Monday, July 30, 2012

Late Summer Things To Do

Yes, we are getting near the transition from summer to fall. Cooler weather is just around the corner and we will have survived another Lowcountry summer. One question that should come to mind is do I want to put out ryegrass for a green lawn all winter or paint the lawn green? Should I just let it go dormant as usual?

If you are trying to sell your house, I would seriously consider rye or paint in the front yard at least. The first impression is so important. If you sell your house faster, you will avoid those dreaded mortgage payments. If you decide to rye, watch the timing of your preemergent herbicide and the seeding rate you use with the rye. You do not want any trouble in the spring with the transition back to your permanent grass.

Many people are hyper-allergic to fire ant stings.  Several people each year die from fire ant bites as well as many more end up in the hospital.  Bait products are best used over your entire yard (beds and lawn areas) and are very inexpensive. Other broad spectrum products like Bug Blaster and Lebanon Insect Control will kill fire ants and other pests like the “nasty rascal, the chinch bug”.  Landscape & Garden Insecticide (contains Spinosad a synthetic organic) is very good at killing fire ants as well as some other insects.

The “nasty rascal, the chinch bug”, has been bad all spring. Products containing Bifen or Lebanon Insect Control will control “nasty rascal, the chinch bug”, fleas, and fire ants. 

Fleas have been particularly bad this year as well.  The fleas that attack our dogs are actually known as cat fleas!  Fleas reproduce at a very rapid rate.  A female flea averages 1350 eggs laid in the first 50 days of landing on a host.  This is why it is so important to use a growth regulator like Nylar or Precor to control these pests.  Nylar is more photo-stable and does not break down in the sunlight like Precor does.  This means that you can use it outside as well as inside.  Most dogs like to sit in front of a window and watch for squirrels and other invaders in the yard.  Using Precor in a place like this will not be as effective as using Ultracide which contains Nylar.   Nylar also acts as a growth regulator for roaches. Alpine Flea Insecticide with IGR is a new product on the market that is working very well. Diatomaceous earth is an organic option. 

Gray leaf spot fungus has been attacking St. Augustine grass.  The recent afternoon thunderstorms have created a perfect environment for this disease to flourish.  This disease likes hot and humid weather, so turn off your irrigation system, mow your St. Augustine lower than normal (2 ½ - 3 inches), mow your grass more often every 3-5 days and pick up your clippings.  These cultural practices will help manage the disease by drying off the grass; however, if you need to use a control product, Honor Guard is a great liquid product and Prophesy is a good granular product to use. Using a fertilizer like 04-00-10 (a 1 to 2.5 ratio of nitrogen to potash) with minors, humic acid, and root enhancer will give the grass the food to help battle this disease. 

Army worms have started munching on our grass. This worm seems to like Bermuda grass the most; however, they will sometimes attack other grass. Sod webworms that munch on our St. Augustine and Centipede grass usually attack a little later in the year.

Wasps and other stinging insects seem to be out in full force. Although it can be entertaining to blast them out of the air from 20 feet with Wasp Freeze, you will have much better success if you can locate their nest, wait until late in the afternoon when they all come home, then treat with Delta Dust or some other control product and nail them all at one time.

Always read, understand, and follow product label or hire a professional.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Mid Season Mower Maintenance

The summer is going by in record speed. The football, volleyball, fall soccer and deer seasons are right around the corner. Soon we will be enjoying cooler weather! Soon your grass will not need mowing every 5 days!

There are still some things to take care of this summer. Try to find a source of gas for your lawn mower that does not contain ethanol. Use ethanol free gas in your small engines, boat motors, and generators (have you tested your generator recently?). Your mower will be happier next spring if you use ethanol free gas.

The mower blade needs to be inspected this time of year. Always remove the spark plug wire from the plug and tape it to the side of the mower to avoid accidently starting the mower when you turn the blade to inspect it (or remove the plug). The mower blade works like an old time airplane propeller if you spin the blade it will start the engine.

In the old days, we use to sharpen our mower blades ourselves. Now days, there is a lot of aerodynamics and engineering that goes into these blades, so you are better off buying a new blade. Be sure to buy a replacement that is suited for your mower. These blades move at high speeds, so be sure they are balanced correctly like the tires on your car.

You want a nice sharp blade that has not run over pine cones, small sticks, gum balls, the hose, or any other foreign object. A nice sharp blade will give your lawn a better cut (look) and the leaf blade will have less entry points for disease.

While you are checking out your mower, how clean is the air filter? If your air filter is not clean, a lawn mower can produce some nasty air pollution. Mowers do not have all the emission controls that our cars have, so a clean air filter is really important. I guess a dirty air filter would be like your mower having an asthma attack – the engine needs good air flow.

The other main thing to check would be the engine oil. When was the last time it was changed? Have you mowed enough hours that it is time to change?

If this sounds like a Saturday morning of fun, have at it. If not, take it to your local small engine repair shop!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Lawn Shrimp

Judging from the calls to Possum’s Landscape and Pest Control Supply and your faxes many of you are battling roaches, spiders, earwigs, fleas, mosquitoes and other common Lowcountry insects this summer. We are also getting a lot of questions about a nuisance pest.

