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Ann Rice remains grounded after more than three decades in the Mississippi State University Extension Service Soil Testing Laboratory. Retirement will allow more time for her to spend in the garden on her family farm in Oktibbeha County, Mississippi. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Linda Breazeale)
June 27, 2017 - Filed Under: Soil Testing

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- When Ann Rice leaves the Mississippi State University Extension Service Soil Testing Laboratory on June 30, she will conclude an educational 35-year career filled with unusual requests and interesting discoveries, some of which were about herself.

"When I didn’t have confidence in myself, others did," Rice said. "I never thought I could be a leader, but sometimes, I have had to step up and take the lead, like in the organic matter and plant tissue divisions."

The Kong coleus has massive foliage and thrives in shady areas of the landscape. (Photo by MSU Extension/Gary Bachman)
June 26, 2017 - Filed Under: Flower Gardens

With summer officially here and hot and humid weather firmly in place, many gardeners -- myself included -- like to look at a pretty landscape, but don't really want to get out and do much work in that same landscape.

So selecting plants that look good without much work pique my interest. One plant that doesn't disappoint me is Sun coleus.

Fall armyworms plague many Mississippi pastures, lawns and sports fields, but vigilance and prompt treatment can limit their damage. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Blake Layton)
June 23, 2017 - Filed Under: Insects-Crop Pests, Insects-Home Lawns, Turfgrass and Lawn Management

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Although 2016 brought unusually heavy infestations of and damage from fall armyworms, vigilance and prompt treatment can limit damage this year.

Blake Layton, entomologist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said fall armyworms were a problem in commercial hayfields, home lawns, sports fields, golf courses and commercial landscapes last year.

New Guinea impatiens are strictly shade-loving plants that can complement their sun-loving cousins, the SunPatiens. (Photo by MSU Extension/Gary Bachman)
June 19, 2017 - Filed Under: Flower Gardens

Summer officially begins this week, and there are so many great plants we can grow during this season. But I really miss one that we can't grow in the summer: annual impatiens.

I always have impatiens in my late-winter and early-spring landscape. I've tried to oversummer some -- in the same manner as we overwinter plants -- in the shady areas of my garden, but this experiment is always met with bitter disappointment.

But all is not lost because I can grow SunPatiens, one of my favorite summer-flowering plants.

Warren County Master Gardener Yolanda Horne checks on worms living in a plastic bin on June 13, 2017. The worms were part of an exhibit on composting at the Know Your Roots: Grow Your Business workshop in Vicksburg, Mississippi. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Bonnie Coblentz)
June 16, 2017 - Filed Under: Agri-tourism, Community, Master Gardener, Lawn and Garden

VICKSBURG, Miss. -- Mississippians from a wide variety of backgrounds spent a day thinking of new ways to use landscapes and gardens to bring more profit and better value to agricultural enterprises and historic homes.

Know Your Roots: Build Your Business brought 29 participants together for the daylong workshop June 13 at the Southern Cultural Heritage Center. Sandy Havard, Warren County agent with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, coordinated the event.

June 14, 2017 - Filed Under: Forages, Lawn and Garden, Natural Resources

NEWTON, Miss. -- The Mississippi State University Extension Service invites anyone interested in growing the state wildflower, Coreopsis, and other beauties to the July 13 Wildflower Field Day.

The event will be at the Coastal Plain Branch Experiment Station in Newton and will include morning seminars and an afternoon field tour. It is sponsored by Keep Mississippi Beautiful, which is providing lunch.

Topics include native seed production, backyard habitats and milkweed management. Speakers are MSU Extension Service specialists and an industry representative.

Containers can be planted at any time of year. This summer combination has tall Salvia Playin’ the Blues in the back, Gaura Karalee Petite Pink providing interest in the front, and Supertunia Bordeaux filling in all the extra space. (Photo by MSU Extension/Gary Bachman)
June 12, 2017 - Filed Under: Flower Gardens

Once we get into the summer months, it can be hard to plant and be successful with in-ground landscape beds. But I've found that putting together container plantings gives me a way to add variety to my garden and landscape, even when it's really hot.

Once you start gardening in containers, you’ll find it's never too late in the season to try something new. You may even join me in doing most of your gardening in containers all year.

But let's just start with one container and see how it goes.

The deer tick and the American dog tick, shown here, are two of the five most common tick species found in Mississippi. The state is home to about 19 tick species. (File photos by MSU Extension Service/Blake Layton)
June 9, 2017 - Filed Under: Insects-Human Pests, Insects-Pet Pests, Insects-Home Lawns

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- While hunting, working in the yard or garden, taking early morning walks or hikes, or just cruising around the property on all-terrain vehicles, people are likely to pick up ticks in some fashion.

Ticks are typically found in areas of dense vegetation and along game or human trails. Contrary to popular belief, they do not typically live in trees.

Termites swarming on this decaying tree stump are a healthy part of nature, but homeowners must take steps to make sure they do not infest houses. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Linda Breazeale)
June 7, 2017 - Filed Under: Household Insects, Termites, Insects-Pests

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- The Mississippi State University Extension Service judged that the most economically important insects in the state should have their own website.

The site, https://extension.msstate.edu/termites, is the go-to place for information on termite biology, identification and control. The site describes the different species of termites found in the state and provides answers to common questions about the pests.

A member of the snapdragon family, the Serena Angelonia will grow to 1 foot tall and spread up to 14 inches. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Gary Bachman)
June 5, 2017 - Filed Under: Flower Gardens

Whenever I see Angelonias in a landscape, I'm reminded of my other favorite flowering annuals for the cool season: snapdragons.

