Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Sweetgum Balls


                                            small cream colored flower of sweetgum - time for Snipper

Horticulture Hotline 02/27/24

By Bill Lamson-Scribner


For all you sweetgum tree ‘haters’ out there because of their mace (not to be confused with the politician) like gumballs, this is the time you can do something about it. If you look up at your sweetgum tree right now, you should see little off-white cream-colored flowers that are going to become this year’s crop of gumballs.  


There is a product called Snipper that will destroy the flower, preventing the development of the gumball. This is not a one-time application, so plan to do it anytime you do not want to have gumballs. The timing is very important, so if you miss the flowers this year, begin to make your plans for next year. Since the application involves drilling holes in the sweetgum tree, a licensed and insured tree care professional is always a good idea. Getting on their schedule in the fall, so they can measure the tree’s diameter, give you an estimate and order in the product so they will be ready when the timing is right will help with the success of the application.


Now, is a great time to inspect your trees for torn limbs that need to be properly pruned. Many of my deciduous trees (trees that lose their leaves) are either just starting to put on new leaves or still naked. The green weeds are easy to spot in the lawn or beds (yes, I get weeds too). Insect inventory, especially scale, is easy to evaluate now. Any sooty mold left behind from last year indicates other insects. Have you inspected your yard for mosquito breeding areas? Do you have liriope that needs to be cut or mowed. Cast-Iron plants?  I hate to ask this, but does anyone have moles? Have you seen any Lady Banks Roses or Carolina Jasmine? How about the smell of a sweet tea olive?


Right now, before your deciduous trees put on new leaves, is an excellent time to take a close look at them. If your trees are larger, it is a great time to get a professional tree company in to look at them. Look for cavities, crossing and rubbing limbs, or limbs that are growing towards the middle of the tree. Look for limbs that have died, been damaged, or just look unhealthy. By pruning these limbs now, you can direct all the new leaves and growth to limbs you want to keep long term, and not waste the energy of the tree to put on new leaves that you are going to remove.


Dr. Shigo (the main man as far as early tree knowledge goes) found that trees do 85% of their growing for the year by May, so it is very important to have fertilizer available to your trees at this time. Either hire a professional to soil inject your trees or use a granular. SeaHume granular along with a 17-00-09 will get the tree headed in the right direction. A soil test is always the best way to determine your soil’s needs.


When your tree is naked, vines growing up into the canopy are easy to spot along the trunk of the tree. Since the tree does not have any leaves, these vines are easier to remove than when the tree and vine have leaves. I pull these vines away from the tree, scrap off some bark and apply Brush Killer to the open wound to kill the vine at the root so it does not grow back. Be sure you are not pulling down poison ivy, unless you are properly protected.


Weeds growing beneath the tree are easier to spot and deal with if you have a low branching deciduous tree. My fig tree has these big leaves, so once the leaves come out, it is very hard to spray herbicide underneath the tree without hitting the fig tree’s leaves. Some herbicides volatize, so without leaves a tree is less likely to get damaged from the vapors. Spray now before the flush of leaves.


If you have any Asiatic Jasmine or Ivy that has grown into areas you do not want it, right now, while it is putting on young tender growth, is going to be your best time to control it. Consider using a product like Brushmaster for these hard to kill vines. Once the new growth has hardened off, certain vines are very hard to control.


If you have been plagued by black sooty mold in the past, right now, apply Dominion Tree & Shrub as a drench to these plants to control the insects that produce the black sooty mold. Get it out now to protect the new foliage from insect attack. Insects like that young tender foliage like us (cabbage, spinach, lettuce). Neem oil and horticulture oil are a way to get ahead of the insects.


The temperatures are right to apply preemergent products. Do not delay! Get them out now for less hot, gnatty, summertime weeding and competition for your plants, and weeds are unsightly.


Hold off on the high nitrogen fertilizers for now. SeaHume and controlling winter weeds to lessen your seed bank for next year should be your focus. With all the winter rains fungus could be a big issue in your yard depending on your soil type and drainage.


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

Monday, February 19, 2024

Leaf Spot


                                           one yard uses preemergent products one does not

     white seedheads of Poa show where the groundskeeper applied preemergent

                                         Can tell where preemergent was applied - White seed head of weed

Horticulture Hotline 02/19/24

By Bill Lamson-Scribner


It is time to get your preemergent products out before your summer annual weeds start to germinate. Prevention, being pro-active, and protection is the best way to deal with summer annual weeds. Where you have used a preemergent product and where you have not, is usually obvious if your timing was good.


Indian Hawthorn, Raphs or Raphiolepis have been really suffering. Raphs have been plagued with leaf spot for years. It seems like right after the Red Tips (Photinia) were virtually wiped out by Entomosporium leaf spot, the diseased began attacking the Indian Hawthorn.  Indian Hawthorn and Red Tips are in the same plant family as roses (Rosaceae). 


When dealing with any plant that is very susceptible to a leaf spot disease (ligustrum a big issue now, roses, Loropetalum) I like to think of several different factors:

1.      Is this plant worth keeping in the landscape or should I replace it with another plant that is not susceptible to disease.

