Monday, December 27, 2010

Custom Programs

Over the holiday season at various functions, stores and the grocery store, I was asked several times about the custom programs for lawns and beds that The Super Garden Hero and I always talk about on the radio (1250 WTMA) during “The Garden Clinic” from noon to one on Saturday. The questions about custom programs did run second to the questions about moles. Moles still rule!

Custom programs are a subject that I am very passionate about. Some people have guesstimated that I have written more custom programs for lawns than anyone in the world! I feel this is the most environmentally way to care for your lawn because you are insuring that you are putting on your lawn exactly what your specific lawn needs. The program prevents over-application of the wrong products that are not needed for your yard. Having a custom program also prevents the impulse buys at the store or garden centers. Centipede does not require a bunch of nitrogen; however, centipede often benefits from more potassium. A soil test can provide that kind of information.

Charleston is the hardest place (that I am aware of) in the world to grow grass. Many people have moved here from the North where they are used to liming their yard yearly. In Charleston, some yards need lime to raise the pH, and others need sulfur to lower the pH. There is no way to tell what you need by simply looking at the yard. A soil test is required. Although I am a graduate of Clemson University in Ornamental Horticulture, I prefer to use a private lab for my soil tests. The doctor that runs this lab is a world-wide authority and is often quoted regarding soil testing in professional trade magazines. The information from this lab is more detailed and provides accurate information to base your recommendations.

I started writing programs in the late 1980’s to figure out how I was going to spend my budget money in a plantation that I managed on Hilton Head Island (Long Cove Club). With a yearly budget, I had to map out month by month what I was going to put on the grounds. Some of these areas were road sides; others were highly maintained club house and entryways. I had to figure out how much I was going to spend on the turf, beds, shrubs and trees. To do this I needed to know just how much I needed to put out of fertilizers, fungicides and insecticides and when. This systematic approach made the job much more manageable and saved money, and produced better results. While developing the program, I had to take into account the life cycles of insects, periods of known disease pressure, and timing of preemergent herbicides and other products. By treating at the right times, you can use less products and get better results.

I have been writing custom programs for golf courses, private and public schools and plantations, city and county parks, and town, college and professional athletic fields (Possum’s is the Official Supplier to the Charleston Battery!) for many years. I have had many of my clients for over 18 years. These programs begin with a soil test. The soil test is the only way you can effectively determine what is needed to amend the soil. An accurate soil test is the starting point of any good management program. Most of these facilities have tight budgets that we need to keep the programs cost within.

I decided to offer the same type of service to homeowners. Here is what just a few have said:

“Helped rid my lawn of fungus and chinch bug damage. Deep green healthy, lush look and texture, a lawn program is far better than random purchases at a discount store. Worth the price.” Eugene Babich.

“Possum’s soil test and monthly programs have turned a weak sickly lawn into a lush green lawn-winning a Letter of Award from Park West for Landscape Appearance.” Pat Piglia.

“With fertilizer, pest and disease control program, everything worked great and we won Yard of the Month in Dunes West.” Merrill Craven.

“Through Possum’s soil analysis program our yard has improved immensely. We were one of three “Yard of the Quarter” winners in Dunes West. David and Deborah Oyster

They then furnish a printout that offers a monthly schedule of specific amendments to make the soil improve it’s condition.—Best garden money ever spent!” Cynthia Webb

“I had pretty much killed most of my grass by trying to use chemicals and fertilizers that I wasn’t familiar with. Out of desperation, I took a soil sample into Possum’s and got on the monthly program. Now, just 6 months later, my yard looks amazing and has almost completely filled in the spots that I had killed.”

“Mole patrol has worked particularly well for me. Also, the Hydra Hume. But the best thing in particular is the monthly program that takes all the stupid out of lawn care.” Trey Strock

My lawn was 2 year old construction when I moved in. It was in horrible shape. I took a soil sample to Bill, got a program – the difference is unbelievable!”

Eddy Swinson

“Counsel and advice. Your Possum’s personnel have helped me keep my lawn and shrubs in top condition. They know grass, weeds and shrubs.” “Cotton Burr – for weak area in sod. Unbelievable results!” “ Messenger – for lots of growth. Wife likes it”. “Weed Free Zone – spot kill weeds. Best I’ve ever used”. “Sedge Hammer – Nut Sedge. Expensive, but does the job”. Ted French

“Provided month by month application of fertilizer and weed control to give a good looking green lawn by mid-summer”. Tom Geraghty

“Great, explaining what to do in my yard at the proper time of year”. Bess Knight

“My lawn looks better than ever. Best lawn on the block. It’s real thick and lush green”. “Cotton Burr is the best thing since sliced bread. Turned my lawn around. I follow the Possum’s Program as Bill has shown me to do”. Gerald Williams

“The Best! Cookbook program very user friendly—plus the support!!”

