Monday, June 14, 2021

Planting Tips


Horticulture Hotline 06-14-2021

  Bill Lamson-Scribner


Although the “prime time” for planting has come and gone, with the wide use of containerized plants and new developments, I still get these types of questions regularly. Why are my leaves turning yellow and falling off? A plant’s leaves can be turning yellow and falling off for a number of reasons.  Lack of oxygen to the root system, old leaves falling off making room for new leaves, mulch accumulation around the base of the plant, too much mulch and / or poor soil conditions could be causing your problems.  Before you replace these plants, you need to determine why you are having trouble with the existing plants. 


Lack of oxygen to the root system can be caused by many situations.  The plant could have been planted too deep.  When you peel back the mulch, you should see the top of the original container soil right at the surface.  Pull out one of your dead plants and see if the roots have been growing out into the soil or just circling around the original container soil.  Sometimes with plants and especially azaleas, the roots tend to stay in the pine bark/sand mix that they are grown in at the nursery and never venture out into the native soil.  The roots get so tight that they repel water and eventually die.  When you plant a plant, be sure to break up the root ball and encourage the roots to grow out into the native soil.   


The soil could be clay or heavy that does not allow space for oxygen.  The area could be low or over-watered.  Most plants like a well-drained soil.  If the soil stays wet, most plants will not be happy.  Hollies, azaleas, camellias, boxwoods and most other plants like moist soil, but not wet feet.


One old drainage test is to dig a hole the size of your container. Fill the hole up with water and see how long the water takes to drain out of the hole. If the water takes hours to disappear, you know you have some work to do.


In the early spring, sometimes you will have leaves that are turning yellow and falling off.  This is a natural occurrence as old leaves are falling off making room for new leaves.   

Magnolias, live oaks, azaleas and gardenias are the plants that we get the most calls on in the stores when this occurs.  This is natural and some plants seem to do it more than others. 


Years of mulch pilling up or placing mulch on the stem of the plant can lead to disease, entry points for insects, or an area where adventitious roots can develop. The roots of plants can handle moist conditions; however, the stems cannot.


Most of the plants here like a high organic soil, unfortunately in the Lowcountry, this is rarely the case.  Before you replant, evaluate your soil visually and with a soil test.  If your soil doesn’t have organic matter in it already, you would want to amend with Cotton Burr Compost, or Natures Blend. Try to amend the entire bed area and not just the planting hole.  We see a lot of dead plants where people have amended the planting hole and the amendments break down over time and the plant sinks as a result.  Don’t ever dig a hole deeper than the depth of the ball or the container of the plant.  If the plant sinks over time, it is the same as planting it too deep originally.  Also test your soil for any nutrient deficiencies or surpluses.   By amending your soil from the lab results and amending your soil with organics, you will increase your odds of having a successful planting.


With the recent rains watch for fungus in the lawn, fire ants popping up, mosquitoes, flies, wasps, roaches moving indoors, rats, mice and drainage issues. 


Bill Lamson-Scribner can be reached during the week at Possum’s Landscape and Pest Control Supply. Possums has three locations 481 Long Point Rd in Mt. Pleasant (971-9601), 3325 Business Circle in North Charleston (760-2600), or 606 Dupont Rd, in Charleston (766-1511). Bring your questions to a Possum’s location, or visit us at You can also call in your questions to “The Garden Clinic”, Saturdays from noon to 1:00, on 1250 WTMA (The Big Talker). Saturday's show is replayed Sunday from 11:00 - Noon.


Monday, June 7, 2021

Things are Picking Up


Horticulture Hotline 06/07/21

By Bill Lamson-Scribner


Time is flying by once again! It is already June. The record cool nights changed the way the grass came out of dormancy, along with the lack of rain. The heat brings many situations in the landscape and yesterday seemed like the first good dose of humidity.


Right now, there is a great opportunity for those that love fragrance. I know I have mentioned this several times this spring, but usually the weather goes from cold to hot and these flowers don’t last as long. Magnolias and Gardenias will stop you in their tracks with their fragrance! Either flower is great to pick and throw in your truck, car or in a room of your house for good smells all day long.


With the recent rains and warm nights Brown Patch / Large Patch has exploded. Treat while the areas are small if you didn’t treat preventatively. I’m going to include a picture of the disease starting up and a picture of a leaf blade (I will give it a try anyway. I’m not very good at inserting pictures). On the leaf blade you will notice the black, dead area where the leaf blade connects to the runner. That is where the disease attacks, killing the grass blade.


If you haven’t feed your trees, shrubs or turf since early spring, it is probably about time to do it again. It is June.


If you have a sunny St. Augustine lawn, it is time to get some protection out there on your turf for chinch bugs. I don’t know how much any of us will be travelling, but you don’t want to leave town without protection for your lawn. Chinch bugs do a lot of damage – FAST! Your nice lawn then gets invaded by bermuda grass and other weeds where the chinch bugs attacked. EcoVia EC is a NOP (National Organic Program) compliant product. Allectus and Acelepryn long-term control product. Bug Blaster, Cyonara, Bifen, and Lebanon Sevin will provide short term control.


Speaking of sunny yards, remember to protect yourself from the sun. Since I hang around mostly people that spend time in the sun, I have witnessed and heard about many sun related horror stories. These stories revolve around getting areas cut out and tested for sun cancer. Sometimes these areas that have been tested will keep you out of a pool, ocean, or lake for months.


Drain flies are becoming an issue with all the good local vegetables and fruits being consumed in our kitchens. Using the scum eating microbes in InVade BioDrain will help eliminate the organic build up in drains that harbor the drain flies and the citrus oil will help reduce odors as well. The EcoVia EC (National Organic Program compliant) will help if they are already getting active.


