Monday, April 30, 2012
Monday, April 23, 2012
Sunday, April 15, 2012
On the bark of my Crepe Myrtles, I noticed grayish growth. I can peel this growth off fairly easily. What is this growth and is it hurting my tree?
It sounds like you have lichens. Lichens are grayish-green organisms that are a cross between fungi and algae. They make their own food and collect their own water and minerals, so technically they do not harm the plant or tree on which they are growing.
Since lichens manufacture their own food through photosynthesis, a healthy actively growing plant or tree is the best defense against lichens. If the tree or shrub has a thick canopy, the lichens will not survive since they need sunlight to manufacture their food. Culturally, the plant must be planted in an area that provides the conditions that the plant can thrive, so it produces a dense canopy that will shade out the lichens. Proper fertilization based on soil tests and proper pruning will help to keep the canopy thick.
Although lichens do not hurt the plant, it could be a sign that the plant is in a very moist area or in an area that is not getting good air movement. A shady area for Crepe Myrtles will also cause the lichens to flourish.
Lichens thrive in these conditions which are not very favorable for plant growth. With our on-again, off-again rain, it is hard to control these moist conditions. If you have an irrigation system, be sure you are not over-watering, as this contributes to the problem. Irrigation systems are great; however, if over used can cause great problems in the landscape. Large patch fungus and lichens could be a couple of examples of over-watering issues.
The best control for lichens is cultural controls. Try to minimize the moisture in the soil and air around the plants and trees. Pruning to increase air movement will help dry the soil. Excessive mulch whether fallen leaves, pine straw or wood mulch will keep moisture high in this area and should be limited to 2-3 inches in depth.
Lichens, although a bit unsightly, do not harm the plant, so if you can’t get the moisture out of the area because of large trees, it may be something you just have to live with.
Mistletoe is a parasitic plant that lives in our trees. It manufactures its own food; however, it has root-like growth that penetrates the bark and collects minerals and water from the host tree. If left to grow, it will eventually kill the host tree. It has seeds that birds eat and spread. These seeds also get under the soft bark and germinate spreading the parasitic plant.
Always read, understand and follow product label. The product label is a Federal Law.
Monday, April 9, 2012
As the night time temperatures warm up and the grass starts to actively grow, aerating should be considered for the health of your whole landscape. While you have the holes open in your yard, there are many products that you can add to that root zone area that will benefit your turf, trees, and shrubs.
Aerating does several good things for your lawn, shrubs, and trees. Try to use an aerator that pulls up a plug with a hollow tine instead of a spike type aerator that is just a solid tine going into the ground. By removing cores of soil from your lawn and laying them on top of the ground, all kinds of good things happen. This cultural practice is one of the best for your landscape as a whole.
Aerating reduces compaction, reduces thatch, increases oxygen movement to the roots, brings beneficial microorganisms to the surface, cuts runners, and allows better penetration of water, fertilizers, or control products into the soil.
Right after aerating, while the holes are open, is a good time to add SeaHume G, BGK 7500, products containing mycorrhiza, Crab Shell, Mule Mix and/or Cotton Burr Compost.
· SeaHume G is a bio-stimulant humic acid product that will help your roots grow, soften up the soil, feed beneficial micro-organisms in the soil, make nutrients that are in the soil more available to the plants, and keep fertilizer from leaching.
· SeaHume G also contains 10% cold water seaweed. The seaweed also acts as a bio-stimulant and is a source of many minor elements.
· BGK 7500 is a granular organic product that has thatch eating bacteria mix in with a 03-03-03 fertilizer. BGK 7500 is also fortified with 6% humic acid.
· 04-04-04 Bolster and other products that contain mycorrhiza. By applying these products while the roots are exposed, the mycorrhiza can attach to the roots quickly.
· Crab Shell by Neptune’s Harvest will increase the chitin eating bacteria in the soil. These bacteria will help control nematodes and fungus. I would definitely use this product in areas that I have problems with large / brown patch.
· Mule Mix can last about 20 years in the soil and help manage moisture. This is a clay product that has been super heated until it pops! This makes this product sterile as well as turns it into a little capillary. This capillary holds water and then releases it as the plant needs it. This product is used on baseball infields to manage the moisture levels in clay; otherwise the clay would be rock hard or moist and slimy. Mule Mix will also keep fertilizer and water from leaching in sandy soils.
· Cotton Burr Compost will add water holding capabilities to the soil by adding organic matter to the soil. Cotton Burr Compost will soften up clay as well as giving sandy soil nutrient holding capacity. Cotton Burr Compost is very high in nutrition and will also help increase populations of beneficial organisms in the soil.
All the above products will help conserve moisture as well.
Monday, April 2, 2012
As the azalea blooms drop off for this year, pruning the plants should become a priority. Think long term and try to do your pruning so you will not have to prune again until this time next year. For your non-repeat bloomers try to get any touch up pruning done before the 4th of July.
When pruning azaleas, try to reach into the middle of the plant and open it up. Take some of the oldest canes down to the base of the plant so it can send out young new shoots from the bottom. Remove any wood that looks old and unproductive. Remove any rubbing, sick or diseased looking limbs. Encouraging growth from the middle will also reduce lichen growth. If you have a lot of diseased limbs, consider sterilizing your pruners with a 1% mix of bleach.
Try not to remove more than 25% of the total plant at one time. If it is an eight foot plant, don’t hedge it off down to six feet and figure you have removed 25% of the plant. It is best to use hand pruners and make your pruning cuts where another branch is coming off the limb that you are cutting. Don’t make cuts along the stem where there is not a branch coming out or you will get two limbs coming out at this point and will create the “shell effect” if done repeatedly.
The “shell effect” is when you have a veneer of green foliage on the outside of the plant and the middle of the plant has no foliage at all. This “shell effect” does not allow light and air movement inside the plant making it a haven for disease and insects. An azalea should have layers of green foliage from the top to the bottom, inside the plant and out.
There are many types of azaleas available on the market. They are different sizes and have different bloom periods. Many azaleas are available that are late bloomers as well as repeat bloomers. If you are designing a new yard or replacing some plants in an existing landscape, invest a little time in finding the right mature height for the area that you have and consider when you would like the azalea to bloom. This time spent planning could save you time later. For example, the College of Charleston’s graduation is in early May, so John Davis found an azalea that blooms during this period every year so the campus looks its best.
When you are pruning your azaleas or any other plant at this time of year, make sure you have plenty of mulch and maintain adequate moisture by a good watering schedule. When you prune the plant, you will be removing leaves that were shading the ground and the root system of the plant will be much hotter, causing it to dry out faster.
After you prune consider fertilizing. Without a soil test, 17-00-09 would probably be a good general fertilizer; however, it is always best to take a soil test. A soil test provides critical information, just like a blood test does for your doctor.
Fleas, powdery mildew, brown patch, mosquitoes and leaf gall on azaleas and camellias seem to be hot topics this spring.
Always read, understand and follow product label. The product label is a Federal Law.