Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Time To Work In The Yard!

Horticulture Hotline 03/31/20
By Bill Lamson-Scribner

At Possum’s we are “essential”. Whether we are selling to a landscaper that is keeping your yard free of fire ants, … a pest management company protecting you from mosquitoes, rats, termites, or your pet from fleas, … or the farmer that needs to fertilize or protect his crop from insects or disease, safety for you and the people I work with is our number one concern. We are open and practicing “social distancing” and taking other steps to make sure everyone stays safe.

Today’s article is not as much of a “to do list” as a have you done it list.

I have been asked some form of this question a lot recently. “Should I mow down lower than I usually mow (scalp) and or bag my clippings on the first cut of the year?”

Congratulations, you must be using a preemerge product for winter weeds or you would be mowing weeds! A lot of people will mow lower and collect the clippings to get rid of the "brown" in the grass. Not needed for good grass, just appearance. By mowing lower, you remove the brown grass (your green grass from last fall), and your lawn will appear greener – basically you are removing the brown leaves from your grass like raking up leaves from your trees. If you did nothing different, the new leaf blades would come through and the brown leaves would decompose.

If you have a whole lot of leaves or brown grass that does not look like it is going to decompose in a reasonable amount of time, using a bagging mower may be a good option for the first cut. Get back to your mulching mower as soon as possible, so your grass benefits from the returned organic matter and nutrients.

If you have been waiting for the weather to warm up, here is a brief checklist of things that should have been completed around the yard:
·         Test soil. You might be wasting your money. Over fertilizing or under fertilizing could affect your landscape. Soil test provide valuable information for accurate fertilizing!
·         Have you applied SeaHume G to lawn and beds for a healthy start?
·         Have you fertilized your trees and shrubs?
·         Have you applied a preemergent to lawn and beds (this late use Dimension if it is your first application)? Remember it is never too late to start a preemerge program. It is never too late to preemerge, with our mild climate weeds germinate almost every day of the year. It is never too late to start a preemergent program.
·         Have you drench Dominion around plants with a history of insect problems?
·         Have you applied a preventive fungicide to turf if you have a history of fungus (T-Methyl, Strobe G)?

·         Mole Crickets overwinter as adults and do their mating flights right now. Have you killed them now before they can make babies? Be sure your lawn and beds are free of fire ants, and if you have pets, fleas and ticks should be controlled. If you live near the woods, chiggers may be an issue. (Granular Sevin will work on these pests. If you prefer organic, check with a Possum’s near you to find a product or products that will work in your situation.)
·         Have you gone through your irrigation system to be sure everything is operating correctly? In my travels through the Lowcountry, I have noticed many broken heads (geysers) and heads that are spraying into the street. Although they have been calling for rain, where I live, we have had very little. These low humidity days will dry out your grass and plants quickly. Plants and grass are putting out new leaves and need water! Wetting Agents will help get the water into the soil.
·         The little fury terrorist of the yard is having babies now. Have you killed a mole recently or at least repelled one out of your yard?
·         Is your lawn mower ready for another season? New Blade? New Air Filter? New Spark Plug?
·         Have you measured your turf and bed areas so you know how much product you need to buy and apply to your yard? Getting the right amount of product on your lawn will determine the success of your efforts.

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

Monday, March 16, 2020

Social Distancing And Exercising

Horticulture Hotline 03/16/20
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 and you are not exposed to too many people. 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... The good thing about working in the yard or splitting firewood is you get that visual sense of accomplishment when you are finished. I can spend an hour on a rowing machine or in a pool, and they look the same when I’m finished as when I started.

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. Good exercise!

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 these products. Unload the Cotton Burr Compost 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 of Cotton Burr Compost and spread the “good stuff”. Then I rake down the high piles and level off the organics.

Time to prepare a bed for a few hibiscus and summer annuals. Digging and mixing in Flower Bed Amendment is always good exercise and the bed will be ready when the threat of frost is over. A good time to get the vegetable garden ready as well. Growing my own vegetables will ensure that I am the only one touching the vegetables. Bending down weeding and harvesting vegetables is good exercise also.

Next, I will re-establish my bed lines that define my beds by digging out the edge. Lift bags of mulch into that same wheelbarrow with the half flat tire to spread in areas that will not be affected by any late falling leaves. Lift the bags of mulch again and spread the much over the bed. Smooth out the much with a rake. Re-peat this series of exercise several times.

Then pump up the sprayer and do a little spot spraying of weeds and put out some mosquito protection… Multiple muscles used, and I can instantly see results in the yard and know there are more results to come.

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

Monday, March 9, 2020

Dancing Fairy? What?

Horticulture Hotline   03/09/20
By, Bill Lamson-Scribner

After reading your articles for several years now, I’m going to give you a shot at my problem.  I have these perfect circles in my yard.  Sometimes there are mushrooms growing in the circle and other times they are just green grass followed by a dead area then green grass again.  The circle looks like a halo or a ring around Saturn.  The dead areas are just a little band about six inches around the circle.  These circles are amazing because you could take a compass, and they appear to be perfect circles.

I know you have helped out many people including myself in the past, any ideas on this problem?

Will you be offended if I tell you that you have fairy ring?  It is amazing how nature produces these perfect circles!  There are myths about these rings going back to medieval times.  When I was in college (also the dark ages!), the only control for this fairy ring was to dig up all the soil up to 20 ft. deep and replace it.  Luckily science has advanced since then.

A fairy ring, in the old days, was believed to be where a fairy danced around in your yard.  It is actually caused by decomposing organic matter either in the soil or in the thatch.  There is a certain class of fungi (Basidomycetes) that are responsible for the rings that you see. 

You described in your question the damage very accurately.  You have a band of green grass and a band of dead grass then the center of the circle is usually green, next to the dead area, and then just regular color in the middle.  Under ground, the fungus is sending out mycelium which are root like structures of the fungus that grow in a dense mass.  This mass doesn’t allow water to penetrate it (think of a real pot-bound plant when you water it and all the water goes to the outside edge of the pot and runs down the edges and out of the holes in the bottom, without really wetting the plant).  The mycelium mass is hydrophobic (water hating), this results in the dead ring that you see above ground.  The turf in this area is not getting any water.  Also the mycelium are constantly sloughing off and dying and as they break down in the soil, they release nitrogen.  This nitrogen can be in toxic levels, resulting in the dead areas.  Next to the dead areas, the nitrogen causes the areas to be dark green.  Think of an area where you have seen a dog urinate.  You have a dead area from too much nitrogen, then a green halo where the nitrogen levels are ok for the grass.  The mushrooms are just a fruiting body of the fungus that you see at different times of the year.  It is amazing how they are in a perfect circle. 

To control fairy ring, unlike 20 years ago, you don’t have to dig up your entire yard.  A good cultural practice is to apply a wetting agent, then aerate, and then reapply a wetting agent.  If that doesn’t give you satisfactory results, you can also put out a wetting agent, aerate, drench in a fungicide including a wetting agent, and see how your results are.  It may take several cycles of this treatment to be effective.  Strobe G, Heritage fungicide (derived from a mushroom), Fame and Pro-Star are fungicides that are labeled to control fairy ring.  Always read and follow product label.

It is truly amazing how Mother Nature creates these perfect circles.  However, I don’t believe many golf course superintendents are praising her when these circles show up on their golf green.

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