Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Slime Mold

                                                     Black Areas - Slime Mold


Horticulture Hotline 05/30/23

By Bill Lamson-Scribner


Many people are coming in to Possum’s with pictures and texting me pictures of a black film over the leaf blades of grass. What you see is the fruiting body of a fungus that is decomposing thatch and other organic matter in the soil. When the fungus tries to reproduce, it sends spores up the leaf blade of the grass where it is higher up in the air, so the wind will catch a spore more easily. With the spore up in the air, it will travel further also. This fungus is called slime mold. Very nasty looking, but beneficial since it is helping to control thatch.


Slime mold does not hurt the grass, except for the shading of the sun from the leaf surface where photosynthesis takes place. This shading is usually not an issue because these spores disappear very quickly. The weather was perfect for this mold to want to reproduce. Overcast, rainy and humid days are ideal conditions for this fungus.


 Since slime mold’s main purpose is to decompose organic matter in the soil and it really does not damage the grass, I have never recommended any chemical control for slime molds. I do suggest you spray it off the leaf blades of your grass with a hose if you can’t stand it. In a commercial setting or golf course (read and follow product label), you could use Protect DF.


All grasses are a susceptible host, but remember the spores are just using the grass like a ladder for a little elevation. Slime mold is helping to break down thatch and other organic matter, which is a good thing. I would leave it alone and let mother nature lend me a hand in controlling thatch.


With the still cool weather some grass is still slowly coming out of dormancy. The other day it was in the 50’s during the daytime – crazy! The recent rain (of course on Saturday – I was still glad to see it) and the cool nights might make the conditions right for brown patch / large patch disease. Japanese beetles have attacked some roses and crepe myrtles in the area. Fire ants have popped up to the surface with the rain. Gardenias and Magnolias have been smelling good. Crepe Myrtles are showing some color.


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


Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Dinosaur Scales on My Tree

Horticulture Hotline 05/23/23

By Bill Lamson-Scribner




On the bark of my tree, I noticed grayish growth.  I can peel this growth off easily.  What is this growth and is it hurting my tree?


I have been asked some form of this question in Possum’s, on the radio, or in the grocery store many times. It sounds like you have lichens.  Lichens are grayish-green organisms that are a cross between fungi and algae.  They make their own food and collect their own water and minerals, so technically they do not harm the plant or tree on which they are growing. They are a sign that the tree or shrub is not flourishing. Lichens do not hurt what they are growing on – they are a sign that what they are growing on is hurting!


Since lichens manufacture their own food through photosynthesis, they need sunlight to carry on photosynthesis. A healthy actively growing plant or tree is the best defense against lichens. If the tree or shrub has a thick canopy, the lichens will not survive since they need sunlight to manufacture their food. Culturally, the plant must be planted in an area that provides the conditions that the plant can thrive, so it produces a dense canopy that will shade out the lichens. Proper fertilization based on soil tests and proper pruning will help to keep the canopy thick. Think of trying to grow grass under the thick canopy of a tree – the grass needs sunlight for photosynthesis like the lichens and will not grow in the dense shade.


Lichens thrive in these conditions which are not very favorable for plant growth.  With our on-again, off-again rain, it is hard to control these moist conditions.  If you have an irrigation system, be sure you are not over-watering, as this contributes to the problem.  Irrigation systems are great; however, if over used can cause great problems in the landscape.  Large patch fungus and lichens could be a couple of examples of over-watering issues. 


The best control for lichens is cultural controls. Try to minimize the moisture in the soil and maximize air movement around the plants and trees.  Pruning to increase air movement will help dry the soil.  Excessive mulch whether fallen leaves, pine straw or wood mulch will keep moisture high in this area and should be limited to 2-3 inches in depth. A good fertility program derived from a soil test helps a whole bunch.


Lichens, although a bit unsightly, do not harm the plant. If a plant or tree is planted too deep, lacks proper fertility, stays too wet or too dry, is planted in the sun when it prefers the shade or visa versa, improper mulching, in a windy beach setting when the plant prefers a different environment … Happy plant = no lichens.


