The late-spring sun is cranking up the heat. It’s hard to believe the long, cold winteris still causing problems in Georgia landscapes.”We’ve had a lot of Botrytis blight in landscape plants this spring,” saidJean Williams-Woodward, a plant pathologist with the University of Georgia ExtensionService.Botrytis blight is caused by a fungus, Botrytis cinerea, she said. Commonlyknown as “gray mold,” it’s the most common pathogen in any greenhouse, nurseryor landscape. It attacks any aboveground part of many vegetable and landscape plants.”Botrytis is always a problem for any flowering plant,” Williams-Woodwardsaid. “The problem this spring has been mostly in bedding plants. It hasn’t been toobad in woody ornamentals.”The problem started, she said, in the state’s greenhouses, mostly because of the winterthat didn’t want to end.”Greenhouse growers had all these bedding plants ready to go, but it was still toocold,” Williams-Woodward said. “They couldn’t sell them.”Waiting for spring sales to rev up, growers wound up having to hold the plants a monthlonger than they normally would have. And the plants suffered from having to be held solong. Some flowers dropped off, and leaves yellowed.Now the plants are in the landscape, where Botrytis is easier to control because theplants are more spread out. But it’s still something to contend with.Because the injured and yellowing tissues are more vulnerable, Williams-Woodward saidBotrytis blight could be more of a problem in landscapes this year.Botrytis attacks these old flowers and leaves and other weak tissues first, she said.Then it spreads into healthy tissue. On bedding plants, Botrytis often causes leaf spotswhen infected flowers drop onto leaves. It’s most active under wet conditions and when thehumidity is high and the air is stagnant.Williams-Woodward said the fungus is easy to identify. With a magnifying glass, andoften without it, she said, you can see a gray-brown web and grape-like clusters of sporeson infected tissues.”The spores are dry and are easily dispersed by air movement,” she said.”Overhead watering and rain disperse the spores, too. The force of the water dropletlanding on a leaf creates a shock wave that dislodges the spores into the air.”Splashing water droplets can carry the spores to nearby plants, too.”Pick up a plant with Botrytis sometime and gently flick the infected plantpart,” she said. “A cloud of spores can usually be seen floating in the airabove the plant.”Controlling Botrytis in the landscape takes a little cleaning up, using a fungicide andmaybe changing a few things around your plants.”Prune dead and injured stems from cold-damaged plants,” Williams-Woodwardsaid. “Clean the ground (and the inside of pots) of dead, fallen leaf litter. Andremove yellowing leaves from the base of plants.”People who pay regular attention to their plants can prevent the spread of the fungus.Picking off and discarding spent flowers and yellowing leaves as they show up will oftenkeep plants healthy.You may need to space your plants farther apart, too, to allow for better aircirculation. If Botrytis is a problem, don’t use overhead irrigation, she said.Because the fungal spores spread around so easily, fungicides can be important incontrolling Botrytis.”Spray a protective fungicide after the plants are free of blighted tissue,”Williams-Woodward said. “Consult your county agent to find out which fungicide to usefor a particular plant.”
