Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Summertime Menagerie

Horticulture Hotline 06/30/21

By Bill Lamson-Scribner


This week’s article is going to be a menagerie of topics to get you ready for outdoor summer activities (grilling and others) and a few other random situations.


Let’s first look at the grilling type activities and general outdoor play. Dad or mom are cooking on the grill and the kids are playing in the yard. If your grill hasn’t been used recently, open the lid slowly and check to be sure wasp haven’t made themselves a home inside your grill. About three years ago, I got bit about four times for this same reason, while grilling at someone’s house.


Speaking of wasps, look around your doors, porches, outdoor furniture and other areas you have seen wasp in the past. Wasps seem to be extra active this year. Wasp Freeze.


Flies can be particularly nasty, disease spreading, biting in some cases, and did I say nasty insects. Lands on dog poop then lands on your barbeque or your spatula – enough said – nasty! We sell bags that catch up to 20,000 flies and various other baits. You place these baits away from your grill because the attractants are very nasty smelling and you don’t want to attract the flies to where you are located. This is a very serious issue in the restaurant business because restaurants can be closed down if they don’t address this issue.


Fire ants and mosquitoes are out there making your time out there less desirable. If you treated for ants in the early spring, it is probably about time to do it again after the recent rains (check the product label). I like treating the whole yard instead of chasing around mounds. Look for breeding areas for mosquitoes – anywhere that can hold water. From a bottle cap to a sagging gutter to a tarp on a boat or firewood, to a bird bath, to a Magnolia leaf, to a cavity in a tree, to a saucer under a potted plant, well you have the idea. I know we have some organic products to spray the underside of the leaves of your shrubs and trees that last about three weeks as well as some control products that contain a growth regulator for longer control.


Since you will be going in and out of your house during the summer, be sure your perimeter is protected, so that cockroach doesn’t decide to sneak in to the air-conditioned house. Intice Perimeter is a great, organic, weatherized bait that will last for months under most circumstances.


The nasty rascal, the chinch bug in St. Augustine grass has been killing large areas of turf in the Lowcountry for decades. Remember the products that control chinch bugs generally have a short residual. If you are going out of town for any length of time, be sure you treat the lawn before you leave. Sod webworms and armyworms have been spotted as well – you have been warned. 08-00-08 Acelepryn, 07-00-14 Allectus or several other products should help you manage these pests.  



Be sure to inspect your mower blade. A sharp blade will give your grass a cleaner cut and will allow less entry points for disease. Inspect your blade for nicks and damage if you are going to continue to use the same blade. Since a mower blade spins at very high speeds, any nicks or bends can lead to the blade being out of balance. When a blade is out of balance, the mower will vibrate (like your tire out of balance on your car) and you could damage the spindle and other parts of your mower that cost far more than a new blade.


Look up at your trees. If you have any tree work that needs to be done, I would get it done as soon as possible.  Look for trees that have cavities at the base of the tree and look at the tops for broken limbs, dying tips and weak crotch angles.  Have a tree care professional inspect your trees to be sure it is safe. Most tree companies will inspect for free. Try to get this done before the Lowcountry is in that cone for a direct hit for a hurricane! The tree companies are usually very busy year-round in the Lowcountry. 


      Armadillos have found the Lowcountry! Although they have been here for years, the 

   populations have really increased. I was driving to and from Columbia the other day

      and saw over ten dead ones. They are like an above ground mole; however, far more

      damaging. Their diet is 90% insects, but they also eat roots of bushes and trees. They

      will tear up a yard looking for insects, so manage the insects in your yard like you do

      for moles. The worst damage I have seen is where they dig around small trees,

      leaving a big hole and possibly killing a tree. Trapping works very well. You want

      to use a commercial grade trap or they will destroy the trap. Possum’s No Deer! or  

      Animal Stopper are repellents that should help.


      The turf, trees, and shrubs are probably ready for a little fertilizer.


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



Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Termite Swarmers


Horticulture Hotline 06/22/21

By Bill Lamson-Scribner


We had a very dry spring, so the termite swarm season came later than it normally does. Termite swarms are a crazy phenomenon of nature. All the sudden usually after a spring rain, termites come flying out of an old stump, firewood pile, or some other area of dead wood by the thousands!  Which is not really a problem itself; however, swarmers could indicate a problem. In New Orleans the termite swarms can be so thick that nighttime baseball games can be suspended or cancelled because the swarmers block the lights. The streets will also go black as the termites fly to the street lights.


Swarmers are winged, flying termites that are generally attracted to light. Certain times a year, termites come out of the ground and fly. These termites do not eat wood, but they are a good indicator that an active colony is nearby. Usually, you will see them swarming near an old stump or woodpile. No reason to worry, termites are just Mother Nature’s decomposers.


