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Large patch disease potential increases with high moisture levels and high fertilization

April 30, 2011

The fungus (Rhizoctonia solani) commonly known as large patch (also referred to as brown patch) is the most troublesome lawn disease for many Southern lawns. While this disease attacks most lawn turf species it is most serious on St. Augustine and centipede lawns in the spring and fall. Large patch is most severe when temperatures moderate at night in the upper 50 and 60 degree range with midday temperatures in the 70’s and low 80’s. Once summer temperatures get into the upper 80’s and higher disease activity ceases until fall. As our Southern lawns transition from their dormant winter brown appearance to their renewed green growth of spring enhanced by milder temperatures and spring showers we as homeowners often attempt to speed things along by too early fertilization. Large patch activity is enhanced by high nitrogen fertilization, moisture on the leaf surfaces, and excessive thatch. Therefore, to diminish the incidence of attack be judicious with spring fertilization particularly with fertilizers high in water soluble nitrogen. We have no control over spring rain showers but if watering is necessary water early enough in the day to allow foliage to dry before nightfall, and maintain good mowing practices to manage thatch buildup.
Visual symptoms of large patch are brownish to gray irregular circular patches often with a narrow smoke-colored ring bordering the diseased area. These water-soaked or scalded spots can spread rapidly from a few inches to several feet in size. The fungus generally attacks the base of leaf sheaths where they join to the stolons. When the disease is most active infected leaves may slip easily from the stolons when pulled on and display a brown, wet, slimy decay at their base.
When large patch becomes severe fungicides applications may be necessary. For more information on large patch and other lawn diseases refer to Extension publication #1322 which can be obtained from your local Extension Service office or at web.
It is time to thin the crop on apple, peach, plum, and pear trees. Trees tend to set more fruit than their leaves can supply sugar  and the many fruit are small. Many times the tree will set so many fruit the limbs break. The small fruit should be about an inch in diameter or less when thinned for best results. Peaches should be thinned to one fruit per nine inch spur. This means no more than two fruit in a double hand span. Apples should be thinned to about half as much  as  peaches, one fruit every four or five inches. Pears are slightly father apart than apples, one fruit every six inches. Plums often self thin and can be left for a while to see what will remain on the tree, but early thinning to the same spacing as apples often results in larger plums and prevents limb damage from over production.
Vegetable plants damaged by heavy rain and high winds should be evaluated. Tomatoes, peppers, beans and other stemmed plants should be replaced if the main stem has broken below the first true leaves. Most leafy plants like lettuce, greens, and spinach should  be harvested to remove damaged leaves and observed carefully for diseases.  A preventative fungicide application should be applied in areas with extensive damage. Use the severe weather event as an indicator of which varieties withstand adverse conditions best.
Don’t allow the wet weekend to be an excuse for letting weeds get out of control.. Use the longer hours of daylight to remove weeds while they are small. Fifteen minutes in the garden  in the evening is a good appetite stimulant.
Butterfly Gardening
Colorful butterflies are a welcome addition to any garden. To attract more of these insects you will need to look at your garden through the eyes of the butterflies! You must consider their needs and blend them with your own wants and needs for your garden.
Butterfly gardening can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. You should make an effort to know the species of butterflies that can be attracted to your garden, their larval food plants, and which nectar plants grow best in your area. A good start on this information is the Extension publication IS#1661, “Butterfly Plants and Mississippi Butterflies.”
As with almost all forms of wildlife (including some of us), food is by far the most significant influence in a butterfly’s life. We are talking about two stages of life, which require two different types of food—the larval stage, where as caterpillars (some folks mistakenly call them worms), they eat vegetative growth, and the adult life, where nectar is their primary food source. Sometimes, we forgot about the first stage and only think of the pretty butterflies as welcome additions to our gardens.
“Worms” do turn into the pretty butterflies, so we need to have an assortment of larval food plants in our overall plan if we truly want to have a real butterfly garden. Some folks think of all caterpillars or “worms” as an ugly, repulsive creature that is eating their prize plants and that should be squashed upon sight. This is a most unfortunate attitude, as many of them, upon close inspection; rival their final winged stage in patterning and coloration. So, to be a successful butterfly gardening we need to cultivate a tolerance for the larval stage and incorporate larval food plants in our yards and gardens.

Article from Dr. Lelia Kelly, Dr. Wayne Wells and Dr. David Nagel of Mississippi State University Extension Service.

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