Bernard Arnold, O.D.

Another advantage to the custom program is that you can figure out how much product you need. If you want to store the product at your house, when you need to apply something, you just go with it. You can save the time it takes to get to the store and purchase the product. Depending on your storage, you can buy for a few months or for the whole year at once. Having the product on site saves a lot of time.

The costs for an environmentally friendly lush, dark green lawn, with a “Yard of the Month” sign in front-Priceless!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Last Week of Gifts

The last few weeks I have been talking about gifts for the gardener. Since the moles have been taking advantage of my holiday season articles, I will have to get back to the basics next week.

Last week I wrote about the books and cuttings I was given by my cousin Geary. In my excitement of getting these books and cuttings, I failed to mention her husband Gus. Gus is the Guinness Book of World holder of different sprinkler heads. Gus is also a beekeeper and his bees make the best honey (I might be a little partial) there is. I had some cereal the other day with his honey and it was great!

Gus’s honey reminds me of another great gift idea that always makes me happy. Some of my friends can vegetables, salsa, and jellies. Some people also have deer meat (or sausage, jerky, …) that they give away as presents. While I was at Clemson University, I had a friend from Saluda, SC that use to give me deer meat (usually burger or cube steak) and green beans he had canned. I don’t know what it feels like to win the lottery, but I bet it doesn’t feel any better than getting that bag of vittles!

Another friend, who I believe is a regular reader of the Horticulture Hotline and who I will keep unnamed as to not add any pressure to during this holiday season, cans up some delicious salsa and jellies. When my kids were little, I always said the salsa was too spicy for them – Adults Only. The Raspberry jelly I would claim, since I live in a house of women (hormones), was only for testosterone producers (ie me and the dog – Ol’Boy – and in his current state, after THE OPERATION, I do not know if he still produces testosterone)!

Custom Programs for your lawn and beds is another great gift. I get asked all the time, ”what is this custom program you are always talking about?” Basically, you test the soil on your piece of the Earth and develop a specific schedule to amend the soil based on your soil test results and fight weeds and diseases in a proactive timely fashion. A custom program is the most environmentally friendly way to have a beautiful lawn or landscape.

Be sure to go through the Holiday Festival of Lights at James Island County Park. The event gets better every year and they have been doing it for many years! At ten dollars a car load, what a value!

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

Monday, December 13, 2010

More Gift Ideas

The Holidays are rapidly approaching, and in some cases are already upon us. The kids will be getting out of school (grade school and college), family and friends will be coming to visit, or you may be planning to travel over the holidays. Either way the chaos will begin shortly.

Over the weekend, I visited one of my cousins, Geary, in Charlotte, NC. Geary is a very avid gardener whose yard has graced the pages of many National and Regional publications over the years. Her yard has also been on tour with some very exclusive yards in the Southeast. Geary works very hard in that yard with little to no outside help and it shows. I can’t remember the exact number, but I think it is around 60 different varieties of Japanese Maples alone. Talk about fall color...

We were walking around her garden, and I mentioned I was filling in a shady area of my yard with more shade loving plants. About the time I got the words out of my mouth, she began to take cuttings off of this Aucuba that looked like no Aucuba I had ever seen. The plant was much lighter green and had some serious variegation in the leaves. This lighter colored plant should show up nice in the deep shade.

When we were packing up to leave, Geary handed me two books. She had noticed that I was thumbing through her book Manual of Woody Landscape Plants by Michael Dirr and she had an old edition of it that she wasn’t using anymore. I have always wanted this book, but never came off the dollars to purchase it. This is the Holy Grail of plant books! If you are a golfer, it would be like getting a free round of golf at Augusta National with Tiger Woods.

The other book Geary gave me was Herbaceous Perennial Plants by Allan Armitage. As I pick this book up right now to take a better look at it, I realize the book has a note from the author to Geary. This book is the sister book to Dirr’s Manual of Woody Landscape Plants.

Cuttings from your plants can make wonderful gifts. Many of us in the Lowcountry have Sago palms with little pups growing off of them. You can pot these pups up for gifts throughout the year. Many houseplants are very easy to propagate and would add life to any house. Daylilies, fig trees, Fatsia plants …. All could make great gifts.

