Monday, November 17, 2014

Christmas Tree Time



Another year has almost gone by. What a year! The ice in the spring, a very wet September and then the dry fall. The great weather for people doing activities outside, led to sod webworms and large patch / brown patch on our turf. Does anyone / everyone have moles?

I’m looking forward to my trip through the Festival of Lights at James Island County Park. I’m sure I will be treated to another outstanding display of lights this year, plus the sand castle, train, walk around displays, shops and all the “fair food!” If you’re a kid, does Christmas still seems like it takes forever to get here? It sure comes up quick to me! 

I wanted to get this yearly Christmas Tree article out early, so you could make plans to go to a local Christmas Tree Farm, find a local source for a cut tree, or use a live tree that you could use in your landscape after the holidays, if you were so inclined.

After Thanksgiving, many of you will be searching for a Christmas tree.  If you are going to buy a cut tree, consider buying it from a local business that is here year-round like an independently owned garden center.  If you buy it from a tent, or a temporary site, look for one that is run by the Exchange Club, Optimist Club, Rotary Club, a local church, a local school club, a local landscaper or another local organization.  Many local organizations that sell trees give a portion of the profits to local charities such as Camp Happy Days.

There are some people from out of state that set up tents in grocery store parking lots. They take their profits out of state when they leave. If you support our local businesses, then you keep our money in our local economy and maybe save a local job. Very important to always keep profits local, especially these days.

Many of the local garden centers offer great Christmas gifts along with trees this time of year.  They have purchased many seasonal items that would be a great present for anyone. Gift certificates are usually available for the hard to shop for gardener. I know I felt like a professional athlete (college athlete in some cases), signing Possum gift certificates last week. Shopping at a garden center is a great way to avoid long lines.  The parking is free and plentiful this time of year.

Have you ever considered a live tree? Different Hollies (right now you can tell the females with beautiful berries), Eastern Red Cedar, Little Gem Magnolias, Osmanthus, Deodara Cedar and many more make great trees and after the holidays you can plant them in your yard instead of throwing them to the curb. Leyland Cypress have been removed from this list.

Local tree farms are also an option. A ride in the country is always a good family event (young children, “how much longer will it take to get there?”).  Noel’s Christmas Tree Farm on Johns Island and Too Goo Doo Tree Farm on the way to Edisto are two local tree farms.  Picking out your own tree is fun for the whole family and usually involves hot chocolate and hay rides. You know you are getting a fresh tree when you cut it yourself. 

If you go with a traditional cut tree, make sure it is in water at the place you buy it (unless it is coming fresh off of the truck), and make sure it stays in water until you take it to the curb.  Once you bring it home cut an inch off of the bottom of the tree and place it in a 5 gallon bucket of water.  While the tree is still outside, consider spraying the tree with Transfilm, Cloud Cover or Wilt Proof to keep the water loss through the leaves at a minimum. If you notice any insects on the tree, blast it with a strong stream of water or consider an insecticidal soap. Let the tree dry before bringing it into the house. 

Locate your tree within your house away from heating ducts and the fireplace.  A stand that can hold a lot of water is a big plus because a fresh cut Christmas tree can drink 1-2 gallons of water per day.  Have one responsible adult in charge of watering the Christmas tree daily to avoid ruining the carpet or floors.  If you can, fill (2) one gallon milk jugs each day and let them sit for 24 hours, this will allow the chlorine to evaporate out of the water.  Letting the chlorine evaporate from the water you water your plants with, is a practice you should use when watering all house plants.  

There are many secrets to keeping a tree fresh.  Having a fresh cut and keeping water above this cut at all times is the most important thing you can do for the tree.  The water conducting vessels quickly close up if the tree does not have constant water.  Using a drop of Super Thrive in each gallon of water will help the tree stay fresh. Many people use 7-up and an aspirin in the water. 

Thank you for shopping at Possum’s Landscape and Pest Control Supply and all of your letters, questions and for reading The Horticulture Hotline!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Mole Crickets are Back!



While walking my dog (no, I do not have a Possum) the other day, I noticed some serious mole cricket tunneling / damage around a light post. While he lifted his leg on a light post, I noticed the turf around the post was noticeably thin and had fresh churned up soil on the surface of the ground. Mole crickets are attracted to light, so it is common to see damage near light poles. With some products being removed from the market, we are getting more complaints about mole crickets.    

These guys definitely damage turf.  Their damage is not caused by them eating the roots of the plants, as many people think, but is actually caused by them tunneling near the surface and separating the roots from the soil.  When the roots are separated from the soil, the grass plant dries out and dies.  This tunneling can cause big problems when there is a drought. When the soil is dry, it separates quickly from the plants roots.  Regular rains, irrigation or rolling the ground with a sod roller, can help keep the plant alive by keeping the roots in contact with the soil. The past 6 weeks have been very dry. The fall is bad because the grass is going dormant and the damage might go undetected.

