Monday, March 28, 2011


Another group of milestones occurs this week indicating that we made it through another year and it is springtime in the Lowcountry! The Bridge Run, Summerville’s Azalea Festival, and the Cajun Festival at James Island County Park are all wonderful outdoor events that mark spring for me in the Lowcountry.

Last week was the week my banana shrubs bloomed. These are not the topical plants that grow bananas for eating. They are the shrub (Michelia figo) that is in the Magnoliaceae family. Small yellow blooms that peel open like a banana and emit the fragrance of a banana Now or Later, that chewy dentist’s friend candy (pulls fillings and crowns out) of the 1970’s.

Banana shrubs are not readily available in the nursery trade, and they are hard to get established. You can find them at older established plantings throughout the Lowcountry. Look in older neighborhoods and the public and private plantations for this jewel.

My sweet tea olive’s perfume is also dominating the fragrance in my front yard. The camellias are still flowering, and the azaleas are also blooming – depending on variety. The bottlebrush shrubs are looking like they are getting ready to burst into their showy red blooms that will attract hummingbirds. The dogwoods have been outstanding this year.

A big thank you is in order to the people who planted bulbs over the years that provided early spring color this year. Even the Prunus species (cherry, peach, crabapple, apricot, plum, almond …) trees looked outstanding.

With new foliage comes new insects and disease. Be sure to inspect your plants closely this time of year. If you have fruit trees that insects or diseases have been a problem in the past, you should be spraying already.

Scale that attacks camellias is in its crawler stage and is easy to kill right now. Get the little guys before they exude that waxy coating for protection from birds and control products.

Mole crickets are doing their spring mating flights. Expect to see increase activity in your lawn. Tirade or Intice (organic) will deter the mole crickets from starting a family in your yard and nail fire ants as a bonus.

Large patch is also flaring up on the transitioning turf grass. A good systemic fungicide like Cleary’s should help with the large patch.

Moles will begin to have babies now as well. Be ready for increased activity.

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

Monday, March 14, 2011

City Paper Award and Dominion

I would like to open this week’s column by thanking T. Ballard Lesemann and the folks at the Charleston City Paper giving me the “Best Landscaping Tips” award in their Best of Charleston 2011 edition.

In the column Mr. Lesemann writes about how accessible the landscape tips are to the public. Thank you to the editors that publish my column “Horticulture Hotline” and to the people I work with at the three Possum’s stores that email and handout copies of the column to customers. Thank you to WTMA (the winner of Best News / Talk Radio Station) for airing the Garden Clinic Saturdays at noon with Paul Mulkey (aka Super Garden Hero) and myself. Mr. Lesemann gave the Garden Clinic an award in 2010.

Last fall, while I was applying preemergent to my Mom’s grass, a pin in my spreader broke. I got busy and never fixed it to apply preemergent to my own yard. Boy, was that stupid. I have all the winter annual weeds flourishing in my yard. I was accused by one lawn care operator of having a weed seed nursery, and I was raising weed seeds to sell more herbicides. I’m sure my neighbors like this situation as well.

The purple flowers of the Henbit and Vetch add color to the yard, and the fine green leaves of the annual blue grass could almost double as ryegrass. It amazes me that in an area that regularly had preemergent products applied, how many weed seeds have blown in or been dropped in by birds in one year. The weeds have to go, so my St Augustine grass will not have to compete with them as it comes out of dormancy.

I have fixed my spreader and the preemergent for summer weeds has been applied, so I should not have an influx of summer annual weeds replace the winter annual weeds.

I have noticed some Crepe Myrtles leafing out with new leaves. With these cool nights watch out for powdery mildew on the new growth. Powdery mildew looks like powdered sugar attached to the leaves. Neem oil is an organic control for powdery mildew, and Neem oil will also help with overwintering insects.

If your Crepe Myrtle usually turns black over the summer, now is a good time to drench Dominion Tree and Shrub to control the aphids that excrete the sugary substance that the black sooty mold grows. Drenching is easier than trying to spray the top of a large tree. Dominion acts systemically, so beneficial insects are not harmed, since they do not suck tree sap. Gardenias, lantanas, azaleas, camellias, and other plants that are regularly attacked by scale, aphids, lace bugs, white flies and other sucking bugs should be drenched with Dominion now.

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

Monday, March 7, 2011

Spring Check of Irrigation

The weather has been unbelievable! The Citadel is playing baseball at “The Joe” and the Charleston Battery is playing soccer at Blackbaud Stadium. There are oyster roasts galore. A great time of year to be in the Lowcountry!

A few items to address in the yard before “The Big Dance” of college basketball (picking squares, brackets, office pools) takes over every free moment you have.

Check out your irrigation system and modify it to reflect your maturing landscape. Do your trees and shrubs still need supplemental water? Can you turn off the zone that sprays or drips into your bed areas?

Do you have 6 inch pop up heads that that are buried inside a plant that has grown over the last few years? Do you need to replace this head with a 12 to 18 inch pop up or can you cap the 6 inch pop up or turn off the zone completely?

Have squirrels or other animals chewed on your drip systems emitters, so water is running freely out of the drip line? Can you completely turn these zones off as well?

Are all your lawn heads turning and aiming the way they are supposed to aim, or is that one pointed out toward the street nailing joggers, bikers, and walkers? Are your valves opening and closing properly? Any wet spots in your yard from a leak in your system?

How much do you really need to water? Can you conserve water and make your water bill dollar stretch further? I know at Possum’s East in Mt. Pleasant our landscape was installed in hot, humid, and nasty August in terrible soil (pH 8) that was basically a hill of sand and we ran the water for one month. When I saw the water bill, we shut down the water system, applied wetting agents and organics around the root ball of the plants and they have been growing great without additional water. Remember I’m talking about brand new plants in August growing on a hill of sand that have done great without extra water.

Turf disease is increased with over watering. Shallow rooted turf is associated with over watering as well. How much do you really need to water the turf? Can you apply wetting agents and organics to turf to reduce watering? Yes, wetting agents and organics will make your turf much stronger and less susceptible to disease and save you money in the long run from a reduced water and fungicide bill.

If you water from a well, have you checked your salt levels recently? I see soil tests with high sodium levels all the time. The salt (sodium) is coming from the well irrigation water. Be sure to get the salt levels checked for the new season.

Mike Williams (“The Joe”) and Kevin Duris (Blackbaud Stadium) are award winning grounds superintendents, and Possum’s Landscape and Pest Control Supply is the “official supplier” of both venues. Nice!

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