Friday, September 27, 2013

Preventing Winter Kill

If your grass has ever suffered from “winter kill”, then you know the damage your lawn can suffer. It seems like we are due a cold winter.  There are a few things you can begin to do to prepare for winter. Any grass can get winter damage; however, around here centipede gets affected the worse by far. Since the Doctors of Grass (PHD’s) have decided that centipede grass never goes into a completely dormant state, at best you will be able to minimize your damage.

A healthy lawn will do best through a cold winter. Now is a great time to take a soil test and find out what nutrients need to be added to the soil in order to provide the plant what it needs to make it through the winter. The proper nutrients applied now can develop sugars in the plant that will act as anti-freeze on those cold nights. A healthy turf grass will be better equipped to survive the cold and other adverse conditions. The rainfall we had this summer really washed a lot of nutrients out of the ground. You can bring your soil to any of the three Possum’s Landscape and Pest Control Supplies for testing. Clemson Extension also offers soil testing.

 Be careful not to apply winterizing fertilizer from a national company that is designed for cool season grasses (fescue, blue grass, rye grass). Many of these products are high in nitrogen and can deplete the grass of the sugars you want to keep. These products also contain phosphorous that is usually not needed in our soils (soil test will provide this information) and can end up negatively impacting our waterways. A 00-00-25 sulfate of potash product with 10% iron and SeaHume or a product like Possum’s Minors and SeaHume is sometimes all you need (a soil test will give specifics) to put your grass to sleep with a full belly.

Be sure to keep your lawn hydrated through the winter. In the winter we have less humidity and cool air blowing over our lawns. Grass loses water through runners and leaf blades. Just as we get chapped lips, the lawn needs moisture during the winter. You can lose grass to desiccation during the winter months. Water is a great insulator, and will help you battle winter injury to a point. Wow, the grass is like people, the right food and water will help them survive! 

To help with winter damage be sure to correct any low, slow draining areas that hold water. With all the rain we have had that should be easy to determine. Depending on the size of the area, French drains, slit drains, adding gutters to the house, or the addition of Mule Mix will accomplish this project. Water’s insulating properties are good to a point; however, if an area gets too cold, than water can hold this cold near the crown of the plant too long and damage the grass plant.

While the grass is actively growing, reduce the thatch layer in your grass. Thatch can act like a down jacket, holding cold air around the crown of the plant, damaging the grass. Topdressing with Cotton Burr Compost now will greatly reduce your thatch by winter. SeaHume will also reduce thatch. Bio Grounds Keeper is a granular product that has cellulose degrading bacteria and enzymes as well as humic acid. Aeration combine with any of the above will improve your results greatly.

BioRush by Diehard will also reduce frost damage and help the performance of all your plants. BioRush combines beneficial bacteria, beneficial fungi, humic acid, seaweed, yucca wetting agent, vitamins, amino acids, and natural sugars into a power packed stimulant. BioRush is in a very easy to use packet. BioRush can applied through a hose end sprayer or tank sprayer.

If your thatch levels are way out of control, mechanical dethatching might be your only choice. Mechanical dethatching is very stressful to our warm season grasses, so if this is the route you are going to take, do it now so the grass can recover by winter. Running the dethatcher over the lawn is easy, the raking and cleaning up the debris is the time consuming part of this job.

As the winter approaches, you will also want to lower the height of cut of your mower. Just like thatch can hold cold air in too long, so can long leaf blades. If you ground is level enough, try to get your centipede down to an inch to an inch and a half. St. Augustine should be fine at two and a half inches.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Late September

Scout your yard for sod webworms. It is amazing with 3 stores (Possum’s) the stories you hear from lawn care people and homeowners about these worms. They can eat so much so fast it is amazing. Whether it is the professional or the DIY homeowner that has worked hard all summer to grow a uniform stand of turf, the sod webworm just doesn’t seem to care.

To scout for this varmint, look for scalped grass that has bite marks on the leaf blade. Moths flying around in a zigzag pattern in and out of the turf  at dust is also a dead giveaway.

