Friday, September 19, 2014

Its a Wrap

Well, this is my final internship blog post.  My internship has come to an end and I am about to start another semester.  My books are in a neat pile, binders have fresh paper and colorful dividers.  I'm ready to start!  My presentation to my peers and professors will happen soon after the start of the semester.  But first, I need to finish this. 
So let's talk about the internship.  First... what a great idea!  Wikipedia gives the best definition:
An internship is a method of on-the-job training for white-collar and professional careers. Internships for professional careers are similar in some ways to apprenticeships for trade and vocational jobs, but the lack of standardization and oversight leaves the term open to broad interpretation.  Interns may be college or university students, high school students, or post-graduate adults. These positions may be paid or unpaid and are usually temporary.
Generally, an internship consists of an exchange of services for experience between the student and an organization. Students can also use an internship to determine if they have an interest in a particular career, create a network of contacts or gain school credit. Some interns find permanent, paid employment with the organizations for which they worked. This can be a significant benefit to the employer as experienced interns often need little or no training when they begin regular employment. Unlike a trainee program, employment at the completion of an internship is not guaranteed.
My internship was a little different because I am a floral design/event coordinator major and the internship was for a ‘soil science’ based major.  I’d be lying if I said my motivations were entirely academic – and since Aggies never lie (we don’t cheat or steal or tolerate those who do either)…  The money was great (because who does not like getting paid great money for 5 hours on a Saturday right?)   BUT I wanted to take this internship for entirely personal reasons.  I had the chance to learn about the chemicals that I love and about the ones I have never used.  I even got to ask a lot of questions on topics that concerned me such as safety for my family, pets, and chickens! 
I learned a lot about the “cides” (herbicides, pesticides, fungicides).  I noticed how two similar businesses used merchandizing techniques to improve sales within their niche markets.   One company kept their ‘cides’ on a side aisle towards a back wall and that area was rarely visited and I often had to spend more time in the garden section of the store to talk to people interested in the products.   The second company was entirely different.  They kept all the lawn & garden products just inside the main door, in a wide open, bright area that you could see everything in one sweep.  That company sold TONS of those products but their focus was different that the other company. 
The one thing that was definitely brought home to me is that I do NOT want to work in retail sales.  I’m not a good salesperson.  I have trouble making people buy something they may not necessarily need and I certainly did not want to ‘push’ a product that I would not use in my own yard.  I did not have a sales goal which was wonderful but I did feel torn between my moral integrity and the responsibility I had to the company I was representing.  I also realized that I do NOT like standing for 5 hours a day. 

Final verdict…. All things considered I really enjoyed my experience. And I really recommend that a student try an internship in something other than their chosen field as well as in the field they find most interesting.  It's a great chance to make comparisons and learn even more. 

Dixie Darlin - aka Sweetness/Sissy/Punkin

And because they are my motivation and I have spoken about them all so much I will leave you with a few pics of my furbabies, parrot, and chickens!  Farewell and God Bless!  

Bella Rose - aka Daddy's Girl/ Spoiled Brat /Princess

Gen'rl Jackson - aka Momma's Boy/Bubby/BaeBae

George - aka Pretty Bird (also the world's smartest bird because he knows how to 'saw em off' and says Gigem Ags!  Whoop! )

The Littles (Gloria, Big Red, Stella)

Ginger and the 'Golden Girls'

There is nothing fun about fungi

Well, if you are into microbiology (which I am) then fungi is fun.  The names are fun... Bipolaris sorokiniana and Drechslera poae and Leptosphaeria korrae. See?  Those are fun to say. And I love how they work, act, spread and multiply... it's incredible to watch under microscopic cameras. Unfortunately the effects they have on a beautiful expanse of green grass is NOT.   Here is some information I found for you about a few common grass fungi on  

Melting Out   - This grass fungus is caused by Drechslera poae. It is frequently associated with Leaf Spot because a lawn affected by leaf spot will be highly susceptible to Melting Out. This lawn disease starts out as brown spots on the grass blades that move rapidly down to the crown. Once they reach the crown, the grass will begin to die in small brown patches that will continue to grow in size as the fungus progresses. This disease commonly appears in lawns with major thatch presence.
Melting Out grass fungus treatment is to dethatch the lawn and apply a grass fungus spray to the lawn as soon as the disease is spotted, the earlier, the better. Proper lawn care will help prevent this lawn disease from appearing in the first place.

Necrotic Ring Spot -   This grass fungus is caused by Leptosphaeria korrae. This fungus is most likely to appear in the spring or fall. The lawn will start to get reddish-brown rings and you will be able to see black “threads” on the crown of the grass.
Necrotic Ring Spot grass fungus treatment is to dethatch the lawn vigorously. As with Melting Out, the thatch is how the fungus spreads. You can try adding a fungicide as well, but it will not help without dethatching regularly. Also, lower the amount of nitrogen fertilizer that you give the lawn. Even with dethatching and proper care, it may take up to two years for this lawn disease to come under control.
Dollar spot is caused by the fungal pathogen Sclerotinia homoeocarpa, in the Sclerotiniaceae family. The pathogen blights leaf tissues but does not affect turf grass roots or crowns. The disease is a common concern on golf course turf, but is rare in sports turf and professional landscapes. Disease symptoms commonly result in poor turf quality and appearance.  The disease occurs from early spring through late fall, but is most active under conditions of high humidity and warm daytime temperatures 59–86 °F (15–30 °C) and cool nights in the spring, early summer and fall. The disease infects by producing a mycelium, which can be spread mechanically from one area to another.