By Brad HaireUniversity of GeorgiaThey’ve changed how and where people live. They influence law and how people are governed. And as freer global trade forces the world into closer contact, plant diseases will continue to play a major role, says a University of Georgia expert.By knowing a little history and how these diseases shape society now, we can prevent them from misshaping our future, says Ron Walcott, a plant pathologist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.”Plant diseases in some way have affected virtually everyone in the world,” said Walcott, who teaches a UGA course in Athens, Ga., on the relationship between plant diseases and society.Sparks lawFor example, he said, a nasty, unnoticed Asian pathogen caused a disease that virtually wiped out the American chestnut tree around the turn of the 20th century. The pathogen found its way into the country through normal trade.Until then, American chestnut trees were common nut-bearing trees all over the United States. They haven’t recovered. “Chestnut blight is still here,” Walcott said.As a result of the disease, though, the Plant Protection and Quarantine Act of 1912 was enacted.Sparks migrationsPlant diseases have contributed to massive human migrations. And some say they’ve played a major role in regulating human populations, Walcott said.The most classic case of these mass migrations, he said, can be attributed to a potato disease that ravaged Ireland in 1845. At that time, the potato was the dominant food source for an Irish population that was growing out of control.Because so much could be grown on few acres, the average Irish man ate about 12 pounds of potatoes each day. “They also produced corn, pigs and other agriculture products,” he said. “But these products were used to pay the rent on the land and exported. Potato was by far the major food source.”A growing population that depends on one type of food spells trouble. Ideal weather conditions allowed a fungus to wipe out the Irish potato crop, causing an immediate famine and exodus. (Many of those Irish immigrants landed in Georgia.)But it wasn’t just the famine that caused the great Irish exodus. Due to superstition and an ignorance of plant diseases at the time, Walcott said, many thought they could do nothing else but leave.A plant disease caused a less known, but some say much worse, famine and exodus in India during World War II, he said.India wanted independence from Britain at the time. Tensions were high. Then Japan, Britain’s war enemy, began to advance on the region.The main food source for the Bengal region of India was rice. But a rice disease wiped out the crop. Coupled with war tensions, the disease contributed to the death or exodus of 2 million to 4 million Indians, he said.Sparks debate over rightsPlant diseases still affect us. One disease has sparked a debate over basic citizens’ rights in Florida.Citrus canker has badgered the Florida citrus industry since 1910. There is no cure. It was thought to be eradicated several times, only to come back stronger, most recently in 1995.To combat the spread, the state government, by law, can remove and destroy suspect trees from private property. This has upset many, particularly around the Miami citrus-growing area.”This disease has really brought to the fore, constitutionally, what right the government has to take over personal property for the greater good of the society,” he said.Walcott’s research focuses mainly on the understanding, causes and prevention of seed-borne diseases. He centers on a watermelon disease that has upset relations and caused lawsuits between seed companies and growers in South Carolina, Florida and Georgia.The most efficient way diseases can travel is through seed. Georgia farmers get much of their seed for crops from out-of-state.
By George E. BoyhanUniversity of GeorgiaIt doesn’t feel like it now, but the growing season is quicklycoming to an end. If you want to keep growing vegetables throughthe winter, you may want to look into a greenhouse.A greenhouse may sound expensive, but the principles behind itcan be anything from a sunny window to a cold frame to afull-fledged, heated greenhouse. All can be used to extend yourgrowing season for vegetables.Of course, if you live in south Georgia, you can still grow manyvegetables through the winter in your garden. This would includecrops like onions, collards, cabbage, broccoli, carrots and peas.All of these can stand very cold weather, including some frost.A sunny, south-facing window can be an ideal place to grow a fewherbs or leafy greens. For an even better environment, you maywant to install a greenhouse window that extends from the side ofthe house. This maximizes the amount of sun the plants get whileremaining warm at night and allowing for convenient access.Tasty treatsFresh leafy greens or herbs can be tasty treats during thewinter. Herbs in which the leaves are harvested are best. Thosein which you harvest the roots or flowers are harder to growunder these conditions.A cold frame is another low-cost greenhouse environment you maywant to consider. This is an enclosed, unheated space, usually nolarger than 1 to 2 feet high. It’s usually covered with plasticor glass and relies on the sun to warm it during the day.At night, it may drop back to ambient nighttime temperatures.Large stones or a container of water can