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Williams: Add color with winter annuals

Posted: October 11, 2017 - 12:20am

As the temperatures cool and our summer annuals fade we look to add a splash of color with winter annuals. Pansies, violas, snapdragons, flowering kale and cabbage are good choices for the winter climate in the Augusta area.

Pansies are a popular choice due to their color varieties, tolerance to cold temperatures, availability, and planting options.

Pansies are available in many colors, from white to rich gold, purple, red, rose, maroon, orange and violet, with many shades in between. They are available as solid colors, called "clear" faced pansies; blotches of colors, called "faced" pansies; and two-toned pansies. Some varieties have petals with crinkled or ruffled edges, and flowers range up to 4 inches in diameter. There are more than 300 varieties of pansies on the market.

Pansies are generally considered hardy plants. "Hardy" refers to the plants ability to withstand cold temperatures, even frost if not for extended periods of time. In the Augusta area, the best time to plant pansies is from the middle of October to the start of November. The reason for these specific planting dates is that pansies require soil temperatures between 45 and 65 degrees for best growth. Pansies planted after soil temperatures are below 45 degrees show stunted, pale green leaves, little growth and, most importantly, little or no flowering. These plants will not have sufficient time to winterize before cold temperatures arrive. Pansies planted too early and exposed to warm temperatures often appear yellow; the stems stretch and the new growth will appear as small rosettes at the ends of stems. As a result, the plants flower poorly and become more susceptible to frost damage and disease. Fungus is prevalent during the warmer temperatures.

Pansies can be planted in planters, containers, or existing beds. Regardless of container choice, the soil needs to have good drainage in order for pansies to do their best. If the soil is holding too much moisture, the pansies will get root rot. Use fine ground pine bark or some other material to improve the drainage of the soil and to retain heat. Soils that hold moisture should be raised 6 to 8 inches above their existing level to help with drainage. Monitor irrigation and try to keep pansies slightly on the dry side. This will help to harden the plants so they can better withstand cold weather. It is best to water during the day so the plant has time to dry before night.

To sustain healthy, colorful pansies after planting, fertilization is important. Fertilization requirements for pansies differ from other types of seasonal color plants. Avoid using fertilizers containing high amounts of slow-release ammoniacal nitrogen, which can weaken the plant and make it more susceptible to winter injury. The best fertilizers to use will contain formulations with nitrogen derived from potassium nitrate, calcium nitrate, and perhaps magnesium nitrate.

Diseases that cause problems in pansies are crown and root rot, black root rot and Botrytis blight. Crown and root rot is the most prevalent disease on pansies. It is most active in warm, wet weather and occurs on pansy beds in the fall and late spring. The fungus infects the plant at or just above the soil line and causes greenish-brown lesions on the stem. The plant may die when the main stem is infected.

Black root rot attacks the fine feeder roots of the plant. An infected plant will be yellow in color and stunted. Botrytis blight, an airborne fungus, attacks almost any flower or damaged plant tissue. It is most common on plants that have high rates of fertilization, death of lower leaves, low light intensity, frequent watering, early flower production, and plants that are crowded.

You can control most of these problems by planting during the recommended period and by managing your pansy beds properly. Remove any dead flowers, "dead-headed", to keep pansies blooming and to remove seed pods that can steal nutrients from the plant. Also dead flowers can also encourage fungal disease growth. The pansy may show some signs of a defense response to temperatures below 25 degrees. Some wilting and discoloration of foliage is normal at these temperatures.

To protect the pansies during extreme cold, apply 2 to 4 inches of pine straw over the top of the entire bed. Pine straw helps trap heat in the soil to prevent roots from freezing and also reduces the plants exposure to cold wind.


Columbia County 4-H Fair Entries

All Youth are invited to enter, no entry fee.Enter Items You Have Made-Arts & Crafts, Drawings, Wreaths. Prizes & Ribbons to be awarded! $10 for 3rd Place, $15 for 2nd Place, $25 for 1st Place and $40 for Overall Winner! All entries must be dropped off at the fairgrounds between 2-7 pm on Wednesday, Oct. 25 Register today at the 4-H office.

4-H Fall Pecan Fundraiser - Earn Money for Summer Camp!

4-H money will be awarded to the top three overall sellers in 5th grade. This money can be used for 4-H activities as well as camp! Orders and money are due October 24 . Orders will be delivered before Thanksgiving so they can be used for holiday baking! Pecans are $14 for 1 lb., shelled and halved, grade A quality.

Pop Tab Collection for the Ronald McDonald House

Help Columbia County collect the most pop tabs for the Ronald McDonald House! Pop tabs are donated through Georgia 4-H in early November. All proceeds from the aluminum will go to a local Ronald McDonald House charity. Drop off your pop tabs to your child's classroom or drop them off at the 4-H office in Appling by Friday, October 27!

4-H Spirit Night at Culver's in Grovetown

Come eat dinner with 4-H on Tuesday, October 17 from 5 to 7 at the Grovetown Culver's! A portion of the proceeds will go back to Columbia County 4-H!

For more information on upcoming 4-H events and activities, please go to Facebook: www.facebook.com/columbia4h and like our page!


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