Monday, January 28, 2013

Spring is Coming Fast - Are you ready?

My neighbor’s Tulip Magnolia (Saucer Magnolia) is in full bloom. When this tree blooms, it usually indicates that spring is rapidly approaching. Are you ready for the 2013 season in your yard?

Here are a few things to do on these nice winter days.

·        Get soil tested – for everyone that has not already.
·        Kill winter weeds now while they are young and your grass is dormant.
·        Take mower in to have serviced to beat the Spring rush. With the new ethanol gas lawn mower engines and other engines have had issues. No one likes their mechanic to tell them, “pick it up in 4 weeks.”
·        Keep leaves off lawn areas. Keeps moisture from being trapped and if you or your lawn service are applying products, you will have a more uniform coverage without the leaves.
·        Move any shrub or tree now before it is too late. Root prune now, move before they start putting on new growth. Try DieHard Transplant to help survival.
·         Spray trees and shrubs with paraffinic oil (ultra-fine, Omni Supreme oil) as opposed to petroleum oils (Volck) to control over-wintering insects. Watch temperatures. If you have ongoing issues with scale, aphids, white flies, or other sucking bugs, try Safari or Dominion for long term control. Neem oil works on diseases as well as insects.
·        Have you tried Lime / Sulfur spray around the ground of deciduous plants that get diseased? Roses and blueberries are two good examples of plants that benefit from this sanitation practice.
·        Sharpen pruning tools or purchase new ones.
·        If you haven’t already, get your bulbs in the ground.
·        Apply SeaHume to turf, trees, flowers, and shrubs. Adding organics now will help in the spring. Cotton Burr Compost?
·        Re-do bed lines to reflect maturing landscape.
·        Get bird house ready for nesting birds.
·        Have moles, get Mole Patrol – it really works.
·        Have deer, get Deer Stopper – it really works.
·        Check irrigation or get on professional’s list to check. It has been dry this winter. Be sure the heads are pointed the right way. Can you eliminate (turn off) the zone watering the shrubs and trees? Have you tried wetting agents to lower your water bill (we hear between 30 and 60 percent)? Less water equals less disease.
·        Prune Crepe Myrtles – don’t butcher them. Remove crossing (rubbing) limbs, inward growing limbs and diseased limbs. Topping or reducing their height is not considered proper pruning.
·        Hold off on pruning plants damaged by the cold – we could still have freezing temperatures.
·        Test well for salt.
·        Attend meetings of the Rose, Camellia, Horticultural Societies and other like horticultural societies.
·        Get ready to preemerge in February. Kill small seeded summer annual weeds before they take over your landscape.
·        Get out and enjoy our County, State and City parks as well as our local plantations.

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

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Mole Crickets

Here’s my question…the other day I was washing my dog in my backyard and lots of worms and another brownish insect about two inches long with little pinchers came to the surface.  What were these brownish insects and are they bad for the grass?

While you were washing your dog, you surfaced mole crickets.  The soap irritates their equivalent to our lungs, and brings them to the surface gasping for air. With some products being removed from the market, we are getting more complaints about them. 

These guys definitely damage turf.  Their damage is not caused by them eating the roots of the plants, as many people think, but is actually caused by them tunneling near the surface and separating the roots from the soil.  When the roots are separated from the soil, the grass plant dries out and dies.  This tunneling can cause big problems when there is a drought. When the soil is dry, it separates quickly from the plants roots.  Regular rains, irrigation or rolling the ground with a sod roller, can help keep the plant alive by keeping the roots in contact with the soil. 

To control mole crickets, it is best to scout for them as you have done unintentionally while washing your dog.  Get two ounces of lemony dish soap in five gallons of water and slowly pour it over a 2 x 2 area where you may think you have mole crickets.  This will drive them to the surface and depending on how many surface, you can then decide whether to treat your yard or not.  A golf course green would have less tolerable amount than a home lawn. 

In the springtime, mole crickets are in their adult stage and are mating and flying around.  This is a good time to treat them because you will break up their life cycle before they produce new babies. 

Later, in June and July, if you use a soap flush again; you will see the baby mole crickets.  Baby mole crickets are easy to kill because they do not fly. 

In the fall, the small mole crickets will have grown into young adults, have wings, and will tunnel near the surface and fly around.  Depending on the amount of mole crickets in your yard, these are the three critical times to treat for them. 

Many control products are available to kill mole crickets.  Some work better depending on the stage of life of the mole cricket.   There are baits, parasitic nematodes, contact killers, spray products, etc.  When going after the baby mole cricket, always be sure to use a product that goes through the thatch layer and into the soil where the baby mole cricket resides.  Depending on your population of mole crickets, the number of applications can vary greatly.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Digger Wasps

Digger wasps are continuing to multiply in numbers in the Lowcountry. At Possum’s we use to get a few complaints in localized areas, now the numbers seem to be on the rise. One faithful reader of the ‘Horticulture Hotline’ sent me a 14 page letter describing the progression of damage to her yard. The presence of wasps is intimidating and unsafe.

