Monday, February 26, 2018

Mulch - Wait Until Oak Leaves Fall

Horticulture Hotline 02/26/18
By Bill Lamson-Scribner

I’m going to continue writing about the benefits of organic products – mainly mulch since many of you are getting ready to re-mulch beds.

Here are a few general facts about mulch. 

·         In the old days, the recommendations were the more mulch the better up to 6-8 inches. The latest research only recommends  2-3 inches. 
·         Always wait to apply mulch in the fall until after the leaves have dropped from your deciduous trees. In the spring wait for the late leaf droppers like Live Oaks and Water Oaks to drop their leaves. 
·         Be careful not to apply mulch right up to the trunks of plants, shrubs or trees.  The trunk has a different cell structure than the roots and cannot handle prolonged periods of moisture.  The moisture will soften the tissue and allow disease and insects to attack the trunk, or the trunk will send out adventitious roots.  
·         The main purpose of mulch is to buffer the temperature extremes and suppress weeds.  If your soil is naturally wet, it is better to have a very thin layer of mulch so that the ground dries out quicker. If your soil is dry, a thicker layer of mulch will help hold the water in the soil longer. 
·         When applying mulch around your house, try to keep an 18-24 inch mulch-free zone from the base of your home. You don’t want to give termites a way to breach the protective barrier around your house.  You might even contact your professional pest manager to inform him that you have added mulch to your beds. 

Now days there are many synthetic mulches (synthetic pine straw, mulch made out of ground tennis shoes, mulch made from ground tires), also rocks, and dyed wood mulch that will keep their color longer.  These mulches look good but will not add organic matter to your soil (except the dyed wood mulch). 

There are many types of wood mulch (hardwood, double shredded hardwood, pine nuggets, mini nuggets) that over a period of time will break down and help the organic content of your soil.  Wood mulch will add more organic matter over a period of time, than the pine straw.

If you like to have your cake and eat it too, you can apply Cotton Burr Compost at a depth of 2 inches and cover it with pine straw (or wood mulch) and this would immediately benefit your soil.  Every time it rains or your irrigation runs, your plants would be receiving a tall drink of compost tea chocked full of nutrients.  This combination would also feed the beneficial micro-organisms in the soil and not tie up any nitrogen.   You can have the neat tucked appearance of pine straw or wood mulch and get the nutrients from the Cotton Burr Compost that will immensely improve your soil. The people (and their plants) that have tried this method have been extremely happy!

Get out your preemergent product of choice, SeaHume, insecticide for fire ants and mole crickets, mole killer or repellent, and preventive fungicide. Rats, roaches, fleas?

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

Monday, February 19, 2018

Organics And Exercise

Horticulture Hotline 02/19/18
By Bill Lamson-Scribner

For all the gym rats and exercise guru’s out there, I contend that working in the yard is some of the best and most rewarding exercise out there. Yard work requires many different muscle groups and when you are finished, you can see a visual difference in your yard. When you walk away from a swimming pool, stair climber, tread mill, spin bike, elliptical machine, rack of weights, or road you just walked or ran on, they look exactly the same as you found them unless you didn’t wipe your sweat off...

Since a contractor doing work at my house decided he needed my chain saw more than I did, I have been doing most off my pruning with a Wolf Garten Hand Saw / Pole Saw Combination. Yesterday, I was pruning limbs away from my house for air movement, to keep the limbs from rubbing on my paint, and to keep the squirrels from climbing on my roof and trying to knawel their way into my attic. Depending on where the limbs that I was removing were in relation to my ladder, I was sawing with my right hand or left hand at all different angles while balancing on the ladder.

Then, I’m dragging these cut limbs to the area where the City picks them up and re-cutting the limbs that are too long. Next, pushing a lawn mower, priming a well, lifting a 50 pound bag, spreading a preemergent, lifting a 50 pound bag, spreading SeaHume, lifting a 50 pound bag, spreading more SeaHume, dragging a hose to water in, loading my dog in the truck, drive to Possum’s for more organics since I notice the buds on my bald cypress were swelling, lift more 40 to 50 pound bags of organics to put around my shrubs and trees, lift a bag of 07-00-09 for my sago’s and lemon tree, drive home, unload the dog, unload the organics into a wheelbarrow (of course the tire is a little low on pressure), push the wheelbarrow across the yard to the trees and shrubs, lift the bags and spread the “good stuff”, rake down the high piles and even the organics out, then pump up the sprayer and do a little spot spraying of weeds… Multiple muscles used, can instantly see results in the yard and know there are more results to come.

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, 09-00-00 Corn Gluten, Blood Meal, Bone Meal, Feather Meal, Cotton Seed Meal, 08-02-04 Sustane, 05-04-00 and / or SeaHume are great products to use now on your ornamental plants and turf. If you plan to use just one product, I would go with SeaHume now. After the oaks lose their leaves, use Cotton Burr Compost, Flower Bed Amendment or Nature’s Blend as a mulch instead of pine straw (low nutrition) or bark (nutrition not available). If you use Cotton Burr Compost, Flower Bed Amendment or Nature’s Blend as a mulch, every time it rains your plants will get a drink of compost tea, and you know how we like our tea around here!

