The Living Soil: Microorganisms (Infographic)

The founding theory of the Select Program is that “Healthy Soil creates a Healthy Lawn”. But what is “healthy soil”? Let's look at the factors that go into producing a healthy soil that benefits your grass and lets nature feed and protect your lawn. We'll start with microorganisms:

 

Pest Alert: Lace Bug

click images to enlarge

Azalea lace bug. Photo credit: Jim Baker, North Carolina State University, Bugwood.org

There are several species of lace bug that infest ornamental shrubs & trees in our area. While often found “in the wild”, their damage is minimal and they are well controlled by natural predators, in the landscape their numbers can become damaging on their favored host plants. Lace bug damage is common on azaleas, Japanese andromeda, mountain laurel, rhododendron, cotoneaster, Indian hawthorn and pyracantha.

Lace bug damage. Photo credit: William Fountain, University of Kentucky, Bugwood.org

Damage consists of tiny white speckles that indicate feeding damage. This damage can become so dense that the speckles coalesce, giving a bleached-out appearance to the leaves. Once damaged, leaves do not recover.

Along with the feeding marks, the presence of dark, shiny specks of fecal matter on the underside of the leaves is indicative of lace bug. The bugs themselves are small with lacy, semi-transparent wings and can be difficult to see. You may see glints moving around the leaf as light is reflected from their shiny wings.

Non-chemical controls begin with proper plant selection and location. It has been noted that mixed plantings are less affected by lace bug than mass plantings of the same plant. Plants stressed by drought or excessive sun exposure tend to be more affected. To minimize lace bug damage, plant in mixed groupings if possible and do not exceed plant's preferred sun exposure.

Adult lace bugs and black fecal specks. Photo credit: Jim Baker, North Carolina State University, Bugwood.org

Systemic pesticides or horticultural soaps or oils which have reduced risk to beneficial insects are preferred, as a healthy population of predator insects can greatly help in keeping lace bugs under control. Systemic pesticides can be applied in spring, and reapplied if needed as the product directs. Begin applying non-systemic spray pesticides as crawlers are seen in spring, and repeat at 7-10 day intervals, or as your chosen pesticide directs. For pesticide sprays, a thorough coating of the underside of the leaf is important to contact the insects.  Eggs can also be smothered in winter with dormant oil sprays.

**Always read and follow label directions for all pesticides.**

Lawns do That? More for National Lawn Care Month (infographic)

Cooling, sound controlling, oxygen producing lawns work hard to make your home and landscape more pleasant. Be nice to your lawn, it works hard for you!

Do You Know What's Best for Your Lawn? (infographic)

This is why for most homeowners, help with their lawn care needs can help make a poor lawn good and a good lawn great.

Pest Alert: Oak Lecanium Scale

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Parthenolecanium quercifex, oak lecanium scale. Photo credit: James Solomon, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

A sometimes severe pest of oaks, oak lecanium scale is recognizable by the very convex shape of the adult females. The brown to reddish-brown “shield” that covers the insects is nearly hemispherical, and protects the insect from many pesticide sprays. Lecanium scales feed by sucking plant juices from leaves. The feeding activity of large populations of lecanium scale is very taxing to the affected tree and can cause stunting and leaf drop.

Parthenolecanium quercifex, Oak lecanium scale. Photo credit: Brian Kunkel, University of Delaware, Bugwood.org

Lecanium scale also produce large amounts of honeydew, creating a sticky mess under affected trees. The honeydew can then cause a problem with sooty mold which can affect underlying plants and even surfaces like outdoor furniture, exterior walls or other objects and structures.

The best time to treat lecanium scale is in spring after the eggs have hatched and the vulnerable juvenile form (called a crawler) is moving around the tree to find a location to settle permanently and feed. Small trees can be sprayed with any pesticide labeled for soft scale control; larger trees can only be treated with systemic pesticides applied as a drench. Dormant oil sprays in winter can help reduce lecanium scale populations, but the pest can be difficult to control and generally takes several consistent pesticide applications that may span a few years.

To reduce the chances of lecanium scale affecting your landscape, minimize stresses to your trees and shrubs, including regular (adequate, not excessive) fertilization and supplemental irrigation during drought.

