Friday, August 29, 2014

Aeration in the Fall

I was asked about aerating a yard this time of year the other day, and I replied go for it as long as your grass is actively growing and not under any stress. Aerating should be considered for the health of your whole landscape and it is not a spring only activity.  While you have the holes open in your yard, there are many products that you can add to that root zone area that will benefit your turf, trees, and shrubs.

Aerating reduces compaction, reduces thatch, increases oxygen movement to the roots, brings beneficial microorganisms to the surface, cuts runners, and allows better penetration of water, fertilizers, or control products into the soil. As a bonus you may cut up an army worm!

If you were too busy in the spring, aerate now before the grass slows down too much. I imagine there are a lot of landscape professionals that have aerators sitting in their shop that would love to aerate your yard now or get a few neighbors and rent one.

Right after aerating, while the holes are open, is a good time to add SeaHume G, BGK 7500, products containing mycorrhiza, Crab Shell, Mule Mix and/or Cotton Burr Compost.  Even if you are not aerating, these products are great to add to your lawn and beds.
·       SeaHume G is a bio-stimulant humic acid product that will help your roots grow, soften up the soil, feed beneficial micro-organisms in the soil, make nutrients that are in the soil more available to the plants, and keep fertilizer from leaching.
·       SeaHume G also contains 10% cold water seaweed. The seaweed also acts as a bio-stimulant and is a source of over 60 minor elements, amino acids, and natural chelating agents.
·       BGK 7500 is a granular organic product that has thatch eating bacteria mix in with a 03-03-03 fertilizer. BGK 7500 is also fortified with 6% humic acid.
·       04-04-04 Bolster and other products that contain mycorrhiza. By applying these products while the roots are exposed, the mycorrhiza can attach to the roots quickly. These friendly fungi will help the plant absorb water and nutrients from the soil while competing with bad fungus in the soil.
·       Crab Shell by Neptune’s Harvest will increase the chitin eating bacteria in the soil. These bacteria will help control nematodes and fungus. I would definitely use this product in areas that I have problems with large / brown patch.
·       Mule Mix can last about 20 years in the soil and help manage moisture.  This is a clay product that has been super-heated until it pops!  This makes this product sterile as well as turns it into a little capillary.  This capillary holds water and then releases it as the plant needs it.  This product is used on baseball infields to manage the moisture levels in clay; otherwise the clay would be rock hard or moist and slimy. Mule Mix will also keep fertilizer and water from leaching in sandy soils. Mule Mix is great for wet or dry areas.
·       Cotton Burr Compost will add water holding capabilities to the soil by adding organic matter to the soil.  Cotton Burr Compost will soften up clay as well as giving sandy soil nutrient holding capacity.  Cotton Burr Compost is very high in nutrition and will also help increase populations of beneficial organisms in the soil.

All the above products will help conserve moisture as well.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Week - Fall Armyworms

Wow, what a week. Fall armyworms decided to attack my yard and many others throughout the Lowcountry. Golf courses and sports turf fields have been getting their fair share of munching as well. Walk around your yard late in the evening, if you see a lot of moths, usually worms are close behind (moth lay eggs, eggs hatch into hungry worm).

Monday I was talking on my phone in my backyard for better cellular reception and low and behold I see a worm munching on my turf. Sod webworms usually do not hit until September / October time frame, so I took a picture of the worm’s head and with the magic of cell phones, I was able to blow it up and see the ‘y’ on its head. Not too long ago I was able to see this ‘y’ without the magic of cell phones. Anyway, this ‘y’ is an identifying characteristic of the fall armyworm.

So, I know I have worms eating my grass; however, I have a few more things that I am already committed to that I need to take care of first. I had to figure out how to get the best ryegrass from Oregon to Charleston. Was it cheaper to use rail cars or truck it the whole way? I had to meet with people that I sell product to and meet with people that sell me product to learn what is new for 2015. And the biggest thing was High School Football season was starting and I had a whole lot of fields to look at (as well as practice fields, baseball and softball fields while I’m there). As hot as it was, I knew the worms were not going to eat too much during the day.

After being outside on the phone, I realize my bathroom floor is flooded – great - and I have no idea where the water is coming from. Was it the bottom seal where the toilet connects to the floor or was it leaking from the grommets that hold the water reservoir to the toilet? A little Possum’s Blue Alert SS Dye helped diagnose that situation. The water was coming from the reservoir.

