By Brent Gray
Spring has arrived and many of us have already or will begin soon mowing, watering and fertilizing our lawns which are key task in keeping our lawns beautiful. However, these lush attractive lawns are often magnets to entice insects and diseases. To prevent them from causing major destruction to the lawn it is important that we learn how to identify their presence and select management strategies that will keep them in check. Insect damage is often times misdiagnosed as a disease or vice versa and applying an insecticide for a disease problem or a fungicide for an insect problem will not only be ineffective but also a waste of time and money.
Developing a few scouting routines now as your lawn begins to break winter dormancy will help you better control these lawn pests throughout the growing season. At least once a week take the time to walk your lawn looking for subtle signs of turf turning off color, thinning, or ragged leaf tips. Bend down closely to the ground or better yet get on your hands and knees and part the turf canopy looking for small critters such as caterpillars, small bugs, etc. Notice if leaves have chewed ragged edges, tiny lesions within the leaf blades, or perhaps soggy decay at the base of leaf blades. Observe whether the damage is in circular patterns or uniformly across the entire lawn. If you find any of these symptoms then identify the pests or collect samples and have someone identify them for you then treat appropriately. The Extension web at www.MSUcares.com has several good publications that will help you properly identify your lawn pests and give recommendations for their management. A good start would be publications #1322 “Establish and Manage Your Home Lawn” and publication #2331 “Control of Insect Pests in and around the Home Lawn”.
If you haven’t already, you need to start a regular fungicide/insecticide spray program on your fruit trees. A pre-mixed product that combines both a fungicide and insecticide, which is labeled for fruits, would be easier and more economical than buying the individual pesticides and combining your own. Talk to the folks at a local farmer’s co-op or garden center to get the best product to meet your needs. Be careful when mowing in orchard areas not to hit the bark of fruit trees with the mower. Any damage to the bark will provide an entrance place for borers.
Green Beans have been in the news lately. Green bean galaxies are a new type of cosmic body concerning collapsing quasars. Here on Earth Dwarf Velour is a new bush bean with purple pods. Fans of Louisiana Purple pole bean may want to try this bush version with deeper purple colored pods that turn green when cooked. Rockport is a new green bean specifically selected to be cooked whole. Grill masters may want to use this bean for those special dishes. Sage and Cassidy are two new varieties which produce slightly straighter beans a day or so earlier than old favorites like Provider and Contender. New varieties are seldom on seed racks in stores. You will probably have to order these seed from catalogues or on line.
Cold fronts passing through Mississippi are making it difficult to decide when to plant Spring plants. Tomatoes, peppers, and other warms season crops shouldn’t be exposed to temperatures below thirty two degrees, but the calendar reminds us that June and ninety degree temperatures are less than seventy days away. Gardeners can protect their plants in the garden by covering them with buckets or planting pots. The covers should be put on before sundown and removed when temperatures are in the mid-forties. Many gardeners will place a weight on top of the bucket to keep it in place. Some gardeners invest in spun bonded polyester or polypropylene blankets specifically made for frost protection. These specialty cloths have the advantage of not needing removal until the temperatures climb into the sixties. Other frost protection measures include hot caps, bed sheets or blankets, plastic sheets, and other covers that have to be put on and removed just like the buckets. One method uses the heat releasing properties of water. The commercial version is called Walls o’Water and is a container designed to be placed around the plant and filled with water. The poor man’s version is clear two liter or gallon containers placed around the plant and filled with water. The water absorbs heat from sunshine and releases it a night to keep the plant warm. Miniature green houses can be placed over plants by setting a tomato cage around the plant and covering the cage with clear plastic food wrap. These mini-greenhouses have to be carefully monitored since temperatures can be high enough to kill plants on very sunny days.
If you haven’t already, prune away any winter cold damaged branches. Fertilize figs with a 15-15-15 fertilizer and apply lime if a soil indicates it is needed. Use about ? pound of 15-15-15 per three feet of height. This application should be repeated in July. Mulch figs with well-rotted compost or other organic mulches.
Fertilize blueberries lightly with an azalea-camellia fertilizer, but do not lime them. Blueberries can be damaged by over-fertilizing. Mulching is recommended as blueberries tend to be shallow rooted and mulching would help to conserve moisture and have other benefits as well.
Grapes and Semi-Bush Fruits
Finish fertilizing grapes and semi-bush fruits (blackberries, raspberries) with 15-15-15. Use about 2 pounds per vine on established, producing grapes. Use on pound per plant on young (1 to 3 years old) semi-bush fruits, and two pounds per plant for older semi-bush fruits. This is usually done once a year. Replace mulch around semi-bush fruits and grapes with fresh pine straw or other mulch.