Friday, May 23, 2014

How Much Water?

What a difference a year makes! Last year, huge amounts of rain and this year too much rain at one time without a lot of consistent rain. This past week I’ve been asked by several people “How much water should I be putting on my yard each week?” 

The quick answer is one inch of water per week, including rainfall.  I look at one inch per week as a starting point, and then adjust for other factors.  These factors include soil type, wind exposure, slope in the yard, berms, heat and exposure to the sun.

A clay soil is going to hold more water for a longer period of time than a sandy soil.  When watering a clay soil, if you put out too much water at once, it will begin to run off instead of penetrating the soil.  Wetting agents ( Possum’s Wetting Agent with Biostimulants) and organic matter (Cotton Burr Compost) will help water penetrate clay better.

Water tends to pass through sandy soils quickly.  If they receive too much water at once, the water tends to leach through the soil past where the plant roots can access it.  Wetting agents (Possum’s Wetting Agent with Biostimulants) and organic matter (Cotton Burr Compost) will give sandy soils better water holding capacity.

Wind exposure can also play a big part in how much to water.  An ocean front or lake front lot with a constant breeze will require more water than a land-locked yard in the suburbs that is protected from wind.  Position of trees, fences, houses or other wind breaks can also affect wind exposure.  If your yard is very windy, you will have to water more than a yard that is more protected from the wind.  Wetting agents (Possum’s Wetting Agent with Biostimulants) and organic matter (Cotton Burr Compost) will give windy areas better water holding capacity.

Depending on the elevation change in your yard, you could require more water.  Some houses sit up on hills that slope down toward the road.  These sloping yards require more water.  In the Lowcountry, this is less of a problem than an area in the mountains or hills.  Wetting agents (Possum’s Wetting Agent with Biostimulants) and organic matter (Cotton Burr Compost) will give hilly areas better water holding capacity and allow the water to penetrate the ground instead of running off into the road.

If you have a lot of landscape berms, be sure these areas are getting enough water.  Many berms are made with landscape grade fill dirt (i.e. sand) that dry out quickly.  Being up on a hill, they have more exposure as well as slope, therefore they require more water. Wetting agents (Possum’s Wetting Agent with Biostimulants) and organic matter (Cotton Burr Compost) will give these areas better water holding capacity.

Just as we need to drink plenty of water, so do the plants and grass.  Some areas near sidewalks and streets are getting cooked!  The soil surface temperature is often well over 100 degrees.  Give your trees, flowers and turf a drink!  Wetting agents (Possum’s Wetting Agent with Biostimulants) and organic matter (Cotton Burr Compost) will give hot soils better water holding capacity.

Exposure to the sun also affects the amount of water needed by a yard.  If your yard is shaded by a neighbor’s house or trees, it will require less water than if it is in the wide open sun.  Different areas of the same yard will require different amounts of water based on the exposure to the sun. Wetting agents (Possum’s Wetting Agent with Biostimulants) and organic matter (Cotton Burr Compost) will give exposed soils better water holding capacity.

Always try to water early in the morning so your landscape does not stay wet too long and encourage fungus. Turf gets wet at night through guttation and dew. By watering early in the morning (3-7 am) you are not extending that wet period. If you water at 9 am and the grass has been wet all night, you could be giving disease the opportunity (moisture) it needs to flourish. Wetting agents (Possum’s Wetting Agent with Biostimulants) and organic matter (Cotton Burr Compost) will give your soils better water holding capacity and you will be able to reduce your watering and your water bill (and usually your fungicide bill as well).

Monday, May 19, 2014

A Few Things to Look Out For This May

1.      Mole Crickets seem to be back with a vengeance! For years there was some chemistry available to homeowners that kept mole crickets in check. That chemistry is now not available to homeowners and the mole crickets are back to their old tricks. Tunneling in the turf, separating the roots of the grass from the soil, then the grass dries out and thins out your stand of turf. Aloft will provide the best long term control this time of year. There are many other products labeled for mole crickets that you could choose from as well. Intice 10% is an  effective organic bait.
2.       I have already seen the nasty rascal chinch bug in St. Augustine grass, and in our stores, we are already selling a lot of flea killing products.  If you have St. Augustine grass, be sure to put out a product labeled for chinch bugs such as Aloft, Bifen or Lebanon Insect Control.  For fleas be sure to use a growth regulator and treat the animal, the house, and the yard. Also vacuum, vacuum, and vacuum some more.
3.      The cool, dry nights make powdery mildew on plants and large patch on lawns a problem.  Roses, Crepe Myrtles, Dogwoods, Verbena and Gerber Daisies are a few plants that I would check for powdery mildew.  Powdery mildew is a white substance that grows on the tops of the leaves.  As the lawn tries to figure out whether it is still winter (nighttime temperature still in the 60’s), or summer (daytime temperature in the high 80’s), Large Patch (Brown Patch) is prevalent.  For powdery mildew, Honor Guard, Fertilome Systemic Fungicide, or Neem PY (organic) will do a good job.  For Large Patch consider Cleary’s 3336, Disarm or Serenade (organic) in active areas. 
4.      While driving through neighborhoods localized dry spots are very evident.  These are areas in the yard that turn that bluish gray color from lack of water.  New neighborhoods with young grass and poor soils seem to be most susceptible to these dry areas.  Exposed areas with lots of wind and areas at the beaches also are good candidates for these localized dry spots.  Adding organic matter to the soil (Cotton Burr Composts or SeaHume), wetting agents, or adjusting sprinkler heads will help with these dry areas.  Remember to water in the early a.m. before the wind picks up, so the grass will dry by nightfall.
5.      Moles seem to be particularly active this spring.  They just had their young in April and now they are tunneling up a storm.  The young moles are hungry!  Manage the food source in your yard (grubs, mole crickets) with Lebanon Insect Control or Aloft and go after the mole with Mole Patrol. 
6.      As with all products, you should read and follow product labels.  More is not better when dealing with control products.  Know your square footage and watch overlapping when applying your products.  You also need to watch the weather forecast to ensure the products have a proper amount of time on your lawn prior to any rain.  If the product needs to be watered into the ground, a slow watering by a sprinkler is better than a gully washer from the sky.  A very hard rain can wash products into the storm water drains which are bad for the environment and you have wasted a lot of money.
      Also sweep or blow fertilizers or control products off of hard surfaces when you
      are finished applying them. In the case of fertilizer this may prevent staining, and             most importantly it will keep products from washing through storm drains to the   marshes.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Tomatoes - Blossom End Rot