Since I have a dog, when I apply products, I like to use multiple products at once and water them all in at once.  Because I was in North Charleston looking at ball fields, I went by Possum’s North and picked up some 15-00-15 + preemerge and SeaHume.

After letting the worms eat for a few days (I had never done that before) it was time to kill them. I did watch a wasp eat one and I saw some birds eating them. Now, I needed to assist Mother Nature. I had some Bifen (worm killer) at home. I also mix in a growth regulator (Trin-Pac) so I do not have to mow or edge so often, a sedge killer (Certainty), a weed killer (MSM), a fungicide (TM – Cleary’s generic), a spray dye indicator so I can see where I have sprayed (Possum’s Blue Alert SS) and a few other secret ingredients.

By Friday night, the worms were dead, the rye grass’s travel plans were made, I fixed the toilet, my yard had a good mix of things on it, and I was watching High School Football on TV and listening to Bo Blanton broadcast on the radio. Life is good!


Monday, August 18, 2014

Screening and Comments

Dear Bill,

I just wanted to thank you for your weekly gardening help column.

I find your columns helpful, informative and entertaining. I am an avid West Ashley gardener and I look forward to your local bend on gardening that one just can not get from a nationally syndicated article from say, New York. I originally migrated here from Northern California from a similar zone (Zone 8), and I can confirm that what goes here does not go for gardens elsewhere in our diverse country.

And right now, with the Charleston Horticultural Society on "recess" (why in the heck do they do persist in doing this? Not all of us Charleston folks retire to summer villas in the mountains in summer!!)  I am especially feeling gardening-info deprived.

Wanted to add, while I am thinking about it, that I  got a kick out of the Alice Cooper reference in your June 24 column.. What a hoot!

Keep up the good work!

From another reader:

I've had a Monoculture of 78 Leylands, half in full sun, the other half, half day a.m.-noon sun.  Otherwise they were treated the same.  I lost 38 of the trees in the second year, all full sun trees,  from the root rot problem and Needle Blight.

I replaced all 38 with Thuja 'Steeplechase' a sport of Thuja 'Green Giant'.  All are doing well, yet at different heights due to more/less a.m. sun, and varying moisture uptake even given that the trees have a "drip" irrigation system in place.  I find the 'Steeplechase' while glorious looking are quite sensitive to too much ground moisture when under say 4 feet.

Perhaps in your next Leyland installment you could talk about both the 'Green Giant' and the 'Steeplechase'?

The ‘Green Giant’ and the ‘Steeplechase’ are considered good substitutes for the Leyland Cypress. As of now, there are no known pest and disease problems (this could change).

The ‘Steeplechase’ is an improvement on the ‘Green Giant’. The ‘Steeplechase’ is smaller, denser and finer foliage; however, does not seem to do as well in wet soils or when exposed to very cold winds. Both varieties are tolerant to sand as well as clay soils.

If you have ever listened to the radio show when we (Paul and I) are talking about screening, you know I am big on a diversified screens with many foliage types, fragrance, color shows (berries, flowers, leaf color, and even bark color), and plant forms (weeping, upright, pyramidal, umbrella). Staggering your plantings gives you more air movement and is usually visually more appealing, depending on your overall landscape (a formal landscape may require more straight lines).

Depending on your soil conditions and what you are trying to screen, here are a few plants to consider:

Hollies – many, many choices with different forms, shapes and berry colors. Be sure to purchase while showing berries because all males do not have berries. Do not overlook the upright or weeping Yaupon Holly with their shiny berries and unique shape.

Magnolias – also many shapes and sizes available – some are big, some are narrow. Good fragrance.

In an interest of time and column inches, I’m going to list several other plants. Usually planting in staggered odd number groups of 3 to 9 of the same plant, works really well.

A few (there are many others) more plants to consider for screening: loquat (big foliage and fruit), bottlebrush (cool flowers that attract hummingbirds), camellias (fall and winter bloomers), azaleas, viburnum (foliage color, many sizes), Loropetalum (foliage color, many sizes), wax myrtle, pyracantha (berries), oleander (summer flowers, unique growth habit), Arizona cypress, Tea Olive (fragrance), Live Oak, Palms with several different staggered heads, Japanese Cedar, Eastern Red Cedar,  Anise (cool upright foliage that smells like Anise – Twizzlers), and many more.