Monday, August 19, 2019

That Nasty Orange Thing In My Mulch

Horticulture Hotline 08/19/19
By Bill Lamson-Scribner

Hopefully, you have put out your preemerge for winter weeds by now in your beds and on your turf. On your home turf, you should be done with nitrogen fertilizer (watch out for national brand winterizer fertilizers designed for fescue sold in national chain stores in the area). Potash, iron and other minor nutrient products can (and should) be used into the fall. A soil test should help you with any rates to apply.

Some 17-00-09 (slow release and loaded with minors) or 08-02-04 (organic) would be great for your trees and shrubs this time of year. Put them to bed with a full belly. 

The rainy weather has raised the gray leaf spot levels to all-time highs. For tips to control this disease with cultural practices (making control products less needed) go to and look under the ‘Horticulture Hotline’ tab for an article I wrote in early July. Until then apply Fame!

Stinkhorn fungi (devil’s backbone) has been smelling up new mulch beds all over the Lowcountry.  The conditions have been perfect for the growth of this fungus with all this rain. This fungus has an awful nasty odor that smells like rotten flesh.

Some plants in nature attract insects with sweet smelling nectar to spread pollen to other plants.  This fungus; however, exudes a slime over part of its fruiting body (the mushroom) attracting flies that like rotten flesh or feces.  The flies then spread the fungus because spores attach to their bodies.  Nice! You have a mushroom that exudes a smell like rotten flesh and feces to attract flies.  I guess this is the opposite approach of a gardenia. 

The way I control stinkhorn is with a plastic bag like picking up dog poop.  Put a bag on your hand, lift up the mushroom pull the plastic bag over the mushroom and try not to drop too many spores.  These mushrooms are the fruiting body of a fungus that is beneath the soil.  The orange fruiting body is attached to hyphae that are underneath the ground decomposing organic matter.  In nature, most fungi are good for your soil; however, this can be an unwelcome guest in your yard because of the dumpster smell.  Fungi, in general, tend to like acidic soil as do most plants, so I wouldn’t try to control them by adjusting the pH.  Hopefully, the environmental conditions that cause them to pop up all over the place will go away soon. 

There is something that looks like an egg that the mushroom pops out of that some people (mainly in Asia) consider a delicacy.  No thank you, I’m not interested in something that smells like rotten flesh or feces.

With fall arriving, look for mole crickets tunneling near the surface. Mole crickets do a lot of damage in the fall that often goes undetected because the grass is going dormant (brown) anyway, leaving big dead areas in the spring.

Fire ants are very active with all the rain. Bait products a very inexpensive if you use them properly. The better new baits (Extinguish Plus) are formulated with growth regulators and can give you long term control.  

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

Monday, August 12, 2019

Back to School and Back to the Yard

Horticulture Hotline 08/12/19
By Bill Lamson-Scribner

Army worms, mosquitoes, gray leaf spot, chinch bugs, nutrient deficiencies, weeds, heat, vines, fire ants, lace bugs, rats, flies, fleas, termites and roaches seem to be dominating the question counters at the three Possum’s.

Army worms will affect the aesthetic value of the green grass on athletic fields, golf courses, and home lawns, and the worms thin the canopy of the grass Prostrate growing weeds like spurge, lespedeza and Virginia Buttonweed seem to come in the fastest.

What bothers me the most is you work all summer on your grass to have it looking nice, and once it starts to slow down for the winter, fall army worms and then sod webworms attack the grass. Look for areas that appeared to have been mowed low and with a dull blade. You can see that the leaf blades have been chewed. Also thatch type debris will be churned up on the surface. Birds and low flying wasps are also predators of army worms.

Since army worms are in direct contact with the ground, they are very easy to control. Bug Blaster, Bifen, Sevin, Cyonara and Acephate will all put a hurting on army worms. Thuricide (Bt), EcoVia EC and Spinosad are organic products that will also work well if you get them while the worms are small. Since the population of worms is so high and hit so hard, keep your eye out for a second hatching.

For those of you with St. Augustine and Centipede, keep your eye out for the sod web worm. Watch for moths in your yard around dusk. If you begin to see a moth that gets out of the grass, flies for 6-10 feet then lands again (like a bobwhite quail for you bird hunters) you may want to consider using one of the above mentioned products. Usually sod web worms would not come out until September / October; however, with the crazy weather we are having, scouting for them could not hurt.

Now is the time to put out preemerge products in the lawn and beds to prevent those small seeded annual weeds. Henbit, chickweed, Poa annua (annual bluegrass), cudweed and lawn burweed are a few of the winter weeds that would like to occupy your lawn and flower beds. Poa annua (the green grass that is very visible in February and March) and lawn burweed (the prostrate growing weed that develops a sticker) are usually the most hated of the winter weeds. Some people use profanity while describing them at the counter of Possum’s! 

If your yard has thatch, drainage, or compaction issues, now is a great time to aerate your lawn (and beds where possible) before you apply your fall preemerge. Aeration is a great cultural practice, which will among other things help your roots grow throughout the winter giving you a head start for the spring.  
The “nasty rascal the chinch bug” is still sucking the life out of many lawns. Gray leaf spot is still alive and doing well. With the rain, fire ants are mounding up everywhere – be careful where you step! Mosquitoes are out and biting especially in the evening. Flies are causing restaurants’ ratings to drop.

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

Monday, August 5, 2019

Mower Maintenance Mid Season

Horticulture Hotline 08/05/19
By Bill Lamson-Scribner

The summer is going by in record speed. The football, volleyball, fall soccer and deer seasons are right around the corner. Soon we will be enjoying cooler weather! Soon your grass will not need mowing every 5 days! For now we are fighting army worms, chinch bugs, mosquitoes, fire ants, lace bugs, mice, rats, and many other Lowcountry critters. Love the Possum! 

There are still some things to take care of this summer. Try to find a source of gas for your lawn mower that does not contain ethanol. Use ethanol free gas in your small engines, boat motors, and generators (have you tested your generator recently?). Your mower will be happier next spring if you use ethanol free gas.

The mower blade needs to be inspected this time of year. Always remove the spark plug wire from the plug and tape it to the side of the mower to avoid accidently starting the mower when you turn the blade to inspect it (or remove the plug). The mower blade works like an old time airplane propeller if you spin the blade it will start the engine.

In the old days, we use to sharpen our mower blades ourselves. Now days, there is a lot of aerodynamics and engineering that goes into these blades, so you are better off buying a new blade. Be sure to buy a replacement that is suited for your mower. These blades move at high speeds, so be sure they are balanced correctly like the tires on your car.

You want a nice sharp blade that has not run over pine cones, small sticks, gum balls, the hose, or any other foreign object. A nice sharp blade will give your lawn a better cut (look) and the leaf blade will have less entry points for disease.

While you are checking out your mower, how clean is the air filter? If your air filter is not clean, a lawn mower can produce some nasty air pollution. Mowers do not have all the emission controls that our cars have, so a clean air filter is really important. I guess a dirty air filter would be like your mower having an asthma attack – the engine needs good air flow.

The other main thing to check would be the engine oil. When was the last time it was changed? Have you mowed enough hours that it is time to change?

If this sounds like a Saturday morning of fun, have at it. If not, take it to your local small engine repair shop!

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