Now that summer is here, it’s time get ready to deal with that “infamous” insect pest known as the bagworm. Bagworms will eventually be out-and-about feeding on trees and shrubs in Carolina, both broadleaf and evergreen. So, how can you alleviate the damage caused by bagworm caterpillars this year? You can initially start by “hand-picking” any bags formed last year, before the overwintering eggs hatch, and place them into a container of soapy water or destroy them. This is very therapeutic and, if feasible, will quickly remove large populations before they cause significant plant damage. For those less interested in the pleasures of “hand-picking,” there are a number of insecticides labeled or registered for the control/suppression of bagworm populations including Orthene, Tempo, Dylox, and others.
The key to managing bagworms with insecticides is to make applications early and frequently enough in order to kill the highly susceptible young caterpillars that are feeding aggressively on plant foliage. Older caterpillars that develop later in the season, in the bags, may be 3/4-inches long, and are typically more difficult to kill. In addition, females tend to feed less as they prepare for reproduction, which reduces their susceptibility to spray applications and any residues. The bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. kurstaki is active on young caterpillars; however, the active ingredient must be consumed to be effective, so thorough coverage of all plant parts and frequent applications will be required to avoid having to deal with later stages. This compound is sensitive to ultra-violet light degradation and rainfall, which reduces any residual activity.
Spinosad, which is the active ingredient in a number of homeowner products (including Borer, Bagworm, Tent Caterpillar & Leafminer Spray; Captain Jack’s DeadBug Brew; and Monterey Garden Insect Spray) works by contact and ingestion (stomach poison); however, it is most effective when ingested and it may be used against older or larger bagworm caterpillars. The reason why multiple applications will be needed when bagworms are first detected is because bagworms may “blow in” (called ‘ballooning’) from neighboring plants. If left unchecked, bagworms can cause significant damage, thus ruining the aesthetic quality of plants. In addition, they may actually kill plants, especially evergreens since they don’t usually produce another flush of growth, and newly transplanted small plants.
Our Early Summer Tree & Shrub Treatment from LawnAmerica has an insecticide included which does a great job of bagworm control. We try to time this treatment to be applied just before the anticipated onset of bagworms, and other early summer insect pests.
Azaleas are a beautiful evergreen shrub which provide our Carolina gardens with a short but intense burst of color in the spring. A key to having success with Azaleas especially is to plant them properly and in the right soil. Azaleas prefer a more acidic soil pH, with a good amount of peat moss and pine mulch worked into the soil. They’ll grow best in straight peat moss in fact, which provides low pH levels and good drainage.
After the blooms are done, which is typically late May to early June, a good time for two important practices to help them to remain healthy.
- Pruning. Especially on older plants, prune a few weeks after the blooms are gone. Don’t wait until late in the summer, as the buds for next year will have been set, and you’ll be removing those, leading to poor flowering next spring. Use good, sharp hand shears to prune off individual stems that are too long, or running into other plants. Some azaleas can become quite large, so major pruning may be needed on these if they become too large. They’ll recover just fine.
- Fertilization. Again, after the blooms are done, it’s time to apply fertilizer. We use a custom 18-10-10 at LawnAmerica, which has mainly slow-release nitrogen, some extra sulfur to help lower pH, organic content, phosphorus and potassium, and some sytstemic insecticide mixed in to help prevent lacebug damage during the summer. Don’t overapply fertilizer, and water in well, following label instructions. And don’t fertilize after August 1st… the earlier the better.
Don’t neglect irrigation during hot summers also. I like to apply a fresh layer of pecan shell mulch each spring also to the beds, or pine mulch, which helps conserve soil moisture and helps keep soil pH levels low. As these decompose, it adds some good organic matter to the shrub bed also.
Need help with your azaleas? Sign up for our Azalea Care Program!
My peas have Powdery Mildew
With the rainy, humid, and cool weather we’ve been experiencing this May in Charlotte aqnd Asheville, fungus diseases both in turf and ornamentals are out in full force. Powdery Mildew is one disease that is host-specific to trees, shrubs, and some flowers and vegetables in the garden. Common susceptible plants are, euonymous, sprirea, crepe myrtle, oak, rose, azalea, crabapple and certain flowers and vegetables. I have a good case of Powdery Mildew in my little pea patch at home, but since we’ve just harvested them, it’s not an issue now. And yes, they were very yummy!
