Neil’s Nagging Again

These are four incredibly important topics pertinent to this brutally hot summer of 2023. Double-check to see that you’ve heeded them.

Sunscald of tree trunks

Without protection from west sun, thin-barked trees like this red maple will be ruined by daily exposure to western sun.

Thin-barked trees must have their trunks wrapped for their first couple of years in your landscape. The list includes red oaks, water oaks, Chinese pistachios, red maples (Acer rubrum) and several others.

These trees were grown pot-to-pot in nurseries before you bought and planted your tree in full sun in your landscape. Eventually, their bark will be thick enough to protect them, but for the first couple of years you will want to use paper or plastic tree wrap to shield them from sunscald.

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Without the wrap their trunks will develop deep cracks on their west or southwest sides. Internal tissues will be exposed and the trees likely will be lost.

I deem this protection to be “non-negotiable.” I’m taking several calls and questions each week. Will yours be next? Wrap those trunks!

Chinch bugs

Chinch bugs will always return to hottest, sunniest part of a St. Augustine lawn. Inspect lawn carefully, especially if watering doesn’t correct symptoms of dry grass.

Chinch bugs are rampant right now in St. Augustine. They are the reason so many Texas lawns look like they’re burning up. It’s not because of high temperatures or sunlight. I shudder to think of next spring when people come out of hibernation and realize that their lawns aren’t greening up like they expect them to. Too often they forget that the St. Augustine went completely brown by mid-August and never got better. “The grass just burned up,” they will say. Or “Something ate it all up.”

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I heard that all spring 2023 due to the fact that the really hot weather of summer 2022 came in at precisely the same time that all the spring rains abated last year. Everybody assumed it was the heat and drought that did in their St. Augustine. Truth was, those were contributing factors, but the people weren’t noticing that their lawns weren’t responding to watering. That should have been the telltale evidence that chinch bugs were wrecking the grass. They can destroy big parts of a yard within just a few days.

I’m seeing a lot of chinch bug damage currently, just like last year. See this information on my website. Scroll down a bit to see the outstanding chinch bug photos from Mississippi. Look for them and treat immediately with a liquid or granular insecticide labeled for chinch bugs if you find them.

Deep soakings for new plants

Water breaker distributes water, even at full volume, so there’s no washout. It makes watering new plants by hand much faster.

If you have shrubs or shade trees that you planted this year, water them by hand. Use a garden hose with a water breaker or water bubbler. This is another one of those non-negotiable subjects. Sprinkler irrigation alone will not be sufficient. If you use sprinklers, by the time you get the new plant’s soil ball soaked all the way down, the native soil that surrounds it will be waterlogged.

Instead, you should use the hose with the breaker or bubbler every two days at these current temperatures and soak every new plant set out in 2022 or 2023 thoroughly. When you’re through, come back past them and soak them again.

Your goal should be to apply an amount of water equal to the size of the pot from which they were planted. A 5-gallon plant would get 5 gallons. A 10-gallon plant would get 10 gallons, and so forth. Do so every two days at 100F and every 3 days at 95F.

Pre-emergents for winter weeds

Time is near for applying pre-emergent granules to prevent cool-season weeds.

Pre-emergent weedkiller applications can be pushed back by at least a week this year due to the high temperatures and lack of rainfall. No self-respecting winter weed is going to germinate under these current conditions.

I’m going to cover this more fully next week. From the looks of things in the extended forecasts, that will be soon enough. The one thing I would suggest is that you get your supply of Dimension, Halts or Balan granules purchased and ready if you don’t have them already.

Preemergent weedkillers are hard to find for this early fall treatment. Most nurseries, hardware stores and feed stores sell down or sell out entirely after the spring season. You may have to ask them to order them for you. Talk to the store owner or manager. (This is precisely why I always advise shopping with an independent local retail business instead of the big national chains.)

Posted by Neil Sperry
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