To control mole crickets, it is best to scout for them.  Get two ounces of lemony dish soap in five gallons of water and slowly pour it over a 2 x 2 area where you may think you have mole crickets.  The soap irritates their equivalent to our lungs, and brings them to the surface gasping for air. This will drive them to the surface and depending on how many surface, you can then decide whether to treat your yard or not.  A golf course green would have less tolerable amount than a home lawn. 

In the springtime, mole crickets are in their adult stage and are mating and flying around.  This is a good time to treat them because you will break up their life cycle before they produce new babies. 

Later, in June and July, if you use a soap flush again; you will see the baby mole crickets.  Baby mole crickets are easy to kill because they do not fly. 

In the fall, the small mole crickets will have grown into young adults, have wings, and will tunnel near the surface and fly around.  Depending on the amount of mole crickets in your yard, these are the three critical times to treat for them. 

Many control products are available to kill mole crickets.  Some work better depending on the stage of life of the mole cricket.   There are baits, parasitic nematodes, contact killers, spray products, etc.  When going after the baby mole cricket, always be sure to use a product that goes through the thatch layer and into the soil where the baby mole cricket resides.  Depending on your population of mole crickets, the number of applications can vary greatly.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Amending Fower Beds, Vegetable Gardens, and Ornamental Areas including Shrubs and Trees



Fall is for planting, so here is a recipe for amending the soil for flower beds. You could use the same recipe for trees and shrubs with some slight modification. Test soil first, if possible. Wait 30 days to plant, if possible.

The Horticulture Hotline about Ocean Forest Potting Soil seem to really motivate some people to give it a try in their containers and pots! After selling out of it, we have it in stock again at Possum’s Landscape and Pest Control Supply! If you missed the article on Ocean Forest Potting Soil and wanted to read it, you could go to possumsupply.com and look under the Horticulture Hotline tab.

Amend whole area not just the hole! With trees and shrubs do not till deeper than the root ball of the plants you are planting. Once the amendments settle you do not want your plant planted too deep.  This recipe is based on per 100 sq. ft. of planting area:
·        Mule Mix – 200 lbs. per 100 sqft.  Mule Mix is super-heated calcified clay.  Mule Mix helps improve drainage and reduces compaction.  Mule Mix will last in the soil for over 20 years.  The particle can hold its weight in water and then releases it slowly as the plant needs it.  We have used this product to correct many water issues (too wet and too dry) over the years.
·        Bolster 04-04-04 Sustane – 2.5 lbs. per 100 sqft.  This product will increases fertilizer efficiency and improves soil biology.  It contains mycorrhiza spores increasing the ability for the roots absorb nutrients and water. Also contains biostimulants and iron.
·        SeaHume – 1.5 lbs. per 100 sqft. Humic acid and seaweed. Super product for establishing plants. Stimulates growth of beneficial microorganisms and root growth. Over 60 minor nutrients, amino acids, gibberellins and much, much more.  
·        Cotton Burr Compost – (4) 3 cu.ft. bags per 100 sq.ft. (sandy soil, increase to (6) bags).  Cotton Burr Compost is nature’s perfect soil conditioner.  The cotton boll (burr) is full of nutrients and will not tie up nitrogen like wood and wood-based soil amendments.  It will loosen up clay soils and add water holding capacities to sandy soils.  Cotton Burr is an excellent food source for beneficial soil organisms that help make nutrients available to plants, aerate the soil and helps keep harmful organisms and diseases in check. 
·        Flower Bed Amendment – (5) 1 cu.ft. bags per 100 sqft (in sand, increase to (8) bags).  This product not only contains Cotton Burrs, but also composted cattle manure, feather meal, cotton seed meal and alfalfa meal.  Alfalfa meal is high in nitrogen and contains Triacantanol, a natural root growth enhancer, and may help in the suppression and control of certain fungal diseases.

Mix these products together and till into 6-8 inches of soil.  With clay soil, you should have 1/3 amendments and 2/3 clay.  With sandy soil, it should be ½ amendments and ½ sand. For trees and shrubs adjust depth according to root ball size.

After tilling the bed, top dress with (4) bags of Natures Blend and then (2) bags of Cotton Burr Compost. For annuals cap it off with one pound of 17-00-09. Plant annuals through this top dressed area. With this mixture, every time you water your plants are getting a “compost tea” full of nutrients.

Test your soil after 30 days and add any other amendments that your soil test indicates you need.