Monday, January 23, 2023

Micro- Climates


Horticulture Hotline 01/23/23

  Bill Lamson-Scribner


We finally had some freezing weather over Christmas, and I’m so glad that it wasn’t an ice event too! Broken tree limbs, power lines down, Ravenel Bridge closed because of ice spears, no WIFI, no TV, no heat, switching on lights that don’t turn on… If you haven’t already pruned your plants that turned to a black mush, you can wait and some of the damaged foliage and branches will help insulate the plant for the next freezing event. I know some of you that maintain high end properties aren’t going to be able to get away with this, so prune away or replace. Sometimes it depends where the damaged plant is located. By the front door – one set of rules. In a big bed mixed in with other plants in the backyard, maybe another set of rules.


I work with many properties that micro-climates played a big role in the damage the cold did. One property has a house with a large oak tree in half of the front yard. The canopy of the oak held in the heat of the earth in and the grass stayed green, while the other half of the yard went dormant.


Ted Beckett first showed me how this worked with his tall pines (pre–Hurricane Hugo) at his nursery on John’s Island. For those of you that didn’t know Ted Beckett, he was the head horticulturalist at Magnolia Plantation when they had a nursery then started his own nursery. He was responsible for many of the old camellias, azaleas and other plants around the Lowcountry. With trees holding in the heat of the earth like a tent or a frost blanket, his plants were protected. The important thing is the protection come from above the grass or plants.


With cold you don’t want to have the sides blocked off like a valley in a citrus grove. When I worked in citrus, the grove owners would hire helicopters to fly over low areas and blow out the cold air. I have seen stadium fields that suffer cold damage because of the seats and the bowl they produce hold in the cold air, when practice fields next door is fine, since there are no seats.


This is a good time to rake out beds and do some good sanitation. Old leaves can harbor disease and insects. The accumulation of leaves can damage your plants by making them planted too deep, insect and disease entry points, adventitious roots, … Somehow when Paul (AKA Super Garden Hero) and I were talking about it on the radio, we started talking about the original Lamson-Scribner spraying the first fungicide that he developed (Bordeaux Mix) in a coat and tie!


With Valentines Day coming up, why not buy a nice decorative pot, some good potting soil, some good fertilizer, some nice plants and some wetting agent and have a present that can last forever?


It is about the time to put preemergent herbicides on your lawn that will stop small seeded annual summer weeds from coming up and terrorizing your lawn.  These products are very safe to use in and around shrub beds and trees (of course check the label).  They will not only keep weeds out of your lawn, but will also keep them out of your beds.  Dimension is a very good product, but there are numerous others based on your needs. 


As with any product, read, understand and follow product label when applying.  


Tuesday, January 17, 2023

2022 Pest of the Year


Horticulture Hotline 01/17/23

  Bill Lamson-Scribner


A pest in 2022 that wouldn’t seem to go away was the fire ant. Mole crickets go away for brief periods and moles never seem to go away. I don’t know if my eye is just trained to see fire ants or what but they seem to be everywhere.


With a good heavy sod roller, you can control damage from mole crickets and moles since most of their damage is cause by the roots of the grass plant separating from the soil causing the grass plant to dry out and die. Fire ants don’t like to be disturb. Can you imagine a to scale lawn mower running through your house?! A tornado combined with a big blade! Fire ants will usually set up house in flower beds, tree rings, guide wires, electrical boxes (they like the heat and can damage the wires not to mention a pain for someone to maintain the box) and other areas that mowers will not disturb them.


Believe it or not….fire ants are very easy to kill and manage!  You will not eradicate them; however, you can manage them.  There are many products on the market that will kill fire ants.  Some products are more economical if you have large areas to treat, others do a great job at just killing fire ants, and other products will kill other insects as well as fire ants. 


If you have a large area (16 or more acres) the bait products are very economical (less than 16 dollars an acre) and effective.  If you have a smaller area, you can treat one acre for less than 35.00.  Depending on the amount of rain that we get this summer and fall, you may have to retreat in six months if you notice any activity.  Some bait products are designed to kill fire ants as well as other ants that are in your yard (carpenter ants, argentine ants).


It is best to spread the bait over the entire area once the soil surface temperature reaches 70 degrees.  You also want to keep the bait dry for 24 hours, so watch the forecast.  The ants must be actively foraging to pick up the bait.  You can determine this by throwing some greasy potato chips or some of the bait itself on the ground and come back in 10 minutes to one half hour and see if the ants are carrying away the bait or chips.  The bait products advantage is that it is low cost and effective.


Products containing bifenthrin (Bug Blaster) will give you long term control of ants as well.  With Bug Blaster you don’t need to worry about rain, or whether the ants are foraging.  Dr. Tim Davis, former head of fire ants for South Carolina with Clemson University, noted that he was getting at least eight months of control with bifenthrin in his test plots.  Bifenthrin products are best applied over the entire yard.  Bug Blaster’s biggest advantage is that not only will you kill fire ants, but you will kill army worms, sod web worms, fleas, chinch bugs, ticks (Lime disease), mole crickets, and many others. 


There are many choices on the market; the biggest thing is determining which product fits your needs. Extinguish Plus and Advion Fire Ant Bait are two of my favorite bait products. Bug Blaster is a good contact product. Notice I only recommend treating the entire yard instead of chasing them around with mound treatments (stinky,white powder). 

When it has been hot and dry, fire ants can be tricky and not so visible because their mound is underground. Don’t be fooled! They still bite!


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


Monday, January 9, 2023

2023 Is Here

                                           Time to kill young winter weeds like chickweed.


Horticulture Hotline 01/09/23

By Bill Lamson-Scribner


Are you ready for the 2023 season in your yard? Plants seem confused and so am I. Cold, not cold, winter, not winter. Who knows? The warm weather between cold snaps has kept large patch and mole crickets very active. Charleston – the hardest place to grow grass…


Here are a few things to do on these nice winter days.


·         Take some soil to Possum’s to get the soil tested – for everyone that has not already. Get on a Custom Program for your yard for 2023.

·         Kill winter weeds now while they are young. It is easier to kill weeds when they are young and actively growing. Once they go into their reproductive mode and start to flower and seed, weeds are much harder to kill. While your grass is dormant is a good time to control weeds too as opposed to the heat of the summer or when the grass is coming out of dormancy in the spring.

·         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. When your grass needs mowing now, 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? Roses, hydrangea and blueberries 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 put out in October is producing great runners still. Love those dark red runners in January!!

·         Re-do bed lines to reflect maturing landscape.

·         Get bird house ready for nesting birds.

·         Have moles, get Mole Patrol or Repellex Mole Repellent – they really work.

·         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 to open them up for better light penetration and air movement. Topping or reducing their height is not considered proper pruning.

·         Hold off on pruning plants damaged by the cold – we could still have more freezing temperatures.

·         Test well for salt if you use a well for watering.

·          Get ready to preemerge in February. Kill small seeded summer annual weeds before they take over your landscape.

·         Get out and enjoy our County, State and City parks as well as our local plantations.


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


                                               Hope you had your Hopp'n John and Collards

                                                      Grass already greening up. Get Ready!