Monday, July 25, 2016

Crystal Ball?

I have been writing this column since around 1989. Right after Hurricane Hugo, I started this column (with the help of many others from the Post and Courier family) to try to help people out with their landscape situations after “The Storm”.

With over 26 years of articles in the archives (over 1300 articles), it is easy to spot trends. I see (in my article’s crystal ball) that during the next two weeks’ army worms will be looking to add a little fiber to their diet in the form of your turf grass.

I have also noticed a few moths flying around in my yard in the evening and have been told by many of my fellow moth watching friends that they are starting to see them as well. Moths fly around, lay eggs, then the hungry worm emerges and eats your grass. The worm then becomes a moth and the cycle begins again.

07-00-14 + Allectus (if you need a little fertilizer to get you through the summer), Bifen, or Sevin G would help prevent the grass munchers from eating the grass you have tried so hard to cultivate over the summer. EcoVia is an NOP (National Organics Program) compliant product that works great if you prefer to use organic products.

While driving around and looking at my own yard, the grass is looking a little “washed out” from the high temperatures and the lack of fertilizer. Most people’s spring fertilizer has been consumed by the plant and turned into clippings. 07-00-14 + Allectus and Perk are two good fertilizers to get you through until it is preemerge time again. If you are working from information derived from a soil test or custom program, stick with those recommendations.

I’m still seeing areas that are dying from lack of water. The grass will just thin out and die. With the high temperatures we are having, good coverage is a must. If you have an irrigation system check the valves and the heads to be sure everything is working.

While you are out there working in the yard, remember the sunscreen (sun cancer seems to be another way our reckless youth catches up with us), sun protection clothing, and water (rotate in a sport’s drink as well). Mosquitoes?

Monday, July 18, 2016

Science Keeping Up With The Times

Biopesticides (also called bioscience products) are pesticides that are found in nature. Do you remember studying in middle school how the black walnut tree exudes its own preemergent herbicide (juglone that causes an allelopathic effect) to keep other plant life from growing underneath it and competing with it?  This is definitely the way of the future! 

The most common biopesticides that you might have heard of in the past would be pheromone traps for catching flies or Japanese beetles.  Pheromones are a natural chemical attractants (usually sexual) that animals as well as insects produce. You put these attractants on a glue board to attract flies and Japanese beetles and they get stuck. Bt or Bacillus thuringiensis is a bacteria that controls many different worms, caterpillars, mosquito larvae or Lepidoptera insects.  Diatomaceous earth is a natural contact insecticide derived from microscopic plankton or algae with silica skeletons.  Roaches, ants, fleas, and snails walk across this product and it causes abrasions to their exoskeleton and they dry out and die.

Many of the major chemical manufacturers are spending more money developing these types of products (finally) because they are easier to get approved through the EPA, saving them money in the long run. One of our main manufacturers recently introduced an insecticide that is approved by the National Organic Program; however, they didn’t market it as an organic product because some people in the industry feel that organic products do not perform as well as the chemical counter parts.

Most bioscience products are very specific to certain pests; however, now many products are being introduced with a much broader label.  In some cases, it is required that you use them more frequently because the product breaks down in the environment very quickly.  Diatomaceous earth on the other hand lasts a very long time. It is important that you know the life cycle of the insect or pest that you are after because some bioscience products only attack the pests at a certain stage in their life cycle. 

Some bioscience products that we had had a lot of success with include; Harpin protein, Neem Oil, Spinosad, beneficial nematodes, various oils and insecticidal soaps.  Other bioscience products called bionutritional products or biostimulants that we have seen great success with include; humic acid (Possum Hume), seaweed products (liquefied seaweed and sea kelp products), and amino acid products.  SeaHume (a combination or seaweed and humic acid) is a proven performer in the Lowcountry.

To give you an example of a bioscience product, Harpin protein (found in Mighty Plant) is a bacteria’s (fire blight) waste product (poop) that is sprayed on the plant.  The plant thinks it is being attacked by a bacteria so it goes into its defensive mode.  The plant’s cuticle thickens preventing attack from certain insects, fungi and bacteria.  This cuticle thickening also conserves water.  The plant also flowers profusely in an effort to create seeds to perpetuate its species (war time babies) and also grows a larger root system.  Since most people grow plants for flowers, this is an obvious benefit.  A plant that has been treated with Harpin protein is more drought tolerant, has better flowers, has better foliage, can resist certain fungus and insect attacks, and has a stronger root system than an untreated plant. 

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

Monday, July 11, 2016

Hot Summer Days

  1. The nasty rascal, the chinch bug in St. Augustine grass has been killing large areas of turf in the Lowcountry. Remember the products that control chinch bugs generally have a short residual. If you are going out of town for any length of time, be sure you treat the lawn before you leave.
  2.  Fleas have been a close second to chinch bugs this year. The wet fall seemed to help increase the flea population. Any pet owner, especially one that has his or her pet sleep in the same room as themselves, cannot stand to be kept up half the night by the sound of their pet scratching fleas. Fleas are hard to control. Plan to treat the animal, the house, and the yard. The use of growth regulators will make a near impossible task, much easier. Expect about two weeks to get this pest managed.
  3. Wasp are out. We sell several “Wasp Freeze“ products. The professionals prefer the one by Whitmire (BASF).
  4. Japanese beetles have been chowing down. Bifen or Cyonara will take care of them.
  5. 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.
  6. Moles seem to be particularly active this year.  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 and go after the mole with Mole Patrol. 
  7. Be sure to change that dull mower blade from last year.  This will give your grass a cleaner cut and will allow less entry points for disease. Inspect your blade for nicks and damage if you are going to continue to use the same blade. Since a mower blade spins at very high speeds, any nicks or bends can lead to the blade being out of balance. When a blade is out of balance, the mower will vibrate (like your tire out of balance on your car) and you could damage the spindle and other parts of your mower that cost far more than a new blade.
  8. Look up at your trees. If you have any tree work that needs to be done, I would get it done as soon as possible.  Look for trees that have cavities at the base of the tree and look at the tops for broken limbs and weak crotch angles.  Have a tree care professional inspect your trees to be sure it is safe. Most tree companies will inspect for free. Try to get this done before the Lowcountry is in that cone for a direct hit for a hurricane! The tree companies are usually very busy by then. 
  9. As with all products, you should read and follow product labels.  More is not better when dealing with control products.  Measure your yard so you know your square footage and watch overlapping when applying your products.  Watch the weather forecast to insure 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.
  1. With the dry weather we had earlier this year, spider mites have come out in full force. Be sure to use a product labeled for mites when trying to control these plant juice suckers. Mites are not insects, so all insecticides do not control them.
  2. Another plant juice sucker that is out in full force is the lace bug on Azaleas. If  the leaves look mottled, flip the leaf over and look very closely for the pest. The lace bug is small and well camouflaged so you might need a magnify glass. Dominion Tree and Shrub will give you long term control of this pest.