Mosquitoes are out and about looking for a blood meal. The high tides and rains we had, have ditches and other areas with enough water for mosquitoes to breed. Scout your yard for potential breeding sites. EcoVia EC (National Organic Program compliant) is great on mosquitoes for an organic approach. LambaStar, Bifen, and Proflex for conventional control. Proflex has a built in growth regulator which is nice.


Moles just have had their spring babies, so expect a surge in their population – wonderful!


Japanese Beetles have emerged (pun intended) on the scene, tearing up Crepe Myrtles, Roses, and many other plants. These heavy eaters are easy to kill with a little persistence. Bifen, Cyonara, and many others will take care of the Japanese Beetle. Traps also work if placed away from where the preferred meal of the Japanese Beetle and are more of an organic approach. EcoVia EC is a Botanical Insecticide that is NOP (National Organic Program) compliant and works.


The baby mole crickets are hatching and the adults are dying off. Now is a good time to ‘flush’ an area that you think you might have mole crickets. Get two ounces of lemony dish soap in five gallons of water and slowly pour it over a 2 x 2 area where you have tunneling damage by mole crickets and see what comes out of the ground in the next 3 to 5 minutes. Depending on your tolerance level, you can decide whether or not to treat. A golf green would have zero tolerance because the tunnels would affect the ball roll. EcoVia EC and Intice Perimeter are two NOP compliant products that should work good for you. Allectus and Lebanon Sevin are conventional control products that will ‘kill the baby’ mole crickets.


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


Monday, May 24, 2021

Finally Warm Nights


Horticulture Hotline 05/24/21

  Bill Lamson-Scribner


I can’t believe it is the end of May and the night time temperatures are finally warming up to the point that the grass is really ready to grow! With the low humidity, windy days, the cool nights and the lack of rainfall, the grass has just been sitting there waiting. Well, I hope you have the lawnmower ready because the cool nights are about to go away! The weather forecast still looks dry. A little irrigation, a wetting agent and some organics should get your yard growing. After this rough spring, now (always) is a great time to add organics


Back to Nature and Bradford Organic products are the perfect organics for your Lowcountry yard.  All organics are good - some are better than others.  As the old saying goes, “There is good compost.  There is cheap compost.  But there ain’t no good, cheap, compost”! 


For the nitrogen in these organic products to become available to the plants, micro-organisms must break the nitrogen down into a form that is useable to the plant.  These organic products can be applied year-round without having to worry about causing flush growth that might get burned off by the cold.  As the plant (grass, tree, shrub or flower bed) is ready for the nutrients, the micro-organisms will make them available to the plant.  This “system” is what you find in Nature (forests). 


Cotton Burr Compost is considered by many to be unquestionably the finest soil conditioner on the market.  It is prized for its ability to loosen tight, clay soils or improve moisture retention in sandy soils.  Cotton Burr Compost can be used alone or in combination with other organics.  Back to Nature (the manufacturer of Cotton Burr Compost) blends cotton burrs with other components to provide diverse benefits from different organic sources.  Natures Blend is a popular product that are derived from Cotton Burr Compost.


Natures Blend contains composted cattle manure, cotton burrs, alfalfa and humate.  The addition of humate to this product makes it the “top shelf” soil conditioner in their line of products.  Humates have high levels of carbon that help feed the micro-organisms in the soil.  These micro-organisms make nutrients available to the plant, aerate the soil, and compete with plant pathogenic organisms in the soil. Natures Blend also has the alfalfa meal.  Alfalfa meal is high in nitrogen and contains Triacantanol, a natural growth enhancer and may help in the suppression and control of certain fungal diseases.


Corn Gluten by Bradford Organics (09-00-00) is an organic preemergent as well as a great source of nitrogen.  If you have been using preemergents in your lawn and beds over the years, you can make an easy transition to Corn Gluten and still get great results.  If your yard is a sea of weeds and you have never used preemergents, expect some control the first year but it will not be 100 %.  The chemical preemergent products only claim to be about 85% effective.  By creating a healthy yard through the use of organics, the competition from weeds should diminish.  Many people that started using Corn Gluten as a preemergent, are also using it as a fertilizer because of its long-term feeding of the landscape.


08-02-04 by Bradford Organics is really popular among local organic farmers and backyard gardeners. The aerobically composted turkey manure and the classic 4:1:2 ratio (remember 16-04-08?) keeps them coming back for more.


People with new sod love the 04-04-04 Bolster by Bradford Organics. This blend of organics and beneficial mycorrhiza fungi will help get that grass rooting very quickly. If you have older grass that is developing thatch, the 03-03-03 Bio Grounds Keeper with its thatch eating microorganisms. It is a lot easier to spread this product than run a de-thatcher and clean up the mess. Some Zoysia grass tend to develop thatch quicker than others and should use 03-03-03 regularly. Usually, a yard with a lot of thatch greens-up later and can have other issues like grubs, disease, worms, and winter-kill.


SeaHume would do great by itself or in combination with any of the above. SeaHume, as many of you have experienced, causes quite the synergistic effect when put out with compost or fertilizer (compost or fertilizer 10, SeaHume 10 together 60) SeaHume is a combination of cold-water kelp (Ascophyllum nodosum) and humates.


The seaweed is full of sixty major and minor nutrients, amino acids, carbohydrates and natural occurring plant growth promoting substances (bio stimulants, gibberellins) that increase plant vigor, quality and yield. Humates increase the availability of nutrients in the soil, increase root growth, keeps nutrients in area that roots can reach (increase CEC), make the soil more friable, super high in carbon and many other benefits including more drought tolerant (less water bill).


All these above products can be used to form “compost tea”, or “compost stew” if you prefer.  By top dressing these organics across your lawn or beds, your soil is getting some compost tea every time it rains!