Project EverGreen: New Garden Select Helps Restore Parks & Ballfields

Baseball Field

April 6, 2016: This week New Garden Select helped to restore the playing surface at Penn-Wright Field at Greensboro's Barber Park in association with Project EverGreen The repairs to the turf will provide a safer surface for play and practice for local and out-of-state teams. Other industry contributors included our sister company Nature's Select Premium Turf Services of Winston-Salem, Site One Landscape Supply, and employee volunteers from Syngenta Lawn & Garden.

The project included weed control and fertilization, reseeding and top dressing, sod installation and replacement of the infield surfaces. New plant material and general landscape clean-up around the field was also done.

New Garden Select team leader Phil Stilson was part of the effort. "We were glad to be part of a group project partnering with other community businesses and organizations," he said of the restoration project. "We feel it is important to give back to our community and in this case especially rewarding as it is providing a safe green space for local kids to play."

The mission of Project EverGreen is to preserve and enhance green spaces where we live, work and play. New Garden Select and Nature's Select Premium Turf Services believe that healthier landscapes and safe places to enjoy the outdoors with recreation and relaxation is important to our community and all those who live, work and play there and encourages a better quality of life for everyone.

 

Survey Says: Americans Love their Yards and they are Important to a Home’s Resale Value

April is National Lawn Care Month so it is a great time to think about what your lawn and landscape do for you. Even in the age of the smartphone and T.V. show binge watching, the love affair with the American yard is not over.

According to an online survey commissioned by the National Association of Landscape Professionals and conducted by Harris Poll in May 2015, eighty-three percent of Americans think having a yard is important. Here are a few insights about the value of our lawns and backyards. 

Your neighborhood’s landscaping is important. Americans (91%) want to live in an area where they can see or walk to nice landscaping. So if you want the best chance of increasing the home prices in your neighborhood, make sure the landscaping looks good.

Nice landscaping helps to sell your house. Eighty-four percent say that the quality of a home’s landscaping would affect their decision about whether or not to buy. Great neighborhood landscaping helps, but it isn’t enough; yours needs to look good too.

Your neighbors care what your yard looks like. Seventy-one percent think it is important that their neighbors have well-maintained yards. Perhaps “good landscaping makes good neighbors” should be the new adage.

We want to enjoy our yards. Seventy-five percent of people feel that it is important to spend time outside in their yards.

Despite common misperceptions, even Millennials want to spend time in their yards. Seventy-five percent of Millennials (18–34 year olds) think spending time outside in their yards is important.

People want help with their landscape. A large majority of Americans (67%) agree that professional landscape help would allow them to have a nicer yard.

So, this April, don’t take your yard for granted: make the most of it and it will return many financial and emotional benefits. 

Photo Credit: NALPPhilippe Nobile Photography by National Association of Landscape Professionals

You can Still Prune Crape Myrtles

Also posted at newgarden.com

Crape myrtle pruning

Crape myrtle pruning

It’s not too late to prune your crape myrtles now. While we consider late winter to be the ideal time to prune crape myrtles, now (early spring) is also OK for pruning them. Unlike some other flowering plants, crapes will develop their flower buds on new growth-as long as you don’t miss too much of the early growing season you’ll hardly notice a difference in bloom time. And if you’re a little late…bloom time will just be delayed by a short time. So go ahead and tidy up your crapes with these instructions.

If leaves have not yet or have just barely appeared, you're safe to prune with little effect. Pruning as late as May will likely cause some delay in bloom time, and pruning later than May may delay bloom noticeably but will not harm the tree. Any branches you leave untouched will be unaffected, so as with any tree, removing poorly placed or dead/broken branches can be done at any time.

How to Control and Remove Sooty Mold

Sooty Mold on holly

Problem: A black crusty coating covering the leaves of shrubs or other plants*. You determine it is sooty mold. 

Solution: Sooty mold usually means an infestation of aphids, scale or whitefly. If you can't find the culprit on the plants with the sooty mold, look up. If the affected shrubs are beneath a taller tree or shrub, the culprit may be infesting the branches overhanging them.

Sooty mold grows on the honeydew dropped by many sap-feeding insects (most commonly aphids, scale and whiteflies). The honeydew is a sugary liquid that the insects excrete as waste. Sooty mold in itself does not feed on plant tissues or cause damage, but it can block enough sunlight to affect photosynthesis which can weaken the plant over time. It is also very ugly and difficult remove (more on that in a bit).

