Monday, February 29, 2016

Indian Hawthorn

With all the rain we have had the Indian Hawthorn, Raphs or Raphiolepis have been really suffering. Raphs have been plagued with leaf spot for years; however, this wet year has taken its toll on them.  It seems like right after the Red Tips (Photinia) were virtually wiped out by Entomosporium leaf spot, the diseased began attacking the Indian Hawthorn.  Indian Hawthorn and Red Tips are in the same plant family as roses (Rosaceae). 

When dealing with a plant that is very susceptible to a leaf spot disease I like to think of several different factors:
1.      Is this plant worth keeping in the landscape or should I replace it with another plant that is not susceptible to disease.
2.      Is this plant worth spraying ever 14 – 28 days to keep it in my landscape?  To keep an Indian Hawthorn alive, it needs a life-support system.  The plant must be sprayed at least monthly or it will get leaf spot again.
3.      What cultural practices can I do to help relieve the pressure of the disease?  The removal of fallen foliage (sanitation) is key when dealing with a leaf spot disease.  Having a healthy soil, as determined by a soil test, is also very important because a stressed plant is more susceptible to disease.  Providing the correct amount of water preferably through a drip system, so the plants are not over-watered or drought stressed.  Proper fertility as determined by the soil test is also important.  Use nitrogen fertilizer very sparingly in small amounts because flushes of new growth are more susceptible to leaf spot.  Choose “resistant” varieties such as “Olivia”.    This does not mean that this plant will never get this disease; it is just more resistant to the disease. Mulch like Cotton Burr Compost will help prevent splashes of water drops that could spread the disease.  Also this mulch will lower the watering needs of the plants. Bioscience products like KeyPlex should be considered. KeyPlex will thicken the cuticle of the leaf making more resistant to the disease as well as more drought resistant. Pruning for good air movement.
4.      What control products will work best on this disease?  If you decide to spray, be prepared to spray often.  Honor Guard, Banner, Dithane (Mancozeb), and Kocide are good choices. These products should be used in rotation and according to label. I like the lime-sulfur idea or lime-copper spray for the reason that the original Lamson–Scribner invented this product in an effort to save the French wine crop in the late 1800’s. He called it Bordeaux mix (unfortunately Bordeaux mix is not available anymore). When spraying these chemicals, an appropriate surfactant should be used. Certain surfactants work better than others with particular products.

I’m in yards all the time and this disease is the most common disease I see in our Lowcountry landscape. I usually recommend replanting the area. I can understand spraying roses all the time. Indian Hawthorn – ah, not so much.

It is time to get your preemergent products out before your summer annual weeds start to germinate. Prevention, being pro-active, and protection is the best way to deal with summer annual weeds.

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

Monday, February 22, 2016

Wet Landscape?

Since October, we have had a steady dose of rain. Hopefully, your irrigation system is turned off for now. With this wet weather there are several things to consider doing to get your lawn and shrubs off to a good start this spring. Although I do not see them every day, there are yards I pass that have had standing water in them every time I do pass by them for several months, and others that are just plain saturated.

This next statement feels weird to write because it is the opposite of what I’m usually encouraging people to do; however, if you have one of these saturated yards, pull back the mulch and hold back from mulching right now. Let the sun and wind get to the soil and dry it out some, so the plant’s roots (feet) can dry out. If you have read the Horticulture Hotline for long, you know I love mulch, especially Back To Nature’s Cotton Burr Compost; however, these conditions are a little different from the normal.

Since oak trees are still dropping leaves, it is a good idea to hold off on new mulch because you do not want old oak leaves in your beautiful new mulch. Rake back the mulch on shrubs and trees and let the sunshine in. This may be a good year to remove all mulch as a sanitation practice against overwintering disease and insects. Using Mule Mix in these areas will help dry them out and relieve compaction.

Once the rain slows down, aerate around your trees and shrubs (if possible) to help relieve compaction and to help dry them out. Add Mule Mix to these open aeration holes or on the surface also. Wet soils get compacted very easily. We are seeing a lot of root rot fungi and leaf spot fungi already. Fungus loves wet conditions, so dry the yard out. SeaHume is the main organic to use right now because of its ability to flocculate the soil particles and promote aeration and drainage. SeaHume will encourage beneficial fungi that will compete with bad fungi as well.

Son (or grandson) gets a new Jeep electric car for Christmas and drives it on the yard all winter, while the grass is wet and dormant. Daughter (granddaughter) gets a new puppy. The puppy and the older family dog are playing doggy games all over the yard, tearing it up. The teenager gets a car and since there is no more parking places in the driveway, he parks next to the drive in the grass (now mud). Being a NASCAR fan he skids into the place and spins his tires on the way out – like pit row. You had great weather for the fire pit, oyster roast, and pig picking party; however, your yard was still wet and it looks like a herd of buffalo went through it.

Wet turf compacts way more than dry turf. This would be a great time to get on a lawn care company’s schedule for aerating, once the grass comes out of dormancy. With our weather being wet and mild into December, I saw fungus worse than I can ever remember. Fungus loves moist conditions, so consider using Mule Mix to dry it out.
SeaHume will encourage beneficial fungi that will compete with bad fungi and promote aeration and drainage. Consider getting on a preventive fungicide program and know that some grass is dead from these wet conditions.

I’m only saying this if your yard is supersaturated (I can’t believe I’m saying this). Hold off on the Cotton Burr Compost for now (that hurts to say), rake up leaves and mulch to aid in areas drying up, use Mule Mix to dry areas, use SeaHume to encourage the good fungi and drainage, aerate, get on a fungicide program early.

Weeds are going to move into these weakened thin areas. Have you applied your spring preemerge?

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Benefits of Organics

When I see those buds on my bald cypress swelling, I think of one thing – ORGANICS!
Cotton Burr Compost, Flower Bed Amendment, Nature’s Blend, composted chicken manure, composted cow manure and / or SeaHume are great products to use now on your ornamental plants. For best results spread over the whole bed; however, you can spread the products around individual plants. If you plan to do individual plants, be sure to cover where the roots are and out a little past where you think they are. Also remember to keep compost or mulch off the trunk of trees and shrubs.

Organic products feed the soil as microorganisms break the organics down into a usable form to the plants. When the soil is cold, these microorganisms are inactive. As the temperatures warm up, the microorganisms begin to break down the organic material and make the nutrients available to the plant. The plant is beginning to grow and put on new leaves as the temperature warms up, so like magic there is food available to the plant right when it needs it most. The forest with its leaves, twigs, limbs, and microorganism population is fertilized in this manner.

Cotton Burr Compost, Flower Bed Amendment, Nature’s Blend, composted chicken manure, and composted cow manure are all composted to the point that they do not tie up nitrogen. Some organics can actually steal nutrients away from the plants while they decompose fully. Wood chips, fresh raked leaves, or grass clippings are best put into a compost pile until you are unable to tell what they were originally, and they are fully composted.

SeaHume is a combination of cold water kelp (Ascophyllum nodosum) and humates.
The seaweed is full of sixty major and minor nutrients, amino acids, carbohydrates and natural occurring plant growth promoting substances (bio stimulants) that increase plant vigor, quality and yield. Humates increase the availability of nutrients in the soil, increase root growth, keeps nutrients in area that roots can reach (high CEC), make the soil more friable and many other benefits.
Control summer annual weeds before they emerge with preemergent herbicides. Crabgrass will be germinating soon, so get your preemerge of choice out now! Also try not to prune azaleas now or you will be removing their flower buds and their spring flowers.