Lawn and Garden Issues

Barrett A. Courville  |  8/26/2011 5:29:39 PM

Chinch Bugs

During the late summer months here in South Louisiana, it tends to be very hot and dry. One common insect that we deal with in lawns during late summer months is the chinch bug. Adult chinch bugs are about 1/5” long, about the size of an ant, with white patches on the wings whereas the young nymphs are smaller and reddish in color. These insects attack grasses by sucking out the sap in the grasses and causing the grass to dry out and possibly die. These insects are very destructive to St. Augustine grass, but they can cause damage to any type of grass that we have here in South Louisiana.

Since we are near drought conditions in South Louisiana, lawns are more vulnerable for chinch bugs. Chinch bugs will feed on grasses that are often in stressed areas that are in full sun. Usually damage begins in grasses that are close to any pavement; this is because the pavement will have a tendency to heat up the ground temperature that it is next to causing the chinch bug population to quickly increase. Damage from the chinch bugs can cause yellowing patches in the lawn and large, dry areas that appear to be dead or may even be dead. The symptoms may look like drought- stress areas in the yard - so close examination may be needed to determine if chinch bugs are present. If heavy infestation occurs, you can usually part the grass and see the insects below the grass line but above the soil. If you do not see the insects but suspect chinch bug damage, you can attempt to “float” the chinch bugs. What you will need to do is get a tin can and cut out both ends of the tin can. Place the tin can upright in the area where you suspect chinch bug damage and where you suspect chinch bugs to be present. Make sure to place the tin can half way on the damaged grass and half way on the non-damaged grass. Mix two tablespoons of lemon-scented liquid soap in a gallon of water and pour the solution into the tin can and fill it up about half way. If chinch bugs are present, they will surface to the top of the water in 1-2 minutes.

If chinch bugs are present in lawns, they can be controlled. Controlling the chinch bug population will greatly reduce any further damage to lawns and allow time for the damaged areas to recover. If treatment for chinch bugs is needed, there are a variety of insecticides that can be used for the treatment application. Remember that when using insecticides, always read the labels for proper application procedures and rates. With the proper applications, chinch bug populations can be controlled.

Soil Sampling - An Effective Tool when Preparing your Fall Vegetable Garden

On another note, with fall right around the corner, many people are starting to prepare their gardens for fall vegetables. It is important to know what the grower intends to grow in the vegetable garden because different vegetables require different nutrients and soil pH - both greatly affect the overall production of vegetable crops. If the grower does not know what nutrients are available or what the pH is in the soil, a simple soil sample can be taken for analysis. Taking a soil sample from a garden is very easy. To get an overall general analysis from the garden, select several spots throughout the garden and remove a vertical core (about 3-6”) from each selected spot. Combine the core samples in a clean plastic bucket and mix the core samples together by breaking the core samples up and mixing the dirt together creating 1 general sample. Once the samples are mixed to create 1 general sample, place the contents of the sample into a plastic bag and turn the sample into the county agents office so the sample can be sent to the lab. There is a $10 fee payable by check for each soil sample and an information sheet that will need to be filled out for the sample.

It is important to note that proper soil sampling needs to be done in order to give the most accurate reading. Do not provide samples that have recently been fertilized because the fertilizer that was recently applied will most likely be present in the soil analysis. Also removing any rocks, mulch, grass, roots, or other material from the soil sample will allow for more soil to be analyzed.

The soil test results will provide you with the texture of the soil, the soil pH, the soil fertility (the levels of phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulphur, copper and zinc), the amount of sodium present in the soil, and fertilizer recommendations based on the crops selected that are intended for planting. Soil sampling can be a very effective tool when preparing your garden for fall vegetables because knowing what nutrients are available and what the pH is in the garden will allow for greater overall production.

For more information, contact Barrett Courville at Jefferson Davis Parish office at 337-824-1773.

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