help keep nighttemperatures up by releasing heat accumulated during the day.During sunny days, these enclosures can get quite hot even inwinter, so you may have to vent them during the sunniestparts of the day.VentingVenting can be done manually or with a passive, solar-poweredventing device. These devices will open a vent when heated andare adjustable to your temperature requirements.For even greater temperature control, these cold frames can beheated. Electric heating mats will add bottom heat to your plantsand seedlings and help prevent cold injury on the coldest nights.Finally, for the Cadillac approach, get a greenhouse. These canbe inexpensive wood or PVC structures covered with plastic. Orthey can be glass-enclosed, sophisticated environments that caneven be an extension of your home.Many companies manufacture home greenhouses of various designsthat can be free-standing or attached. Sunrooms that extend yourliving space are really nothing more than greenhouses. Theserooms not only give you space for growing plants but can extendthe heated square feet of your home, adding considerable value toyour investment.Unheated or heatedGreenhouses can be unheated or heated, but all should have somemethod of venting during warm, sunny days. Many vegetables can begrown in such a structure.If it’s unheated, cool-season vegetables such as lettuce,spinach, cabbage and broccoli will do well, and the enclosurewill protect them on the coldest nights while accelerating growthwith the heat from the sun on warm, sunny days.With a fully heated and vented greenhouse, the sky’s the limit.Do you want fresh tomatoes or cucumbers in the winter? You cangrow them in such a structure.Space is usually limited, so you may want to look for smallerplant types, like short-vine cantaloupes or patio tomatoes.Trellising is a good way to maximize the space, too. In fact,commercial greenhouse vegetable production relies heavily ontrellising to produce quality tomatoes, pepper, cucumbers, etc.Nothing beats walking into a warm, moist greenhouse in thewinter. This can be a wonderful hobby with endless hours ofenjoyment, and vegetable production can be just a small part ofthe possibilities.(George Boyhan is an Extension Service horticulturist with theUniversity of Georgia College of Agricultural and EnvironmentalSciences.)
These are the most important safeguards you can use in thegarden. Keep in mind, though, that food safety begins in thegarden but doesn’t end there.In the kitchenWhen you prepare fruits and veggies to eat, don’t forget to usethe kitchen faucet. Hand-scrub firm produce such as apples,pears, tomatoes and bell peppers under running water.Spray root vegetables and tubers with water, scrub them with avegetable brush and then rinse them.Wash vegetables with rinds, such as watermelons and cantaloupes,too. If the surface isn’t clean, you can transfer bacteria to theflesh when you cut them.No one should get sick from eating produce from your garden. Youcan make sure they won’t by using good sanitation and followingsound gardening practices.Enjoy your garden produce. But remember, the best food safety inthe world can’t protect you from the ills of overindulgence.(Darbie Granberry is an Extension Service horticulturist withthe University of Georgia College of Agricultural andEnvironmental Sciences.) Use good personal hygiene.Don’t apply manure to your garden.Keep animals out of your garden.Use only drinking-quality water for irrigation.Use clean containers when you harvest. By Darbie GranberryUniversity of GeorgiaAlmost anything can make us sick, including pure water, if weconsume too much at one time. But what about the seriousillnesses we normally call “food poisoning”?The biggest fear has always been getting food poisoning frommeats. In the past few years, though, we’ve found that improperlygrown, packed or shipped fresh fruits and vegetables can lead toserious illness, too.Can vegetables from our own gardens make us sick? Possibly, ifthey’re contaminated with human pathogens such as hepatitis A,Salmonella and E. coli 0157:H7.The good news is that the chance of anyone in the United Statesgetting sick from garden vegetables is remote. Human pathogensdon’t occur naturally on vegetables.Safety keySo how do people sometimes get sick from eating produce?Contamination, contamination, contamination.Whenever produce is grown, packed or shipped under poor sanitaryconditions, there’s always the chance it will be contaminated andbecome a health hazard.The November 2003 outbreak of hepatitis A is a prime example.Green onions harboring the hepatitis virus caused more than 600illnesses and three deaths in Pennsylvania.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates thereare 76 million foodborne illnesses a year in the United States.Every year more than 325,000 people are hospitalized and 5,000people die from eating contaminated food.As you might guess, the greatest concern is for the fruits andvegetables you eat raw as snacks and in salads. Some scientistslink nearly as many foodborne illness cases to produce as topoultry, beef and fish combined.Simple stepsTo make sure no one gets sick from eating fruits and vegetablesfrom your garden:
By Sharon OmahenUniversity of GeorgiaUniversity of Georgia scientists have developed a method foreliminating the harmful E. coli O157:H7 pathogen in cattlewatering troughs.An estimated 73,000 cases of E. coli O157:H7 in humans arereported each year in the United States. Studies have shown thatthe pathogen can be transferred from one cow to another throughthe animals’ drinking water. Safer, but not as tastyHe found that the cows drank 19 liters per day of the lactic acidwater, compared to 30 liters per day of nontreated water.”They’ll drink the treated water, but obviously, they’rereluctant to drink it,” he said. “So it’s not suited forcontinuous feeding.”West said cows could survive on the reduced water intake. Butwhen a cow’s water or feed intake is reduced, her growth and milkproduction also decline.To keep from reducing cows’ water intake, the scientistsrecommend farmers periodically treat their water tanks with thechemical treatment.”A farmer could treat his tanks for 20 minutes and basicallysanitize his watering system,” Doyle said. “He could treat theholding tanks and the troughs, then flush and refill them withclean water. This would kill the organism and then provide freshwater for the animals.”Adding the chemical to his cattle’s water supply would be anadded task and, for now, a voluntary action for the farmer, Doylesaid. Searching for the best controlThe best treatments were a combination of lactic acid, acidiccalcium sulfate and caprylic acid and another combination oflactic acid, acidic calcium sulfate and butyric acid.”Both treatments include a base chemical, acidified calciumsulfate, or Safe2O,” Doyle said. “This chemical has avery lowpH, less than 2, which makes it very acidic.”Doyle’s laboratory studies found that the two chemicalformulations not only eliminated E. coli O157:H7, but also killedother enterohemorrhagic E. coli which are related to E. coliO157:H7.But what do the cows think of this new power-drink? UGA animalscientist Joe West fed the treated water to a group of test cows.”We use Calan doors, which are electronically controlled doors,”he said. “Each cow has a transponder that works as the door’skey.”In this way, West can monitor how much water a cow trulyconsumes. For the study, he measured how much water the cowsdrank over seven days and compared that to what theynormally drink. Ready when needed”Until someone down the line gets serious about controlling E.coli at the source, this is just a control method available tofarmers,” he said. “If on-farm controls should be mandated, wehave a treatment available that will work.”Adding the chemicals to cattle drinking water shouldn’t becost-prohibitive for farmers.”The material is fairly dilute, and we’ve determined that a verydilute combination can still be effective” Doyle said. Contaminating drinking water”Cattle drinking water is often contaminated with cud (rumencontent),” said Michael Doyle, a UGA microbiologist and directorof the Center for Food Safety in Griffin, Ga. “Cattle water canalso have manure in it, and together, this leads to E. colicontamination.”In the past, disinfectants like chlorine have been ineffective atremoving E. coli O157:H7 from cattle drinking water. With fundingfrom the American Meat Institute Foundation, Doyle led a projectthat focused on identifying practical treatments for eliminatingE. coli O157:H7 in cattle drinking water.The UGA scientists first screened various chemicals in searchof an effective control.”We knew right away that chlorine and ozone treatments had littleto no effect,” Doyle said. “But we were able to ultimatelyidentify two chemical combinations that are highly effective.”
Volume XXXIIINumber 1Page 17 By Bodie PennisiUniversity of Georgia For most people, the word cranesbill triggers thoughts of a long-legged bird with a long beak wading in a swamp. But for gardeners, cranesbill also refers to a type of perennial geranium prized for its toughness and long bloom period. The plant gets it name from the long, slender beak-like fruit produced after flowering.Today, cranesbill geraniums are among the hottest plants in the landscape industry, following the introduction of one called Rozanne in 2001. Rozanne cranesbill hardy geranium is so hot, in fact, that it was chosen the 2008 Georgia Gold Medal winner for herbaceous perennials.Gardeners and landscapers throughout the Southeast are singing the praises of this exciting new plant, calling it a floral blockbuster and an exceptional performer, even in the unrelenting summer heat and humidity of the Southeast. Rozanne grows in a well-rounded mound to a height of 18 to 20 inches. From late May until frost, the plant produces an abundance of blue-violet flowers with pale centers. Its attractive, deeply lobed foliage turns brownish red in the fall. Plant cranesbill in well-drained, amended soil and keep in full sun to lightly shaded sites. Fertilize at planting time with a complete granular fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, 16-4-8 or 12-4-8, and repeat one to two additional times during the growing season. The plant is a vigorous grower and is likely to decline in bloom during midsummer when the sprawling foliage competes for the plant’s energy. At that time, pruning will encourage new growth and create more flowers to brighten the fall landscape. After the first frost, cut back the plant and mulch it with leaves to provide a warm winter rest. Use Rozanne cranesbill hardy geranium in perennial borders, rock gardens or decorative containers. The plant grows best in zones 5 to 8.
