Monday, January 15, 2018

Resolutions For The Gardener

Horticulture Hotline  1/15/18
  Bill Lamson-Scribner

The snow event kind of threw me off a week. Here are a few New Year’s Resolutions for the Gardener:

Go through all of the old products you have in your garage and identify why you purchased them to begin with and if they are products that still can be used.  This will save you money and make room for new and improved products.

In an effort to conserve water, it is time to get that hose that leaks at the faucet, a new gasket. Check your irrigation. Are all the zones necessary or can you turn some off? Are the heads spraying the way they were intended to spray?  Also use wetting agents this year.  Wetting agents have been shown to save approximately 30-60% of water consumption for a yard.  This would be a huge savings on your water bill.  By watering less, you will have less fungus problems and save money by not having to buy as much fungicides or water. 

In 2018 try to remove fertilizer and other control products from hard surfaces like driveways, sidewalks, pool decks, and streets before these products are washed into the storm water.  This will help protect the beautiful area in which we live.  Since a lot of storm water ends up in our marshes and waterways, this will also help protect our natural resources that we use for recreation, food, and jobs. 

Buy a 100 pack of disposable nitrile gloves.  These things are great!  You can use them when handling control products and fertilizers, when changing the oil in your lawn mower, while taking down your Christmas tree to keep sap off of your hands, while painting or taking out the trash, cleaning and yard work….  These gloves are very inexpensive and can save you lots of hot water while trying to remove things from your hands.  These gloves are also good at keeping the human scent away from mole, mice and rat bait.

In 2018, add organic matter to your lawn and beds.  Organic matter will also help you lower your water bill while adding many other benefits to your soil.  Cotton Burr compost has been improving Lowcountry soils with great results for the past 15 years. 

In order to combat weeds, plan to put out preemergents in your lawns and beds according to product label.  This will make your life a lot less stressful and your yard will be looking a lot better without weeds.  If time is a big issue, consider buying a years supply of product now, so you will have the product handy when it is time to apply. 

In 2018, always apply product according to the label’s directions.  No more “If one ounce is good….two ounces will be real good”.  This will also save you money and get you better results from the products - not to mention the product label is a Federal Law. 

For those pet owners out there whose animals have a history of flea problems, be proactive by applying growth regulators.  Ultracide, Nylar, or Precor applied every three months, should keep your pet free of fleas. 

Always mow the grass with a sharp mower blade and prune the bushes with sharp pruning blades.  You will have cleaner cuts and less chance of disease. With all the cold damage there will be a lot of pruning.

Read a good book about gardening.  Reading is how we learn and it will motivate you as a bonus. 

Happy New Year!

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

Monday, January 8, 2018

Cold Damage

Horticulture Hotline 01/08/18
By Bill Lamson-Scribner

Wow, what a difference a week makes! I thought I was going to be writing about different strategies in the landscape or around the house, and the craziest snow and cold weather hit that I can ever remember.

I’m very glad and thankful that this event wasn’t an ice, break limbs of trees, knock down powerlines, and knock out the electricity for thousands of people for days type of storm. Come to think of it, it seems that the ice is always the bad guy. Slip while walking on the ice on the driveway, slide while driving on the ice, ice building up on tree limbs causing them to break and damage something else including powerlines, cars, houses, and people…

Ironically, in agriculture ice is used to protect plants from the cold. Strawberries and citrus are the two crops that come to mind that are most commonly protected from the cold by spraying a thin layer of water on the plant and turning it to ice. You have to know what you are doing because too much ice will split limbs.

Of course, I’m already being ask what should I do for my lawn, trees, and shrubs after this “event”. Being the soil test geek that I am, I always recommend taking a soil test to figure out what the soil is needing or has too much of. I still haven’t met anyone, and I hang around some pretty sharp agronomist, that can look at a lawn and say you need 15#/M of dolomitic lime on that lawn. We all use labs to test the soil.

With the weather forecast, some T-Methyl would be good as a preventive for brown patch / large patch. SeaHume would help get some minor nutrients in the grass plant (helping to protect the plant from another cold event) and encourage rooting. 00-00-25 would help get some potassium in the plant that would help with cold hardiness and disease resistance. Cotton Burr Compost will help you fill in thin areas.

Winter weeds will be in full force when the snow melts – treat them now before they begin to flower. Depending on when you preemerged last, you might want to consider preemerging. This event was not a big leaching rain event like some we have had. The ice and snow when melted would not amount to much water.  

Trees and shrubs took a beating as well. Soil test would help them too. Right now organics would be the best thing to get them on their road to recovery. Organics are regulated by the microorganisms in the soil. Microorganisms break down the organic product into a useable form for the plant (like in the forest). If it is cold, microorganisms are slow and don’t make nutrients available to the plant. When it warms up the nutrients are there and ready for the plant as it needs them.

Back to Nature products as a mulch, Corn Gluten, Milorganite, Vermiplex (worm), worm castings, SeaHume, Fish, Seaweed, Fish & Seaweed, SUPERthrive, and others will help get the plants going when they are ready. Flowerbed Amendment and SeaHume granular will give you a lot of bang for your buck. 00-00-25 is a good addition to this 1-2 punch.

With potential cracks (fissures) in the plants from the freezing, Dominion would be a good thing to drench if you have a history borers or insect issues.

Pruning is the other hot topic. If you don’t have to prune, then wait. Pruning will open up a hole for insects and disease and you will lose the insulation of the dead tissue. Who knows, we may have another super cold event. If you have a plant that is total mush by your front door, go ahead and prune away. In about a month or two depending on the plant, you will see the new buds swell up and you will know where the live tissue is and where you should prune back to. Damaged tree limbs would be the exception.

An interesting fact is that if you look back in my old articles, these are the kind of things that need to be done this time of year – any year.

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

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Try Some "New" Strategies in 2018

Horticulture Hotline 01/02/18
By Bill Lamson-Scribner

Over the next few weeks I’m going to write about products you might want to check out in 2018.

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. Taking a soil test is the best way to determine what nutrients your landscape needs. 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 during the summer. When it starts to grow, I spray it again. I still fertilize, but no mowing. I have less gray leaf spot disease and my roots grow deeper because there is less energy going to top growth. 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.