Books, old or new, can also make any gardener happy. Whether it is a coffee table book or a reference book, books make great gifts and are how we often learn new information.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Holiday Gifts 3

The last two weeks I have written about ways to spend money during the holidays that are going to take care of maintenance issues around your house and make your home safer. Although these gifts might not go over too well Christmas Morning, the long term affect will be awesome. A beautifully pruned tree letting in light and showing off its limb structure will bring much delight. Not breathing in that blue smoke from your mower when it is 100 degrees outside will make the summer much more enjoyable. Keeping rats, roaches, bedbugs, fleas, and spiders away from your loved ones is a requirement to keep your house safe.

Here are some ideas that are a little less practical. Plan a trip to a local public garden (Magnolia Plantation, Middleton, Drayton Hall, Boone Hall, Hampton Park, and Cypress Gardens just to name a few) and get ideas for your own landscape. This also makes for a wonderful day with the family. You can take a picnic lunch and make it a full day enjoying the beauty of the Lowcountry. You can purchase a yearly pass to many of these gardens for just a little more than the one time gate fee and enjoy the garden all the different seasons.

The Counties, Cities, Towns, State, and Federal parks are excellent as well. Many of these are free and some also have a park for dogs. Walking around the different college campuses in the area can inspire you with some good horticulture ideas.

If you would like to take a road trip, travel to Brookgreen Gardens by Myrtle Beach, or Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia. You can also give a gardener a trip out of the area for a long distance gardening adventure. Calloway Gardens in Atlanta, Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania, The National Arboretum outside of Washington, D.C., The Redwoods in California or any other garden throughout the United States…..or anywhere in the world!

Give a gardener a gift certificate for a future House and Garden Tour event. There are great tour events throughout the year in areas all over the Lowcountry. Kiawah, Seabrook, Daniel Island, City of Charleston, Summerville, Mount Pleasant all have different garden tours. If you want to go on a road trip, Savannah and Beaufort also have garden tours. If you are not the garden / house tour kind of guy, get two tickets (one for your wife and one for her friend) and send her off and you can enjoy the day as you like.

Give your gardener a membership to one of the many clubs or societies in the Charleston area. The Charleston Horticultural Society, The Native Plant Society, The Rose Society, The Camellia Society, The Koi Fish Club and Daylily Society just to name a few. I have attended many of these club lectures. They are all very informative and are passionate about their interests, willing to help newcomers, and provide different community projects to improve the Lowcountry. I have run into many old friends and have made many new friends at these meetings.

A gift certificate to any of the local garden centers or nurseries makes an excellent choice for the garden enthusiast! They are bound to find something they like.

Holiday Gifts 2

Horticulture Hotline 11/29/10

By Bill Lamson-Scribner

Last week I wrote about getting your trees trimmed for a practical Holiday present that could save you other problems in the future. One reason that I did not get to because of the restraints of space that is very important especially in the humid Lowcountry is to provide air movement around your house.

We have all seen algae, mildew, mold, and fungus grow on houses that are in deep shade. The paint that protects the wood is damaged by these organisms and rot moves into the wood. High moisture wood could also invite termite activity. A properly trimmed tree will provide sunlight and air movement around your house, keeping it dry and not so inviting to those nasty rot causing organisms.

Hiring a landscape company to take care of your landscaping is another great gift this year. With so many job cuts over the last few years, the people who still have a job are doing the work of two to three people. They are also getting furloughed and having to get the job done in less hours. When you have leisure time, it would be nice to spend it doing something besides mowing grass, edging sidewalks, and trimming bushes. Over the weekend I was talking to the person who caters US Airways Thanksgiving meal for the people who have to work Thanksgiving Day in their North Carolina office. The number of people working has gone from 600 in 2007 to 400 in 2009 to 200 in 2010. I would imagine those that are working are working a little harder and happy to have a job.

Hiring a lawn care company to fertilize and manage the weeds and diseases is another great gift idea. This person could be the same person that is mowing your lawn or a separate company that specializes in the application of products. The lawn care industry is changing very fast right now with new products (many of which are greener) and new regulations. Someone that works in this industry everyday might be a huge asset to your landscape.

A Pest Management Professional to protect your family and home from disease spreading, asthma causing, dog biting, wood eating, night time biting, wire chewing, structure damaging uninvited guests is a good reason to hire a pest management company. Bed bugs have made a comeback and are terrorizing many infants and people in their sleep.

The pest management industry is also changing very fast. Safer more effective products are coming to market regularly. The pest management professional is constantly being trained in the proper use of these products and other cultural practices to make your home and family safe.