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TONY MELTON: Let’s get around to fall gardening

August 26, 2018

Through my years of traveling around the Pee Dee helping folks, I have had two things prominently placed in full view on the dash of my pick-up truck. One is a picture of my sweet angel mama with my son and the other is a round wooden coin with the letters “TUIT” on one side.

As the years go by, my picture keeps fading but the memory of my sweet mama will always be strong. Ironically once I lost my “Round Too It” but a dear friend gave me a new one renewing my vigor, and it continues to remind me of my daddy, who taught all us kids to never procrastinate. However, like everyone else sometimes I fall short. I forgot to put out my fire-ant bait this past spring, and mounds were starting to build up in my yard.

When it comes to fire-ant control, my favorite technique and the one I use on my own propriety is the S.C. Two Step. It is a simple but effective technique for managing fire ants. I use the word “manage” instead of “control” because many, especially new transplants to South Carolina, may misinterpret it and think we can in some magical way totally control fire ants and the problem is solved. It is sad but true: “When living in South Carolina fire ant management must be done on a continual basis.”

As implied the S.C. Two Step consists of two basic steps. The first step is the broadcast application of a bait-type fire-ant formula in the spring and fall which is available in many brand names from many companies including Amdro, Spectracide, Extinquish, Enforcer, Hi-Yield, Scotts, Ortho, etc.

The important thing is to make sure you are buying a bait. These are usually very affordable, applied at very low rates, and broadcasted over the entire acreage. Baits also allows the ants themselves to join in the work in that they are attracted to the baits, carry the baits back to their mound, and feed the bait to the entire mound. Warning, even though the label may allow individual mound application of baits we have found them to be more effective if broadcast applied.

Two weeks after the application of the broadcast bait we begin employing the second step, which is individual mound treatments. In other words, we allow the bait treatments to work and then start treating mounds that escaped the bait treatment. Mound treatments also come in many brand names. Most likely the S.C. Two Step will not totally rid your yard of fire ants but will most likely manage them at a very tolerable level.

Also, to help others with the same forgetful nature I visited with Amanda McNulty, host of SCETV’s “Making-it-Grow,” this past week to do a series of five podcasts on fall gardening. They are “Planting Fall Vegetables,” “Insect Control in Fall Vegetables,” “Nematodes,” “Fall Lawn Care,” and “Fall Weed Control.” These podcasts may be found at the Making-it-Grow website (www.mig.org) or http://www.southcarolinapublicradio.org/programs/making-it-grow#stream/0.

The Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to people of all ages, regardless of race, color, gender, religion, national origin, disability, political belief, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or family status and is an equal opportunity employer. Email Melton at amelton@clemson.edu.

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