2.      Is this plant worth spraying ever 14 – 28 days to keep it in my landscape?  To keep an Indian Hawthorn alive, it needs a life-support system.  The plant must be sprayed at least monthly or it will get leaf spot again. You would want to start spraying anytime and right now as new leaves are forming is the best time to start spraying.

3.      What cultural practices can I do to help relieve the pressure of the disease?  The removal of fallen foliage (sanitation) is key when dealing with a leaf spot disease.  Having a healthy soil, as determined by a soil test, is also very important because a stressed plant is more susceptible to disease.  Providing the correct amount of water preferably through a drip system, so the plants are not over-watered, or drought stressed. Overhead irrigation could spread the disease. Proper fertility as determined by the soil test is also important.  Use nitrogen fertilizer very sparingly in small amounts because flushes of new growth are more susceptible to leaf spot.  Choose “resistant” varieties such as “Olivia”.    This does not mean that this plant will never get this disease; it is just more resistant to the disease. Mulch like Cotton Burr Compost will help prevent splashes of water drops that could spread the disease.  Also, this mulch will lower the watering needs of the plants. Bioscience products like KeyPlex should be considered. KeyPlex will thicken the cuticle of the leaf making more resistant to the disease as well as more drought resistant. Pruning for good air movement.

4.      What control products will work best on this disease?  If you decide to spray, be prepared to spray often.  Honor Guard, Banner, Dithane (Mancozeb), and Kocide are good choices. These products should be used in rotation and according to label. When spraying these control products, an appropriate surfactant should be used if the label recommends one.


I am in yards all the time and leaf spot diseases are the most common disease I see in our Lowcountry landscape. I usually recommend replanting the area with plants that are not susceptible to disease; however, that can always change. I can understand spraying roses all the time with all the flowers they produce. Indian Hawthorn, one flush of flowers – ah, not so much.


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


Thursday, February 15, 2024

Last Minute Check List


Horticulture Hotline 02/15/24

By Bill Lamson-Scribner


The Tulip Magnolia (Saucer Magnolia) is blooming in the Lowcountry.  It is time to be sure the winter projects have been completed, and the proactive spring projects in the yard and around the house are in the works.


Trees grow. Some experts say around 18 to 24 inches at the tips of the branches all around the circumference of a healthy tree. Areas of grass might be shaded and thin that were once high-quality turf. Now, might be a good time to cut new bed lines and let the tree have more room to grow. Check the sides of your house for limbs rubbing the paint off your house. The paint protects your house like your skin protects you or like bark protects a tree.


Look above your roof line and see if any limbs are growing above your roof that could allow varmints (squirrels, raccoons, or the loveable possum) into your attic. Make sure your source of power to your house is free of limbs. Hire an insured arborist if you need some pruning done. Before a tree puts on new leaves, is a great time for an arborist to inspect the health of your trees.


Any transplanting or planting of new trees or shrubs should be done as soon as you can. Try to get them in the ground before the plant flushes out new growth or blooms. If you are buying a blooming plant that you want a specific color or to match a color you already have, you may have to wait to see that the bloom on the plant (do not always trust the tags) is the color you want; otherwise, the sooner you can plant the better.


When planting remember the Diehard Transplant or GroTabs, it is like yogurt (full of probiotics). Diehard Transplant adds all the good bacteria, wetting agents, and fungi into the soil that a plant needs to help with survival. Remember the old saying when planting, “plant it high and it will not die!”


Intice 10 perimeter bait is a great product to put out around the perimeter of your house for roaches, crickets, sowbugs, earwigs, silverfish, millipedes, and certain ants. Intice 10 is a LEED tier 3 product and N.O.P. (National Organics Program) compliant, so it is considered very safe.


Intice 10 should also be broadcasted in the yard for mole crickets. Mole crickets come to the surface on these warm days and love to eat this bait!


Get out your preemergent, or forever fight weeds!! Remember to treat you turf and beds, so you do not have to waste time battling the weeds. I usually wait until my bald cypress starts to “needle out” and then I go on an organic binge with SeaHume, Cotton Burr Compost, worm castings and others; however, this year I am already seeing new growth on some plants, so I guess it is time for the organics. Of course, anytime is a great time for organics.


If you have a history with fungus or insects on certain plants, sanitation, lime / sulfur, and your fungicide or insecticide of choice is good to put out now to protect the new growth. With these cloudy, overcast days brown patch / large patch has been flourishing in lawns.


Other things – make sure mower is good to go – air filter is key, check irrigation, treat for fleas (growth regulator is key) and ticks, take soil test, prune roses, work on breeding sights for mosquitoes, kill winter weeds before they make seeds for next year, spray neem oil or horticultural oils for overwintering insects, apply Dominion Drench to perennial insect loving plants…


Spring in the Lowcountry… Work hard, then head to an oyster roast!


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


Bill Lamson-Scribner can be reached during the week at Possum’s Landscape and Pest Control Supply. Possum’s 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 possumsupply.com. You can also call in your questions to “The Garden Clinic”, Saturdays from 10:00 AM to 11:00 AM, or listen to the replay of Saturday’s show, Sundays from 11:00 to noon on 1250 WTMA  (The Big Talker). The Horticulture Hotline is available 24 / 7 at possumsupply.com.