The highest monthly total from National Weather Service reporting stations was 6.87 inches in Atlanta (2.92 inches above normal). The lowest was in Augusta at 1.36 inches (1.71 inches below normal). Valdosta received 4.54 inches (1.30 inches above normal), Macon 4.31 inches (1.33 inches above normal), Athens 5.89 inches (2.03 inches above normal), Brunswick 1.41 inches (1.28 inches below normal), Columbus 5.83 inches (2.21 inches above normal), Savannah 3.88 inches (.27 inch above normal) and Alma 3.81 inches (.71 inch above normal). Georgia was a hot and wet place to live in May.In Atlanta, the monthly average temperature was 73.4 degrees F (3.6 degrees above normal), in Athens 72.5 degrees (3.4 degrees above normal), Columbus 75.2 degrees (2.9 degrees above normal), Macon 74.4 degrees (3.4 above normal), Savannah 75.9 degrees (3.1 degrees above normal), Brunswick 76.7 degrees (3 degrees above normal), Alma 75.9 degrees (2.1 degrees above normal), Valdosta 77.7 degrees (5 degrees above normal) and Augusta 74.2 degrees (3.7 degrees above normal). 1906 record broken in AugustaRecord high minimum temperatures were set in Savannah and Augusta May 2. The 72 degrees in Savannah beat the old record of 71 degrees set in 2002, and the 70 degree measurement in Augusta surpassed the old record of 69 degrees set in 1906. Augusta also tied its daily high temperature May 2 with 94 degrees.Most of the state received above-normal rainfall, too. However, a few areas along the coast and near Augusta were below normal. Atlanta gets most May rainfall Record daily rainfalls were set in Atlanta, Athens and Columbus May 3. Atlanta received 2.81 inches, surpassing its old record of 2.07 inches set in 1922. Athens received 3.07 inches, exceeding its old record of 1.63 inches set in 1905. Columbus received 4.75 inches, surpassing its old record of 4.29 inches set in 1957.The highest single-day rainfall from the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network stations was 5.24 inches in Bibb County May 4. An observer in Cobb County received 5.03 inches May 3. The highest monthly rainfall total was 11.23 inches from an observer northwest of Ellijay. Several other observers at scattered locations in northern Georgia reported over 9 inches for the month.There were no tornadoes reported. However, severe weather hit somewhere in the state on 15 separate days. Numerous reports of hail and high winds were received May 21, with heavy roof damage to a nursing home observed in Houston County. A 5-minute storm of golf ball-sized hail covered the ground in Charlton County at Stephen Foster State Park. May 28, strong storms delayed flights at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport and caused numerous power outages.Storms stop trains and planesLightning caused damage to the MARTA east-west tracks in Atlanta May 3 during the heavy rain, leading to delays of several hours as trains were rerouted to alternate tracks.The first confirmed 2010 case of West Nile Virus in Georgia led public health officials to worry that favorable conditions for development of the carrier mosquito could lead to more cases in the peak summer season July through September.The wet conditions improved soil moisture levels. Crop planting in most areas proceeded rapidly. Peach farmers reported that the cold winter, coupled with the mild spring, has led to a bumper crop. The last time this happened was six years ago.