The almighty roach always wins the most called about / most asked about award; however, a close runner-up this year is the “big red flea” question. Many of you after a rain or anytime might see what appears to be hundreds of “big red fleas” in your garage or inside your house on the floor right inside the door of a ground level entry. These are crustaceans not insects, and they do not feed on you, your house, your plants or your pets. Their common names include lawn shrimp and house hopper. Talitroides sylvacticus is their scientific name.

Lawn shrimp like a humid, high moisture area to live and feed. Ground covers like Asiatic Jasmine, Ivy and other moist mulched areas are perfect places for these crustaceans to live. They feed on decaying plant and animal matter. When they enter your house or garage, lawn shrimp are seeking a better life-style; however, they usually die because there is no food for them (decaying plant and animal matter) and the air is too dry (your air conditioner has taken the humidity they like out of the air). Lawn shrimp also like the moisture from wood piles, flower pots or any other stationary object they can live underneath.

Since lawn shrimp mainly feed on decaying stuff, they are more a nuisance than anything else. If you are tired of removing them from your dwelling, you may want to remove their habitats from your entry points to your house. Those nice flower containers next to the entryway may need to go.  Sealing thresholds of doorways will save on your electric bill and help keep these and other uninvited guest outside. Although there are not any chemicals labeled for the control of lawn shrimp (they are a crustacean not an insect), any good perimeter pest control product should hasten their demise as well as help with roaches and other household pests.

There are many Pest Management Professionals that can help you with these and other pests if you would rather leave it up to the professionals.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Some Benefits of Organics and Wetting Agents Part 5

This article is hopefully the last part of the longest running multiple part series in the 20 plus year history of the Horticulture Hotline! Fleas, roaches, chinch bugs, mosquitoes, and the many other pests of the Lowcountry landscape have had a pass for too long. If you have missed any of the previous four articles, you can access them by going to and look under the Horticulture Hotline tab.

Last week I wrote about the use of wetting agents in clay soil. This week I’m going to write about the use of wetting agents in sandy soil. You know how a ‘cooler or Thermos’ knows to keep some liquids hot and some liquids cold? A wetting agent works in both sandy soils and clay soils as well. Wetting agents help dry out clay soils then slowly release the water and help sandy soils hold water.

At Possum’s we worked with a customer that lives in a sandy soil area of the Lowcountry. He suffered from a large dry area on a hill and in another area he had an annual bed that always dried out; however, the annuals were on a zone with turf, so the turf was getting over watered to keep the annuals alive.

Through the monthly use of a wetting agent, he was able to solve both problems without having to rework his irrigation system. He had been watering every day for 30 minutes and has cut his watering to 3 times a week. On last report he was going to try to lower the minutes per watering. Going from watering 7 days a week down to 3 days a week is a 57% decrease in watering. Another lowered water bill and another better looking yard!

Less watering also means less disease and less expensive fungicides. This ‘slow release’ watering can save you money on your water bill, help fertilizer work better, lessen compaction, prevent runoff into storm water drains that go to our marshes, grow deeper roots, develop healthier plants that can withstand stress better, and let me mention again save you money!

The use of organics (Cotton Burr Compost, SeaHume, Corn Gluten, Mulch, Sustane Products, Bio-Rush etc), soil testing and wetting agents will provide you many benefits in your landscape. The proper use of these products over a very short period of time will give you healthier plants, less disease, a more environmentally friendly landscape, and will save you money!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Benefits of Organics and Wetting Agents Part Four

Here is part four of the use organics and wetting agents in your landscape. If you have missed any of the previous articles on this topic or any other topic, you can find them at under the Horticulture Hotline tab.

A wetting agent is a water management product. Imagine a bunch of tiny little (microscopic) balloons or sponges that penetrate into your soil through the tiny cracks, absorb water, expand, relieve compaction , and then release the water slowly back to the plant. After about a month, these balloons begin to break down in the soil, like a helium balloon does in the atmosphere.

The first customer that thanked me for introducing her to a wetting agent lived in a clay type soil. The first benefit she noticed was areas that stayed wet in the past seemed to dry out quicker. The wetting agent let the water go into the ground instead of sitting on the surface where water usually sat for days. She also noticed that the water that flowed over the curb to a storm water drain after a rain now stayed on her lawn. For hours or even days after a rain, her neighbor’s curb was wet from water running off their property, while her curb was dry and her landscape benefitted from the rain water.

Wetting agents will make the fine clay particles group together (flocculate), creating pore spaces where air can get to the roots. These air pockets are areas where the roots will also grow, then slough off adding organic matter to the soil and creating a topsoil layer. Every time you add the wetting agent, these microscopic balloons penetrate deeper into the soil, creating more pore spaces, and softening that hard clay into a more forgiving soil. As the roots grow deeper, the roots can get more water and nutrients from the soil, making the plant more drought resistant and require less fertilizer.  

Once the rains began to slow down, she began to notice the big savings in her pocket book. She went from watering Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for thirty minutes a zone down to Monday and Friday for 20 minutes a zone. In other words she went from watering a total of 90 minutes down to 40 minutes. She cut her watering in more than half!

Because of the clay soil, she had lots of containers and hanging baskets for color plants and a small herb garden. These plants also needed far less water. In our brutal heat some of her hanging baskets needed watering twice a day. With the addition of wetting agents, not anymore!