So the effects are not nearly as much fun as the names.  Yes yes. I AM a science geek.  I find it all fascinating (way more fun than bugs! Blech!) But really, the first step in waging a war on something, whether it’s fungus or bugs or weeds is to know how it works.  Then you can find a chink in the armor and go for the weak spots!  Yes, I’ve also read way too many medieval times novels! But you get my drift right??  Here’s a picture of the Bayer product.  It comes in a liquid concentrate - you attach your hose to the bottle and spray away - or in a granule that you spread the same way you would dry fertilizer or grass seed.  For a happy lawn, detatch, wash you mower and tools and use a fungicidal product. Good luck!

To Weed or Not to Weed.... part 2

There are many kinds of "weeds" that home owners want to get rid of in their lawns (usually because they mar the beautifully manicured grass).  For lawns, there are three basic types of weeds: grassy type, grass like, and broad leaf.   Each require a different method for control. Because of this, there are more than one type of herbicides. 

Some of the most common weeds are annuals. Each year a new cycle begins.  Seeds sprout and develop into plants, new seeds form and are either dropped nearby, eaten by local fauna, or dispersed by wind or water.  This pattern is repeated until we break the cycle with the use of herbicides (or the tedious task of pulling.)  One of the most challenging weeds are crabgrass; once they take hold they are nightmare to get rid of without harming the lawn.  The ideal control prevents them from developing in the first place.

Applying a pre-emergent early in the spring helps this immensely.  Here’s how it works… it creates a barrier, a microscopic layer that keeps new seeds from germinating and taking hold in the soil.  If left alone, the barrier will last through the germination period and effectively stop the seedlings from developing into pesky weeds.  Keep in mind, there is no guarantee that is 100% effective but it cuts the possibility drastically. Contact herbicides destroy only plant tissue that contacts the herbicide. Generally, these are the fastest-acting herbicides. They are ineffective on perennial plants that can re-grow from roots or tubers.

Some instructions…. ALWAYS read the label thoroughly.  If you have questions, call the hotline or check the website for the FAQs.   Never, ever, ever apply herbicides if the weather is 85°F or greater as ALL herbicides WILL burn the grass as well and you will have a HUGE brown patch.  Never apply the products on windy days as the products can damage ornamental plants touched by overspray.  Don’t mow for a few days before or after application (not exactly sure why but it probably has to do with the cut portion absorbing the herbicide and it being damaged.)

Now keep in mind, there are selective and non-selective herbicides.  Selective herbicides only kill specific plants while non-selective kill everything.  Non-selectives are usually used in driveway and patio cracks and in areas that you don’t want anything to grow – these usually remain in the soil and active, known to ‘sterilize’, the soil for several months.  The non-selective herbicide use Glyphosphate which destroys plant enzymes so that the plant can no longer produce the protein it needs to survive.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Quit buggin' me!!

Bugs. Ick. Now, I am have never been the type to go running and screaming when I see I bug. In fact the only bugs that ever really elicited a reaction from me are Brown Recluse spiders or 'skeeters'. Then I met Fire Ants.... but really, the only people who like fire ants are Entomologists.

As a horticulture student, we learn to identify many types of pests through visual as well as symptomatic means. For instance, if your prize winning Gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides) has a black powdery substance we can make an educated guess that your plant has an insect infestation causing sooty mold. Sooty molds are Ascomycete fungi which grow on plant exudates and the sugary honeydew secreted by insects such as aphids, scales, the whitefly, and other insects which suck sap from their host plants. The name itself is descriptive, as sooty mold is a black, powdery coating adhering to the leaves of ornamental plants such as azaleas, gardenias, camellias, crepe myrtles, and laurels (Wikipedia).

In my Let’s Talk about Roses blog entry, I briefly discussed the Bayer product used to treat that on roses and other ornamentals. There is a product that can be used on trees and shrubs that has similar effects (Insect, Disease, and Mite Control). But I did not discuss the underlying cause of Sooty Mold. Bugs. As mentioned in the above Wikipedia quote, bugs that suck sap produce a secretion called honeydew. (Definitely NOT the same as the sweet green fruit as it is essentially bug poo.) Honeydew has a very high sugar content which is the perfect food for fungal spores. You can treat for the fungal infection but if you don’t get rid of the cause you will fight a never ending battle.

The bugs (I call them freeloaders) need to go. And trust me, those annoying freeloaders spread….fast. I noticed that a few of my houseplants were looking very droopy and wilted. I had watered and fertilized them several days before so I was confused. They looked as though they hadn’t been watered in a month. When I looked closely, I could see the telltale ­­fuzz of Mealybugs.

Mealybug (Hemiptera coccoidea) females feed on plant sap, normally in roots or other crevices, and in a few cases the bottoms of stored fruit. They attach themselves to the plant and secrete a powdery wax layer (therefore the name mealybug) used for protection while they suck the plant juices. The males on the other hand are short-lived as they do not feed at all as adults and only live to fertilize the females. Male citrus mealy bugs fly to the females and resemble fluffy gnats. Some species of mealybug lay their eggs in the same waxy layer used for protection in quantities of 50–100; other species are born directly from the female. (Wikipedia).

I had a severe mealybug infestation. Every indoor plant I own except my violets, Sansevieria, and Aglaonema. Doesn’t sound bad until I tell you that 26 of 35 plants were affected. I was mad. Mad at myself for not noticing but really mad at the bugs. They were hurting my lovely plants. I carted them outside and out came the Neem. Everyone got a full soaking on both the top and bottom sides of the foliage. I was leaving no leaf unturned because I didn’t want a single one of those buggers to survive. All it takes is one female with a clutch of eggs.

Update: It has been three weeks, I applied Neem once a week for two weeks. The mealybugs are gone and we do not have any other bugs at this time! Hip-hip-hooray!!