Powdery Mildew shows signs of a white, powdery substance forming over the surface of leaves. The powdery fungal growth can usually be found on the upper surface of the leaves, and often tends to begin on lower leaves. As the disease progresses, leaves can become dwarfed, curled and somewhat distorted. In severe cases, leaves can turn yellow and even dried and brown. As powdery mildew fungi grow over the surface of the plant, they develop structures that are inserted into plant cells and extract nutrients necessary for growth and spore production. This results in a general decline in plant growth and vigor of the plant, as well as the common visible symptoms.
Powdery Milder thrives in moderate temperatures and high humidities, which is exactly what we have now. As it becomes hotter and things dry out some, the disease pressure tends to go away. In the meantime, consider pruning to allow better air circulation and allow more sun exposure to dry things out. If you don’t want to use fungicides, application of a horticulture oil may help. Control can be provided with timely applications of fungicides such as propiconazole (Banner), myclobutanil (Eagle), and thiophante-methyl (Danonil). Eagle would probably be your best bet for good control. Spraying at the first onset of symptoms is best, and as always, follow label instructions.
If Powdery Milder occurs in fescue turf, it’s really not a concern. Just remove clippings if so, and as the weather becomes hotter and drier, the problem tends to go away.
With the recent spring rains, be on the lookout for Brown Patch turf disease soon in Carolina lawns. High humidities, excessive rainfall, and warm temperatures are the perfect ingredients for turf disease such as Brown Patch to develop.
There are three things that must be present for turf disease to occur…..a susceptible host, fungi present, and the right weather conditions. Fescue is a good host for Brown Patch, with some varieties more succeptable than others. Even bermduagrass can get Brown Patch in severe cases, along with Large Patch that is often found on zoysiagrass lawns. Fungi are present just about everywhere, waiting for the right conditions to grow. Fungi love warm, wet, humid weather, which is what we’ve been experiencing a lot of here lately, and will probably continue on into June.
We’ve had many of our lawncare customers, especially with fescue, experience Brown Patch problems in their turf, with yellow to brown splotchy areas developing and wilting of the turf. We can’t control the rainfall and humidity, so disease is going to happen under certain conditions. A turf fungicide can be applied on a preventative and curative basis, but these typically have about a 2-4 week residual. So repeat treatments are often needed for best results. Turf off your irrigation system and let the turf dry out some. When mowing, remove the grass clippings, to help remove some of the fungi present and allow better air circulation within the turf.
When it typically becomes hotter and drier in July, the disease pressure will go away usually. Fescue overseeding season is just a few months away in September, so damaged turf can be renovated with new seeding done then.
Fescue, along with some zoysiagrass and some bermudagrass are the three main grass types found in Charlotte and Asheville area lawns. And for these turf types to grow into a thick, green, and healthy turf, fertilization is a key component. Bermudagrass especially loves nitrogen, the main component in fertilizer, so it needs to be applied several times during the growing season for best results. Nitrogen requirements for fescue are less, and in fact can harm fescue if applied too much during the summer. This is why we apply an organic-based soil amendment to fescue turf during the summer.
There are all types of fertilizer for turf, with different timing of applications and rates. LawnAmerica fertilzer is the best, with from 25%-75% quality slow-release nitrogen in all blends. While many competitors just use cheaper quick-release nitrogen, we invest more into a fertilizer that is safer, more efficient, and better for the turf and environment.
So for more information on proper lawn fertilization, READ MORE.
At $59 for this bag, a professional can do it all for about the same price.
Many homeowners who try to do their own lawn care are subject to the weed-n-feed woes. They don’t realize it, or they would not purchase this product at the big box stores. When one pays $59 to purchase a bag of stuff that is supposed to “feed” your lawn and eliminate all weeds (it won’t), it’s just not a good deal at all when compared to hiring a professional such as LawnAmerica.
This particular product, with a well-known brand and a nice, fancy bag, says it will fertilize a 15,000′ lawn area. However, there is only about 13 pounds of actual nitrogen in this 47 pound bag. While this is enough for Fescue, Bermudagrass needs at least one pound of nitrogen per 1000′ of turf every month to perform well. With this, you’ll be applying less than a pound of nitrogen.
