Monday, January 30, 2023

Spring is on the Way

                                            Saucer Magnolia - indicating Spring is coming

Horticulture Hotline 01/30/23

By Bill Lamson-Scribner


The Saucer or Tulip Magnolias are blooming, which usually indicates spring is rapidly approaching. Camellias are blooming. My Bottlebrush and Lantana never stopped blooming until the Christmas cold. I know the lantana, citrus, bottlebrush and hibiscus took a hit from that freezing cold.


The time is now to introduce some organics to your landscape. SeaHume, with its high humic acid, seaweed and carbon content, is a great choice. SeaHume is very concentrated organic material that has been compacted under heat and pressure over time, and is mined. Cotton Burr Compost also does a terrific job this time of year. The two products together form a serious synergy in the soil. Food for microbes and a five star hotel!


The soil temperature indicates that it is just about time to apply preemergent products to your beds and turf. Valentine’s Day and the running of the Daytona 500 are just around the corner. The time to apply the magical weed preventer is coming up fast.


Depending on which Phd doctor you believe, crabgrass germinates when the soil temperature (3 inches deep) stays above 55 degrees (some people say 57 degrees), for 3 straight days provided adequate moisture in the soil. Now some doctors say remains 57 degrees or above for 24 hours at a depth of 3 inches with adequate moisture.  The manufacturers of the preemergent products suggest that you apply the product 2 weeks before the temperatures are right, so you have to be able to predict the future. Do you have a crystal ball? If you are not into monitoring the soil temperature and do not have ESP (do people, still use the term ESP), Valentine’s Day or the running of the Daytona 500 should work for you.  Spreading a preemergent product now could save hours of spot spraying later.


The turf areas as well as the landscape bed areas will greatly benefit from the use of preemerge products. Not only will the yard look better, but your plants will not have to compete with the weeds for sun, nutrients, and water. If you are controlling weeds with preemergent products, there are less weeds there for you to spray or pull, saving you time. There is also less stress on you trying to find time to control the weeds in your yard later once the weeds have emerged. Control them now with a preemergent control product!


For those new readers of the Horticulture Hotline, preemergent control products kill weeds as they germinate.  The weeds never come up and you never have to worry about them.  Crabgrass, goosegrass, barnyardgrass, crowfootgrass, dallisgrass (seedling), foxtail, annual bluegrass, smutgrass, barley, kikuyugrass, wild oats, bittercress, carpetweed, chickweed, Carolina geranium, henbit, knotweed, lespedeza, marestail, black medic, mustard, oxalis, pineappleweed, pigweed, redroot, parsley-piert, purslane, rocket, shephardspurse, speedwell, spurge, and woodsorrel are examples of weeds controlled by preemergent products.  Small seeded annual weeds are controlled by preemergent products.


Read the label of the specific product that you are using to get an exact list of weeds that the manufacturer has tested and shown to control. Preemergent products applied now do not control winter annual weeds that are already up like annual blue grass. To control annual bluegrass, you would have used a preemergent in August and again in October (this could vary with products and rates – follow the label).


Clover, Florida Betony, Nutsedge and Dollar weed are not controlled by preemergent control products.  These are perennial weeds. Weed Free Zone is a liquid that will do a good job on controlling many of your broadleaf weeds. The Nutsedge will require a different product and is most likely not visible right now.  It is important to control these weeds that you see now (henbit, chickweed, annual bluegrass) before they go into their reproductive stage.  A weed in its reproductive stage is harder to control than a weed in its vegetative stage. By controlling the weed now, you avoid having to deal with more weed seeds next year.


It is very noticeable when you ride through the Lowcountry which homeowners and which businesses used preemergent products last fall at the correct time. One business or home lawn will be nice and brown and dormant without a spec of green in sight. Right next to it will be brown turf mixed with green weeds. Again, it is very important to control those weeds that are up now before they begin to flower.


If you missed your fall application of preemergent, use a post-emerge product along with your preemergent product. Kill what weeds are up and control summer annuals weeds before they come up! Great way to be a lawn hero by killing the weeds and not have to mow weeds for the next two and a half months when you are basically mowing weeds. Killing weeds before they seed reduces your weed population greatly. One annual bluegrass plant produces about 6000 seeds!


If you are trying to control weeds in the lawn that are up and starting to flower or seed, mow – wait 2 days and spray – then wait at least another 3 days before you mow again. The mowing will get the weeds actively growing and weeds that are actively growing are easier to kill. If the product is root absorbed, be careful around desirable plants, and water-in properly. If you water in too much, you could move the product passed the shallow root zone of the weed you are targeting.


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


Monday, January 23, 2023

Micro- Climates


Horticulture Hotline 01/23/23

  Bill Lamson-Scribner


We finally had some freezing weather over Christmas, and I’m so glad that it wasn’t an ice event too! Broken tree limbs, power lines down, Ravenel Bridge closed because of ice spears, no WIFI, no TV, no heat, switching on lights that don’t turn on… If you haven’t already pruned your plants that turned to a black mush, you can wait and some of the damaged foliage and branches will help insulate the plant for the next freezing event. I know some of you that maintain high end properties aren’t going to be able to get away with this, so prune away or replace. Sometimes it depends where the damaged plant is located. By the front door – one set of rules. In a big bed mixed in with other plants in the backyard, maybe another set of rules.


