Monday, May 23, 2022

Summertime and the Living is Easy


Horticulture Hotline 05/23/22

By Bill Lamson-Scribner


“Summertime and the living is easy” was / is my sister-in- laws (a former school teacher) favorite song this time of year. If you like the fragrance of magnolias and gardenias, what a great time of year to work in the yard or take a walk. Three weeks ago, I was smelling the thick intoxicating smell of banana shrubs, and now, the clean smell of the gardenias and magnolias. Hibiscus are in bloom!


1.      I have already seen the nasty rascal chinch bug in St. Augustine grass. If you have St. Augustine grass, be sure to put out a product labeled for chinch bugs such as Allectus, Bug Blaster, Bifen or Lebanon Insect Control.  Pulling into your driveway to a dead lawn after a family vacation is not the “welcome home” you want.

2.      With the lack of rain, the spring termite swarm has been really spotty. Usually, they swarm pretty much all at once after a spring rain; however, this year we haven’t had that spring rain to trigger them. If you have swarmers in your wood pile or in an old stump in the yard, not a big deal. If you have them in your house, you might want to call your Pest Management Professional that your house is under bond with and have them take a look.

3.      We had a wet fall and are having a dry spring. The perfect combination for fleas. Fleas are easy to control with a three-prong attack. Treat the animal (I know you can’t treat all the squirrels, raccoons, and Possums), treat the yard (use growth regulator and adulticide), and treat your house (also use a growth regulator and adulticide). Pest Management Professionals can also handle this job.

4.      While driving through neighborhoods, localized dry spots are very evident since we have had that dry spell.  These are areas in the yard that turn that bluish gray color from lack of water.  New neighborhoods with young grass and poor soils seem to be most susceptible to these dry areas.  Exposed areas with lots of wind and areas at the beaches also are good candidates for these localized dry spots.  Adding organic matter to the soil (Cotton Burr Composts or SeaHume), wetting agents, or adjusting sprinkler heads will help with these dry areas.  Remember to water in the early a.m. before the wind picks up, so the grass will dry by nightfall. A good, long, slow rain is what we really need – just not during my outdoor function!

5.      Moles seem to be particularly active this spring.  They just had their young in April and now they are tunneling up a storm.  The young moles are hungry!  Manage the food source in your yard (grubs, mole crickets) with Lebanon Insect Control and go after the mole with Mole Patrol. Repellex will do a good job of repelling them, if you would rather go that route.

6.      As with all products, you should read and follow product labels.  More is not better when dealing with control products.  Knowing your square footage if you are purchasing products, is sooo important. You need to know how much product to buy.  Watch overlapping when applying your products.  You also need to watch the weather forecast to ensure the products have a proper amount of time on your target pest prior to any rain.  If the product needs to be watered into the ground, a slow watering by a sprinkler is better than a gully washer from the sky.  A very hard rain can wash products into the storm water drains which can be bad for the environment and you have wasted a lot of money.


7.      Also sweep or blow fertilizers or control products off of hard surfaces when you

      finish applying them. In the case of fertilizer, this may prevent staining, and           most importantly it will keep products from washing through storm drains to the     marshes.


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


Monday, May 16, 2022

We Are Dry!

Horticulture Hotline  05/16/22


By Bill Lamson-Scribner


Some years we know through rainfall where our lawns are getting too much water and we need to work on our drainage. This year it is so dry and windy, we can learn a lot about our irrigation systems and how well they are covering our landscape. If you noticed discolored grass, dig into the soil and see if it is just dust.  Since we are way behind on rainfall this year, we are seeing a lot of dying areas due to a lack of water.  Many of these places have irrigation; however, due to the wind and lack of good coverage; they are still experiencing dry spots.  This is the type of year that companies that install and maintain irrigation systems are very busy.  You might need to put an irrigation head into the corners of your property or you need to adjust the heads that are already there to spray into the dry areas.  If it turns out that lack of irrigation is causing the brown patches, you could also hand water these areas if you don’t feel like going through the expense of adding a head. We usually average 48 inches of rainfall in Charleston, so irrigation systems aren’t usually required to provide all the water, just supplement it.


Since the grass was so stressed from a lack of water, the little bit of rain we had the other day was enough to generate a brown patch outbreak. I also saw some grey leaf spot on St. Augustine grass. Brown patch sits and waits for the moisture, temperature and for a susceptible host plant (your grass) to get lined up and it attacks.


