Monday, April 23, 2018

The Infamous Villian

Horticulture Hotline 04/23/18
By Bill Lamson-Scribner

Moles are always a hot topic in the Lowcountry. I try to write about them only once a year, and after walking through some neighborhoods and listening to the complaints in the Possum stores, it looks like the time has come. The mamma moles are having baby moles now so expect the activity to continue.

As with deer, raccoons, and possums, all the development has squeezed the mole to move into your yard. The mole that was happy eating insects and worms in a vacant lot is now moving to your yard as a house, apartment complex or shopping center is being constructed on its old home. I have even notice some buffer areas between different neighborhoods that were once forest like being cleaned up and landscaped. Again, less habitat for the mole. Moles really don’t have any natural predators to keep their numbers in check, other than some dogs and cats, so their numbers keep increasing.

The weekly mowing (noise, vibration, wheels of the mower) of your yard during the summer and the tight, actively growing grass seems to lower the mole activity some during the summer; however, the moles are out tunneling for food now. I haven’t looked at any historical weather data, but it seems to me our night time temperatures are about 10 degrees cooler than usual. Our grass is coming out of dormancy very slowly. Once the grass starts actively growing and weaves itself together, along with regular moving, hopefully, the moles will move.

  I still recommend a 3-prong approach when controlling moles for the less adventurous people that do not want to trap and look at a dead mole.  These 3 steps are:

  1. Kill the mole
  2. Manage its food source
  3. Repel other moles from your yard

Moles tunnel through your yard looking for food.  They usually have several main runs through your yard as well as secondary tunnels.  The secondary tunnels are where they collect their food, and once they have a gone down a secondary tunnel, they will not return to that tunnel.  In order to kill a mole with bait or a trap, you must be able to locate the main tunnel.

The best way to locate the main runs is to take a stick and poke holes in the tunnels in your yard.  Next, mark where you made these holes.  The next morning come and check to see if the holes are plugged. If they are plugged, then you know you have a main tunnel.  The mole will only plug holes on the main tunnel.  That evening, open up one of the holes that the mole plugged the night before and place bait (or trap) 5 feet on either side of the hole that you reopened.  When the mole comes back to re-plug the hole it will have to walk right over the bait (or trap).  These baits are very tasty to the mole, so the mole will usually eat the bait and die.

Three baits that we regularly hear good results about are Mole Patrol, poison worms and Talpirid.  I prefer Mole Patrol because it is one third the price and has 6 times the amount of bait placement as Talpirid.  Stay away from poison peanuts.  Moles do not eat peanuts. They eat insects and worms.

Controlling the food source is the next most important factor in managing moles on your property.  Depending on which doctor (PHD) you believe, the mole eats 85-125% of its body weight every day.  In human terms a 100 lb. person would eat 85-125 lbs of food per day. That is a lot of food! Think of Michael Phelps and all he eats from swimming in water. A mole is swimming in soil!

Using a product like Sevin on a regular basis will do a good job in managing the mole’s food source.  Monitor your insect populations with a soap solution to determine how often you need to apply insecticides.  Use two ounces of lemon dish detergent in a five gallon bucket of water and pour it slowly over your soil in the areas where you think you might have insects and see what comes to the surface.  Some products get tied up in the thatch to kill surface insects (like ants), so be sure to get a product for sub-surface insects.

Castrol products (Mole Repellent, Repellex Mole, Vole and Gopher Repellent) and other repellents (Mole Stopper) work good as perimeter treatments to keep moles from re-infesting your property. Be sure there are not any moles on your property before you put out this barrier or you will trap them inside your landscape.  Make a 10-20 foot band treatment around the perimeter of your property.  Reapply these repellents as the label recommends. 

If you yard is free of moles right now, you can skip #1 and just manage their food source and repel them at the perimeter of your property.  Be sure your yard is free of moles before you skip #1 in this process.  If you take away the mole’s food source and he is in your yard already, he will really tear up your yard looking for food!

If all this sounds like too much work, try the mole and rodent smoke bombs or hire a professional!

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

Monday, April 16, 2018

Soil Amendments For Successful Planting

Horticulture Hotline 04/16/18
By Bill Lamson-Scribner

With all the recent cold damage, salt damage, and hurricane damage I have been getting a lot of questions about amending the soil for planting. Here are a few products that will make a big difference for you. Test soil first, if possible. Amend your soil. Wait 30 days to plant, if possible not necessary.

