Monday, March 27, 2017

Early Spring Happenings

Horticulture Hotline 03/27/17
By Bill Lamson-Scribner

We are getting some beautiful days to work in the yard, and after a weird winter, the yard need a little attention.

Oh, those lovely oaks and their leaves and their tassels. Time to rake, blow, and / or mulch your leaves to get them off your lawn areas. Leaves trap moisture and block sunlight from your turf areas, which is great in beds (we call it mulch), but not so good for lawns. When talking to lawn care companies, it amazes me when they tell me that they went to ten yards and could only treat six because the leaves in the yard.

Over the next month, many of us will be applying (or have someone else apply) different products to the lawn for fungus, weeds, and to fertilize, so having the leaves up will insure a uniform application of product.

One part of my job at Possum’s is working with athletic fields and it always amazes me how much difference the field looks verses the surrounding area. The grounds superintendent puts out a preemergent herbicide and the field has little to no winter weeds. Right outside the fence in the untreated area there are all kinds of winter weeds. Kill these winter weeds now before they compete with your grass emerging from dormancy and before they produce mature seeds that will be next year’s crop.

The same goes for mole crickets. Right off of the playing surface, there are mole cricket tunnels everywhere. Be sure to treat for mole crickets in your yard. Mole cricket mating season is now and they are doing a lot of tunneling near the surface causing damage to turf. The grasses we have in this area slough off their roots as they begin to grow in the spring, so the last thing the grass needs is a mole cricket separating its young new roots from the soil and drying out the grass plant.

Since our grasses slough off their roots at this time, our (Possum’s) 04-00-10 (Perk) and SeaHume are great to apply. We spray a growth regulator designed to grow roots onto this 04-00-10 and enhance it with humic acid (also helps to grow roots), so your turf and plants get off to a healthy start. The SeaHume is full of minor nutrients, gibberellins, and other bio-stimulants that will make the young grass plant (or any plant) healthy, ready for adversity (fungus, salt, lack of water, insect attack) and ready for another season.

Fleas have been really active all winter. Treating inside your house with a growth regulator before you have an issue can go a long to avoiding the flea battle.  Treating your pet with Prefurred One or Prefurred Plus will keep the fleas at bay.

Fire ants are numerous and visible because of the rain. A product like Bug Blaster or Sevin will help with fire ants, mole crickets, and fleas.

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

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Chiggers and Ticks

Horticulture Hotline 03/19/17
  Bill Lamson-Scribner

A friend of mine’s wife got a bad case of the chiggers, and with all the public service announcements about lyme disease, I figure a mention about ticks is not a bad idea. Since deer carry the ticks that cause lyme disease and we have a huge population of deer, a little prevention is always a good idea.

Chiggers and redbugs are in the Trombiculidae family.  They are a mite and not an insect so not all insecticides work on them.  They can be easily controlled with products that contain Carbaryl (Sevin) or Bifenthrin (Bug Blaster, Bifen).  Carbaryl and Bifenthrin will also kill ticks (not insects, eight legs like spiders), fleas and many other pest as a bonus.  Always read, understand and follow product labels.

The larva of the chigger is what bothers most people.  The larva will inject a fluid into the skin which breaks down cells of a person, and then the chigger ingests these cells.  Most people think chiggers burrow into the skin; however, this is an “old wives tale”. 

When I was young, and doing landscape jobs that started with clearing the lots, I would regularly be the dinner of this mite.  Back then, people would treat chiggers with nail polish thinking the mite was burrowed into the skin and this would suffocate the chiggers.  I later found out that I didn’t need to be walking around with pink and red nail polish all over me! 