Blossom end rot is a very common problem for tomatoes (it can also get on peppers, squash and watermelons).  A dark water soaked spot appears on the blossom end which is opposite the stem end of the tomato.  This spot usually gets bigger and turns black, and then mold will grow on the surface. 

Ways to avoid blossom end rot include soil testing to be sure your calcium levels are adequate.  If calcium is lacking, you can amend it by adding calcium nitrate, lime, gypsum or spray foliage with calcium chloride or calcium nitrate. 

Other factors that contribute to blossom end rot are:
·         Fluctuations in soil moisture.  Letting the soil get very dry then very wet.  Cotton Burr Compost used as a soil amendment or as a mulch will add organic matter to the soil reducing these fluctuations.
·         High nitrogen fertilization.  If plants get too much fertilizer, then get hit by a dry spell, this will cause blossom end rot.  Avoid trying to grow the monster tomato bush by piling manure or fertilizer around the plant.
·         Root damage.  Root damage can be caused by cultivating (hoeing) too close to the plant, having the tomatoes sit in water after a rain, nematodes and excessive salt.  When hoeing, stay away from the root zone of the tomato plant.  Be sure you have well drained soil (Cotton Burr Compost will help), so your roots will not suffocate.  Test your soil for sodium and remove the salts by leaching the salts out or by applying a salt removing product.  If you have nematodes, plant in a different area or in a container. Using Neptune Harvest’s Crab Shell product has shown to reduce nematode populations by building up chitin eating bacteria in the soil.
·         Container growing. Many potting soils are sterile and ‘soilless’ – meaning they do not have any fertilizer or nutrients built into the soil. Happy Frog or Ocean Forest soils would be an exception to that. If you are growing in containers, be sure you are adding what the plant needs for proper growth.

The main thing in controlling blossom end rot is to soil test and be sure there is plenty of calcium in the soil before you plant the garden. 

A product that might help you with blossom end rot is called Mighty Plant.  Mighty Plant triggers the plant’s natural defense mechanisms, and toughens up the plant against disease, insects, fungi and bacteria.  Mighty Plant also gives your fruit longer shelf life (it thickens up the skin of the tomato), and will give you more blooms. For those of you that remember Messenger, Mighty Plant is Messenger with an 18-18-18 fertilizer added to it. Messenger won the Environmental Protection Agency’s Presidential Green Chemistry Award based on its beneficial properties and safety profile.

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

Monday, May 5, 2014

Leaf Gall

I guess in the restaurant (“Foodie”) world they call them “pairings.” Most of the customer base I deal with calls them “cocktails.” Basically, when you get a synergistic effect from adding two or more items together – when 1 + 1 = 5 not 2. When the two or more items together act better than the two or more items act individually, you have synergy.

Well, after five weeks of “cocktails”, I need a break! Have you noticed an azalea or a camellia whose leaves are 2-3 times the normal size and are real thick and fleshy.

They have leaf gall. Leaf gall is a very common disease that affects camellias and azaleas while they are putting on new leaves in the spring. This disease affects Camellia sasanqua (the small leaf camellia that blooms in the fall) more than Camellia japonica (the large leaf camellia that blooms in the winter).  The cool nights, overhead irrigation and rains in the early spring make this disease flourish.  This disease is caused by the fungus Exobasidium camelliae.  There is another Exobasidium fungus that affects azaleas in a very similar way. 

Leaf gall is the common name for this fungus.  The leaves become very large and fleshy.  The new growth is much thicker than normal and then the leaves break apart and release spores.  When the leaf breaks apart, you can see the lower part of the leaf turns white.  The disease spreads by wind and splashing water. A good layer of mulch will help with the splashing water.

The best control for leaf gall is to pick the infected leaves off as soon as you see them in the spring.  If you can pull them off before the spores develop, you can prevent the disease from spreading.  Once you pull them off, place them in a plastic bag (the one your newspaper comes in is handy, a dog poop bag, or any other plastic bag you might have around the house) and throw them away in the garbage or burn them in the ever so popular backyard fire pit. 

Usually this disease does not require chemical treatment.  The manual pulling off of leaves and limiting overhead irrigation in the spring, when the nights are cool, will keep it in check.  If you have a severe problem year after year, you could apply Mancozeb at bud break.  This control should be your last resort, and only used in severe cases. 

For this year, pull off as many infected leaves as you can.  Soon your plants should go back to producing its normal size leaves.  The leaves that were affected by leaf gall will soon wither, turn brown and fall off the shrub.

Usually I am against watering; however, with these warm windy days your lawn, trees, and shrubs could use a drink. All the new foliage requires water.

Mark your calendar for May 10, 2014. Charleston Lowcountry Rose Society Rose Show is that day at Citadel Mall. You can show or just observe the roses.