Thursday, October 31, 2013

Shrubs, Trees and Sod Webworms

Well, last week I wrote about the unforgiving little worm, the sod webworm, and I’m glad to report my grass seems to be on the road to recovery; although, very slowly with the shorter days and cooler temperatures. The Lowcountry, once again, proves that it is a very difficult place to maintain a lawn. The high temperatures, long growing season, humid weather, varying soil types, fungi, insects, and disease are just a few obstacles in having that perfect lawn.I left for one weekend and the back yard got chowed on.

After spraying with Bifen and MSM (a herbicide for weeds), spreading Turf Ranger, spreading SeaHume G and spraying a light dose of Fish / Seaweed blend, the lawn is looking up. I wonder the economic impact of the sod webworm in the Lowcountry, and in Florida, where in areas, they treat for it year round along with the nasty rascal the chinch bug.

Shrubs and trees are generally neglected. Do you care for them like you do your lawn? When I ask people about feeding their shrubs, they usually have that “are you crazy look in their eyes.” Then I’m asked, “why would I feed them? I would just have to shear them (shearing plants is another article for another day) more often.”  Thank you Mom, for still feeding me after I hit 6 feet tall, so I did not get a disease and die. Plants need nutrition. Have you winterized your trees and shrubs for the winter? They like to go to bed with a satisfied ‘belly’ too.

Soil testing always gives you the best information for fertilizing, so you know exactly what product to use and how much of the product. If you do not have any recent test results, plan to get a soil test done. If you are not a soil testing type person, a few good products this time of year are 00-00-25 with 10% iron, SeaHume G, Excell, Possum Minors, Cotton Burr Compost, Nature’s Blend and  / or Flower Bed Amendment.

Do you use preemergent products in your beds to lower competition with weeds and lower your time spent pulling weeds? Neglected - those beds!  Do you manage insects and disease on your plants? Or do you walk by a dying plant and think, “oh, that plant looks like it is dying, but I’m too busy right now to mess with it.” This thought process continues until the plant is a clump of sticks. If you kid gets spots on him / her you rush them to a Doctor, but a plant not so fast.

Trees are neglected as well. They need food, aeration, and mulch. The trees in your yard are different than the trees in the woods. Trees use food to make leaves, roots, trunks, and branches. In the woods all these parts of a tree get recycled on the forest floor; however, in your yard, all these parts leave (pun intended) your property. Trees in an urban landscape get their roots severed by cable lines, irrigation lines and other utility lines. Sidewalks, driveways, decks, and pools also reduce the trees root space. Competition from grass and compaction from mowers, people and rainfall also hurt trees. Not to mention, scaring their trunk with a mower or trimmer. Be nice!

Friday, October 25, 2013

D#mn Sod Webworms

Well, it happened to me. I went out of town for a weekend, and when I returned, I noticed the grass gobblers had eaten most of my back yard and part of my front yard. While I was tailgating, they were chowing down my St. Augustine turf. The sod webworm shows no conscience when devouring the grass you have worked on all summer.

About a month and a half ago, I wrote about a small area that I noticed some activity of the sod webworm. I treated with Sevin about six weeks ago and the area recovered quickly. As Murphy’s Law of Gardening would go, right when I went out of town the residual of the Sevin wore off and the feast on my lawn began! At least the major damage was in the back yard and not the front.

With cooler weather in the forecast, I doubt I will have the quick recovery that I had six weeks ago. I will try to coax the lawn along with a little SeaHume G, and maybe a very light dose of Neptune’s Harvest Fish / Seaweed blend. I have my second application of preemergent out, so hopefully, not too many weeds will germinate in this area that is exposed to sunlight and thinned out so weeds can take over my grass. You know the old saying, “the best weed control is a thick and healthy stand of grass.”

If you would like to learn a whole lot more about sod webworms, you can go to and click on the Horticulture Hotline tab. Look for the article around 9/13/13 and there should be more information on the insect and control recommendations.

Be sure to kill any fire ants and remove any tripping hazards before Halloween.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Transplanting Plants This Fall / Winter?

A few notes from the field: roaches are moving into houses because of high tides and cooler temperatures, brown patch on turf, sod web worms still active, and aphids are enjoying the new growth some plants put out in the fall.

This time of year is a great time to transplant and plant new plants. Many people are asking me the best way to transplant shrubs and trees. Here are some guidelines for successfully transplanting plants or trees:

