Kenny Sharpe

The Fourth of July is the celebration of our nation’s birth, but I also use that date to remind myself of the cultural practices that need our attention.

I was taught that some of these cultural practices were related to July 1, but since July 4 is already fixated in my memory, I reassigned them to a holiday that I knew I could remember.

The first reminder is to stop fertilizing woody perennial plants by July 4.

When you apply fertilizer, you stimulate new growth. New growth isn’t initially woody, but instead is very tender green shoots. You have to allow time after you fertilize for new growth to grow, and then more time to harden off before winter.

If you fertilize later into the summer, you will make plants more susceptible to cold damage from win freezes.

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Independence Day should also mark the end of the breeding season for beef operations.

High mid-summer temperatures will reduce fertility greatly for both cows and bulls, and any successful breeding this summer will result in calves being born too late for good performance.

Typically you want a fall calving season, which is October through December, or a spring calving season, which will produce calves in January, February and March. These are the six best months to produce calves that can grow best when given proper nutrition. For calves born in late spring through early fall, the temperatures are too hot for them to be able to consume enough for good growth.

If you want a fall calving season, you can return the bulls to the cow herd by about New Year’s Day, and if you want spring-born calves, return the bulls around April Fool’s Day.

You can get an exact breeding time for when you want calves born by plugging in your breeding dates on a gestation calculator or figure it yourself based on a 283-day gestation.

It is least expensive to have calves when you have available forages for nursing cows, so plan your breeding season to have calves when you anticipate having ryegrass or other forages.

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With all of the rain we’ve had in recent weeks, I am getting several reports of slugs and snails, which thrive in a damp environment and use foliage and thatch to hide from the summer sun.

They are mostly active at night or on cloudy wet days, a common occurrence lately, and both slugs and snails are foliage eaters. You’ll see missing foliage or holes in leaves, especially on lower growing plants and shrubs.

When caterpillars eat, they leave a trail of dark pellet-like droppings. But when slugs and snails are present and randomly move around, you’ll see a trail left by their slime, which might even look like reflective silver lines.

Controls can include the standard slug and snail baits, which contain metaldehyde, but one word of caution here: Metaldehyde is toxic to both dogs and cats.

There is a newer, less toxic product available right now that uses iron phosphate as the active ingredient and is commonly sold under the brand name Sluggo.

Personally, I like trapping slugs and snails even better.

Slugs and snails are attracted to the carbohydrates in beer, so put some

beer in a shallow container or lid and place it on the ground in the area they are feeding. Then add some straw or thatch up to the top of the container so they can easily climb up and jump in.

The alcohol in the beer will dissolve the slime from their bodies, and they’ll eventually drown with no way of climbing out.

We have used this method very effectively, even in large plant beds for commercial vegetables. Just be sure to use beer with alcohol.

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Kenny Sharpe is county agent with the LSU Cooperative Extension Service in Livingston Parish. For more information on these or related topics contact Kenny at 225-686-3020 or visit www.lsuagcenter.com/livingston.

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