I work with many properties that micro-climates played a big role in the damage the cold did. One property has a house with a large oak tree in half of the front yard. The canopy of the oak held in the heat of the earth in and the grass stayed green, while the other half of the yard went dormant.


Ted Beckett first showed me how this worked with his tall pines (pre–Hurricane Hugo) at his nursery on John’s Island. For those of you that didn’t know Ted Beckett, he was the head horticulturalist at Magnolia Plantation when they had a nursery then started his own nursery. He was responsible for many of the old camellias, azaleas and other plants around the Lowcountry. With trees holding in the heat of the earth like a tent or a frost blanket, his plants were protected. The important thing is the protection come from above the grass or plants.


With cold you don’t want to have the sides blocked off like a valley in a citrus grove. When I worked in citrus, the grove owners would hire helicopters to fly over low areas and blow out the cold air. I have seen stadium fields that suffer cold damage because of the seats and the bowl they produce hold in the cold air, when practice fields next door is fine, since there are no seats.


This is a good time to rake out beds and do some good sanitation. Old leaves can harbor disease and insects. The accumulation of leaves can damage your plants by making them planted too deep, insect and disease entry points, adventitious roots, … Somehow when Paul (AKA Super Garden Hero) and I were talking about it on the radio, we started talking about the original Lamson-Scribner spraying the first fungicide that he developed (Bordeaux Mix) in a coat and tie!


With Valentines Day coming up, why not buy a nice decorative pot, some good potting soil, some good fertilizer, some nice plants and some wetting agent and have a present that can last forever?


It is about the time to put preemergent herbicides on your lawn that will stop small seeded annual summer weeds from coming up and terrorizing your lawn.  These products are very safe to use in and around shrub beds and trees (of course check the label).  They will not only keep weeds out of your lawn, but will also keep them out of your beds.  Dimension is a very good product, but there are numerous others based on your needs. 


As with any product, read, understand and follow product label when applying.  


Tuesday, January 17, 2023

2022 Pest of the Year


Horticulture Hotline 01/17/23

  Bill Lamson-Scribner


A pest in 2022 that wouldn’t seem to go away was the fire ant. Mole crickets go away for brief periods and moles never seem to go away. I don’t know if my eye is just trained to see fire ants or what but they seem to be everywhere.


With a good heavy sod roller, you can control damage from mole crickets and moles since most of their damage is cause by the roots of the grass plant separating from the soil causing the grass plant to dry out and die. Fire ants don’t like to be disturb. Can you imagine a to scale lawn mower running through your house?! A tornado combined with a big blade! Fire ants will usually set up house in flower beds, tree rings, guide wires, electrical boxes (they like the heat and can damage the wires not to mention a pain for someone to maintain the box) and other areas that mowers will not disturb them.


Believe it or not….fire ants are very easy to kill and manage!  You will not eradicate them; however, you can manage them.  There are many products on the market that will kill fire ants.  Some products are more economical if you have large areas to treat, others do a great job at just killing fire ants, and other products will kill other insects as well as fire ants. 


If you have a large area (16 or more acres) the bait products are very economical (less than 16 dollars an acre) and effective.  If you have a smaller area, you can treat one acre for less than 35.00.  Depending on the amount of rain that we get this summer and fall, you may have to retreat in six months if you notice any activity.  Some bait products are designed to kill fire ants as well as other ants that are in your yard (carpenter ants, argentine ants).


It is best to spread the bait over the entire area once the soil surface temperature reaches 70 degrees.  You also want to keep the bait dry for 24 hours, so watch the forecast.  The ants must be actively foraging to pick up the bait.  You can determine this by throwing some greasy potato chips or some of the bait itself on the ground and come back in 10 minutes to one half hour and see if the ants are carrying away the bait or chips.  The bait products advantage is that it is low cost and effective.


Products containing bifenthrin (Bug Blaster) will give you long term control of ants as well.  With Bug Blaster you don’t need to worry about rain, or whether the ants are foraging.  Dr. Tim Davis, former head of fire ants for South Carolina with Clemson University, noted that he was getting at least eight months of control with bifenthrin in his test plots.  Bifenthrin products are best applied over the entire yard.  Bug Blaster’s biggest advantage is that not only will you kill fire ants, but you will kill army worms, sod web worms, fleas, chinch bugs, ticks (Lime disease), mole crickets, and many others. 


There are many choices on the market; the biggest thing is determining which product fits your needs. Extinguish Plus and Advion Fire Ant Bait are two of my favorite bait products. Bug Blaster is a good contact product. Notice I only recommend treating the entire yard instead of chasing them around with mound treatments (stinky,white powder). 

When it has been hot and dry, fire ants can be tricky and not so visible because their mound is underground. Don’t be fooled! They still bite!


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