Amend whole area not just the hole! With clay especially. I have witnessed many plants and trees where the soil was amended in a hole of clay. The clay acts like a bowl holding the water in the amended area around the roots, killing the plant or tree. 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:
·         Turface – 200 lbs. per 100 sqft.  Turface is super-heated calcified clay.  Turface helps improve drainage and reduces compaction.  Turface 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 – it is like a thermos knows whether to keep dry or wet) over the years.
·         Bolster 04-04-04 Sustane – 2.5 lbs. per 100 sqft.  This product 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 (also like a thermos!).  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.
·         Diehard Transplant – inoculates soil with beneficial fungi, bacteria, and Trichoderma. Seaweed, humic acid, wetting agents and root promoting vitamins, and amino acids. Put Diehard Transplant in direct contact with the root system, so the mycorrhizal fungi will colonize the roots quickly.

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 topdressed 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.

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

Monday, April 9, 2018

To Mow Low Or Bag

Horticulture Hotline 04/09/18
By Bill Lamson-Scribner

Today’s article is not as much of a “to do list” as a have you done it list.

I have been asked some form of this question a lot recently. “Should I mow down lower than I usually mow (scalp) and or bag my clippings on the first cut of the year?”

Congratulations, you must be using a preemerge product for winter weeds or you would be mowing weeds! A lot of people will mow lower and collect the clippings to get rid of the "brown" in the grass. Not needed for good grass, just appearance. By mowing lower you remove the brown grass (your green grass from last fall), and your lawn will appear greener – basically you are removing the brown leaves from your grass like raking up leaves from your trees. If you did nothing different, the new leaf blades would come through and the brown leaves would decompose.

If you have a whole lot of brown grass that does not look like it is going to decompose in a reasonable amount of time, using a bagging mower may be a good option for the first cut. Get back to your mulching mower as soon as possible, so your grass benefits from the returned organic matter and nutrients.

If you have been waiting for the weather to warm up, here is a brief checklist of things that should have been completed around the yard:
  • Test soil. All the rain leached out very valuable nutrients out of the soil. There are many properties I have taken soil test on every year for over 20 years. In every case, there are certain nutrients that all the rain has leached out of the soil. From the soil test taken December of 2016 to the soil test taken December of 2017 there are many obvious decreases in nutrients.  I was looking at soil tests a few years ago and I had 2 tests for palm trees that 2 different people had put out way, way, way too much Magnesium. Just because people say that palms like Epsom Salt which is Magnesium sulfate, take a soil test first. You might be wasting your money. Over fertilizing could be true throughout your landscape. Soil test provide valuable information for accurate fertilizing!
  • Have you applied SeaHume G to lawn and beds for a healthy start?
  • Have you applied a preemergent to lawn and beds (this late use Dimension if it is your first application)? Remember it is never too late to start a preemerge program. It is never too late to preemerge, with our mild climate weeds germinate almost every day of the year.
  • Have you drench Dominion around plants with a history of insect problems?
  • Have you applied a preventive fungicide to turf if you have a history of fungus (T-Methyl, Fame)?
  • Mole Crickets overwinter as adults and do their mating flights right now. Have you killed them now before they can make babies? Be sure your lawn and beds are free of fire ants, and if you have pets, fleas and ticks should be controlled. If you live near the woods, chiggers may be an issue. (Granular Sevin will work on these pests. If you prefer organic, check with a Possum’s near you to find a product or products that will work in your situation.)
  • Have you gone through your irrigation system to be sure everything is operating correctly? In my travels through the Lowcountry, I have noticed many broken heads and heads that are spraying into the street. Although they have been calling for rain, where I live we have had very little. These low humidity days will dry out your grass and plants quickly. Plants and grass are putting out new leaves and need water!
  • The little fury terrorist of the yard is having babies now. Have you killed a mole recently or at least repelled one out of your yard?
  • Is your lawn mower ready for another season? New Blade? New Air Filter? New Spark Plug?
  • Have you measured your turf and bed areas so you know how much product you need to buy and apply to your yard? Getting the right amount of product on your lawn will determine the success of your efforts.

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