This dry weather also helps hide fire ants.  With plenty of moisture, fire ants usually have a visible mound.  As dry as it has been, fire ants are still out there foraging even though they do not have a distinct mound.  Be careful, they are harder to see and they will still bite the fool out of you!


The dry weather has also brought the nasty rascal, the chinch bug, out on St. Augustine grass earlier than usual.  I actually saw chinch bugs back in April.  In the old days, it didn’t seem like we worried about the nasty rascal until July 4th; however, anytime there is a dry spring, they will be out early. 


Fleas also have come out in full force this spring.  They were bad last year, and it appears they will be bad again this year.  Nylar growth regulator will help control these guys inside and out.  Also, include an adulticide with this growth regulator. When treating fleas, using a product with a growth regulator will help you break up their life cycle. Managing them will be a lot easier with the use of a growth regulator.


Water, water, water!  A lot of grass and trees are severely stressed from the lack of rain.  Adding organic matter to your yard or a wetting agent will help improve water retention.  Many people will see a 30-60% reduction in their water bill from applying these products to their lawn.  Trees don’t show stress as obvious as your grass does; however, trees are very important to the landscape and are expensive to take down and replace.  Trees that are under drought stress usually die from borers or some other secondary insect, when all they really need is a little water. 


As humans need to drink a lot this time of year, so does your grass!  Water, water, water!  The nighttime temperatures are finally warming up to the point where grass should grow and start filling in bare areas.


Always read and follow product label.




Monday, May 9, 2022

Still Dry - Chinch Bugs


Horticulture Hotline 05/09/22

By Bill Lamson-Scribner


The wind and the lack of rain has kept brown patch in check for the most part; however, powdery mildew, localized dry spots where irrigation is not reaching, and roaches that would normally be happy outside are coming inside for water as well as rats, are keeping us busy. When it is this dry for this long, insects that are usually happy in the woods begin to attack plants in people’s yards that are irrigating. Plants need water, so scout for insects. Snakes are out and about. With dry weather mole cricket damage is extra bad. Mole crickets separate the soil from the roots, drying out the grass plant. Wetting agents have been a big hit – a great product that saves you money. As predicted, chinch bugs are sucking the life out of certain grasses.


‘The Nasty Rascal, The Chinch Bug’ is about impossible to see (about the size of fine ground pepper), the damage can be confused between fungi, dry areas, and just dead areas, and although they are easy to kill once identified, the chinch bug keeps coming back. Chinch bugs preferred diet is St. Augustine grass (AKA Charleston Grass); however, it will attack zoysia, Bermuda, and centipede. As St. Augustine grass is getting replaced by zoysia, this switch in diet makes a lot of sense.


In the old days (Dursban, Diazinon), you could put out a product in May and pretty much control chinch bugs for the season. Now depending on the product, if you get two to three weeks control you are lucky. Most of the products work on the adults and do not affect the eggs that are waiting to hatch.


 There are a lot of cases of resistance to certain control products in Florida, so be sure to rotate chemical families of your products (not just product names). Since some of our sod comes up from Florida, we have also experienced these resistant chinch bugs as well.


‘The Nasty Rascal, The Chinch Bug’ got this designation from attacking family’s lawns during the summer while families were taking their summer vacation. The fact that this very small insect and a lot of its buddies can wipe out a beautiful yard in a very short period of time is ruthless. Hard to control weeds like bermudagrass and Virginia button weed always seem to move in on the weaken areas.


There is a fungus in the soil that controls chinch bugs. When the soil dries out the fungus in the soil that keeps chinch bugs in check dies. When the fungus dies, the chinch bugs go crazy. The reason you see chinch bugs along the road, driveway, sidewalks or in the sunniest part of the yard is because that is where the fungus dies out first. Chinch bugs rarely attack grass in the shade (notice attached pictures) because the fungus keeps them in check. With about 50 people moving to the Lowcountry a day, I wanted to make people aware of ‘The Nasty Rascal, The Chinch Bug’.


Since chinch bugs attack the grass along the road, driveway, and sidewalks, when people treat for them, they often throw product on hard impermeable surfaces (roads, driveways, and sidewalks). Always be sure to sweep or blow any particles back into the grass to avoid any unwanted runoff into storm water drains or marshes and waterways. This particular runoff situation would be another reason to refer to this pest as ‘The Nasty Rascal, The Chinch Bug’!


If you have active chinch bugs, be sure to use a product that ‘controls’ them not ’suppresses’ them. Sevin is a good choice with the resistance issues.


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