Editor’s note: Kelly R. Jackson takes questions called into his phone recently at the Christian County Extension Office and answers them in the Garden Corner column.
Question. Why are my bald cypress trees turning fall color now?
Answer. Many people often confuse bald cypress trees for evergreens because of their growth habit and needle-like foliage. But they are deciduous, and in early fall, the leaves do change to a tan or orange color before dropping from the tree.
Bald Cypress trees that are changing color now may be suffering from feeding injury caused by the Bald Cypress Rust Mite (Epitrimerus taxodii).
High temperatures and high humidity favor development of this mite, which feeds on the leaves by sucking out the leaf cell contents. The leaves initially turn yellow and later turn brown as the damage continues.
The rust mite is an eriophyid mite, which requires the use of a 10x or higher magnifying lens to be seen. Miticide sprays can help manage this pest, however avoid the use of horticultural oil, which will injure bald cypress leaves.
Q. What’s the best way to save my leftover garden seeds?
A. It helps to remember that a seed is alive. When we store seeds, the tiny plant embryo inside is still using the stored energy reserves needed for germination to stay alive. This is why providing the right storage conditions, specifically moisture and temperature, is important to the longevity of the seed.
Low seed moisture means longer life. Therefore, the storage container needs to be one that reduces moisture. One method is to place leftover seed in sealable jars or other airtight containers.
A layer of powdered milk or uncooked rice at the bottom of the container covered with a paper towel will help absorb excess moisture. Storage temperature is also important to help seeds retain stored carbohydrates and minimize fungal infections. Cool, consistent, basement or refrigerator storage is preferable to an outdoor garden shed. Periods of high temperature exposure greatly reduces longevity. Likewise, for some plant’s seed, sub-freezing temperatures can injure the seeds. The idea temperature range is 40 to 50 degrees for most seeds. Seeds stored within the optimal temperature and moisture levels still have a relative life expectancy: beans (three-four years); broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, melons, squash (four to five years); corn (two-three years); tomatoes (four years); peppers (two years). As the seed gets older, the percent of germination will continue to decline.
Kelly R. Jackson is the Christian County Extension Agent for horticulture. He can be reached at 270-886-6328 or visit Christian County Horticulture online at www.christiancountyextension.com.