Mistletoe is a parasitic plant that lives in our trees.  It manufactures its own food; however, it has a root-like growth that penetrates the bark and collects minerals and water from the host tree.  If left to grow, it will eventually kill the host tree.  Mistletoe produces seeds that birds eat and spread.  These seeds also get under the soft bark and germinate spreading the parasitic plant. Mistletoe can get you a kiss during the holiday season, but it can also kill a tree.


Soil Tests, pots, potting soil, soil moist, neem oil, horticultural oil, Cotton Burr Compost, gift certificates, rodent control, roach control, mole crickets, fire ants, moles, pruning (azaleas and camellias), grass coming out sssllloooww are just a few things that seem very popular right now.


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



Tuesday, May 16, 2023

How many Square Feet Is Your Lawn? Beds?

                                                 Awesome Product Especially With These Winds

Horticulture Hotline 05/16/23

By Bill Lamson-Scribner


This weather is crazy. I can’t decide whether to run the heat or the air conditioner! This type of weather is why our grass cannot decide whether to stay dormant or to grow. The dry, windy weather has made the environmental conditions part of the ‘disease triangle’ less of a factor, so disease has been less of an issue. Less mosquitoes so far, but so recent high tides might change that. Mosquitoes are weak flyers so the winds have helped a lot.


With this crazy weather, it is a good time to go through your irrigation (or get a professional go through it) and make sure it is going to be ready to go for another year. In Possum’s we regularly get asked, “how much should I run my irrigation?”  Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to that question – maybe a future Horticulture Hotline! An inch of water a week is a decent rule of thumb. With the wind and new leaves being formed, I might go a little higher. Having the ground moist to an 8-inch depth is another rule of thumb. Using wetting agents is a big plus!


Knowing the square footage of your grass areas and bed areas are key to applying any fertilizer or control product correctly. Whenever we sell a bag of fertilizer at Possum’s we are going to ask, “how big is your yard?” We need to know if you need one bag or more than one bag. Some of our bags might be able to treat your yard twice. That is nice to know because that cuts the price per application in half, and lets you know you still have product waiting in the garage for your next application (like finding that McDonald’s French fry at the bottom of the bag). With the nice weather we are having, now is a great time to get out there and measure the yard.


I can remember several times hearing different variations of this same answer to my question while at the counter at Possum’s. “How many square feet is your yard?” Rough answer,” well, last year I put out that bag that covers 5000 square feet and it was perfect for my yard, so I must have 5000 square feet.”  Sorry, wrong answer.


Based on a pound of nitrogen, we sell 50-pound bags that cover as much as 23,000 square feet and as little as 1000 square feet. Unfortunately, the bag does not know the size of our yards or how fast we walk.


In the old days, yards were mostly square or rectangular, and they were easy to measure. Now most yards have curvy bed lines that sweep across the landscape, making them more difficult to measure. If you can break the yard up into little squares or rectangles, and measure the length and the width then you can get your square footage. Length multiplied by width will give you your square footage. Add up all the squares and rectangles that you measured the square feet of, and you will come up with the square footage of your yard.


If this sounds like total “Greek or Geek” to you, ask a landscaper, a realtor, a landscape architect, someone that works with floors or carpets, an engineer, a construction worker, someone who pours driveways, or anyone else that regularly needs to measure the square footage of something to help you. Some golfers are good at pacing off areas. Your plat map from when you purchased your house might help as well.


Now, there are even websites that you can log onto and they will tell you the square footage of your yard. Of course, I like to do it the old fashion way – length times width.


I know this measuring seems like a pain, but most of us stay in a house for several years or decades. A little pain spread over several years of having very useful information is worth it.


Once you measure the yard, put the measurements in about 5 to 10 locations throughout your house, your car (so you have it with you when you go to buy product) and the garage, so you do not lose them. Come into the camera phone age and take a picture of the measurements so you have the information when you come into the store. I have learned over the years that I put information like that in one “special place” so I do not lose the information. I then forget where that “special place” is!