When you see them in your house or building, there may be colony underneath your structure. First, identify the nuisance to be sure they are not flying ants (look at online pictures, take them to your local Possum’s or local Clemson Extension Office). Ants have a constricted abdomen (like the waist of a body builder) and a termite’s body tapers straight down (more like a middle-aged person). You will usually find termite swarmers and their wings in window sills because they fly towards light.


If you determine that you do have termite swarmers and your house or building is under contract (bond) with a Pest Management Professional, contact them right away. If your house is not under contract, call 3 companies and get estimates. Do not necessarily go with the lowest bid, this is your house we are talking about, look to see what their warranties are, how long they have been in business or do they have referrals you can contact, how often they propose to retreat, do they cover Formosan Termites, who pays for damage, who pays for retreats, how much does the yearly inspection cost … 


Remember the swarmers are a nuisance. They do not eat wood. Kill them just to clean up the mess; however, a soil treatment or a baiting system by a professional is going to be your long-term fix. Remember your house is probably your biggest investment.


It is a great time to apply SeaHume and Cotton Burr Compost by Back to Nature (watch out for imposters of the Cotton Burr Compost) to your lawn and beds. It has been a few months since some of you have fertilized your lawn and shrubs. We have had some very heavy rains recently as well. If you are not on a program based on a soil test, 17-00-09 that is 100% slow release will keep your turf, trees and shrubs healthy. Have you pruned your azaleas and camellias for next year? You want to complete this pruning by the Fourth of July. Did you apply your preemergent for late germinating weeds? Mosquitoes, flies, wasps, and especially fire ants are stinging topics at Possum’s.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Planting Tips


Horticulture Hotline 06-14-2021

  Bill Lamson-Scribner


Although the “prime time” for planting has come and gone, with the wide use of containerized plants and new developments, I still get these types of questions regularly. Why are my leaves turning yellow and falling off? A plant’s leaves can be turning yellow and falling off for a number of reasons.  Lack of oxygen to the root system, old leaves falling off making room for new leaves, mulch accumulation around the base of the plant, too much mulch and / or poor soil conditions could be causing your problems.  Before you replace these plants, you need to determine why you are having trouble with the existing plants. 


Lack of oxygen to the root system can be caused by many situations.  The plant could have been planted too deep.  When you peel back the mulch, you should see the top of the original container soil right at the surface.  Pull out one of your dead plants and see if the roots have been growing out into the soil or just circling around the original container soil.  Sometimes with plants and especially azaleas, the roots tend to stay in the pine bark/sand mix that they are grown in at the nursery and never venture out into the native soil.  The roots get so tight that they repel water and eventually die.  When you plant a plant, be sure to break up the root ball and encourage the roots to grow out into the native soil.   


The soil could be clay or heavy that does not allow space for oxygen.  The area could be low or over-watered.  Most plants like a well-drained soil.  If the soil stays wet, most plants will not be happy.  Hollies, azaleas, camellias, boxwoods and most other plants like moist soil, but not wet feet.


One old drainage test is to dig a hole the size of your container. Fill the hole up with water and see how long the water takes to drain out of the hole. If the water takes hours to disappear, you know you have some work to do.


In the early spring, sometimes you will have leaves that are turning yellow and falling off.  This is a natural occurrence as old leaves are falling off making room for new leaves.   

Magnolias, live oaks, azaleas and gardenias are the plants that we get the most calls on in the stores when this occurs.  This is natural and some plants seem to do it more than others. 


Years of mulch pilling up or placing mulch on the stem of the plant can lead to disease, entry points for insects, or an area where adventitious roots can develop. The roots of plants can handle moist conditions; however, the stems cannot.


Most of the plants here like a high organic soil, unfortunately in the Lowcountry, this is rarely the case.  Before you replant, evaluate your soil visually and with a soil test.  If your soil doesn’t have organic matter in it already, you would want to amend with Cotton Burr Compost, or Natures Blend. Try to amend the entire bed area and not just the planting hole.  We see a lot of dead plants where people have amended the planting hole and the amendments break down over time and the plant sinks as a result.  Don’t ever dig a hole deeper than the depth of the ball or the container of the plant.  If the plant sinks over time, it is the same as planting it too deep originally.  Also test your soil for any nutrient deficiencies or surpluses.   By amending your soil from the lab results and amending your soil with organics, you will increase your odds of having a successful planting.


With the recent rains watch for fungus in the lawn, fire ants popping up, mosquitoes, flies, wasps, roaches moving indoors, rats, mice and drainage issues. 


Bill Lamson-Scribner can be reached during the week at Possum’s Landscape and Pest Control Supply. Possums 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). Saturday's show is replayed Sunday from 11:00 - Noon.