Amanda is coming! Amanda is coming! by Bill Hayes

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That’s right, Amanda McNulty will be the guest speaker at the next Lunch Box Seminar to be held at the Aiken County Historical Museum, (Banksia) on June 20th at noon. Amanda is the charming and witty co-host of Making It Grow which appears on SCTV every Tuesday at 7:00 P.M. Her topic is “Hay bale gardening” and if time permits, she will also discuss how to enrich our sandy soils. We don’t know what she has planned for her hair decoration but you can bet that it will be unusual. Get there early since parking is always an issue.

It’s hard to pick a single topic at this time of year since so many things are going on in the lawn and garden. Let’s start with the lawn. By now you should have fertilized for the first time and your lawn should be coming alive. At the same time, if you missed a pre-emergence herbicide last March, the summer weeds may be starting to compete with the grass. Centipede and St. Augustine lawns need special care because of their weakness to many herbicides. If you have a weed problem and you can’t pull them all, look for weed killers that are labeled for centipede and St. Augustine. These chemicals are usually delivered at half rate to protect the grass while attacking the weeds. It may take a second application to get rid of the weeds but don’t be impatient and use too much herbicide to expedite the result.

Hydrangeas are showing up more and more in home gardens and they are in full bloom right now. New varieties of pink and white are now available to complement the many blue and purple types that we have had for years. The most asked question about hydrangeas is: ‘When do I prune them”? Let’s concentrate on Mopheads, (macrophyllas) since we have limited space. First of all, pruning may not be necessary if the hydrangeas are planted in an area large enough for the plant to mature. We tend to plant things closer than we should. If the plant needs pruning, do it soon after the plant finishes blooming. This would normally be near the end of June to early July. Prune these hydrangeas only in the summer BEFORE August (to be safe). Some experts believe these hydrangeas may be pruned even into August, but this might be risky. The hydrangeas may already have set their bloom buds for the next year.

For hydrangea types that bloom on “old wood” remove any dead canes. “Old wood” are stems that have been on the hydrangea since the summer before the current season. “New wood are stems that developed on the plant during the current season. This group of hydrangeas produce flower buds on hydrangea stems around August, September or October for the following summer’s blooms. If those stems are removed (pruned) in the fall, winter, or spring, the bloom buds will be removed, and there may be little or no bloom the following summer. All dead stems should be removed from hydrangeas every year. After the plants are at least 5 years old, about 1/3 of the older (living) stems can be removed down to the ground each summer. This will revitalize the plant. In addition, if it becomes necessary to prune a plant to reduce its size, it may be cut back in June or July without harming the next year’s bloom. But it will return almost immediately to its former size. This is one reason why it’s best to plant a hydrangea where it does not have to be pruned.

Some of the new hydrangeas are classified as remontant or re-bloomers. Endless Summer, Penny Mac and Mini Penny, David Ramsey and others are hydrangeas that will bloom from May until the first frost. These special hydrangeas bloom on old and new wood and should be deadheaded as soon as blossoms fade. This will encourage continuous blooming until fall.

We have been receiving many calls about fire ants. These are extremely dangerous insects especially when small children and pets may be playing in the yard. For complete information on control of fire ants go online to the Clemson HGIC website and download the Fire Ant Management for the Home Lawn. It will give you valuable information to keep your lawn and garden safe and free of this dangerous insect.

Speaking of insects, it’s time to watch out for chinch bugs in St. Augustine lawns. They can appear in any lawn but they really like a nice St. Augustine. There are several products on the market that will give seasonal protection at a very reasonable price. Look for products with bifenthrin, triazicide or imidacloprid.

This is also the time when fungal problems occur in the lawn. High daytime temperatures in the nineties, moist or humid conditions and night-time temperatures that stay above 65 degrees are perfect conditions to encourage a fungus. Watch for small brown areas that slowly increase in size. Apply a curative rate fungicide in a granular form and follow the label for a second application. My regular procedure is to apply a preventative liquid fungicide using a hose end sprayer. There are many products like this at garden stores that are pre-mixed and are available with a built in sprayer.

The Master Gardeners will be at the Aiken Farmers Market on June 4th form 8:00 A.M. until noon to answer any of your lawn and garden questions. Fire ant literature will be available. Also, be sure to get your copy of the Gardening Almanac for Aiken and Vicinity. This wonderful almanac is a must for anyone gardening in and around Aiken and is quickly selling out. It will not be reprinted this year so get your copy while they are still available. See you at Banksia!