Monday, October 29, 2018

Fungus Time - Be Proactive

Horticulture Hotline 10/29/18
By Bill Lamson-Scribner

With the strange weather and record breaking attack of the worms we had this year, the turf has been through a lot of stress. Cold, dry period, rain period, dry period, and insect (chinch bugs, army worms and other worms) outbreak stressed out the grass. Fall fungus, whether you call it Large Patch or Brown Patch, is a regular occurrence as the grass goes into dormancy in the fall and when the grass comes out of dormancy in the spring. With some moisture, now is the time it hits in the fall, especially since the grass is stressed!

Before we get into the nasty subject of fungus, I hope you all experienced the sweet smell of Tea Olives last week. It was like they all exploded open at the same time where I live and the smell was wonderful! I also noticed my Cassia was blooming right on time for Halloween.

All fungus diseases must have three factors line up for there to be an active problem. This is referred to as the disease triangle. There must be a susceptible host (your grass), a favorable environment (in this case cool nights, grass going into dormancy….), and the disease must be present (in the soil in this case). When all of these conditions are met, the disease strikes your grass. Once the grass is damaged, weeds take over the damaged areas.

The quick fix would be to apply T-Methyl throughout the yard. T-Methyl is a systemic fungicide that gets into the plant (grass) and protects it. Getting a flu shot would be a human equivalent. You want to do this before you get the disease, just like the flu shot.

Your grass, trees and shrubs (the hosts) must be healthy to fend off disease. A soil test and a program for feeding them the proper nutrients the plants (grass) require will help insure your plants have what it takes to fight off disease. Just like people in third world countries dying of diseases that would not be an issue in countries with better diets, your plants need food to defend against disease.

If you have ever noticed Holly Fern, Aucuba, Fatsia, or Cast Iron Plant growing in full sun that looks burned, you have witnessed a plant growing in the wrong place that has a fungus. These same plants planted in deep shade would not get this disease. Grasses planted in deep shade or wet areas will be more susceptible to disease because they tend to like plenty of sun.

For Large Patch (Brown Patch) disease in turf there are some cultural practices you can do to lessen the effects of this disease.
1. Correct drainage problems.
2. Fill in low areas.
3. Manage thatch layers. Cotton Burr Compost will help with this as well as SeaHume and other organic products. Core aeration and dethatching will also help. Proper fertilization with slow release products helps minimize thatch.
4. Manage compacted areas. Core aeration, Cotton Burr Compost and SeaHume will also help with compaction. If the area is a high traffic area, stepping stones, a sidewalk or some sort of path might be a better long term solution.
5. Water as little as possible and still maintain a healthy grass. Wetting agents will help you water less and save money on your water bill. Wetting agents will help water penetrate the soil surface so there is less run off and will help cure minor drainage situations.
6. Good air movement is important in managing all diseases in the landscape.
7. A sharp mower blade is always a good idea.
8. Mowing at the proper height for your grass species.
9. Proper amount of sunlight for the grass you are growing.
10. Last but the most important, proper fertility program based on a soil test for your grass species.

If you are a “Soil Geek” like me, time for the fun stuff. Large Patch Fungus is a soil - borne fungus, so if you build up beneficial microorganisms in the soil, they can compete with the disease organisms. We have heard many success stories from homeowners and landscapers who have lowered or eliminated their disease problems by using SeaHume and Back To Nature products (Cotton Burr Compost, Nature’s Blend, and Flower Bed Amendment) in their yards. These products increase beneficial microorganisms in the soil competing with the bad microorganisms and improve the soil’s structure.

We also have been getting good results from people applying Neptune’s Harvest Organic Crab Shell product. Crab Shells are high in chitin. Nematode eggs and the outside of fungus are high in chitin. By putting this product in areas where you have the disease, you increase the chitin eating bacteria in the soil. These bacteria then feed on the disease as well as the nematode eggs.

Serenade is an organic product that contains the bacteria Bacillus subtilis. This bacteria competes with Large Patch fungus as well. We have also heard many success stories involving these products.

By combining the cultural practices along with the Back To Nature products, SeaHume, the Neptune’s Harvest Crab Shell, and the Bacillus subtilis, you should be able to “fix” your Large Patch issues, instead of applying a chemical band aid.

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

Monday, October 22, 2018

Winterize Your Landscape Now!

Horticulture Hotline 10/22/18
By Bill Lamson-Scribner

Several years have gone by since we have had a major winter kill event in the low country. Many people have moved to this area that are not use to dealing with centipede and other warm-season grasses. Where you lived, you had cool-season grasses like Fescue, Rye, and Blue grass. If our temperatures are warm then drop below freezing very rapidly, our lawns, especially centipede (however can affect all lawns depending on the conditions) can suffer winter kill.

Yes, it is time to winterize your landscape especially this year with all the rain and wind trauma. SeaHume should be used alone or with the 00-00-25 or Possum Minors, depending on the results from your soil test. Look for a product with a 00 for the first number (nitrogen). A 00-00-25 with sulfate of potash and minors would be great. If you do not need the potash, consider Possum Minors and the SeaHume, a wonderful combination of seaweed and humic acid. Possum’s Minors is also a great winterizer. Depending on a soil test 00-00-25 or Possum Minors along with SeaHume is your best option.

