Monday, November 18, 2019

Choosing and Caring for a Christmas Tree

Horticulture Hotline 11/18/19
By Bill Lamson-Scribner

Another year has almost gone by. What a year! The spring was as dry as I can remember. Plants, grass, and trees want water during the spring to develop new leaves and to function. The irrigation guys got swamped! Does anyone / everyone have moles? Mole Crickets? Fire Ants?

This week I started seeing tents going up in parking lots and people wearing Christmas Hats, so I figured it was time for the yearly Christmas tree article. I heard of the long lines at department stores.

I’m looking forward to my trip through the Festival of Lights at James Island County Park. I was collecting soil for some of their turf area to be tested there the other day on a rainy cloudy day, and when I was leaving the park, some of the displays were coming on with all their holiday spirit. 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, 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?”).  Lebanon Christmas Tree Farm in Ridgeville and Toogoodoo Tree Farm on the way to Edisto are some 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 after the holidays.  Once you bring the tree home, cut an inch off of the bottom of the tree, and place the tree in a five-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 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. You might want to save the aspirin if you drink Uncle Joe’s egg nog.  

Thank you for shopping at Possum’s Landscape and Pest Control Supply and for all of your letters, questions, for the kind comments when I meet you, and for reading “The Horticulture Hotline”!

Monday, November 11, 2019


Horticulture Hotline 11/11/19
  Bill Lamson-Scribner

Although this is the Horticulture Hotline, I decided to write about entomology (insects) today. Instead of the Horticulture Hotline, I’ll call it the Entomology Swat Line. With the cooler weather, the old cockroach has found its way into many Lowcountry homes.  Contact your pest management company if you have a contract or consider getting on a contract if you do not like dealing with cockroaches.  If you are a die hard do-it-yourselfer, here are a few tips that will make your battle a little more effective. 

Treat your outside perimeter. A band about three feet from your house generally in the mulch is a good place to start. A granular product like Bug Blaster in the mulch beds surrounding your house will help kill the roaches before they get inside your house. A NOP (National Organics Program) organic product that is very effective is InTice Perimeter Bait. Using a spray around windows, doors, garage entry, and any other entry point to your house will also keep them from entering your house. EcoVia is a NOP product you can use around the outside and inside of your house.   

Underneath your house, consider dusting with a boric acid product. BorActin is a NOP product labeled for this or you could use the InTice Perimeter Bait. These products will last a long time in the crawl space of your house because they are away from sunlight and moisture. 

In your house, consider using InVict Gold Cockroach Gel. InVict Gold is a fast-acting bait that has our customers at Possum’s singing its praises. The bait products are great because they move throughout the roach population.  Maxforce Gel capitalize on roaches’ nasty habits needed to survive, making these products very effective.  An immature roach has to eat the fecal pellets of the adult roach in order to mature into an adult roach.  Roaches also cannibalize each other.  By using this bait, you get a domino effect by the little roaches eating the fecal pellets of an adult that has consumed the bait.  When one roach dies from the bait, then another eats the dead roach, it will also die.  In wall voids you can also use InTice Perimeter Bait. 

There are many good aerosols that come with a long straw that are designed to be sprayed in cracks and crevices.  Now there is a good selection of “green” aerosols to choose from along with the old standbys. If you treat the outdoors and use a gel, an aerosol application probably will not be necessary.   

Definitely consider using a growth regulator to help lengthen your control of the roaches.  Generally, growth regulators are very safe to humans if applied properly, and some will also help with fleas (Nylar). Growth regulators will keep roaches from reproducing; therefore, breaking up their life cycle. 

Knowing where to put these products is crucial for the success.  Always read, understand and follow the product label.  There are also many pest control companies that are well established in this area and are very capable of taking care of any of your uninvited guests. If you are a do-it-yourselfer, this article should help and the products suggested should work well.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Fall My Favorite Time of Year

Horticulture Hotline 10/28/19
By Bill Lamson-Scribner

On radio or in print I never like to make doom and gloom predictions or talk about only the negative things going on in the landscape or around the house. Sometimes the weather conditions make this a little difficult. Also the fact that I work for a company whose tagline is ‘We Have Solutions’ and we sell products for controlling moles, fire ants, disease, insects, weeds, rats, mice, bed bugs, fleas, mosquitoes, roaches, and termites…and other negative aspects of the landscape - probably shapes my way of thinking.

Fall is my favorite time of year. The cooler weather, young ryegrass sprouting, Cassia blooming, mums and winter annual flowers being planted, container plants being changed out with fresh new soil, Thanksgiving around the corner, the tea olives’ fragrance, the red seeds in the magnolia cones, fall color as leaves prepare to drop, the grass going dormant so less mowing, oyster roasts, fall is for planting and transplanting, pumpkins …

Okay. Now the other stuff going on. Large patch (brown patch) has attacked many yards in the Lowcountry. The perfect conditions with rain, less daylight hours, the grass slowing down and going into dormancy, and the temperature range that favors the development of the disease, have all contributed to a huge outbreak of this disease. Look for circular and irregular areas of brown in your yard. These irregular areas could also be fall army worms or sod webworms, so be sure to identify what you are trying to control.
Fungus needs a fungicide and insects need insecticides. Worm damage is easy to identify because you can see the worms or the bite marks in the leaves that they have chewed on.

Fleas are always an issue in the Lowcountry, but for some reason they have been extra active this year. I wonder if it is because everywhere I go I see dogs. The rain brought the fire ants to the surface. Mosquitoes what? The summer annual weeds that might go unnoticed are very visible as they flower (Virginia button weed comes to mind). Rats what? Moles always. Roaches what? Bed bugs not causing the hysteria they use to until you have them.

Charleston is beautiful in the fall. Are the no-see-ums out yet?

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