Chigger larva can crawl around on you for several hours before attaching to your body.  While crawling around on you, if they hit a waist band or the elastic area of your socks, instead of going under or around this barrier, they will usually latch on right there.  They also like warm moist areas.  Using repellants that contain DEET on your clothing and exposed skin will prevent the chiggers from attaching to you.  There is an organic product called Liquid Net that is DEET free and all natural that might be worth trying.  It does not list chiggers on the label; however, it does list mosquitoes, gnats, ticks, no-see-ums, other biting insects.  If Liquid Net works against chiggers, it would be a good all-natural chemical-free alternative to DEET.  

Chiggers, like mole crickets, over-winter as adults in the soil.  Once it warms up, the adults lay eggs which hatch out into the larva.  The larva crawl around looking for about anything to feed on including rodents, birds, snakes, rabbits, toads and humans.  The larva then turns into a big red adult that can be seen on driveways or in the lawn.  The adults do not attack people. 

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

Monday, March 13, 2017

Be Careful Slinging Products

Products start getting slung around the Lowcountry landscapes this time of year. I want to write a little bit about keeping product out of our storm water drains, marshes, and other bodies of water.    With retention ponds, marshes, rivers, streams, and oceans, we are surrounded by water in the Lowcountry.  It is very important to preserve the valuable resource that brought or keep us all in the Lowcountry.  

Living in the Lowcountry, water is everywhere!  All the water shed ultimately ends up in our waterways and the ocean.  Much of this water shed comes down from the upstate and ends up in our local waters. As more development occurs along our water fronts and just more development in general (roofs, parking lots, roads), there is more runoff water.  We definitely do not want to pollute the resource that we depend upon for water, food, recreation and jobs. 

With a few common sense practices you can greatly reduce the amount of product that goes into our storm water system.

After spreading fertilizer or any control products, be sure to remove (sweep) it from any hard surfaces like sidewalks, driveways, and pool decks.  Do this right after spreading the product before you water it in or it rains.  Do not rinse your spreader or sprayer off on your driveway where the water will then run off into the ditch or into any body of water. 

When filling up your spreader, clean up any spilled material right away.  Sweep it up and put it back into the spreader so it can be applied evenly throughout the lawn.

With all of the natural water and now all the retention ponds (in neighborhoods and commercial sites), many more people have to deal with water quality issues either at home or at work.  Many spreaders shoot product out 10-15 feet.  This means you have to be extra careful not to put product directly into the water.  Keep a safe distance away from the water and always read the product label for precautions concerning water.  You should read, understand and follow the entire label.  With certain ant control products there are definite restrictions about how close you can get to water.  Of course you don’t want to be standing in a pile of ants on the riverbank while trying to fish.   This is where using ant bait would be a good alternative.  Most ant baits have far less active ingredient than other ant control products.

If you live on the water, having a low growing natural area before the water can act as a good filter.  If you have turf growing right up to the water, you increase your chances of having run off issues.  If you choose low growing natural areas, you will still have a good view of the water, but will not have the maintenance associated with turf. 

If you have a very sandy yard or a rock hard clay yard, you will want to amend your soil to hold water, nutrients and products.  In the case of a clay soil, regular top dressing with Cotton Burr Compost or SeaHume will help the water penetrate the ground instead of running off into the street.  You will get much better results from the products you use (saving you money and saving the environment) if the product is not running off into the street.  For sandy soil, Cotton Burr Compost and SeaHume will help keep the product in the root zone so the plants can absorb the nutrients instead of leaching into the ground water.  Top dressing is a very easy cultural practice where you just spread the Cotton Burr Compost or SeaHume over the top of your lawn and beds (no tilling required!).

Using high quality, slow release nitrogen products or organic sources of nitrogen will save you money in the long run and nitrates will be less likely to appear in the water system.  Also choose products with a very low to no middle number (phosphorous) unless your soil test dictates otherwise. This will lower the amount of algae bloom in the waterways.  At Possum’s we have been practicing this since we opened in 2002. 

Only fertilize your yard as indicated by your soil test.  This lessens the overuse of product greatly and will save you money in the long run.      

Always ready, understand and follow product labels.