The first step is to identify and treat the insect causing the problem:

  • soft or armored scale (look like small turtle shells affixed to the stems and/or leaves, sometimes very well-camouflaged in color or texture. Egg sacs are often wispy and white),
  • aphids (small green, yellow or tan insects with thin legs & antennae, wooly aphids look a bit like tiny sheep) 
  • whitefly (tiny, white-winged flies).

Luckily (?), a population of insects large enough to cause a sooty mold problem is usually pretty easy to spot and identify. Controlling the insects will stop the rain of sugar water that feeds the sooty mold.

The mold itself is difficult to remove, but you can hasten the rate at which it naturally weathers off. Spraying the leaves with insecticidal soap can help soften the sooty coating. Spray late in the day so the soap remains moist for as long as possible. If you can spray a few hours before a heavy rain is forecast the rain will be better able to remove the sooty mold.

If the plant has a rugged leaf, like holly or gardenia, you can follow the soap application with a strong jet of water from your garden hose after you've given the soap a little time to soften the mold. Be careful with softer-leafed plants and new growth, as a strong water stream can tear or bruise leaves. You’ll probably have to repeat the process a few times to wear the coating of sooty mold off over time.

If your insect eradication was successful, you’ll see that new growth on the sooty mold affected plants will remain fresh and clean. The mold does not spread without the honeydew to grow on, so new sooty mold indicates a continuing insect problem.

*Sooty mold can affect non-plant items also. Outdoor furniture, swing sets, grills and other items under insect affected trees can begin to grow a coating of sooty mold if they get covered with honeydew. Fortunately, once the insects are controlled, these items are easier to scrub clean of the mold. Here’s a recommended cleaning solution for plastic or painted surfaces affected by sooty mold:

  • Powdered household detergent - 1/3 cup
  • Household liquid bleach - 1 qt.
  • Trisodium phosphate - 2/3 cup
  • Water - 3 qts     

Be sure to wear rubber gloves when cleaning with this solution. Do not use this solution on plants!

Cleaning solution recipe from the U.S. Forest Service

What to do Now for a Beautiful Summer Lawn

As the days start to get longer and warmer, thoughts of a beautiful, green, weed-free yard start to surface. The key to reaching the goal of a great lawn in summer is to start now.

A soil test is the best way to get started.  You should test the soil at least every two or three years for established lawns. Guilford County extension office has free of charge sample boxes and instructions on how to take good soil samples. You can also pick up free sample boxes at our New Garden Village location. The results will tell what the grass plants want to help them grow. Soil sample results will recommend the amount of nutrients to be applied and the product label will tell you how to apply.

Cool-season grasses (Kentucky bluegrass and fescues) should be fertilized in February around Valentine's Day, with an additional application in March if testing indicates higher fertility levels are needed. Slow release formulations will avoid a sudden surge of growth that will require more mowing.  By their nature, organics are slow-release fertilizers and feed your lawn gently.

Warm-season grasses (Bermudagrass, centipedegrass and zoysia) should not be fertilized until the warmer months. Application for warm-season grasses is every other month for average soils, and monthly if your soil tests indicate soil fertility is low. Fertilizer application to warm-season grasses during colder months can result in cold damage.

Most soils in the Piedmont are acidic, so lime application is beneficial for cool-season grasses, which need a pH of 6.5 to 7.0 to adequately take up available nutrients. Don’t lime centipedegrass lawns without a soil test-it prefers a lower pH of 5.5. A basic rate is 40 lbs. per 1000 sq. ft. Lime can safely be applied at any time of year.

Keeping weeds out of the lawn also starts now.  Applying a pre-emergent herbicide between February and April will stop crabgrass and many other weeds from making an appearance this spring. The pre-emergent can be applied with the lawn fertilizer, or you can find it as a time saving combo product that contains both fertilizer and pre-emergent. For those who prefer organic approaches, corn gluten meal can be an effective weed preventer when used as directed, but application rates and timing must be precisely as indicated on the package.

You do have options when your plans for a beautiful lawn exceed your available time (or desire) to do lawn maintenance. New Garden Select offers both traditional and Select (biologically enhanced) lawn maintenance programs, with custom blended formulas based on your soil analysis. With either option, you don’t have to worry about the right time or product to apply to have a beautiful, healthy lawn.

 So whether you’re a “do it yourself-er” or prefer to have someone else care for your lawn, maintenance care now can pay off in a beautiful lawn for you to enjoy this summer.

A variation of this post appeared on newgarden.com in February 2013