Monday, September 20, 2021

A Few Questions


Horticulture Hotline  09/20/21

  By Bill Lamson-Scribner


A few questions that I have been asked recently:


What is a good all-purpose insecticide besides Sevin?


Sevin is great on turf because it kills above ground (ants, ticks, chinch bugs, sod webworms, mosquitoes, fleas and many more) and below ground (grubs and mole crickets) insects. For above ground insects in turf areas consider a product containing bifenthrin (Bifen, Bug Blaster), and for below ground insects use Grubz Out for long term control. If you are after both above and below ground insects, try Bug Blasters Above and Below.


Sevin has been a go to product for a long time in gardens (as a dust and as a liquid). There are many general insecticides that you could replace it with in the garden. Neem Py is a natural product that is broad spectrum and works on insects as well as certain diseases (fungi). Insecticidal Soaps are also good for the garden. Viper dust is a good replacement for Sevin dust. Always read, understand, and follow product labels.


What is a good soil to compost ratio in a large raised garden?


The ratio of compost to soil depends on the native soil and the compost you are working with in your garden. If you have a tight, heavy clay soil, you would start with one part cotton burr compost to four parts clay. If you have basic loamy soil, you would use one part cotton burr compost to two parts soil. If your soil is real sandy, use one part cotton burr compost to one part sand. On athletic fields we mix four parts sand with one part cotton burr compost (often called 80:20 mix). On an athletic field you want to limit organic matter to maintain good drainage. Try to let your garden rest for thirty days after amending (not necessary with cotton burr compost since it is already fully composted, but still a good idea).


What is a good all purpose organic fertilizer?


You know I have to recommend a soil test. You could use the best fertilizer in the world; however, if you are missing one part of the plant nutrient puzzle, your crop will not reach its potential.


We have a lot of customers at Possum’s use Nature’s Blend as a top dress fertilizer. With its blend of composted cotton burrs, humates and alfalfa meal it would certainly have something in it to get your plants growing happily. The cotton burrs will also condition your soil and last for up to two years!


Something a little more conventional would be products by Sustane and Espoma..The 08-02-04 by Sustane is widely used in the organic farming world in the Lowcountry. I like using a mix of different organic products on my yard, so I get the different benefits each one has to offer. SeaHume will make all fertilizers work better by adding biostimulants and minor nutrients.


Using Neptune’s Harvest fish, seaweed, and fish and seaweed blend as a spray or a drench will also help increase your yield.


Always read and follow product labels.

Monday, September 13, 2021

'The Nasty Rascal, The Chinch Bug'

Horticulture Hotline 09/13/21

By Bill Lamson-Scribner


‘The Nasty Rascal, The Chinch Bug’ is about impossible to see (about the size of fine ground pepper), the damage can be confused between fungi, dry areas, and just dead areas, and although they are easy to kill once identified, the chinch bug keeps coming back. Chinch bugs preferred diet is St. Augustine grass (AKA Charleston Grass); however, it will attack zoysia, Bermuda, and centipede. As St. Augustine grass is getting replaced by zoysia, this switch in diet makes a lot of sense.


In the old days (Dursban, Diazinon), you could put out a product in May and pretty much control chinch bugs for the season. Now depending on the product, if you get two to three weeks control you are lucky. Most of the products work on the adults and do not affect the eggs that are waiting to hatch.


 There are a lot of cases of resistance to certain control products in Florida, so be sure to rotate chemical families of your products (not just product names). Since some of our sod comes up from Florida, we have also experienced these resistant chinch bugs as well.


‘The Nasty Rascal, The Chinch Bug’ got this designation from attacking family’s lawns during the summer while families were taking their summer vacation. The fact that this very small insect and a lot of its buddies can wipe out a beautiful yard in a very short period of time is ruthless. Hard to control weeds like bermudagrass and Virginia button weed always seem to move in on the weaken areas.


