Thursday, July 17, 2014

Leyland Cypress & Mosquitoes

Well, I did it. My neighbors might not be thrilled because I did it organically. I freed my yard of mosquitoes with an organic repellent product. Sorry neighbors, next time I promise to kill them old school style, so they won’t show up at your next barbeque.

Despite a huge amount of rain the repellent is still working. So nice, no mosquitoes! Mosquito control has become a niche service that many pest management professionals, lawn care operators, and specific mosquito control companies are offering. With these “wraps” put on vehicles these days, it is interesting to look at the different marketing done by these companies as I drive through neighborhoods. I have seen a whole lot of these vehicles recently either working in neighborhoods or reloading their product of choice at Possum’s.

With all the rain showers we are getting, regularly scout your yard for anything that might hold water and become a breeding area for mosquitoes. Keeping their breeding areas to a minimum will greatly decrease their populations. A few ounces of standing water can lead to thousands of mosquitoes – scary!

I have been getting an abnormal amount of questions about Leyland Cypress. Unfortunately, like many plants, they have been over used and put in situations that are not ideal for their growth.

Leyland Cypress like a lot of air movement. I see many people plant this tree as a screen, and to get an immediate effect, the trees get planted too close together or grow too close together. Then they begin to struggle.

Leyland Cypress like well-drained soil with some moisture – not wet but not drought stricken either.  I have seen them grown on sandy berms that tend to be too dry for the proper growth of this tree. I have also seen them in heavy, poorly drained clay soil or in wet areas where they struggle.

Leyland Cypress like full sun, which in the landscape as they are developing a screen, can lead to their own demise. They begin to shade each other out. The shade tends to weaken them and then different problems occur.  

Leyland Cypresses are susceptible to many diseases and insects. Some are easily treated and some are not. Hopefully, I will write about some of these pests next week.

Army worms, roaches, chinch bugs, brown batch, mosquitoes, and gray leaf spot seem to be the top problems this week. Be strong!

Always read, understand and follow product label. The product label is a Federal Law.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Mosquitoes - They Must Die

Last night I finally figured out one of the “mysteries of life”. I had always wondered why there are one to three mosquitoes flying around inside my car in the morning. They were not in my car when I parked it the night before. My windows are sealed tightly. No holes in the floor board like my 1972 VW Bug. Drum roll please… The brief minute it takes me to get out of the car, the mosquitoes are going into the car! Light bulb comes on (some people have said my head looks like a light bulb) and I have finally figured it out.

Now it is time to wage war against the mosquito.

First, I’m going to give you a shopping list. Pick up these items then wage war on the mosquitoes and their breeding places in your yard. Liquid Net (the Ultimate Insect Repellent by The Liquid Fence Company), Cyonara Lawn and Garden, Mosquito Repelling Granules, Mosquito Dunks, and Altosid Pro G are some of the basic weapons that you will need to wage war against these blood suckers.

Apply the Liquid Net to yourself. This product is organic and does an unbelievable job against mosquitoes, gnats, no-see-ums, ticks and other biting insects. Liquid Net is non-greasy, DEET-free, and safe for the whole family. It also has a 100% guarantee from the manufacturer. Last year I had one of my customers from Possum’s wanting to travel around to the various ball field complexes and sell this stuff because it worked so good, was organic and would not harm her small children. Now you are ready for the yard.

Scout around the yard for anything that holds water. Old tires, saucers under potted plants, bird baths, old flower containers or pots stacked in a corner, dog toys, kids toys, a container by the grill you use to soak wood chips in, a cooler, an old fountain, a hole in a tree and a dogs water bowl all make great places for mosquitoes to breed. Empty the water out these areas (refill the dog bowl and the bird bath daily). A tarp covering a boat.  A few empty bottles or cans can end up being thousands of mosquitoes!  Many mosquitoes can breed in just an ounce of water.

If you have bigger areas of water like a ditch or a low area of the yard that holds water, apply the Mosquito Dunks or the Altosid Pro G. The Mosquito Dunks are an organic Bt product that kill larvae and the Altosid Pro G is a growth regulator product that contains the same active ingredient that is used in the Precor products for controlling fleas. Although Altosid is not organic, it is considered to be very safe and labeled to be used in very sensitive areas like marshes. Turn off your irrigation when you can and correct any drainage problems.

