Monday, February 27, 2012

Getting Near Springtime

Get ready to mow down the Liriope. Hedge shears or a lawn mower with a sharp blade is great for doing this. Holly fern and cast-iron plant will also benefit from cutting back to remove old discolored foliage. I do not know why, but I can convince people to cut back their Liriope; however, trying to get them to cut back holly fern and cast iron plant is not as easy. I see more people pruning individual leaves than just cutting the whole plant back to the crown. The complete new growth from the cast iron plant and the holly fern will look as spectacular as the new growth from the Liriope. Get rid of all that tattered old foliage!

Re-cut and redefine your bed lines. Bed lines are a basic element of landscape design. They define your landscape. Well defined bed lines with just mulch can be very attractive even without plants. Bed lines can be defined by a clean trench with a shovel, wood, brick or steel edging. Plants grow, so bed lines need to re-defined periodically. If you have brick or steel edging, this may require that you remove plants instead of just redefining the bed line.

Do not prune any spring flowering plants unless you want to sacrifice the flowers.

As temperatures allow spray your trees and shrubs with dormant oil sprays. These products will kill over-wintering insects and keep them from munching on your new spring foliage.

If you have plants like Camellias (scale), Gardenias (white flies), Crepe Myrtles (aphids), Lantana (lace bugs) or any other plant that you know regularly turns black from sooty mold, consider drenching with Dominion Tree and Shrub for season long control of sucking insects. This systemic product is awesome!

Any plants infested with scale, consider using Tree and Shrub Safari and following it up with Dominion. Tree and Shrub Safari is a granular product that moves up through the plant very rapidly for a quick knock down of scale and other insects. I have seen it remove scale off of plants that have been treated with oils for over twenty years. Then treat with Dominion for long term preventive systemic control.

The spring walking tours throughout the Lowcountry will begin over the next month. These tours are a great way to get ideas for your on landscape projects, and a good way to enjoy a day looking at hidden treasures in the Lowcountry. Beaufort, Savannah, and many other areas have these tours if you want to add a little drive time through the Lowcountry to your tour. I would also highly recommend Georgetown’s Plantation Tours to anyone who has not been to that tour. I have had the privilege to work with most of these properties, and they are something to see. Of course, support our local tours first!

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

Monday, February 20, 2012

Tree & Shrub Fertilizing Early Spring Organics

My Bald Cypress sent out new growth since last week. When I see that new growth, is when I start applying organics to my yard in a big way. The Bald Cypress always “leaf’s out” before the Crepe Myrtles, my Fig tree, the Vitex, and just before the Bottle Brush put on their big spring bloom.

Since the microorganisms in the soil must convert the nitrogen in the organics into a form that is usable to the plant and these organisms are not real active when the soil is cold, you can add organics without worrying about flushing lots of new growth that could possibly be damaged by a late frost.

When the trees and shrubs are putting out new leaves, good nutrition is important to a healthy plant. A tree is going to do about 85% of its growing for the year in the next 2 months (depending on which PHD doctor you believe), so by using organics or some other products that rely on this conversion to usable nitrogen by the microorganisms, your tree will be most appreciative. Since Crepe Myrtles bloom on new growth, what you do for them now will impact what they will do for you later (please – no topping) in the form of blooms.

As with any fertilizer keep the organics off of hard surfaces like driveways, streets, sidewalks, and any other area that might ‘run off’ into our storm water. Blow or sweep these areas before watering in and you might avoid some staining as well. Another beauty about organics is that once they are in the soil the nitrogen and potassium do not leach through the soil or volatize into the atmosphere like conventional fertilizers. If we have some much needed rainfall, the organics will stay put better than most chemical fertilizers.

Professionals with sprayers can mix up their own custom ‘witches’ brew’ and inject the mix directly into the soil. Applying directly into the soil loosens the soil and keeps the fertilizer and other soil amendments in the ground where they will not get washed away during a rain event. A professional might not want to share their exact ‘witches’ brew’ with you. Just understand some cocktails contain everything and the kitchen sink and some contain just the washer in the faucet. Pricing can vary greatly depending on what goes in the tank.

I hope my stores have some broken bags SeaHume, Cotton Burr Compost, Flower Bed Amendment, Nature’s Blend, Corn Gluten, Composted Chicken Manure, Composted Cow Manure, Alfalfa Meal, Blood Meal, Milorganite, 03-01-05, 08-02-04, 05-05-05, …, so I can start spreading.