There is a fungus in the soil that controls chinch bugs. When the soil dries out the fungus in the soil that keeps chinch bugs in check dies. When the fungus dies, the chinch bugs go crazy. The reason you see chinch bugs along the road, driveway, sidewalks or in the sunniest part of the yard is because that is where the fungus dies out first. Chinch bugs rarely attack grass in the shade (notice attached pictures) because the fungus keeps them in check. With about 50 people moving to the Lowcountry a day, I wanted to make people aware of ‘The Nasty Rascal, The Chinch Bug’.


Since chinch bugs attack the grass along the road, driveway, and sidewalks, when people treat for them, they often throw product on hard impermeable surfaces (roads, driveways, and sidewalks). Always be sure to sweep or blow any particles back into the grass to avoid any unwanted runoff into storm water drains or marshes and waterways. This particular runoff situation would be another reason to refer to this pest as ‘The Nasty Rascal, The Chinch Bug’!


If you have active chinch bugs, be sure to use a product that ‘controls’ them not ’suppresses’ them. Sevin is a good choice with the resistance issues.


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


Monday, September 6, 2021

Tree Webbing


Horticulture Hotline 09/06/21

  Bill Lamson-Scribner


The Fall brings many webs to our Lowcountry trees. The webs are for protection against birds and other insects. Some are bad for the tree; some are good for the tree and some are just Halloween decorations!


The web that is very close to the trunk and main branches, like a white stocking pulled tightly against the bark, are tree cattle.  Tree cattle or bark lice are beneficial insects that clean organic matter out of the crevices of the bark of the tree.  They do no harm.  If you are a “web-a-phobic” you can spray the webbing off with a high pressure hose; however, you will be ridding your tree of a free maid service. 


The web that is out at the tips of the branches engulfing the foliage, are Fall Webworms.  The worms should be visible as well as half eaten foliage.  Webworms tend to favor pecan, river birch, walnut, hickory, persimmon, sweet gum, fruit trees and some maples.  In the forest, natural predators do a good job of keeping this pest in check.  In your landscape consider the size and age of the tree before treating. We usually only recommend treating in very severe cases because many of the trees that get attacked are going to lose their leaves soon enough anyway in the fall.


Even though they are called Fall Webworms, they can appear here as early as June or July. They over winter in the pupal stage in bark crevices and in leaf litter. Some people will try to control this stage with Lime/Sulfur mix and horticultural oil before budbreak. Not too easy for many homeowners with a large pecan tree. Homeowners can treat around the base of the tree and up the tree with Caterpillar Killer, Bifenthrin, Acephate, Sevin or Lambda- Cyhalothrin. Homeowners can also call in a professional.


When the leaves appear on the tree, the adult moth emerges from the pupal stage and lays eggs on the underside of the new leaves. The eggs hatch and here comes the hungry caterpillar – eating the leaves and spinning a web for protection against birds and predatory insects. Since a moth that flies lay the eggs, a product like Tangle Trap or Tree Tanglefoot are not necessary for this caterpillar.


If your tree is young and you can easily spray it, use Bt (a bacteria that affects certain insects – biological warfare!). Organic products containing Bt are; Caterpillar Killer and Dipel. The webworms devour the foliage on trees.  The foliage is what the tree uses to collect sunlight and to make food for itself.  The repeated defoliation of a tree can permanently injure the tree.  Spray the leaves next to the nest and the nest itself with Bt, and when the webworms eat the leaves, the bacteria will make them sick. It is best to catch the worms while they are young when using Bt. If you do not want to spray, you can open up the webs with a stick, stream of water or pole saw and let the birds and other predatory insects have a feast.


Now is a good time for planning and planting.  While planning your new landscape additions this fall, don’t forget the amendments to your soil.  Amendments will help to ensure a healthier plant next summer when the heat is on by growing a stronger root system throughout the Fall and Winter.  Soil test now for your 2022 program and any new areas that you are adding this Fall.  Any of the Back To Nature products (Cotton Burr Compost, Natures Blend, Composted Cow or Chicken Manure) will greatly improve your soil and your plants health.