These weed-n-feed products have a herbicide applied on a light carrier, so that when it’s applied to the turf, the little granules are supposed to stick to the weeds with the herbicide then absorbed by the weed leaves. So you must water the lawn first so that the weeds are wet, the product is absorbed, and the weeds are killed. It’s not that easy. In reality, few of the herbicide-laced granules actually stick to weeds, with most being wasted dropping off into the turf and soil. Many weeds are more vertical than horizontal, so it’s almost impossible for any of the product to adhere to weeds. The only herbicide in this mix is a broadleaf herbicide, so grassy weeds and sedges are not affected at all with this product. And if a lawn just has a few areas of weeds, there is alot of herbicide that is applied over the whole lawn and wasted, let alone the unnecessary herbicide input into the environment.
When we treat a lawn at this time of the season, we’ll apply a granular fertilizer with more nitrogen in the bag, since having a percentage of slow-release nitrogen allows us to safely apply more at one time. Then our technicians will spot-treat with different liquid herbicides only where they are needed, using Integrated Pesticide Management techniques, or IPM. A typical lawn that has had our service for at least a year or so will only have a few weeds present, so we may only spray about a gallon or two of mixed product, with just a few ounces of actual herbicide applied. The key is that it’s only applied where it’s needed, and at the proper rates and products. This is a much better method of caring for lawns, with better results and less input of herbicides. And the best part is that a professional lawn service can do this for about the same cost as the price of that pretty bag at the box store! Plus, it’s guaranteed, or we’ll come back to spot treat any persisting weeds. Try taking your empty Scott’s bag back to the box store and telling them it did not work and you want another bag for free.
So don’t get the weed-n-feed woes this summer, just call a pro!
The reason they call it Nutgrass is not because it drives homeowners and lawn care operators nuts trying to control it, but rather the little nutlets in the soil from which it germinates. Nutgrass is actually a sedge and not a true grass. The main species we deal with in Charlotte and Asheville is Yellow Nutsedge. Purple Nutsedge and Green Kylinga are other species that we see in certain areas. Sedges love to grow in moist soil conditions, especially after times of rainy weather. Yellow Nutsedge has tall triangular stems, with narrow light green blades. After mowing, it is hard to notice. However it grows much quicker than existing turf, so a few days after mowing, it’s sticking up tall and scraggly looking. If left un-mowed for over a week, it can produce a spikelet seedhead, which is even more obnoxious looking! Each nutsedge plant produces hundreds of nutlets underground, which spread out along underground roots. This is one reason why it has exploded in populating many lawns in Carolina lawns and other areas. There are thousands of nutlets in a typical lawn just waiting to produce nutsedge plants. Once established in a lawn, it often forms larger areas of plants clumped together. Since it is a sedge, conventional pre-emergent herbicides do not stop it from germinating. It will come up starting in April, and continues to grow and take over lawns on into late summer.
At LawnAmerica, we have used a unique product named Echelon for the past few years for customers on our very best 6 and 7-Step Showcase Care Program for bermudagrass and zoysiagrass lawns. Echelon is a unique, and somewhat expensive product (as most new chemistries are), which is a combination of Barricade pre-emergent for crabgrass control and Dismiss Herbicide for nutgrass control. It’s the Dismiss that will not only control nutgrass that is up and growing, but will actually kill the nutlets in the ground also. Plus, Dismiss will control many summer broadleaf weeds, such as dandelion oxalis, spurge, and others. We have timed this special blanket treatment of Echelon to be applied from early May though late June, when Nutgrass is up and growing, along with other summer annual weeds. We also mix a small amount of our Soilbuilder Organic Soil Ammendment into the mix, giving these lawns a slightly deeper green color response. After an Echelon treatment, these lawns are pretty clean and free of nutgrass and other weeds. Plus, the extra Barricade pre-emergent herbicide applied with this helps prolong your crabgrass control longer into the summer. We also have seen that with this product being applied annually, there is a decrease in the number of nutlets in the soil, leading to less pressure from new Nutgrass germinating.
Echelon cannot be safely applied to fescue turf. So if Nugrass does come up in Fescue, we apply Dismiss only to knock it back. If you have experienced a bad nutgrass problem, as many customers have, this new product really works well! If you are not currently on our 6 or 7-Step Program, you can still upgrade to this service level if you contact us now. We can apply Echelon to warm season turf up until late June and obtain good results.