Homeowners often call their Extension office after finding a hornets’ nest that is the size of a basketball. A nest this size wasn’t built overnight, and you’ve likely been living next to this colony all summer. I can sympathize with not wanting your closest neighbors to be a colony of hornets. However, I would also argue that if they haven’t bothered you by late summer, why worry about them now? The best course of action is to warn your family and neighbors about the nest and avoid contact. Mark the nested tree with caution tape to remind everyone to be extra cautious. Hornets are often attracted to porch lights. If they are becoming a nuisance, turn off your porch light and only use it when necessary. This is the time of year that Extension agents receive numerous calls about yellow jackets, hornets and how to control them. Many folks don’t know the difference between the various types of hornets and yellow jackets we have in Georgia. The confusion is understandable, considering yellow jackets, wasps and hornets are all in the Vespidae family, and they all make their home in the state. Even within the same species individual wasps, hornets and yellow jackets have varying color patterns, depending on whether they are a male, a worker or a queen. To add to the confusion, many people use the terms hornet and yellow jacket interchangeably. For example, the bald-faced hornet is actually a type of yellow jacket.In general, the term hornet is used for species that nest above ground, and the term yellow jacket is used for those that make nests in the ground. Colonies start each spring when a single queen, who mated the previous fall and then overwintered in the soil or leaf litter — starts a nest. The nest is made of horizontal combs completely surrounded by a paper envelope made of tiny bits of wood fiber that are chewed into a paper-like pulp. Wasps and hornets use a new nest every year.During the summer months, colonies rapidly increases in size and may reach several hundred workers by September. In late fall, new queens emerge from the colony, mate, and seek shelter for the winter. The old founder queen dies, and as winter arrives, the remaining colony also dies. Wasps and hornets don’t reuse the same nest the following year.Hornets Hornets will build their nests from the bark of thin-barked trees, like crepe myrtles or fig bushes, for nest building. This is generally not harmful to trees and shrubs, but may girdle small branches and cause some dieback. It is possible to treat and kill a wasp or hornet nest with pesticides. However, the odds of getting stung during the process are fairly high. If you leave the nest alone, your chances of getting stung are much less likely than if you try to tackle the problem yourself. The colony will die as winter approaches so leaving the colony alone late in the season is a practical solution the problem. They’re going to die soon anyway.Remember, hornets and wasps perform a valuable service in controlling many other insects that attack cultivated and ornamental plants.Yellow jacketsWhen dealing with ground-nesting yellow jackets, sometimes you have to take action — especially when you encounter them when mowing the lawn. Any attempt to destroy nests should be done in the late evening, when nest activity is at a minimum. Even at night, any disturbance will result in instant activity by the colony. Work cautiously, but quickly, and wear protective clothing. Yellow jackets are attracted to light, so do not hold a flashlight while applying an insecticide to a nest. A quick knockdown, jet-aerosol spray insecticide is preferred because yellow jackets may fly out to defend the colony. Direct the insecticide dispenser nozzle toward the nest entrance for best control. These spray compounds, which contain highly volatile solvents mixed with resmethrin, pyrethrins, carbamates or some of the newer pyrethroids, produce almost instant knockdown for wasps hit. Check the colony entrance the next day for activity, and reapply again if necessary. Sometimes, the location of the ground nest will make it hard to direct insecticide into the nest’s entrance. In this case, gently apply a dust type insecticide containing the active ingredient carbaryl to the nest opening. Yellow jackets will track the dust inside the colony over the course of several days and eventually the entire colony will die. As with all pesticides, read and follow all labeled application rates and safety precautions.For more information about hornets and yellow jackets, search for Bulletin 1412: Management of Pest Insects In and Around the Home at pubs.caes.uga.edu.
