Monday, February 8, 2016

Crepe Myrtle Pruning



The question about pruning Crepe Myrtles and other plants seem to top the list of questions for this week. The time is now for getting in your soil test, so you can amend the soil by spring time. Do you have any disease prone plants (roses, etc.) that could benefit from a little sanitation? What is the population of moles in the Lowcountry? What is the population of moles in your yard?

Crepe Myrtles are the most abused tree in the landscape. Since they bloom on new growth, someone “topped” them a while back and notice the flush of new growth and the prolific blooms. These heavy blooms are supported by wimpy 18 – 24 sprouts that just developed that growing season. When it rains, the bloom catches water and becomes even heavier. The bloom will hang down and eventually the wimpy new growth supporting the bloom will split off tree leaving an open wound for insects and disease.

Instead of “topping” the tree to increase blooms, a good fertility program will accomplish the same thing without ruining the beautiful natural branch structure of the tree. A soil test and program can guide you to the right fertilizer for your tree. Have you ever seen a Crepe Myrtle in the winter when the leaves are gone, and sense the tree’s embarrassment, like a dog with the cone on its head? A tree that has been “topped” is standing there naked of any foliage with these big nasty swollen knobs at the end of the branch, like huge warts. The tree that is pruned correctly is standing there naked and proud, like a nude Greek Statue.

The correct pruning for a Crepe Myrtle involves removing dead limbs and crossing limbs. Opening up the center some for sunlight penetration and air movement is always a good idea to help prevent disease. Sometimes Crepe Myrtles, being a multi-trunk tree, can have too many canes growing from the ground, and one of these needs to be removed. Removing these canes is best done while the tree is very young; however, you can prune these canes out once the tree is older.

There is a very rare occasion that a landscape designer orders that a tree should be topped. Under certain circumstances usually involving safety concerns or visibility concerns a designer will recommend keeping the tree at a certain height. When I worked on Hilton Head, we had a safety situation by a guard gate that required us to “top” the Crepe Myrtles; however, we did not “top” the other Crepe Myrtles in the project. Some businesses want their sign to be seen, and Citadel Mall is practicing pollarding, a type of severe pruning that the Crepe Myrtle can tolerate.

Now days, Crepe Myrtles are available in all different sizes from 3 feet to 30 feet, so planting the right one to fit the scale of your landscape is crucial. Much of this “topping” can be avoided with the proper plant selection and proper fertility. Whoever is planting the tree (or any plant) should look at its mature height and plant the right plant for the space.

If you live in Mt. Pleasant, learn the local ordinances because they have laws about the proper pruning of Crepe Myrtles.

After you prune your Crepe Myrtle properly, now is the perfect time to add Cotton Burr Compost as a mulch, SeaHume as a biostimulant and minor nutrient treasure chest, and a tree and shrub drench for insect protection.

Spring is coming. Preemerge?  

Monday, February 1, 2016

Preemerge Time



The soil temperature indicates that it is just about time to apply preemergent products to your beds and turf. Valentine’s Day (applying preemerge for your wife is a great present for Valentine’s Day - by the way if you have a very cool gardening wife; however, if you want to keep this very cool gardening wife, you should consider some of the more traditional gifts as well) and the running of the Daytona 500 are just around turn four. The time to apply the magical weed preventer is coming up fast, and this year the time might come a little early since our winter has been pretty mild and the ground has been insulated with moisture.

Depending on which Phd doctor you believe, crabgrass germinates when the soil temperature (3 inches deep) stays above 55 degrees (some people say 57 degrees), for 3 straight days provided adequate moisture in the soil. Now some doctors say remains 57 degrees or above for 24 hours at a depth of 3 inches with adequate moisture.  If you are not in to monitoring the soil temperature, Valentine’s Day or the running of the Daytona 500 should work for you.

The turf areas as well as the landscape bed areas will greatly benefit from the use of preemerge products. Not only will the yard look better, but your plants will not have to compete with the weeds for sun, nutrients, and water. If you are controlling weeds with preemergent products, there are less weeds there for you to spray or pull, saving you time. There is also less stress on you trying to find time to control the weeds in your yard (example “Honey, [Johnny or Jane] and I are going [turkey hunting, spot tail fishing, golfing, to watch March Madness and eat chicken wings {Jane shopping, going to the movies, getting my hair done}].” Spouse reply, “ok sweetie, have you sprayed the weeds in the front yard like you said you were going to do last week?”) Kill them now with a preemergent control product!

