Take care of these ‘Simon says’ tasks

October 31, 2012 

I like the game Simon Says. Although it is a children’s game, adults can play it, but children may be better at it than we adults are. The gist of the game is that a leader tells a group of followers simple tasks to do. The follower is to listen for the phrase, “Simon says” before a task is mentioned. These are the only tasks that the follower should actually do. If they do a task that Simon did not “say,” then they are out of the game.

One of the tricks that Simon can use is to give the group one task to do and then add another task without telling them to stop the first task. The group has to remember to keep doing the first task while adding the second task. It is harder than you would think. The followers have to multi-task or they are out of the game.

Multi-tasking is a part of life -- we all have to do it. We have to keep doing one task while adding another. Fall brings a need to multi-task, since we must complete the chores of late summer while adding jobs for the winter. Here are a few “Simon says” tasks for fall.

• Simon says: Although the weather is getting cooler, continue to treat your pet for heartworms. Heartworms are spread by mosquitoes and mosquitoes are a 12 month pest in Georgia. Mosquitoes disappear for a short while when it gets cold, but return quickly when the weather warms. Therefore, you want to keep dogs on heartworm preventive year round.

• Simon says: Continue to watch for fleas and ticks. Dr. Nancy Hinkle provided this information. She is an entomologist for the University of Georgia. She says that though flea numbers decline in the winter, fleas never really go away. I imagine this is especially true for indoor pets.

If you discontinue on-host flea applications at Thanksgiving, remember to begin again in April. You may want to put a reminder on your calendar. Once fleas increase to the point that you can tell that you have a problem, they can be very difficult to control.

Hinkle also says we have ticks year round. The main tick in the winter is the deer tick, active from November through April. At other times of the year, the most common tick is the Lone-star tick, but people and pets pick up American dog ticks and Gulf Coast ticks when hiking. Since there are two major tick-related diseases -- Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease -- take precautions to prevent tick bites. For details, visit http://tinyurl.com/9kg4jhx.

• Simon says: Water your trees and shrubs until the winter rains begin. Once we get good winter rains -- usually in November -- then most plants will be fine. Winter rains are usually frequent enough to keep the soil moist since the temperatures are lower and plants are using less water than in the summer.

These last few waterings can be very important for trees that are going dormant. Trees are drawing food from leaves and storing it in trunks, limbs and buds. This is the energy they will use to survive the winter and to begin growth next spring. Letting trees dry out now interferes with the tree’s preparations for the winter and next spring and can cause trees to die or to grow poorly next spring.

This is especially important for fruit trees that must bloom and set a crop of fruit next spring.

• Simon says: Seal up cracks and other openings on exterior walls of our houses. As temperatures fall, pests look for places to spend their winter. These can include insects and rodents but also pests like snakes, opossums and squirrels. The best control for pests inside is to run them out and then prevent their return.

Seal cracks and holes with sealant. Look closely for these around bricks or blocks, around windows and doors, at the base of walls and in areas where additions to the house have been made. Use weather stripping and door sweeps around doors and windows. Repair or replace screens as needed. Cover unused air conditioning units since pests can easily crawl through them to get inside.

Willie Chance works with the University of Georgia Center for Urban Agriculture.

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