Monday, June 25, 2018

The Hot Days of Summer

Horticulture Hotline 06/25/18
By Bill Lamson-Scribner

Flies are out and they are gross! With all the outdoor (and sometimes dog friendly) sitting areas to restaurants now days the flies seem to be coming in more contact with humans and humans’ food. Flies spread disease. Flies walk around on some spoiled food in the dumpster, then fly over to some dog poop, land on it, and the next thing you know they are on your food. Gross! Not to mention the nuisance of “shooing” the flies away from your food.

Gray Leaf Spot on St. Augustine grass was something I mentioned earlier this month. If you missed the article and would like to read it, go to and look under the Horticulture Hotline tab for archived articles. When writing about the cultural practices to minimize Gray Leaf Spot, I failed to mention that you should mow with a sharp mower blade. Some of the mower blades that started the year off sharp are not so sharp anymore. You want a clean cut on the grass blade. No blunt force trauma on your leaf blades. If you were getting surgery, you would want the doctor to use a sharp knife, right?

At the radio show John Quincy (producer of “The Garden Clinic”) brought to Paul (Super Garden Hero) Mulkey and my attention that mosquitoes kill over 1,000,000 people a year. The deadliest insect in the world. Protect yourself! Reduce breeding sites when you can especially around your yard. Mosquitoes can breed in something as small as a bottle cap.  

Indian Hawthorn (AKA Raphs) have long finished blooming and can be pruned as needed. Watch out for the leaf spot disease that attacks these plants. If your plant’s foliage is thinning and it has spots on its leaves, there is a good chance your plant is under attack.  Honor Guard does a good job of keeping this fungus in check; however, this disease will always be out there so regular spraying is a must. Also, when spraying fungicides, it is important to switch chemical classes to avoid resistance. If they do not need pruning, hold off, because pruning encourages new growth and the disease likes new leaves.  

If you are taking a vacation this summer and have St. Augustine grass, be sure to put out an insecticide to protect your lawn from ‘the nasty rascal, the chinch bug’. Chinch bugs can do serious damage in a very short period of time. They love and multiple greatly in hot, dry weather, so this year has been a very bountiful year for them. Bug Blaster, ECO VIA (National Organics Program compliant), or Allectus (a newer product with some long-term control) should help you manage this lawn terrorist.

Azaleas are getting ready to set their flower buds for next year, so it is very important to do any pruning on these plants right away. Even if you pruned them hard right after they bloomed, you can still do any touch up pruning to manage any growth that might have occurred since the last pruning. An application of KeyPlex or Mighty Plant should help them set more blooms for next year. Watch out for lace bugs sucking on your plants.

Any of the repeat blooming azaleas (Encore, Red Slipper) should be pruned right after they flower. If you prune fairly hard, you will likely lose some of the next flush of blooms; however, they should get back in sync fairly quickly, providing you multiple blooms.

A general rule of thumb is to be sure all your spring blooming plants have been pruned. Gardenias (unless they repeat in August), Camellias, Spirea, Forsythia, flowering quince …

If you haven’t fertilized your lawn, shrubs and trees, a midsummer feeding is a good idea. With the heavy rains we had earlier and all the growing plants and lawn have been doing, some food would be a great idea. I’m seeing a lot of yellow grass in my travels. A soil test is always the best guide for fertilization.

Dry spots (aka mystery fungus), snakes, Japanese Beetles, baby mole crickets killing, ants, aphids, chiggers, fleas, roaches, rats and high temperatures are all hot topics at Possum’s.

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

Monday, June 18, 2018

Biopesticides Are Getting Better And More Popular

Horticulture Hotline 06/18/18
  Bill Lamson-Scribner

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 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 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. The EPA doesn’t require so of the expensive testing for organic products. 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. At Possum’s, we hear all the time the organic products last as long as the chemical products.

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.

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). The Horticulture Hotline is available 24 / 7 at 

Monday, June 11, 2018

Knowing How Big Your Yard Is

Horticulture Hotline 06/11/18
By Bill Lamson-Scribner

Knowing the square footage of your grass areas and bed areas are key to applying any fertilizer or control product correctly. Whenever we sell a bag of fertilizer at Possum’s we are going to ask, “how big is your yard?” You have to know if you need one bag or more than one bag. Some of our bags might be able to treat your yard twice. That is nice to know because that cuts the price per application in half, and also lets you know you still have product waiting in the garage for your next application. With the nice weather we are having, now is a great time to get out there and measure the yard.

I can remember several times hearing different variations of this same answer to my question while at the counter at Possum’s. “How many square feet is your yard?” Rough answer,” well, last year I put out that bag that covers 5000 square feet and it was perfect for my yard, so I must have 5000 square feet.”  Sorry, wrong answer.

Based on a pound of nitrogen, we sell 50 pound bags that cover as much as 23,000 square feet and as little as 1000 square feet. Unfortunately, the bag does not know the size of our yards or how fast we walk.

In the old days, yards were mostly square or rectangular, and they were easy to measure. Now most yards have curvy bed lines that sweep across the landscape, making them more difficult to measure. If you can break the yard up into little squares or rectangles, and measure the length and the width then you can get your square footage. Length multiplied by width will give you your square footage. Add up all the squares and rectangles that you measured the square feet of, and you will come up with the square footage of your yard.

If this sounds like total “Greek or Geek” to you, ask a landscaper, a realtor,  a landscape architect, someone that works with floors or carpets, an engineer, a construction worker, someone who pours driveways, or anyone else that regularly needs to measure the square footage of something to help you. Your plat map from when you purchased your house might help as well.

Now, there are even websites that you can log onto and they will tell you the square footage of your yard. Of course, I like to do it the old fashion way – length times width.

I know this measuring seems like a pain, but most of us stay in a house for several years or decades. A little pain spread over several years of having very useful information is worth it.

Once you measure the yard, put the measurements in about 5 to 10 locations throughout your house, your car (so you have it with you when you go to buy product) and the garage, so you do not lose them. I have learned over the years that I put information like that in one “special place” so I do not lose the information. I then forget where that “special place” is!
Yes, this rain has been perfect for mosquitoes! Yesterday, I was helping my mom with her hand pump up sprayer, so my hands were full. The mosquitoes knew it and launched a full attack. Buzzing around the ears where I could not see them and on the arms where I could see them but my hands were full so I could not swat them! It was already lightly raining, so I will launch my counter attack at a later time. First, I will attack their breeding sites (making sure there is no standing water), then I will go after them directly.

Japanese beetles are still eating their favorite plants and trees.

EcoVia (NOP Compliant) or Cyonara will work great on both of these insects and many  more insects.