Monday, March 26, 2012

Crazy Weather 2012

This weather is crazy. If we don’t get a hard frost, it will be crazy in a good way. The rains have been perfect to knock the pollen out of the air and off of everything else. My yard has several very large pines growing in it, and some dry years that pollen stays around and is so thick and all over everything, it is a huge mess. I’m lucky that I’m not allergic to the pollen, but I know many people during those dry years that can hardly go outside to get the mail.

With this warm weather I am regularly getting asked, “is it ok to put out my tomatoes?” I’m not able to answer this type of question. I have lived in the Lowcountry too long and seen mid-April freezes too many times. These late freezes have hurt our local tomato farmers and really nailed the peach crop further up above Columbia. If it did freeze, I would not think it would last for long and you could protect your plants; however, I do not know anyone who can accurately predict the weather.

The other question I’m getting asked, “is it too early to fertilize?” If you are looking to put out a high dose of high nitrogen fertilizer on your centipede or St. Augustine, I would say re-read above paragraph. If you are looking to fertilize, stick to your trees or shrubs for now. There are many products available to put on your turf to help it come out of dormancy nice and green and healthy without encouraging unhealthy growth that will make the grass more susceptible to disease or cold damage. Perk, SeaHume, Excellerator, and Possum’s Minors are a few very good products to use now.

As your plants, trees and turf begin to “leaf out” keep an eye out for insects and disease.

Just like you might remove the outer leaves off of a head of iceberg lettuce to get to the young tender leaves, insects and disease love that tender, new, young foliage. If you have lived in your house for a while, you might know the plants that come under attack year after year. Putting out a preventative product now might save you a summer of fighting disease or insects. Honor Guard and Cyonara will work as a couple of good preventive products. Neem is also a good natural option.

Mosquitoes are officially bad. Cyonara will help you with those blood suckers. Mosquito Repelling Granulars or Mosquito Beater are nice natural controls that give very good control.

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

Monday, March 19, 2012

Crepe Myrtles, Fire Ants, Weed And Feed

A few observations while travelling through the Lowcountry late “winter” early spring:

No matter how much Paul (aka Super Garden Hero) Mulkey and I have talked about proper pruning of Crepe Myrtles over the local radio waves (22 years) and local TV (10 years), people will murder their Crepe Myrtles. Many garden writers and I have been writing about this atrocity for over 20 years to no avail.

Thin, shape, remove inward growing limbs, remove dead or diseased limbs, but please do not “top” the Crepe Myrtle. For blooms fertilize with a quality slow release fertilizer (17-00-09). The blooms will be on stronger limbs and will not fall down and split the bark when the rain weighs them down. The integrity of the limb structure will remain in tack.

As the Crepe Myrtle puts on new leaves, watch for powdery mildew and aphids attacking the new foliage. Powdery Mildew is a disease that affects the new foliage (looks like powdered sugar on the leaves), and will eventually affect the flowers if not treated.

Aphids are an insect that suck sugars out of the plant, go to the bathroom, and on this waste product grows a mold that turns everything black (cars, plants below the Crepe Myrtle, pool decks, porches, stairwells, driveways). When the foliage turns black, the leaves cannot perform photosynthesis because the leave’s surface is blocked from the sunlight needed for photosynthesis.

Neem is a good natural product that will address powdery mildew and aphids. If aphids are persistent, consider using Dominion drench for season long control.

The white powder for controlling ants does not have to be applied like you are frying a chicken. Acephate, Orthene, Delta Dust, and others just need to be applied very lightly to the mound or area around the mound. Read and follow product label. Some products you disturb the mound and some you do not. I sell the stuff and I’m encouraging you to use way less!

These products are contact killers that you want to get on an ant and have it move into the mound. The ants then groom themselves and hopefully contact the Queen with the product. If you have a huge amount piled on and around the mound, the Queen slips out her emergency exit and starts a new mound three to ten feet away.

No matter how much Paul (aka Super Garden Hero) Mulkey and I have talked about Weed and Feed plus Atrazine over the local radio waves (22 years) and local TV (10 years), people will still murder their landscape shrubs and trees. This is not the quick “OJ” style death like the Crepe Myrtles but a slow poisoning as the root absorbed chemical weakens the plants, so insects and disease can finish them off. Many garden writers and I have been writing about this atrocity for over 20 years to no avail.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Things are Taking Off

Wow, this spring is coming on fast. Keeping up with three stores is hard enough, and with the speed things are happening this spring, it is hard to keep up writing about them, too. Here are a few things to keep in mind this year.