Digger wasps start out as just a few holes in the yard. The holes are where the adults lay their eggs. In the spring, the young emerge. In the fall these wasps are now adults and they dig new holes and lay eggs for the following spring. In a very short time period, you can go from having a few digger wasps to thousands. All these holes can ruin your turf areas and the wasps make it less enjoyable to be in the yard.

Most of these wasps are predatory feeders. They eat grubs (should manage for moles and potential turf damage), small flying insects and ground dwelling insects (mole crickets, etc). The wasps sting the prey to death, then bring the dead prey back to the wasp’s hole (nest), then lay an egg on it so the young has an instant food supply when it hatches.

All control should be done at dust or at night when the wasps are in their hole. You need to plan on several applications of products to manage this pest. Since the wasps eat insects in your yard that you should be managing to certain thresholds, going after the wasp as well as their food source should benefit you greatly. Since the wasps like subsurface insects, Sevin would be a good product to start your management program.

If you just have a few holes, Delta Dust is a great product. At night treat in and around the hole. Some people will also “plug” the hole. At Possum’s we sell the plugs, but you could possibly use something from around the house. Be sure to turn off the irrigation and check for rain.

If you have many of these uninvited guests, DeltaGard G or Turf Ranger could be used across the whole area. Remember they fly, so getting your neighbors involved is crucial. These products need to be watered in to get to the target. Turf Ranger recommends ½ inch of water. Water the product in slowly so the product soaks into the ground, and does not run off into a non-target area. Apply these products when you first see the wasps and until they are gone, waiting at least one week between applications.

Essentria IC3 is a National Organics Program compliant product that is labeled for wasps and other small flying insects (mosquitoes – yeah). IC3 is safe to use around water, kids, and pets. Consider using IC3 in your product rotation.

When treating always wear dark clothes and have a can of wasp freeze on your person. Digger wasps did not get there overnight, and they are not going to go away overnight.

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

Monday, January 7, 2013

New Year's Resolutions Part 2

New Year’s Resolutions for the Gardener part 2:

Measure your yard. Measure the turf areas. Measure the bed areas. If you are not up for the task, find someone who can do this for you. When you know your square footage, you know how much product to buy and to use without guessing. Knowledge is power!

In an effort to conserve water, it is time to get that hose that leaks at the faucet, a new gasket.  Also use wetting agents this year.  Wetting agents have been shown to save approximately 30-60% of water consumption for a yard.  This would be a huge savings on your water bill.  By watering less, you will have less fungus problems and save money by not having to buy as much fungicides. We had one commercial customer reduce his fungicide applications from seven down to one by using wetting agents. Possum’s Wetting Agent with biostimulants should work well for you.

In 2013, add organic matter to your lawn and beds.  Organic matter will also help you lower your water bill while adding many other benefits to your soil.  Cotton Burr compost has been improving Lowcountry soils with great results for the past 10 years. If you have never tried Cotton Burr Compost in May, mark off an area 7 feet by 7 feet in your lawn area. Spread a two cubic foot bag of Cotton Burr Compost in this area and watch the results. You will experience what one of my customers describes as “crack for the gardener”.

In order to combat weeds, plan to put out preemergent herbicides in your lawns and beds according to product label.  This will make your life a lot less stressful and your yard will be looking better without weeds.  If time is a big issue and you have measured your yard, consider buying a year’s supply of product now, so you will have the product handy when it is time to apply. 

In 2013, always apply product according to the label’s directions.  No more “if one ounce is good….two ounces will be real good”.  This will also save you money and get you better results from the products. On the pest control side of our business, we see this the most. If you over apply the control product, the insect detects the product and avoids the area. If you apply the correct amount, the insect walks through the product and share it with his buddies. If you have measured your yard, with a scale and a bucket, you can weigh out the product you need and be more accurate with your applications. Following the label is not just a good idea, it is a Federal Law!

For those pet owners whose animals have a history of flea problems, be proactive by applying growth regulators.  Ultracide, Nylar, Alpine IGR or Precor applied to your home every three months, should keep your pet free of fleas. Prefurred One and Prefurred Plus are generic forms of Frontline, saving you money. Apply these to your cats and dogs for added protection.
Always mow the grass with a sharp mower blade and prune the bushes with sharp pruning blades.  You will have cleaner cuts and less chance of disease or insects. 

Read a good book about soils.  Soils are the life blood of your plants, trees, and turf.  By understanding soils, you will be able to improve your yard. 

Read the Horticulture Hotline and write in with any questions you might have. Sign up for our email newsletter at Possum’s for helpful hints and pest alerts. Also listen to the “Garden Clinic” and call in with any questions.