Monday, November 24, 2014

A Few Random Answers to Recent Questions

A few questions that I have been asked recently:

What is a good all purpose insecticide besides Sevin?

Sevin is great on turf because it kills above ground (ants, ticks, chinch bugs, sod webworms, mosquitoes, fleas and many more) and below ground (grubs and mole crickets) insects. For above ground insects in turf areas consider a product containing bifenthrin (Bifen, Bug Blaster), and for below ground insects use Grubz Out for long term control.

Sevin has been a go to product for a long time in gardens (as a dust and as a liquid). There are many general insecticides that you could replace it with in the garden. Neem Py is a natural product that is broad spectrum and works on insects as well as certain diseases (fungi). Insecticidal Soaps are also good for the garden. Vegetables Plus also has a very extensive label. Viper dust is a good replacement for Sevin dust. Always read, understand, and follow product labels.

What is a good soil to compost ratio in a large raised garden?

The ratio of compost to soil depends on the native soil and the compost you are working with in your garden. If you have a tight, heavy clay soil, you would start with one part cotton burr compost to four parts clay. If you have basic loamy soil, you would use one part cotton burr compost to two parts soil. If your soil is real sandy, use one part cotton burr compost to one part sand. On athletic fields we mix four parts sand with one part cotton burr compost (often called 80:20 mix). Try to let your garden rest for thirty days after amending (not necessary with cotton burr compost since it is already fully composted, but still a good idea).

What is a good all purpose organic fertilizer?

You know I have to recommend a soil test. You could use the best fertilizer in the world; however, if you are missing one part of the plant nutrient puzzle, your crop will not reach its potential.

We have a lot of customers at Possum’s use Flower Bed Amendment as a top dress fertilizer. With its blend of composted cotton burrs, composted cattle manure, feather meal, cottonseed meal, and alfalfa meal it would certainly have something in it to get your plants growing happily. The cotton burrs will also condition your soil and last for up to two years!

Something a little more conventional would be Bradfield Organics 3-1-5. These products are alfalfa based with other natural ingredients including humates (condition soil, make nutrients available), molasses (feeds microorganisms), and sulfate of potash. They are proven performers in the Lowcountry. Sustane and Espoma make other good organic products, so take a soil test and see which one will work best for you. I like using a mix of different organic products on my yard, so I get the different benefits each one has to offer. SeaHume will make all fertilizers work better by adding biostimulants and minor nutrients.

Using Neptune’s Harvest fish, seaweed, and fish and seaweed blend as a spray or a drench will also help increase your yield.

Thank you for your questions and keep them coming!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Christmas Tree Time

Another year has almost gone by. What a year! The ice in the spring, a very wet September and then the dry fall. The great weather for people doing activities outside, led to sod webworms and large patch / brown patch on our turf. Does anyone / everyone have moles?

I’m looking forward to my trip through the Festival of Lights at James Island County Park. I’m sure I will be treated to another outstanding display of lights this year, plus the sand castle, train, walk around displays, shops and all the “fair food!” If you’re a kid, does Christmas still seems like it takes forever to get here? It sure comes up quick to me! 

I wanted to get this yearly Christmas Tree article out early, so you could make plans to go to a local Christmas Tree Farm, find a local source for a cut tree, or use a live tree that you could use in your landscape after the holidays, if you were so inclined.

After Thanksgiving, many of you will be searching for a Christmas tree.  If you are going to buy a cut tree, consider buying it from a local business that is here year-round like an independently owned garden center.  If you buy it from a tent, or a temporary site, look for one that is run by the Exchange Club, Optimist Club, Rotary Club, a local church, a local school club, a local landscaper or another local organization.  Many local organizations that sell trees give a portion of the profits to local charities such as Camp Happy Days.

There are some people from out of state that set up tents in grocery store parking lots. They take their profits out of state when they leave. If you support our local businesses, then you keep our money in our local economy and maybe save a local job. Very important to always keep profits local, especially these days.

Many of the local garden centers offer great Christmas gifts along with trees this time of year.  They have purchased many seasonal items that would be a great present for anyone. Gift certificates are usually available for the hard to shop for gardener. I know I felt like a professional athlete (college athlete in some cases), signing Possum gift certificates last week. Shopping at a garden center is a great way to avoid long lines.  The parking is free and plentiful this time of year.

Have you ever considered a live tree? Different Hollies (right now you can tell the females with beautiful berries), Eastern Red Cedar, Little Gem Magnolias, Osmanthus, Deodara Cedar and many more make great trees and after the holidays you can plant them in your yard instead of throwing them to the curb. Leyland Cypress have been removed from this list.

Local tree farms are also an option. A ride in the country is always a good family event (young children, “how much longer will it take to get there?”).  Noel’s Christmas Tree Farm on Johns Island and Too Goo Doo Tree Farm on the way to Edisto are two local tree farms.  Picking out your own tree is fun for the whole family and usually involves hot chocolate and hay rides. You know you are getting a fresh tree when you cut it yourself. 

If you go with a traditional cut tree, make sure it is in water at the place you buy it (unless it is coming fresh off of the truck), and make sure it stays in water until you take it to the curb.  Once you bring it home cut an inch off of the bottom of the tree and place it in a 5 gallon bucket of water.  While the tree is still outside, consider spraying the tree with Transfilm, Cloud Cover or Wilt Proof to keep the water loss through the leaves at a minimum. If you notice any insects on the tree, blast it with a strong stream of water or consider an insecticidal soap. Let the tree dry before bringing it into the house. 

Locate your tree within your house away from heating ducts and the fireplace.  A stand that can hold a lot of water is a big plus because a fresh cut Christmas tree can drink 1-2 gallons of water per day.  Have one responsible adult in charge of watering the Christmas tree daily to avoid ruining the carpet or floors.  If you can, fill (2) one gallon milk jugs each day and let them sit for 24 hours, this will allow the chlorine to evaporate out of the water.  Letting the chlorine evaporate from the water you water your plants with, is a practice you should use when watering all house plants.  

There are many secrets to keeping a tree fresh.  Having a fresh cut and keeping water above this cut at all times is the most important thing you can do for the tree.  The water conducting vessels quickly close up if the tree does not have constant water.  Using a drop of Super Thrive in each gallon of water will help the tree stay fresh. Many people use 7-up and an aspirin in the water. 

Thank you for shopping at Possum’s Landscape and Pest Control Supply and all of your letters, questions and for reading The Horticulture Hotline!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Mole Crickets are Back!

While walking my dog (no, I do not have a Possum) the other day, I noticed some serious mole cricket tunneling / damage around a light post. While he lifted his leg on a light post, I noticed the turf around the post was noticeably thin and had fresh churned up soil on the surface of the ground. Mole crickets are attracted to light, so it is common to see damage near light poles. With some products being removed from the market, we are getting more complaints about mole crickets.    

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. The past 6 weeks have been very dry. The fall is bad because the grass is going dormant and the damage might go undetected.

To control mole crickets, it is best to scout for them.  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.  The soap irritates their equivalent to our lungs, and brings them to the surface gasping for air. 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.