffic, pedals and wheels. The patented safety release frees the dog instantly if he gets caught around a tree or hydrant.

Professional Norwegian musher Frode Dahl has relied on the Springer for 17 years to keep his Pointer and Vorster breeds in peak shape. Dahl says, “Even my retired world champion sled dogs are still quite powerful. Without the Springer, it would be hard to keep them conditioned. Just walking these dogs is not adequate.”

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