Monday, May 30, 2011

Watering Part Two

As promised in last week's article, I am going to write about different ways to measure water that you are putting out on the landscape.

“My irrigation system runs for 20 minutes per zone three times per week, is that enough water?” This is a question I get asked frequently, and the answer is not a yes or a no response. Different irrigation systems have different gallon per minute nozzles so the rate varies according to the type of nozzle installed. Water pressure also varies depending on where you live and whether you have a well. Some irrigation heads pop up and mist and others pop up and spray in a rotary fashion. The difference is enormous to a yard. The pop ups that are spraying a constant mist can flood an area very quickly. The rotary head can run for an hour without too much water being applied.

Ideally your soil should be moist down to six inches. Moist…not saturated. A soil probe is an excellent way to determine the moisture levels in the soil. Soil probes are available at garden centers. Soil probes will allow you to check the moisture as well as the profile of your soil. You can also determine how much thatch you have using these probes. Soil probes also make taking a soil test much easier.

Measuring the amount of water your sprinkler or irrigation system is putting onto your landscape is very easy. A few coffee cups that have an equal diameter on top as the bottom is all you need. If you are not a coffee cup person, you can also use tuna fish cans, soup cans or other containers that have an equal diameter on top and bottom. If you don’t want to look like a hillbilly, you can invest in several rain gauges.

Simply place these throughout your lawn and run the sprinkler for 15 minutes, then measure the amount of water in the container. If you have an irrigation system, you will have to measure each zone separately to get accurate measures. If you collected a quarter inch of water in 15 minutes and you wanted to put out a half inch of water, simply increase your irrigation time to 30 minutes.

By applying organic products and/or wetting agents you can greatly reduce the amount of water you need to apply. Cotton Burr compost is a great organic product that will reduce your watering bill, and increase the soil’s nutrient holding capacity making your fertilizers more effective. Cotton Burr compost will also help reduce runoff of fertilizers and other control products into the environment because the products penetrate the soil.

Wetting agents allow water to penetrate deeper into the soil resulting in deeper rooting grasses, plants, and trees. Wetting agents will also help reduce runoff of fertilizers and other control products into the environment because the products penetrate the soil. Although water is very inexpensive here compared to other parts of the country and world, you still don’t want to waste it. Wetting agents have been shown to reduce water usage by 30-60%. Fungicide use can be reduced with less watering.

The most important aspect of watering is keeping the soil moist to a depth of six inches. Add the appropriate amount of water for your yard with your soil, wind exposure, slope or yard, and exposure to sun.

Remember the sun screen while you are out in the garden. Scale, mosquitoes, chinch bugs, white flies, mites, aphids, fire ants, roaches and flies seem to be out in full force.

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

Monday, May 23, 2011


This past week I’ve been asked by several people “How much water should I be putting on my yard each week?”

The quick answer is one inch of water per week, including rainfall. I look at one inch per week as a starting point, and then adjust for other factors. These factors include soil type, wind exposure, slope in the yard, berms, heat and exposure to the sun.

A clay soil is going to hold more water for a longer period of time than a sandy soil. When watering a clay soil, if you put out too much water at once, it will begin to run off instead of penetrating the soil. Wetting agents (Aqueduct, Possum’s Wetting Agent with Bio stimulants) and organic matter (Cotton Burr compost) will help water penetrate clay better.

Water tends to pass through sandy soils quickly. If they receive too much water at once, the water tends to leach through the soil past where the plant roots can access it. Wetting agents (Aqueduct, Possum’s Wetting Agent with Bio stimulants) and organic matter (Cotton Burr compost) will give sandy soils better water holding capacity.

Wind exposure can also play a big part in how much to water. An ocean front or lake front lot with a constant breeze will require more water than a land-locked yard in the suburbs that is protected from wind. Position of trees, fences, houses or other wind breaks can also affect wind exposure. If your yard is very windy you will have to water more than a yard that is more protected from the wind.

Depending on the elevation change in your yard, you could require more water. Some houses sit up on hills that slope down toward the road. These sloping yards require more water. In the Lowcountry, this is less of a problem than an area in the mountains or hills.

If you have a lot of landscape berms, be sure these areas are getting enough water. Many berms are made with landscape grade fill dirt (i.e. sand) that tend to dry out quickly. Being up on a hill, they have more exposure as well as slope, therefore they require more water.

Just as we need to drink plenty of water, so do the plants and grass. Some areas near sidewalks and streets are getting cooked! The soil surface temperature is often well over 100 degrees. Give your trees, flowers and turf a drink!

Exposure to the sun also affects the amount of water needed by a yard. If your yard is shaded by a neighbor’s house or trees, it will require less water than if it is in the wide open sun. Different areas of the same yard will require different amounts of water based on the exposure to the sun.

Always try to water early in the morning so your turf does not stay wet too long and encourage fungus. Turf gets wet at night through guttation and dew. By watering early in the morning (5-7 am) you are not extending that wet period. If you water at 9 am and the grass has been wet all night, you could be giving disease the opportunity (moisture) it needs to flourish.

As you can see, many factors determine how much you should water. Next week we will talk about different ways to measure water.

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

Monday, May 16, 2011

Those Lowcountry Insects

We are in the Lowcountry and we have insects and other crawling and flying pests. Is the family dog itching more than usual? Are moths and other insects flying around a light outside your front door and every time you open the front door at night they fly in your home? Does your dog or do your kids get ticks? What about those scratchy chiggers? Do you like spiders? Does your spouse? Do your kids? Everyone loves a nice mound of fire ants to step in, right? Do you like to look at the beautiful drilling that a carpenter bee can do in your untreated wood work? How about those lovely moths in your cabinets in the kitchen? When outside, flies, wasps, yellow jackets and bees can add excitement to the party. Can you believe I have not even mentioned mosquitoes and cockroaches?