Any pruning you can do to increase air movement and sunlight penetration will also help. Mosquitoes like moist stagnant areas. Mosquitoes are very weak fliers, so they do not like wind or air movement (big fans for parties help). Mosquitoes are a public health issue, so  you might be able to get some help from a government agency.

Next, you want to mow your lawn then spray the lawn, shrubs, trees, and mulched areas with Cyonara Lawn and Garden. This product not only kills mosquitoes but also kills chiggers, fleas, ants, ticks, spittlebugs and roaches just to name a few other problem insects out right now.

If you would like to stay organic apply Mosquito Repelling Granules. Check the weather (I know it is hard to do around here) because this product likes to be dry for 48 hours after application. This organic product really does a great job. It is university tested and has also proven itself in the Lowcountry. Many of our customers at Possum’s have reported control for over three weeks! We sell it to people putting on large fundraisers, other outdoor festivals, sporting events, and individuals and we always get positive feedback. If you would rather spray, try EcoVia EC. A natural product that works!

If this sounds like too much work, hire a professional. Always read and follow product label.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Growth Regulators

It is hard to believe another year is half way over with. Depending on your fertility program, now is generally a good time to fertilize. It has been a while since the ever popular spring fertilization and with the help of a few rainstorms, many lawns look washed out and hungry. Do not forget about your trees and shrubs, they are hungry too.

I often hear, “Bill, I do not want to fertilize my lawn because I don’t want to mow it.” Or the ever popular, “Bill, no one feeds the trees in the forest, and they do fine.” And “I don’t want to fertilize my shrubs because they will grow and I will have to hedge them.”

You wouldn’t stop eating just because you got to a certain height. If you have children, you would not stop feeding them. Plants, like people, need certain nutrients to remain healthy. In an urban environment, we need to supply our plants nutrients. In a forest where leaves, limbs, trees fall to the forest floor and are recycled into nutrients by microorganisms, trees can fend for themselves.

If you want to reduce your mowing, consider using a growth regulator. With generic products available, these products have become very affordable. They were very affordable before they went generic with the time, fuel and wear and tear of equipment that was saved. Now there is much less “sticker shock.”

I mix up a weed killer, insecticide, fungicide, fertilizer, growth regulator and a few secret ingredients together and stop my St. Augustine from growing for a month. When it starts to grow, I spray it again. I still fertilize, but no mowing. Very nice!

I work with a football field that has an Elaeagnus hedge that covers the chain-linked fence that surrounds the stadium. The groundskeeper was trimming this hedge monthly during the growing season and hating it. He started using a growth regulator twice a year and barely does any pruning to it at all now. Elaeagnus are infamous for being a pain in the landscape with their wild growth habit. The groundskeeper went from standing on a ladder pruning a 6 to 8 foot hedge, and raking up the debris and disposing of it to just walking by and spraying a product. He was happy, happy, happy.

Check out growth regulators for edging a sidewalk, along a fence , for a shrub, or a groundcover and save some time this year.

Always read, understand and follow product label. The product label is a Federal Law.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A Few Situations To Look Out For