The Southeastern Citrus Expo will be held on the University of Georgia Tifton Campus this Saturday, Nov. 15, beginning at 9 a.m.The daylong event will educate farmers and backyard growers on growing citrus fruits. UGA Extension economist Greg Fonsah will discuss growing bananas, and UGA small fruits specialist Erick Smith will cover potassium’s importance in citrus plants. Wayne Hanna, a scientist based on the UGA Tifton Campus, will lead a tour of research plots on the Tifton Campus, where he studies different citrus fruits and the effectiveness of growing them in south Georgia.“If a homeowner wants to grow a lemon, tangerine or a grapefruit in their backyard, say in Cordele, from a straight line across the United States, they should be able to grow it in their backyard,” said Hanna. “That’s my goal.”While citrus fruits primarily grow in Florida, south Georgians are starting to plant citrus trees — lemons, grapefruit or tangerines. “There’s a tremendous amount of interest,” Hanna said. “A couple of years ago, I had the [Southeastern Citrus] Expo here, and I was interviewed on the local television station. My gosh, you couldn’t have imagined the emails and phone calls I got after that. It’s amazing how many people there are here in Tifton who are growing citrus in their backyard.”The meeting will be held at National Environmentally Sound Production Agricultural Laboratory (NESPAL), located on the UGA Tifton Campus, with registration from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.Registration is $15 per person and pre-registration is not required.
In addition to being the most valuable fruit crop in Georgia, blueberries are one of the most popular fruit plants among backyard gardeners. They are fairly easy to grow, given the right soil conditions, and have very few insect or plant disease problems compared to other fruits. When problems do arise, mineral deficiencies or pH problems are typically the culprits. Blueberries are very well adapted to Georgia because they thrive in acidic soils with a pH between 4.5 and 5.2. To ensure that you have the proper soil pH and low calcium levels in your soil, complete a soil test prior to planting. In some backyard gardens, the soil pH and calcium levels can be very high, making the soil unsuitable for growing blueberries. High soil pH and calcium levels are often caused by excessive organic amendments or limestone (calcium carbonate) applications, which are necessary for growing most vegetables, lawns and landscape shrubs. Blueberries and a few other acid-loving plants are the exception. Limestone should never be applied around acid-loving plants. Acid-loving plants, such as blueberries, azaleas, rhododendrons, gardenias and camellias, should be segregated from other plants in your landscape or garden to avoid soil pH conflicts. When a client calls about yellow leaves on their blueberry plants, it’s almost always related to a nutrient deficiency. More specifically, if both young leaves and mature leaves are uniformly yellow, it’s most often a nitrogen deficiency.An iron deficiency can also cause yellowing of the youngest leaves, or newest growth, on blueberries.The leaf veins will remain a dark green color and will stand out in contrast to the yellow background of iron-deficient leaves. Iron deficiencies often occur when the pH is above 5.3 or when calcium or phosphorus levels are too high in the soil. If soil pH is greater than 5.3, sulfur will be recommended to decrease soil pH. Plants irrigated with water from deep wells in lime rock may exhibit a temporary iron deficiency during dry periods, when they are surviving solely on alkaline water. A magnesium deficiency is occasionally seen in Georgia, and it usually occurs on older leaves. On young rabbiteye blueberry plants, the most common symptom of a magnesium deficiency is mature leaves that are pink on the edges and yellowish between the veins. When magnesium is low, based on a soil test, you can add Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) at the rate of 3 ounces per plant to compensate for the deficiency. If calcium levels of the soil are too high, this will also amplify a magnesium deficiency. One situation we often encounter is blueberries and other acid-loving plants being placed too close to the foundation of a home, sidewalk or driveway. Concrete and other masonry work can leach limestone and calcium into the surrounding soil and raise the soil pH too high for these types of plants. In these situations, the best option is to move blueberries away from the masonry structure. When it comes to selecting blueberry varieties for home gardens, rabbiteye blueberries are the best choice. Rabbiteye blueberries are native to Georgia and grow well in all different parts of the state. It’s important to plant more than one bush, so that cross-pollination can occur. Be sure to select varieties recommended for Georgia when shopping for plants. A list of recommended rabbiteye varieties is given in UGA Extension Circular 946, “Home Garden Blueberries,” which can be found online at extension.uga.edu/publications/detail.cfm?number=C946. Georgia blueberry season is mid-April (south Georgia) through the end of July (north Georgia). Under good management, blueberry bushes will produce some fruit the second or third year after transplanting. By the sixth year, they will yield as much as 2 gallons per plant. The yield will continue to increase for several years as the plants grow larger.