Club soda not a fire ant remedy

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 24, 2010

Let me begin this week with some disappointing news. Last week I presented you with some phenomenal news about new organic fire ant control using club soda.

After further review and contact with Mr. Walter Reeves I have some bad news. Unfortunately, the University of Georgia has not conducted any extensive research on the use of club soda on fire ant control and Walter Reeves does not endorse this as a credible fire ant control method. Club soda has been recognized as a home remedy but very little research supports this finding.

In all likelyhood the ants will not be killed, if anything they will move to a new location. Sorry for this misleading hype, this was information I received that was just too good to be true, and I should have researched it further before presenting it to you.

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This week I will address a question I received shortly after the freeze regarding damage to shrubs around the home. I know some of you are still dreading the rest of winter, but it is time to start thinking about what you will do this spring in the vegetable garden.

Q: How can I tell if my plants were damaged during the freeze?

A: This is a good question and the reason I am addressing it is because we will likely have another freeze in the near future before spring arrives. Two weeks ago we had freezing temperatures for nearly 60 hours straight.

This has an impact on most aspects of our southern landscapes. Temperatures that are cold enough to freeze the soil can provide some positive change. The ice crystals in the soil expand and break apart clods leaving the soil more mellow and easy to work.

Water in microscopic channels called pores freezes and makes the pores bigger. This allows water to move more quickly through the soil. The cold temperatures in the soil can also slow down and sometimes kill disease organisms.

This same freezing expansion in plants can rupture plant cells causing future stress and death. Therefore after a freeze examine your woody ornamentals for split bark and make note of those that have new bulges or cracks in them.

The ice formed damages the xylem and phloem underneath the bark and prevents the free flow of water and nutrients through the plant. The amount of damage may be small and not show up until the plant is stressed by high temperatures. Recording the damage now will help explain the symptoms if they occur later.

Q: When should I begin preparing for the spring vegetable garden?

A: Eight weeks from now is the end of March. Late March and early April is primetime for gardening in the Miss-Lou. You need to start thinking about planting the vegetable garden sometime beginning in early April. Six weeks is the time it takes for newly planted tomato or pepper seeds to grow to transplant size for the home garden. This gives us just a couple of weeks to find the varieties we want to grow and get them started. Don’t hesitate to try something new, but always plant just a few of the new variety near your old favorite and compare the two.

David Carter is the director of the Adams County Extension Service. He can be reached at 601-445-8201.