Angelonia, a member of the snapdragon family, thrives in the full sun during the summer heat and humidity. This stamina is a requirement for our Mississippi gardens and landscapes and why I consider it one of the best plants for my hot summer garden.

Although common in Southern landscapes, the Lady Banks rose dates back to the late 1790s and came from China. (Photo by MSU Extension/Gary Bachman)
May 26, 2017 - Filed Under: Flower Gardens

I wrote earlier about my 40-year struggle with growing roses. But during that time, there was one rose that was a great performer for me: a climbing rose called Blaze.

May 25, 2017 - Filed Under: Soils, Soil Testing

New manager of operations Keri Jones recently joined the Mississippi State University Extension Service Soil Testing Laboratory, and she's ready to enhance the unit's efficiency."

"My primary goal is to provide accurate soil analysis in a timely manner," said Jones, an Extension associate who has worked in the MSU Department of Plant and Soil Sciences since 2016. "I hope to improve the overall efficiency of the lab as well as update soil nutrient application recommendations."

Real gardeners know the work is hard, but they consider sweat equity a reasonable price to pay to be able to enjoy their landscapes. (File Photo by MSU Extension)
May 22, 2017 - Filed Under: Flower Gardens

In early April, my wife and I had the honor of being part of the 2017 Garden Clubs of Mississippi Spring Pilgrimage, as our little urban farm was one of the tour's stops. It was a treat to open our doors to allow more than 170 visitors to peek behind the curtain at how we garden.

Annual flowering vincas perform well in the landscape and in containers. This Mediterranean Hot Rose has a spreading growth habit that allows it to spill over the edge of a hanging basket. (Photo by MSU Extension/Gary Bachman)
May 15, 2017 - Filed Under: Flower Gardens

Now that our gardens and landscapes are heating up, it is the perfect time to plant annual flowering vinca. This beauty provides hot summer color you just can't beat.

Annual flowering vinca is a solid performer in Mississippi gardens, so I always make sure to plant some in my landscape.

Botanically speaking, annual flowering vinca is Catharanthus rosea. In garden centers, the pot tags sometimes call it Madagascar periwinkle.

May 12, 2017 - Filed Under: Insects-Pests

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Mississippi State University researchers are continuing to study a "crazy" creature found in Mississippi’s coastal counties.

The tawny crazy ant, also known as Nylanderia fulva, is a non-native ant species that has been found in the southern United States, including Hancock, Jackson and Harrison counties in Mississippi. The ants are not widely distributed on the Mississippi gulf coast, but their presence can be overwhelming in areas that contain a crazy ant population, according to MSU researchers who study and monitor the ants.

Both butterflies and aphids are attracted to tropical milkweed in droves. While unsightly, aphids don’t seem to impact growth and flowering. (Photo by MSU Extension/Gary Bachman)
May 8, 2017 - Filed Under: Flower Gardens

It's all the rage to plant butterfly gardens in our home landscapes. This is especially true when we consider the Monarch butterfly, which is said to be under stress from disappearing habitats.

One of the best butterfly-attracting plants for the home landscape is butterfly weed, known botanically as Asclepias. Butterfly weed has a great trio of advantages: it is low maintenance, deer resistant, and attractive to Monarchs and other butterflies.

Don’t mulch trees like this. Mulching offers significant benefits, but a layer should only be 2 to 3 inches deep and pulled away from the tree trunk. (Photo by MSU Extension/Gary Bachman)
May 1, 2017 - Filed Under: Flower Gardens

Driving around town this weekend, I enjoyed all the work fellow gardeners have been doing in their yards. I thought our early spring weather brought out the best in our landscapes, but then I saw it.

I couldn't believe my eyes, but there they were: mulch volcanoes.

It's been a couple of years since I've seen a real doozy of a mulch volcano, and I realized again what my duty has to be. I have to convince people that mulch volcanoes are bad for our trees.

Leaving dirty dishes in the sink provides a feast for pests. Integrated pest management emphasizes practical, cost-efficient strategies for keeping rodents and insects out of the home. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Kevin Hudson)
May 1, 2017 - Filed Under: Family, Healthy Homes Initiative, Household Insects, Insects-Pests

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Spring has begun, and while that means warmer weather and blooming flowers, it may mean more pests infiltrating your home.

David Buys, health specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, explained the importance of integrated pest management and the steps that make up the IPM process. He said IPM focuses on common-sense activities around the house, with an emphasis on environmentally friendly and affordable practices over regular application of insecticide.

Also called the African marigold, various series of the American marigold can range from 15 inches to 3 feet in height. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Gary Bachman)
April 24, 2017 - Filed Under: Flower Gardens

After being laid up for the last few weeks recovering from a knee replacement, I've really enjoyed finally getting out and picking up some heat-loving summer annual color. The first flat of bedding plants I put in the cart contained marigolds.

I know some gardeners may think marigolds are too easy, but that's exactly what I want from my summer landscape beds.

The ornamental sweet potato is a go-to choice for large areas that need some kind of colorful ground cover. It is a great plant for massing and comes in a wide variety of colors and textures. (Photo by MSU Extension/Gary Bachman)
April 17, 2017 - Filed Under: Flower Gardens

One of my favorite things to do in the spring and early summer is visit my local garden centers. At this time of year, the sheer number of flowering annuals can easily result in sensory overload.

I wander through the aisles and benches almost in a hypnotic trance, and I always leave with a vehicle full of colorful beauty. By the time I get home, the color high has started to wear off, and I have to decide where to plant the new arrivals.

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