Monday, May 27, 2019

Those Crazy Myths

Horticulture Hotline 05/27/19
By Bill Lamson-Scribner

If you like the fragrance of magnolias and gardenias, what a great time of year to work in the yard or take a walk. Two weeks ago, I was smelling the thick intoxicating smell of banana shrubs, and now, the clean smell of the gardenias and magnolias. Stopping to smell the roses is great. Stopping to smell the magnolias and gardenias is underrated, a Lowcountry gem and should be done more often!

Watering your yard is at the crucial stage now. Driving around and walking my 16 year old pound hound – Ol’Boy, I have seen grass that is not going to come back even with rain. Weeds are moving into these drought stressed areas. Wetting agents will help you water more efficiently and lower your water bill.

When I am out and about, I hear myths about landscaping topics that have been around for decades (that I know about) that just are not true.

1.      Myth – Do not water in the middle of the day or you will burn your grass. Another version – If you water in the middle of the day, the water drops will act like a magnify glass and burn your leaf blades.

Have you ever experienced the “splash and dash” (Bill Walsh lingo) rain shower? The Florida Shower? The Houston (if you don’t like the weather, wait 30 minutes) rain? The New Orleans soaking? These showers all come in very hot climates during the middle of the day and have never burned up anyone’s lawn. Before a water drop could get hot enough to burn the leaf blade of the grass, the water drop would evaporate.

With brand new sod it is sometimes good to water in the middle of the day to cool the sod down and to keep the humidity level high around the leaf blade so the new grass is not trying to pull moisture from the roots that have just been severed.

A reason to hold off watering during the middle of the day is you would lose more water to evaporation. More water would go up into the air and less would go into the ground for your landscape. The wind is usually blowing more during the day as well. The wind could affect the efficiency of your irrigation system (coverage) and could also increase the evaporation of your water.

2.      Myth – If I cut my grass short, I will not have to cut it as often.

Not true if you believe the research that says only remove a third of the leave blade at a time. Say you had grass “X”. You mow at 2 inches. It grows to 3 inches then you mow it to 2 inches. So you should mow every time that grass “X” gets to 3 inches tall.

If you go by the myth and decide to mow it at 1.5 inches so you have to mow less, then when it grows to 2.25 inches you should mow. So if you believe in the one third rule, if you cut at 1.5 inches the grass should be mowed again after 0.75 inches of growth vs the 1 inch of growth if you mow at 2 inches.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Growing Tomatoes?

Horticulture Hotline 05/20/19
By Bill Lamson-Scribner

Blossom end rot is a very common problem for tomatoes (it can also get on peppers, squash and watermelons).  A dark water soaked spot appears on the blossom end which is opposite the stem end of the tomato.  This spot usually gets bigger and turns black, and then mold will grow on the surface. 

Ways to avoid blossom end rot include soil testing to be sure your calcium levels are adequate.  If calcium is lacking, you can amend it by adding calcium nitrate, lime, gypsum or spray foliage with calcium chloride, calcium nitrate or Neptune Harvest’s Crab Shell product (23% Ca and helps with nematodes).
Other factors that contribute to blossom end rot are:
·        Fluctuations in soil moisture.  Letting the soil get very dry then very wet.  Cotton Burr Compost used as a soil amendment or as a mulch will add organic matter to the soil reducing these fluctuations.
·        High nitrogen fertilization.  If plants get too much fertilizer, then get hit by a dry spell, this will cause blossom end rot.  Avoid trying to grow the monster tomato bush by piling manure or fertilizer around the plant.
·        Root damage.  Root damage can be caused by cultivating (hoeing) too close to the plant, having the tomatoes sit in water after a rain, nematodes and excessive salt.  When hoeing, stay away from the root zone of the tomato plant.  Be sure you have well drained soil (Cotton Burr Compost will help), so your roots will not suffocate.  Test your soil for sodium and remove the salts by leaching the salts out or by applying a salt removing product.  If you have nematodes, plant in a different area or in a container. Using Neptune Harvest’s Crab Shell product has shown to reduce nematode populations by building up chitin eating bacteria in the soil.
·        Container growing. Many potting soils are sterile and ‘soilless’ – meaning they do not have any fertilizer or nutrients built into the soil. Happy Frog or Ocean Forest soils would be an exception to that. If you are growing in containers, be sure you are adding what the plant needs for proper growth.

The main thing in controlling blossom end rot is to soil test and be sure there is plenty of calcium in the soil before you plant the garden. 

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

Monday, May 13, 2019

Butterflies, Bees, and Hummingbirds

Horticulture Hotline 5/13/19
  Bill Lamson-Scribner

Attracting bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds to a landscape adds a whole different dimension to your landscape. The movement and pretty colors add excitement to the landscape. Who can look at a hummingbird that is feeding at a hummingbird feeder and not call others in the house to observe or now days take out their phone and try to video the little rascal?

There are many plants that will attract butterflies.  The ones I’m going to recommend will give you the bonus of attracting hummingbirds and bees as well.  I’ve had all of these plants in my yard and they do very well in the Lowcountry with a minimal amount of care. 

One of the first plants that come to mind is the Butterfly Weed.  The monarch butterfly lays its eggs on this plant and when the caterpillars come out, they will devour the foliage.  Do not spray insecticides!  The foliage will come back quickly and you don’t want to kill the larva of the monarch butterfly.  This plant is not a perennial, however it reseeds itself.   When it pops up elsewhere in your yard, you can either replant it where you originally had it or leave it where it popped up.  Some people think it is neat watching the large caterpillars chow down on the plant and others are afraid of the big caterpillars.  This plant provides an important host plant of the Monarch Butterfly’s life cycle and will guarantee you will get plenty of butterflies and bees as a bonus.

Pentas, Bee Balm, Black Eyed Suzanne, Hibiscus, Plumbago, Lantana, Mexican Sage, Verbena, Vitex, and Glossy Abelia are all good choices for butterfly, bee, and hummingbird gardens.  If you have a railing around a porch or arbor, a Passion Vine does very well.  Of course every Butterfly Garden must have a Butterfly Bush.  A Bottle Brush should definitely be planted as well (hummingbird favorite).  When at the garden center, choose red varieties, when you have a choice (i.e. red Hibiscus versus yellow). 

When you buy these plants they can all go in one little area for a compact “Butterfly/Hummingbird/Bee Garden”.  You may also want to plant several plants in one location, then have others groups throughout the yard for the “Butterfly/Hummingbird/Bee Yard”!  If you have a new landscape, it is very easy to design your yard to attract butterflies. bees and hummingbirds.  Also consider a source of water for the visitors to your yard. A hummingbird feeder or three by windows so you can get a close up look at the feeding hummingbirds is always a plus.  If you have an area to screen, try a few Ligustrum. Bees love a Ligustrum’s spring time flowers.

There are many other plants that will attract butterflies, bees and hummingbirds; these are just a few of my favorites that I have had great success with.  Some plants that you would not normally think of attracting butterflies are pine trees, oak trees, birch trees, hack berries, and blueberry bushes.