Photenia is a beautiful shrub for Carolina landscapes. It’s easy to establish and grows quickly, reaching heights of over 6′ within just a few years. If left un-pruned or with minor pruning, it can reach heights of almost 20′. It can serve as a nice wind or privacy block if planted in rows or groupings. They are evergreens, maintaining their leaves all season long. During the spring and summer growing season their leaves are a nice purple or red color, hence the variety named Red-tipped Photinia.
These tender leaves are susceptible to a common disease called Leaf Spot. Some photenias will have this every year, and others seem to be more resistant to it. It usually begins in early April as the new foliage blooms out, with small dark brown spots on the leaves. These can merge together to dis-color the entire leaf, and prevent photosynthesis from occuring, leading to plant health problems and even death if left un-treated. We recommend our Photenia Program for plants with a history of Leaf Spot Disease, with 3-4 treatments of fungicide sprayed on the foliage from mid-spring through early summer, when the disease pressure is at it’s peak. Warm, wet, and humid weather brings on higher disease pressure, so once we get into the hot and dry summer, it typically will not be an issue.
Do not water foliage of shrubs if at all possible, and do not irrigate in the evening causing the leaves to stay damp all night. Contact us for more information on how LawnAmerica can protect the health of your photenias by preventing this disease. We also recommend good pruning done a few times during the summer to help shape the shrub and prevent it from becoming too tall.
Every year at this time of the season we’ll have some customers contact us about all of these weeds in their lawns in Carolina. So with service calls being free in-between regular treatments for full program customers, our Route Managers will go out to spot-treat only to discover they are not really weeds, but small tree saplings that have germinated in the lawn.
Well technically they are weeds, as a weed is simply a plant growing out of place. And homeowners expect a lawn that is 100% berumudagrass, zoysiagrass, or sometimes fescue. Trees in the landscape and in the area are trying to reproduce like any other living thing, so they’ll produce thousands upon thousands of little tree seeds every year, and emit them into the environment where the wind, water, animals, etc. will disperse them. And some of them end up germinating in your lawn and landscape.
It’s really not even practical to try to spray it, as once it’s mowed, the little sapling doesn’t have a chance to re-generate and grow. It’s not like a tree is going to grow in the middle of your lawn, unless you don’t mow it down and you want it there. Pre-emergent herbicides do not stop tree saplings from germinating in your lawn, so they will always pop up during this time of the season in late spring. These saplings don’t put any pressure on the turf, and will die out naturally after a few weeks. So if you have certain trees that are heavy seed producers in your neighborhood, expect an annual invasion of these little plants every spring.
We’ve enjoyed some much-needed spring rains in April and now into May, which is nice for the lawns and landscapes in Charlotte and Asheville. But weeds are flowers also, which is the way they naturally reproduce and do this by going to flower first. The best defense against weeds is always a thick, healthy, growing lawn, which makes it more difficult for weed seeds to get to the soil and helps choke out existing weeds. And even with a nice turf, and with spring pre-emergent herbicides applied, one will still have a few weeds pop up, especially in mid to late spring.
This is where post-emergent herbicides come into play, which are mixed with water and sprayed on existing weeds to take them out. Weeds are generally classified into two main groups…..broadleaf and grassy weeds, or dicots and monocots for those who paid attention in science class. Different types of herbicides are applied according to the main types of weeds they are. So other than a product such as Round-up or Glyphosate, the common chemical name, which kills anything that is green, good or bad, it pays to have a professional such as LawnAmerica make those decisions as to what to use and how to use it.
Spot-treatment for weeds present, and they usually are, is a part of our regular lawn care service programs. We practice something called Integrated Pest Management, or IPM at LawnAmerica. This basically means we treat only for weeds if there is a weed on a spot-treatment basis for most of our applications. We do this mainly with a backpack sprayer with specific products intended to control certain weeds. So during the main part of the growing season, after applying a granular fertilizer or a liquid organic-based soil amendment to a lawn, we’ll go over it and spot-treat any existing weeds present.
Service calls are also free for full program customers, as long as it’s been less than 30 days from one of these regular lawn treatments. So we encourage our customers to contact us if weeds are persisting, as they sometimes can during rainy spells in May or June.