Monday, February 4, 2019

Bottlebrush and Tenacity

Horticulture Hotline  02-04-19
  Bill Lamson-Scribner

I would like to talk about the plant that suffered with the cold weather of 2018. The Red Bottlebrush (Callistemon citrinus) plant has gained great popularity over the past 20 years in the Lowcountry.  It is pretty much at the upper end of its hardiness zone, which means with very cold temperatures it can get some cold damage (last year).  This plant has also shown to release a natural herbicide that has been registered with the EPA for home use. The label is very narrow, so read the label closely to see if it is a fit for your situation. It is amazing how many products are being derived from things in nature these days.

The bottlebrush makes a great screen.  It has small leaves that can buffer a lot of sound and visual pollution.  The plant can be used as an accent plant, in a container, or in a large buffer.  Using bottlebrush as a screen gives you good screening and good color with the flowers.  So many of our plant materials used for screening do not have showy flowers. Be sure to blend in some cold hardy plants, if you are using bottlebrush as a screen, in case we have that killing chill your buffer will not be totally lost.

Hummingbirds, people, and butterflies attract to the beautiful bottlebrush shaped flowers.  I have had so many hummingbirds around my bottlebrush that they looked like honey bees!  Butterflies enjoy the nectar from the bottlebrush and add movement and color to your garden. 

Currently the bottlebrush have little to no insect or disease problems in this area.  They are very heat and drought tolerant and are almost considered a weed in Florida.  Unlike azaleas and camellias, they can handle sandy, low moisture, and low organic matter soils.  They are also salt tolerant which means they can be used around the beach or other salt water-front areas. 

Recently a scientist working for Syngenta noticed that certain weeds didn’t grow near his bottlebrush.  He isolated a chemical in the soil that was released from the bottlebrush plant that actually kills weeds.  Syngenta has developed this into a new product, Tenacity, which has EPA registration. This product is not meant for everyone, so read the label closely before you decide to purchase Tenacity.

I had bottlebrush in my yard for over twenty years without any ill effects from the cold. Last year they did take a hit, but many of them are already blooming now. The bottlebrush is a great addition to the Lowcountry landscape!

Spring is rapidly approaching. Are you ready? Remember this is next year for your soil test!

Monday, January 28, 2019

I Hope You Are Ready!

Horticulture Hotline 01/28/19
By Bill Lamson-Scribner

The Saucer or Tulip Magnolias are blooming, which usually indicates spring is rapidly approaching. In NASCAR terms the pace car is pulling off the track onto pit row and the green flag is waving. If you are more of a swimmer or track person, the starter has said, “take your mark” and is squeezing the trigger. Yes, a new growing season has arrived! The red maples are tasseling, Sweetgum trees are blooming, some Prunus trees are showing color, brown patch / large patch is everywhere, and fresh fire ant mounds are visible.  

The soil temperature indicates that it is just about time to apply preemergent products to your beds and turf. Valentine’s Day and the running of the Daytona 500 are just around the corner. The time to apply the magical weed preventer is coming up fast.

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.  The manufacturers of the preemergent products suggest that you apply the product 2 weeks before the temperatures are right, so you have to be able to predict the future. If you are not in to monitoring the soil temperature and do not have ESP (do people still use the term ESP), Valentine’s Day or the running of the Daytona 500 should work for you.  Spreading a preemergent product now could save hours of spot spraying later.

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 later once the weeds have emerged. Control 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 controlling 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 without 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.

If you are trying to control weeds in the lawn that are up and starting to flower or seed, mow – wait 2 days and spray – then wait at least another 3 days before you mow again. The mowing will get the weeds actively growing and weeds that are actively growing are easier to kill. If the product is root absorbed, be careful around desirable plants, and water-in properly. If you water in too much, you could move the product passed the shallow root zone of the weed you are targeting.

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

Monday, January 21, 2019

Clubs, Societies and Mole Crickets

Horticulture Hotline 01/21/19
By Bill Lamson-Scribner

Alright, the holiday season is over and time to get back to the yard. In Charleston yard activities never really go away and that is a good thing. The moles and home invaders (roaches, rats, bed bugs, raccoons, squirrels and mice) are always active as well.

Although there is some cold weather in the forecast, the camellias have had a long run of warm weather and look beautiful. Hopefully, you have had a chance to witness these camellias in your yard, neighborhood, one of the parks or one of the public or private plantations. My New Year’s Day Feast of pork, collard greens, and hoppin john had a bowl of camellias as a center piece that looked fake because it was so perfect. This bowl of camellias was picture perfect and ready for any magazine spread!

James Island County Park (JICP) and the whole CCPRC pulled off another fabulous Light Show. I have been to several different light shows over the years in other towns and none of them hold a candle to JICP. I took my pound hound Ol’Boy there for his sixteenth birthday. He enjoyed the lights and sending pee-mail to all his dog friends!

With the new year upon us, have you considered joining an organization that is involved with horticulture? Charleston Lowcountry Rose Society has many Consulting Rosarians and some world class exhibitors that will help you with your roses. With new varieties (there are new varieties other than Knock Outs that are quickly being over used) and long lasting control products that you drench instead of spray, rose growing has become much less time consuming and is still very rewarding. This society is very friendly (I have never been bit – maybe stuck by a thorn) and has great refreshments before each meeting.

There are many great organizations and garden clubs in the area. Charleston Horticulture Society, Camellia Society, Native Plant Society, Daylily Society, Azalea Society, neighborhood or regional garden clubs just to name a few. I have been to many of these different societies and clubs and they are all very welcoming to guest and new members.

The crazy temperatures and rainfall has been the perfect storm for large patch / brown patch fungus. I have noticed it in yards I have never seen the disease before this year. If left untreated, the disease will thin out the turf and give opportunistic weeds a perfect area to establish residency. A healthy yard is the best defense against weed invasions.
Many people confuse this disease with the grass going dormant; however, if the grass is going dormant, it is a uniform color. When the grass has large patch / brown patch, you often see circles or other patterns where the disease is that are a different color. T-Methyl or Fame are good systemic products that will help you manage this disease.

Mole Crickets have also been tunneling near the surface on the warmer days. Like large patch / brown patch, mole crickets can do a lot of damage in the winter because they go undetected in the dormant grass. Intice Perimeter bait is very effective, organic and low cost.

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