·         Decide the size of you root ball. For every inch in tree trunk diameter you want a foot of root ball. So if your tree is three inches in diameter your root ball should go in a circle one and a half feet from the trunk of the tree. You could tie a string around the tree leaving eighteen inches of string – then draw a line walking around the tree measuring with this string. Root balls can be very heavy so consider a hiring a professional. Be prepared to pay top dollar to move a plant because moving plants requires much more work than planting them out of containers. If your plants are way too crowded, get as much root ball as possible, and if they are so crowded that you cannot even get in there to work, you may have to sacrifice a few plants, so you do not kill them all. Always take as large a ball as possible.
·         Spray the plant you are going to move with an anti-transpirant (Cloud Cover, Wilt Proof, or Transfilm). These products will hold moisture in leaves and stems. 
·         Drench the ground with BioRush and SuperThrive. These are bio stimulant products that encourage rooting. Repeat monthly until you move the plant.
·         Root prune the plant. Go to the area that you determined your ball to go out to and push a shovel straight down – do not pry on the shovel – just cut the roots. Repeat this root pruning all the way around the plant. If the plant has been in the ground a long time, you may have to skip a shovel width each time you root prune to lessen the shock. Apply SeaHume granular (Humic acid and Seaweed bio stimulants) to decrease stress. Repeat monthly until you move the plant.
·         Keep an eye on the plant for the next month. Be sure to water it as needed.  When watering the soil, spray a fine mist on the foliage of the plant.  Since the roots have just been severed, this will help the plant absorb the water through the foliage and water the roots as well. 
·         After thirty days or if you could wait until a cooler time (November, December, January, February), dig away from the plant in the area that you root pruned. Resist the temptation to pry up on the plant. You should have a ball in a mote when you are finished. Try to have the plant moved a month before it sends out new growth or flowers in the spring.
·         Water the ball so the soil will stick to the roots.
·         Severe the ball from the area underneath the plant.
·         Always handle the root ball – do not grab the plant by its trunk.
·         Move the plant onto a tarp or some burlap.
·         Be sure when you move the plant to its new home, you plant it above existing grade.   Plants buried too deep are the biggest problem I see in landscapes.  A plant that is planted too deep is starved for oxygen which affects many other plant processes (ability to absorb nutrients or causes root rot). 
·         Be sure not to pile mulch up against the trunk of the tree or shrub as this will also kill the plant over a period of time. Consider using Cotton Burr Compost or Nature’s Blend as a mulch to get the nutrition associated with these products.
·         Spray the leaves and stems with anti-transpirant.
·         Use  Diehard Transplant (contains a friendly fungus inoculum, wetting agents, water holding gel, humic acid, Sea Kelp, root stimulating vitamins and beneficial bacteria) should also be added to increase the surface absorbing area of root systems with the back fill. Spray foliage with BioRush as it is a special blend of natural organic ingredients designed to help transplant survival. Drench with SuperThrive.
·         Apply the right amount of water.  Be sure to spray the foliage.
·         Apply the right amount of Cotton Burr Compost or Natures Blend mulch.
·         Apply granular SeaHume after you have moved the plant to encourage new root growth.
·         Stake the tree or shrub if needed.
·         Good Luck!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Fall Time

The fall time is upon us and the tea olives smell terrific. Nothing is like the smell of the sweet tea olive in the Lowcountry in the fall, except maybe shrimp bait balls. The cooler temperatures make yard work much easier; however, mosquitoes are trying to ruin the fun.

Your fall applications of preemergent weed control should be in the ground and protecting your lawn and beds against weeds. If you have not applied a preemergent product, go ahead and use one now. You might have missed a few weeds, but many more will germinate before the winter is over.

Thirty days after you have applied any fertilizer product is a good time to take soil test and prepare for 2014. Usually your beds are cared for differently than your turf grass areas, so consider taking a sample in both areas. If you call Possum’s (to find a store near you look at, they can walk you through the proper steps to take a proper soil test for your lawn and beds.

Brown Patch  / Large patch fungus is very active right now. As your grass goes to sleep, this fungus attacks the crown of the plant. The crown of the plant is where the roots go one way and the leaf blades go the other way. Hold off on watering as much as you can.

Brown Patch  / Large Patch is a soil bourne fungus; therefore, usually shows up in the same areas in the spring and fall. These areas are usually wet, thatch, or poorly drained areas.

Using a fungicide is always best if you can apply it preventatively (before the disease is active). There are many good systemic fungicides available on the market today, just be sure to rotate chemistries. Disarm, Cleary’s 3336 and Prophesy are a few of the better ones to rotate.

With Halloween approaching, remember to control fire ants in your yard. Fire ants can be deadly, and you would not want to ruin a little ghost or witches night. Do kids still dress up as ghosts and witches? Also clean up any other potential hazards and control the mosquitoes.

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

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Growing Grass in the Shade

Disclaimer: If you are reading this article and certain aspects of this article apply to you and conversations we have had, please do not take it personally. I have had these same conversations with many, many frustrated landscapers, neighbors and other concerned gardeners.

October is here. Cooler temperatures, grass slowing down, and the living is easy. This is the time to reflect and think about winter projects that will make 2014 an excellent gardening year.

The question I have been asked the most this year revolves around dying grass. (The mole is not giving up his perennial title without a fight and has been coming on hard the last few weeks.) The answer has always involved too much shade. Trees generally grew and put on a lot of leaves this year, and as a result, grass suffered due to lack of sunlight.

For the most part all the grasses around here like full sun – yes, even St. Augustine (or Charleston grass) prefers full sun. St. Augustine (or Charleston grass) prefers full sun; however, can tolerate shade better than some of the grasses. Most PHD doctors agree that even St. Augustine requires six hours of sunlight to provide a healthy stand of grass.

The statement I hear the most is something like this, “I just replaced this grass in the Spring.” This scenario is very common because you replaced the grass because it died due to shade and now the new grass is dying because of shade issues. The trees in this area have grown record amounts this year and the grass has been unable to capture the sunlight with its chlorophyll and produce the needed carbohydrates to establish a healthy stand of turf.  

On side yards, trees grown between houses and the houses themselves block a lot of the sunlight. Side yards are often very narrow, so all the foot traffic is concentrated into a small area. Water from the houses is often directed to flow between the houses. A combination of traffic, extra water and shade is deadly to most grass. Mulch, blue stone, oyster shell, or some other footpath might be a good winter project for this area.

Some solutions to these situations could be to grow heat tolerate ryegrass. Redesign beds that were put in years ago while the trees were small, making more beds and less grass. Remove shrubs and trees that are shading your turf, if zoning allows. Grow grass in these areas and plan to replace it as needed and not feel bad about it. Regularly trim your trees in this area and not feel bad about it.

Brown Patch  / Large Patch is attacking the grass as it slows down for the season.