Fleas started early this year. If your pet is itching, there is a good chance fleas have made a home on him or her. Fleas are hard to control because as a population of them they are in many stages of their life cycle at any one time. Using products that contain a growth regulator are very important with fleas because not all control products work on all stages of flea’s life cycle.

The light outside the front door is a magnet to insects. There are lights available that do not attract insects as much as others do. A spray with EcoPCO WPX, a botanical based insecticide, around the light and in the general area, including your front door, will go a long way towards keeping those flying pest out of your home.

If chiggers are getting the best of you, consider using EcoEXEMPT G, a granular formulation of plant oils proven to kill insects. If you would rather spray, EcoPCO WPX should do the job.

EcoPCO WPX and EcoEXEMPT G will work on most of the pest mentioned in the first paragraph; however, you will want to use one of the formulations of Cyonara to control the ticks and mosquitoes.

EcoPCO WPX, Cyonara and EcoEXEMPT G will work on most turf and landscape pests as well. Next time you are surfing the web or at Possum’s check out a label and see if these products are right for you.

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

Monday, May 9, 2011


With the night time temperatures staying in the cool range (as low as the high 40’s last week), some of the grass has been coming out of dormancy spotty and slowly. This week’s night time temperatures should be at least 68 degrees. The warmer temperatures should warm up the soil and get your grass to “green up” the rest of the way.

If you have not fertilized your grass, now would be a good time. Generally speaking look for a product that is at least 50% slow release. Depending on the rates you use, soil test information and how frequently you want to push the spreader across the yard, would help determine your best fertilizer options.

I work with some professionals that like to fertilize lightly and every ten days, and others that fertilize every 6 weeks with more of a slower release type fertilizer. Both methods are good as long as the grass’s needs are met.

Remember organic options for fertilizing your yard. Organics build the soil structure, help develop a favorable environment for beneficial microorganisms, do not leach, are slowly released through microbial activity and aid in root growth making the plant (grass in this case) more drought resistant. Traditional fertilizers do not offer all these benefits.

Hopefully, you have fertilized your shrubs and trees by now. They have been putting on new growth for some time. If you look at your trees and shrubs, you might see 12 inches of new growth at the end of a branch. Trees and shrubs have already grown the majority of what they will grow this year and it is only the beginning of May!

I hear two statements all the time, “I don’t want to fertilize my shrubs because then I will have to prune them,” and “no one feeds the trees in the woods and they do fine.” Shrubs need fertilizer (food) to grow, fight off disease, and fight off insects. No one stops feeding their kids because they are tired of buying new clothes and shoes (and a light bulb comes on in my head about my 5’ 10” daughter that is only 14 – just kidding).

Your trees have competition with your lawn. The leaves and limbs get picked up before they can return as nutrients to the soil. Critters are in the forest. Does your yard have critters? Basically your landscape is not a forest. Please, fertilize your trees. Trees generally live longer than people, so take care of them so the next person can enjoy them as well.

When fertilizing, try to get the product off of hard surfaces that may stain before “watering in”. By cleaning off the hard surfaces, less fertilizer should end up in our storm water system and in our marshes and tidal creeks. There are parts of the US that do not allow homeowners to fertilize as they wish. Let’s fertilize responsibly, so the government does not have to step in.

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

Monday, May 2, 2011

Stink Horn Fungi Feces & Rotten Flesh

Stinkhorn fungi (devil’s backbone) has been smelling up new mulch beds all over the Lowcountry. The conditions have been perfect for the growth of this fungus this spring. We have been inundated with phone calls at Possum’s about that orange stinky fungus! This fungus has an awful nasty odor that smells like rotten flesh.

Some plants in nature attract insects with sweet smelling nectar to spread pollen to other plants. This fungus; however, exudes a slime over part of its fruiting body (the mushroom) attracting flies that like rotten flesh or feces. The flies then spread the fungus because spores attach to their bodies. Nice! have mushroom that exudes a smell like rotten flesh and feces to attract flies. I guess this is the opposite approach of a gardenia.

The way I control stinkhorn is with a plastic bag like picking up dog poop. Put a bag on your hand, lift up the mushroom pull the plastic bag over the mushroom and try not to drop too many spores. These mushrooms are the fruiting body of a fungus that is beneath the soil. The orange fruiting body is attached to hyphae that are underneath the ground decomposing organic matter. In nature, fungi are good for your soil; however, this can be an unwelcome guest in your home. Fungi, in general, tend to like acidic soil as do most plants, so I wouldn’t try to control them by adjusting the pH. Hopefully, the environmental conditions that cause them to pop up all over the place will go away soon.

There is something that looks like an egg that the mushroom pops out of that some people (mainly in Asia) consider a delicacy. No thank you, I’m not interested in something that smells like rotten flesh or feces.

These weather conditions have been perfect for Large Patch fungus to be active in your turf. Riding through neighborhoods, I see a lot of damage from the disease. Be sure to rake up your leaves, turn off your irrigation system and treat any diseased areas in your yard. Try to correct any drainage, thatch, compacted areas or standing water issues you have. Fungi like wet yards, so try to keep yours as dry as possible. If you need to treat with a fungicide, Cleary’s 3336 and Disarm are two good systemic fungicides.

If you have St. Augustine, beware of the Nasty Rascal, The Chinch Bug. They are out early this year and already doing a lot of damage. Often misdiagnosed, this plant juice sucker can do major damage while you are trying to identify what is going on in your yard.

The Rose Society’s Rose Show is coming to Citadel Mall Saturday May 7th from 1pm until 5pm. You will be amazed to see how beautiful your neighbors can grow roses! Exhibit your roses or just look at the displays.

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