Monday, February 13, 2012

February Happenings

Things to do in February:

  1. Preemerge your beds and turf areas. Kill weeds now before they begin to compete with your turf or plants. Preemergent products kill weed seeds as they germinate, never allowing them to grow, compete with your plants and reproduce. This is the easiest way to control small seeded annual weeds in a landscape.
  2. Take a soil test and get a custom program now. By knowing exactly what your yards nutritional requirements are, you can apply fertilizers and soil amendments in the most environmentally friendly way. When you have a custom program you will not be applying excessive amounts of fertilizer which will end up in the marsh or storm drainage. This also saves you money by putting out exactly what your lawn/shrubs need and will help you get the desired results.
  3. Spread SeaHume G throughout your lawn and beds. This product will increase fertilizer efficiency, improve fertilizer up-take, helps retain nitrate nitrogen in the soil for less leaching, helps prevent nutrient tie-up, improves soil biology, and improves soil moisture retention. All of these factors will reduce the loss of fertilizer through runoff. This is a good product when you get the springtime itch to put something out when it is still too early to fertilize with nitrogen products.
  4. Control winter weeds in your yard now! Weeds are easiest to kill when they are actively growing (vegetative stage). Winter weeds will begin to flower (reproductive stage) soon. Systemic herbicides like Weed Free Zone need to translocate in the plant, and they do this best while the plant is actively growing. Kill the weeds now because once they are flowering, plants do not translocate herbicides as well.
  5. Get your lawn mower ready for spring mowing season. A new air filter, blade, spark plug and possibly new gas and oil if you had a chance to rest it this winter. These would be the minimum requirements. Beat the lines at your local mower shop. Try to avoid ethanol gas for your small engines (boats, mowers, gas powered hand tools).
  6. Finish up any lingering landscape duties from the winter. If you have any transplanting to do, get on in right away. Redesign any bed lines to accommodate any plants that have matured over the years. Any bed lines that are not as smooth as they used to be need to be re-cut. If you have any new plants, now is the time to get them in the ground before the summer heat.
  7. Kill the moles with Mole Patrol before they mate in April. This will keep their populations down.
  8. Prune your hybrid tea roses back mid-February. SeaHume, Messenger, and Cotton Burr Compost will really help your rose blooms. Try some Lime / Sulfur spray before they leaf out to control disease.
  9. Resist the temptation to butcher your Crepe Myrtles. Crepe Myrtles are trees and should not be topped. You can prune interior rubbing limbs, dead limbs or crossing branches. Prune before they use the energy to leaf out on limbs you are going to remove.
  10. Sharpen your pruners and other hand tools.

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

Monday, February 6, 2012

Preemergent Products

Wow, the weather is crazy. Daffodils showing color, Prunus trees blooming (Cherry, Peach, Crabapple) and the soil temperature indicates that it is time to apply preemergent products to your beds and turf right now. I know many of you are used to waiting for Valentine’s day (a great present by the way) or the running of the Daytona 500 to apply the magical weed preventer; however, this year is shaping up to be a little different.

Depending on which PHD doctor you believe, crabgrass germinates when the soil temperature (3 inches deep) stays above 55 degrees (some people say 57 degrees), for 3 straight days provided adequate moisture in the soil. Now some doctors say remains 57 degrees or above for 24 hours at a depth of 3 inches with adequate moisture. The soil temperature is above this range now. Do not delay, get your preemerge out now.

For those new readers of the Horticulture Hotline, preemergents kill weeds as they germinate. The weeds never come up and you never have to worry about them. Crabgrass, goosegrass, barnyardgrass, crowfootgrass, dallisgrass (seedling), foxtail, annual bluegrass, smutgrass, barley, kikuyugrass, wild oats, bittercress, carpetweed, chickweed, Carolina geranium, henbit, knotweed, lespedeza, marestail, black medic, mustard, oxalis, pineappleweed, pigweed, redroot, parsley-piert, purslane, rocket, shephardspurse, speedwell, spurge, and woodsorrel are examples of weeds controlled by preemergent products. Small seeded annual weeds are controlled by preemergent products.

Clover, Florida Betony, Nutsedge and Dollarweed are not controlled by preemergents. These are perennial weeds. Weed Free Zone is a liquid that will do a good job on controlling many of your broadleaf weeds. The nutsedge will require a different product and is most likely not visible right now. It is important to control these weeds now before they go into their reproductive stage. A weed in its reproductive stage is harder to control than a weed in its vegetative stage. By killing the weed now you avoid having to deal with more weed seeds next year.

With the warm weather we have had, it is very noticeable when you ride through the Lowcountry which homeowners and which businesses use preemergent products last fall at the correct time. One business or home lawn will be nice and brown and dormant with-out a spec of green in sight. Right next to it will be brown turf mixed with green weeds. Again, it is very important to control those weeds now before they begin to flower.

If you want to control the Sweetgum balls, now is the time to arrange that treatment. An arborist can inject Snipper now and the balls will not develop into the nuisance in the landscape that they would otherwise. Call right away as this is a timing issue as well.

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