Top questions; lawns, tomatoes and trees

Published 4:45 pm Wednesday, August 31, 2022

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I had a great time giving a talk to the Noon Rotary this past Monday. This is honestly one of the parts of my position that I really enjoy the most. I especially like not having a particular topic so we can keep it informal and talk about what the group is interested in. Talking to the Noon Rotary has the perk of receiving an amazing lunch from King Chicken in Washington as well!

In this talk, I gave a quick run-down of the top five questions I get and then took their questions.  I also discussed how to send pictures for identification while I had their undivided attention (meaning they couldn’t get away).

Many of the questions I receive go back to needing an identification of an ornamental plant, weed, disease, or insect. This can be from homeowners that are new to the area and would like to know what kind of plants are in their landscape or folks that have a problem weed or insect in their lawn. There are those pesky plant diseases that sometimes need identification as well. The best way to take a picture to send for identification is to make certain the picture is in focus on the problem area. Taking several pictures is ideal, one up close, one at a medium distance, and one showing the whole plant or weed. In the up close picture, be sure to use something to show a rough scale of your picture. This can be a pocket knife, keys, toothpick, or even a business card. Check your pictures to make sure they are good and in focus before emailing them to me or the Master Gardener volunteers. I do not accept pictures through text message because it changes the size and I can’t zoom in to see the problem area.

Now, on to some of the top five. I receive the most questions relating to lawns in a year’s time. Lawn questions account for 65-70% of all the help calls I receive. Most often, they are about centipede grass with a disease, weed, or abiotic issue. Often times it comes back to cultural controls to get their issue under control. Extension always recommends a healthy stand of turf to keep insects pests, disease, and weeds at bay.

The next most popular question is, “What is wrong with my tomatoes?” There are so many things that this could be I have to ask multiple questions before we can come to an actual problem. The number one issue with tomatoes in our area is bacterial wilt. The number two issue is almost always nutritional whether it be poor growth or blossom end-rot. All of these issues can be handled through cultural controls. Rotating your tomatoes (along with other solanaceous crops eggplant, peppers, and potatoes) so that they only grow in the same spot every third year is the best way to prevent bacterial wilt. Preventing nutritional issues can be remedied by soil testing every 2-3 years using the NCDA&CS soil testing kits. Once you send in your report, they will test it and send a recommendation for fertilizer and lime. Adding the correct amounts of fertilizer and getting your pH under control will prevent many of these abiotic issues such as poor growth and blossom end-rot.

I receive multiple questions about trees in a year’s time as well. Usually, the number one culprit is the Leyland Cypress. We use these as privacy screens in one form or another but they just don’t respond well to our humidity and water table in most cases. The big issues I see with these are phytophthora root rot, armillaria root rot, bagworms, and passalora needle blight. This really goes back to planting the right plant in the right place! This is not the right plant for most of our area. The other issue here is planting only one species in a privacy screen. When we create a monoculture stand of any plant, it is just that much easier for pests be it disease or insects, to devastate them. When planning a privacy screen, look at planting a minimum of three species. This will help maintain a healthy system that can better withstand pests and diseases.

If you have horticulture a question or would like a tour of the teaching garden, call the Extension Master Gardener Volunteers in Beaufort County or Gene Fox, the Area Consumer Horticulture agent at (252)946-0111 or please email Gene at Our Extension Master GardenerSM Volunteers in Beaufort County offer their Greenline service on Mondays and Wednesday from 10:00 – 12:00. Check out our Blacklands Area Horticulture page on Facebook, we have been revamping this and would love to have your feedback and questions there! Direct message us with your horticulture questions and we’ll answer them on the page! Give us a call and let us help you GROW.