For those new readers of the Horticulture Hotline, preemergent control products kill weeds as they germinate.  The weeds never come up and you never have to worry about them.  Crabgrass, goosegrass, barnyardgrass, crowfootgrass, dallisgrass (seedling), foxtail, annual bluegrass, smutgrass, barley, kikuyugrass, wild oats, bittercress, carpetweed, chickweed, Carolina geranium, henbit, knotweed, lespedeza, marestail, black medic, mustard, oxalis, pineappleweed, pigweed, redroot, parsley-piert, purslane, rocket, shephardspurse, speedwell, spurge, and woodsorrel are examples of weeds controlled by preemergent products.  Small seeded annual weeds are controlled by preemergent products.

Read the label of the specific product that you are using to get an exact list of weeds that the manufacturer has tested and shown to control. Preemergent products applied now do not control winter annual weeds that are already up like annual blue grass. To control annual bluegrass, you would have used a preemergent in August and again in October (this could vary with products and rates).

Clover, Florida Betony, Nutsedge and Dollar weed are not controlled by preemergent control products.  These are perennial weeds. Weed Free Zone is a liquid that will do a good job on controlling many of your broadleaf weeds. The Nutsedge will require a different product and is most likely not visible right now.  It is important to control these weeds now before they go into their reproductive stage.  A weed in its reproductive stage is harder to control than a weed in its vegetative stage. By killing the weed now you avoid having to deal with more weed seeds next year.

It is very noticeable when you ride through the Lowcountry which homeowners and which businesses used preemergent products last fall at the correct time. One business or home lawn will be nice and brown and dormant with-out a spec of green in sight. Right next to it will be brown turf mixed with green weeds. Again, it is very important to control those weeds now before they begin to flower.

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

Monday, January 25, 2016

Spring is Coming



Are you ready for the 2016 season in your yard?

Here are a few things to do on the nice winter days (you know Charleston, one day nice next day not so nice).

·         Get soil tested – how do you know what to apply if you don’t know what you have in the soil already.
·         Kill winter weeds now while they are young and your grass is dormant.
·         Get ready to preemerge in February. Kill small seeded summer annual weeds before they take over your landscape.
·         Take mower in to have serviced to beat the Spring rush. With the new ethanol gas lawn mower engines and other engines have had issues. No one likes their mechanic to tell them, “pick it up in 4 weeks.”
·         Keep leaves off lawn areas. Keeps moisture from being trapped and if you or your lawn service are applying products, you will have a more uniform coverage without the leaves.
·         Move any shrub or tree now before it is too late. Root prune now, move before they start putting on new growth. Try DieHard Transplant to help survival.
·          Spray trees and shrubs with paraffinic oil (ultra-fine, Omni Supreme oil) as opposed to petroleum oils (Volck) to control over-wintering insects. Watch temperatures. If you have ongoing issues with scale, aphids, white flies, or other sucking bugs, try Safari or Dominion for long term control. Neem oil works on diseases as well as insects.
·         Have you tried Lime / Sulfur spray around the ground of deciduous plants that get diseased (do not spray foliage – just the ground)? Roses and blueberries or any plant that gets leaf spot disease are good examples of plants that benefit from this sanitation practice.
·         Sharpen pruning tools or purchase new ones.
·         If you haven’t already, get your bulbs in the ground.
·         Apply SeaHume to turf, trees, flowers, and shrubs. Adding organics now will help in the spring. Cotton Burr Compost?
·         Re-do bed lines to reflect maturing landscape.
·         Get bird house ready for nesting birds.
·         Have moles, get Mole Patrol – it really works. After you use Mole Patrol, use a repellent like Repellex monthly to keep them out.
·         Have deer, get Deer Stopper – it really works.
·         Check irrigation or get on professional’s list to check. Be sure the heads are pointed the right way. Can you eliminate (turn off) the zone watering the shrubs and trees? Have you tried wetting agents to lower your water bill (we hear between 30 and 60 percent)? Less water equals less disease.
·         Prune Crepe Myrtles – don’t butcher them. Remove crossing (rubbing) limbs, inward growing limbs and diseased limbs. Topping or reducing their height is not considered proper pruning.
·         Hold off on pruning plants damaged by the cold – we could still have freezing temperatures.
·         Test well for salt, if you own a well.
·         Attend meetings of the Rose, Camellia, Horticultural Societies and other like horticultural societies.
·         Get out and enjoy our County, State and City parks as well as our local plantations.