Daffodils for the most part bloomed very early. Remember to leave their foliage, so it can collect sunlight and replenish the bulb for next year. Some Mighty Plant sprayed onto the foliage and a tablespoon of 04-04-04 will help you have bigger blooms next year. If all you had was a big group of green foliage this year, consider dividing the bulbs this fall after the bulb has been replenished by the green foliage. Mark where the bulbs are now so you know where to dig

After attending a Charleston Lowcountry Rose Society meeting on fertilization and care of roses last Monday, I have a basic hybrid mix of some things you should be doing in the rose garden.

  • Pruning the roses should be complete by now.
  • Sanitation (mainly after black spot) on the ground can be achieved through a Lime / Sulfur mix sprayed on the ground (be careful of new young foliage – a lot easier) or replacing of all the mulch (lots of work and removing some good organic matter).
  • Top dress bed with Flower Bed Conditioner (contains composted cotton burrs and cattle manure, feather meal, cottonseed meal, alfalfa meal, and a dash of sulfur) at 1 inch (a one cubic foot bag should cover 12 square feet). Keep 3 inches away from main rose stem and spread it out beyond drip line.
  • These are general fertilizer recommendations – for best results bring us a soil test.

19-05-10 Plantacote 8 month release half a cup per bush

ProMag slow and fast release magnesium at ¼ cup per bush

SeaHume granular applied at a cup per bush

  • Begin spraying new foliage for black spot. Honor Guard (systemic) and Dithane (contact) are two good products to start with.
  • Spray Mighty Plant mixed with Fish / Seaweed blend and SeaHume every 3 weeks. Mighty Plant is Messenger plus an 18-18-18 water soluble fertilizer.

If you have not had time to get your preemergent weed control out for summer annual weeds, do not delay any longer. Weed Beater Complete granular is a neat product that kills weeds that are up and contains a preemergent as well. It does not contain atrazine (aka the tree and shrub killer) or fertilizer, so it is a great product to use now as long as you haven’t already put out a preemerge product for weeds. You do not want to double dip the preemergent weed control.

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

Monday, March 5, 2012

Bed Bugs

Does all the talk about bed bugs have you scared to travel? When you are in a hotel do you feel phantom insects crawling on you as you sleep? Does your work or sports with the kids require you to stay in hotels, when you would rather be at home in your cozy bed with the dog and his fleas? The worse thing about bed bugs is bringing them home to infest your house in your luggage or on you person. Bed bugs are difficult (expensive) to get manage.

Here some tips for the traveler:

Treat the outside of your luggage with a repellent material labeled for bed bugs on luggage.

Put all your clothes and toiletry items in see-through plastic bags that you can seal tightly. Upon arriving to your room, put your luggage in the bath / shower area while you inspect the room.

Bring a flashlight, Climb-up Bed Monitors and a Bed Bug Detector. Before you unpack, inspect the mattress and box springs for blood stains, cast skins and live insects. The rope-like band around the mattress will usually have some signs of bugs if there is an issue. Look around the headboard and any adjacent bedside tables especially in the crack and crevices.

Check these areas with the Bed Bug Detector as well. The Bed Bug Detector detects the gases that bed bugs release (affectionately known as The Bed Bug F@rt Detector in the business). The Bed Bug Detector is very accurate and easy to use. They are used all over the world by hotels, airlines, bus lines, college dorms, pest management professionals, hospitals, movie theaters, clothing stores, just to name a few.

When you check in ask if the hotel has had an outbreak of bed bugs in the last year in the room you are checking into. Also ask if any of the adjacent rooms above you, below you, or on either side have been treated for bed bugs. If they have, request another room far away from any outbreak hotspot.

Attach the Climb-up Bed Monitors to the legs of the beds, headboard and the bed stands. These monitors will prevent bed bugs from climbing up the bed for a nighttime attack.

Sleep soundly!

When you get home, leave your luggage outside and run your clothes through a hot dryer cycle. The dryer should dry out any unwanted hitchhikers. Check your toiletry items and re-treat your luggage.

These few simple steps can save you thousands of dollars. At Possum’s we sell bed bug killing products, and I’m sure every one of the hundreds of customers whose house has become infested with bed bugs wishes they took these few precautions. Bed bugs bite children, babies and adults. They are very difficult to control, and you have to throw away stuff.

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