  1. The nasty rascal, the chinch bug in St. Augustine grass has been killing large areas of turf in the Lowcountry. Remember the products that control chinch bugs generally have a short residual. If you are going out of town for any length of time, be sure you treat the lawn before you leave. If you prefer to treat less often, Aloft is the way to go. Aloft is more expensive; however, depending on the rates you apply the product, the cost evens out because you have to apply it less often and you only have to keep the pets inside once instead of multiple times.
  2.  Fleas have been a close second to chinch bugs this Spring. Any pet owner, especially one that has his or her pet sleep in the same room as themselves, can not stand to be kept up half the night by the sound of their pet scratching fleas. Fleas are hard to control. Plan to treat the animal, the house, and the yard. The use of growth regulators will make a near impossible task, much easier. Expect about two weeks to get this pest managed.
  3. Japanese beetles have been chowing down. Bifen or Cyonara will take care of them.
  4. Hurry up and do any pruning you want to do to azaleas and camellias.   
  5. While driving through neighborhoods localized dry spots are very evident.  These are areas in the yard that turn that bluish gray color from lack of water.  New neighborhoods with young grass and poor soils seem to be most susceptible to these dry areas.  Exposed areas with lots of wind and areas at the beaches also are good candidates for these localized dry spots.  Adding organic matter to the soil (Cotton Burr Composts or SeaHume), wetting agents, or adjusting sprinkler heads will help with these dry areas.  Remember to water in the early a.m. before the wind picks up, so the grass will dry by nightfall.
  6. Moles seem to be particularly active this spring.  They just had their young in April and now they are tunneling up a storm.  The young moles are hungry!  Manage the food source in your yard (grubs, mole crickets) with Lebanon Insect Control and go after the mole with Mole Patrol. 
  7. Be sure to change that dull mower blade from last year.  This will give your grass a cleaner cut and will allow less entry points for disease. Inspect your blade for nicks and damage if you are going to continue to use the same blade. Since a mower blade spins at very high speeds, any nicks or bends can lead to the blade being out of balance. When a blade is out of balance, the mower will vibrate (like your tire out of balance on your car) and you could damage the spindle and other parts of your mower that cost far more than a new blade.
  8. Look up at your trees. If you have any tree work that needs to be done, I would get it done as soon as possible.  Look for trees that have cavities at the base of the tree and look at the tops for broken limbs and weak crotch angles.  Have a tree care professional inspect your trees for safety. Most tree companies will inspect for free. Try to get this done before the Lowcountry is in that cone for a direct hit for a hurricane! The tree companies are usually very busy by then. 
  9. As with all products, you should read and follow product labels.  More is not better when dealing with control products.  Measure your yard so you know your square footage and watch overlapping when applying your products.  You also need to watch the weather forecast to insure the products have a proper amount of time on your lawn prior to any rain.  If the product needs to be watered into the ground, a slow watering by a sprinkler is better than a gully washer from the sky.  A very hard rain can wash products into the storm water drains which are bad for the environment and you have wasted a lot of money. Also sweep or blow fertilizers or control products off of hard surfaces when you are finished applying them. In the case of fertilizer this may prevent staining, and most importantly it will keep products from washing through storm drains to the marshes.
  10. With the dry weather we had earlier this year, spider mites have come out in full force. Be sure to use a product labeled for mites when trying to control these plant juice suckers. Mites are not insects, so all insecticides do not control them. Malathion and oil should work until the temperatures get too hot.
  11. Another plant juice sucker that is out in full force is the lace bug on Azaleas. If  the leaves look mottled, flip the leaf over and look very closely for the pest. The lace bug is small and well camouflaged so you might need a magnify glass. Dominion Tree and Shrub or Merit will give you long term control of this pest.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Summer is Here - Watering Tips

Summer is here! Pop up thunderstorms in the afternoon, well over 90 degree days, and vacation time (“Schools out for Summer” – Alice Cooper). If your kids are grown, maybe you are thinking, “Summertime and the Living is Easy” because if they are still around the house you are busy keeping them busy.

The pop up thunderstorms are very local in the Lowcountry. Just because you went through a lot of rain on the way home from work, do not be surprised if you got very little at home (or flip this scenario). This past week I was in a monsoon in West Ashley and hardly a drop of rain came down at my house.

With the very high temperatures, be sure your lawn, trees, and shrubs are getting enough water. If you have an irrigation system, invest in a rain sensor, so you are not wasting water and your money on water during a wet spell.

With the sporadic rain, a rain gauge is a good tool to have. We have a basic one that sells for less than five dollars. I have seen very fancy ones that are over one hundred dollars. With the Duck Dynasty craze going strong, you could probably get a camouflage coffee mug with an equal top and bottom circumference and place it in the middle of the yard away from overhanging tree limbs to collect water. If you go with the camo mug, be sure you do not hit it with the lawn mower.  

Using wetting agents (we hear of people saving 30% to 85% on their water bill by using wetting agents), topdressing with Cotton Burr Compost and using organic fertilizers will help you get more bang for your water bill buck.

If you have a well for watering, be sure to have it tested for salt. We (Possum’s Landscape and Pest Control) see many soil tests that come back high in sodium from people watering with a well that is salty. Sometimes these wells are inland, so it is not just a coastal situation. If you have a salty well, we have many tools to help you manage this situation.

Summertime uninvited guests include roaches, rodents, the nasty rascal the chinch bug, wasps, flies (many types), ants (fire ants and many others), mole crickets, aphids, white flies, lace bugs, various worms (not the good kind), fleas, mosquitoes, scale, borers, gray leaf spot …