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. Remember to keep compost or mulch off the trunk of trees and shrubs.

As microorganisms break the organics down into a usable form to the plants, organic products feed the soil. 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.

Flower Bed Amendment not only contains Cotton Burrs, but also composted cattle manure, feather meal, cotton seed meal and alfalfa meal.  Alfalfa meal is high in nitrogen and contains Triacantanol, a natural growth enhancer, and may help in the suppression and control of certain fungal diseases.

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, gibberellins) 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 (increase CEC), make the soil more friable and many other benefits.

Since SeaHume and Flower Bed Amendment have a cocktail of good organics, I’m starting with them this year. I’m hoping to bring my cold damage plants back and have them healthy to repair themselves from the severe pruning back some of them will get.
Control summer annual weeds before they emerge with preemergent herbicides. Crabgrass will be germinating soon, so get your preemerge of choice out now! Kill winter weeds that are up now before they produce viable seed for next year. Try not to prune azaleas now or you will be removing their flower buds and their spring flowers.

Always read, understand and follow product label. The product label is a Federal Law.
Bill Lamson-Scribner can be reached during the week at Possum’s Landscape and Pest Control Supply. Possum’s has three locations 481 Long Point Rd in Mt. Pleasant (971-9601), 3325 Business Circle in North Charleston (760-2600), or 606 Dupont Rd, in Charleston (766-1511). Bring your questions to a Possum’s location, or visit us at You can also call in your questions to “ The Garden Clinic”, Saturdays from noon to 1:00, on 1250 WTMA  (The Big Talker). 

Monday, February 12, 2018

Time To Get Er Done - Larry The Cable Guy

Horticulture Hotline 02/12/18
By Bill Lamson-Scribner

In NASCAR terms the pace car is pulling off the track and the green flag is waving. If you are more of a swimmer or track person, the starter has said, “take your mark” and is squeezing the trigger. Yes, a new growing season has arrived! The red maples are tasseling, Sweetgum trees are blooming, some Prunus trees are blooming, fresh fire ant mounds are visible and despite all the cold damaged sago’s around town, new growth is budding out on many plants and trees.  

The soil temperature indicates that it is just about time to apply preemergent products to your beds and turf. Valentine’s Day and the running of the Daytona 500 are just around the corner. The time to apply the magical weed preventer is coming up fast.

Depending on which Phd doctor you believe, crabgrass germinates when the soil temperature (3 inches deep) stays above 55 degrees (some people say 57 degrees), for 3 straight days provided adequate moisture in the soil. Now some doctors say remains 57 degrees or above for 24 hours at a depth of 3 inches with adequate moisture.  If you are not in to monitoring the soil temperature, Valentine’s Day or the running of the Daytona 500 should work for you. Spreading a preemergent product now could save hours of spot spraying later.

The turf areas as well as the landscape bed areas will greatly benefit from the use of preemerge products. Not only will the yard look better, but your plants will not have to compete with the weeds for sun, nutrients, and water. If you are controlling weeds with preemergent products, there are less weeds there for you to spray or pull, saving you time. There is also less stress on you trying to find time to control the weeds in your yard later once the weeds have emerged. Control them now with a preemergent control product!

For those new readers of the Horticulture Hotline, preemergent control products kill weeds as they germinate.  The weeds never come up and you never have to worry about them.  Crabgrass, goosegrass, barnyardgrass, crowfootgrass, dallisgrass (seedling), foxtail, annual bluegrass, smutgrass, barley, kikuyugrass, wild oats, bittercress, carpetweed, chickweed, Carolina geranium, henbit, knotweed, lespedeza, marestail, black medic, mustard, oxalis, pineappleweed, pigweed, redroot, parsley-piert, purslane, rocket, shephardspurse, speedwell, spurge, and woodsorrel are examples of weeds controlled by preemergent products.  Small seeded annual weeds are controlled by preemergent products.

Read the label of the specific product that you are using to get an exact list of weeds that the manufacturer has tested and shown to control. Preemergent products applied now do not control winter annual weeds that are already up like annual blue grass. To control annual bluegrass, you would have used a preemergent in August and again in October (this could vary with products and rates).

Clover, Florida Betony, Nutsedge and Dollar weed are not controlled by preemergent control products.  These are perennial weeds. Weed Free Zone is a liquid that will do a good job on controlling many of your broadleaf weeds. The Nutsedge will require a different product and is most likely not visible right now.  It is important to control these weeds now before they go into their reproductive stage.  A weed in its reproductive stage is harder to control than a weed in its vegetative stage. By controlling the weed now you avoid having to deal with more weed seeds next year.

It is very noticeable when you ride through the Lowcountry which homeowners and which businesses used preemergent products last fall at the correct time. One business or home lawn will be nice and brown and dormant without a spec of green in sight. Right next to it will be brown turf mixed with green weeds. Again, it is very important to control those weeds now before they begin to flower.

If you are trying to control weeds in the lawn that are up and starting to flower or seed, mow – wait 2 days and spray – then wait at least another 3 days before you mow again. The mowing will get the weeds actively growing and weeds that are actively growing are easier to kill.

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