Scale, aphids, and lace bugs are still out there sucking the life out of you plants. Evergreens you could use a drench product like Dominion. If your plant or tree is losing leaves for the winter, horticultural oil might be a better choice, depending on the infestation.

Winterizing your turf and shrubs should also be considered. No one likes to go to sleep hungry! Possum Minors, 00-00-25 Sulfate of Potash + minors, SeaHume, Cotton Burr Compost and / or Excell are a few options. Watch out for the national marketing campaigns that promote products that were not designed to be used in this area.

I’m sure you have put out one round of preemergent herbicide by now for winter weed control in your beds and turf. If not, better late than never.

If you are changing out flowers in containers or hanging baskets, consider incorporating HydroStretch  or Hort-a –Sorb. These products help manage water and your plants will not dry out so fast.

Fire Ants are out in big numbers after all the rain we had earlier this year. One bait product that works very good and is very reasonably price is Extinguish Plus. This product has a growth regulator in it and usually keeps ants out of an area for 6 months. Bait products or contact killers usually work best if spread over the whole yard.

Roaches, moles, fleas?

Friday, September 13, 2013

Sod Webworm Is Back!

The sod webworm is back! Chowing on the grass you put hours of work into all summer long! Eating at night while you sleep and on cloudy and rainy days, so birds and you will not catch them in the act of ruining your lawn! Sod webworms arrive in big numbers and eat so much so fast that they do not even leave the table to go to the bathroom! Nasty! For those of you that fought them last year, you knew the time would come to wage war once again.

The moths that lay eggs throughout the lawn are easy to spot.  The moths fly very short distances in a zigzag pattern, most noticeable at dusk. The moths fly up right from your feet like a bobwhite quail. Once they lay the eggs, the eggs will begin to hatch in a week to ten days into the sod webworm larva, a voracious eater of turfgrass. Damage usually begins in shaded areas first.

The sod webworm larva is an insatiable eater of all types of grass that we have in the Lowcountry. Seeing groups of birds feeding in your yard is a good indication you have sod webworms. Another way to tell is that your yard appears to have been mowed really short; even though, you have not mowed your grass in a week. The blades of grass have been chewed, giving the turf a very ragged appearance. If worms of any type (sod webworm, army or cut worms) are attacking your grass it will appear that you have mowed your grass with a very dull mower blade at a slow speed and a low cutting height.

If you have any doubts, a soap flush of one ounce dish detergent in five gallons of water poured over a four square foot area, should bring them to the surface. You can see the worm if you get into the border between the good grass and the munched on grass and spread the grass blades apart. The blades of the grass are tattered and have been chewed, so they are missing parts of the leaf blade.

If you see damage, be ready to apply control product, or they will do a lot of damage very quickly to your turf and weeds will move in. One good thing is that they are very easy to manage, since their entire body is in contact with the ground.  Bt, Essentria G, EcoPCO WPX and Spinosad are organic controls that are very effective against young sod webworms. Sevin, Aloft, Bug Blaster, and Cyonara will easily control the voracious chow-hound.

Since mole crickets and grubs (including grubs that become Japanese beetles and grubs that are mole food) are up near the surface, I will use Sevin 7G on my yard. This formulation of Sevin is easy to apply and kills young mosquitoes (another pest on my kill list), “the nasty rascal, the chinch bug”, ticks, fleas, and many other lawn pests. 

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

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Fall is Coming

Hopefully, you have put out your preemerge for winter weeds by now in your beds and on your turf. On your home turf, you should be done with nitrogen fertilizer. Potash, iron and other minor nutrient products can (and should) be used into the fall. A soil test should help you with any rates to apply.

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 with all this rain. 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! You 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.

With fall arriving, look for mole crickets tunneling near the surface. Mole crickets do a lot of damage in the fall that often goes undetected, leaving big dead areas in the spring.

Fire ants are very active with all the rain. Bait products a very inexpensive if you use them properly. The better new baits (Extinguish Plus) are formulated with growth regulators and can give you long term control.