If you want to get the most out of your winterizer, apply it now while the grass is still green. These three products will help the plant produce chlorophyll, and the plants will be able to capture sunlight and produce carbohydrates. These carbohydrates will develop roots and make the plant come out of dormancy stronger in the spring as well as protect the plant from winter kill. Keeping the landscape fed and hydrated helps fend off the cold weather damage – just like if the landscape was a mountain climber climbing Everest.

SeaHume will help grass, trees, shrubs, and flowers throughout the winter. SeaHume will help mitigate salt damage. The seaweed part of SeaHume has over 60 minor nutrients, carbohydrates, amino acids, gibberellins, auxins, cytokynins, anti-oxidants and other bio stimulants. The humic acid is also full of bio stimulants that help make nutrients that are in the soil available to the plant, help with soil structure, grow roots, and feed the microorganisms in the soil.

Trees grow most of their feeder roots over the winter. With the movement of the root ball during the winds and the flooding, many of these roots were lost. SeaHume will help re-establish these feeder roots over the winter.

Beware of the national ad campaigns talking about winterizing fertilizers for turf. These products are usually formulated for cool season grasses (rye, fescue). I saw one over the weekend that was a 22-00-14. Not exactly what we want to put on our yard in mid-October in the Lowcountry. Just ask Clemson University.

Have you ever had winter kill? Now is the time to prepare your grass for the wide variations in temperatures we have. If you had winter kill in the past, you need to be sure to correct low and poorly drained areas, reduce thatch in the yard, increase air movement in low areas, keep your lawn hydrated and feed (with the right food for the winter).

Mow your grass lower than normal (centipede 1.0 to 1.5 inches, St. Augustine 2.5 to 3.0 inches). By mowing your grass lower, you will increase the air movement around the crown of the plant, so cold air will not settle at the crown of the plant and damage the grass. In Florida helicopters fly low over citrus groves that are in valleys to get the cold air out. Tall grass or thatch will insulate the crown of the plant like a goose down jacket, keeping the cold air near the crown where it can cause winter kill. Centipede lawns usually get winter kill the worst if temperatures plummet quickly.

Fine blade Zoysia grass can grow very dense and get thatch. De-thatching, verticutting, using Bio Grounds Keeper, and regular topdressing should be part of your maintenance schedule.  


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

Monday, October 15, 2018

Shade / Grass Like Oil / Vinegar

Horticulture Hotline 10/15/18
By Bill Lamson-Scribner

October is here! Cooler temperatures, grass slowing down, and the living is easy. This is the time to reflect and think about winter projects that will make 2019 an excellent gardening year. A Possum’s Custom Program from a soil test – now is the time before the lab gets busy? Do you have some weeds to control that you couldn’t control during the summer because it was too hot?

The question I have been asked the most this year revolves around dying grass (other than moles – moles always top the list). The answer has always involved too much shade. Trees generally grew a bunch and put on a lot of leaves this year, and as a result, grass suffered due to lack of sunlight.

For the most part all the grasses around here like full sun – yes, even St. Augustine (or Charleston grass) prefers full sun. St. Augustine (or Charleston grass) prefers full sun; however, can tolerate shade better than some of the grasses. Most PHD doctors agree that even St. Augustine requires six hours of direct sunlight to provide a healthy stand of grass.

The statement I hear the most is something like this, “I just replaced this grass in the Spring.” This scenario is very common because you replaced the grass because it died due to shade and now the new grass is dying because of shade issues. The trees in this area have grown like gangbusters this year and the grass has been unable to capture the sunlight with its chlorophyll and produce the needed carbohydrates to establish a healthy stand of turf. 

On side yards, trees grown between houses and the houses themselves block a lot of the sunlight. Side yards are often very narrow, so all the foot traffic is concentrated into a small area. Water from the houses is often directed to flow between the houses. A combination of traffic, extra water and shade is deadly to most grass. Mulch, blue stone, oyster shell, or some other footpath and a drainage system might be a good winter project for this area.

Some solutions to these situations could be to grow heat tolerate ryegrass. Ryegrass grows very good here especially in shady areas.

Redesign beds that were put in years ago while the trees were small, making more beds and less grass. Healthy green grass bordered by mulch is a nice look.

Remove shrubs and trees that are shading your turf, if zoning allows. If your landscape has become over mature, maybe you can transplant some shrubs or small trees.

Grow grass in these areas and plan to replace it as needed and not feel bad about it. Regularly trim your trees in this area and not feel bad about it. Sometimes we are kind of stuck with the landscape we have. Growing grass as an annual that you change out yearly is all you can do in some situations if you like grass. I know several properties that grass is replaced every year because of oak trees.

Brown Patch / Large Patch is attacking the grass as it slows down for the season. Army worms are out and it seems like fire ants and mole crickets exploded in numbers. Have you winterized your grass?

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