Smith County Master GardenersTexas A&M AgriLife Extension Service
Columns written by Greg Grant and a Smith Co. Master Gardener which appear each Sunday on the Gardening page in the Tyler MorningTelegraph, are posted here.
by Greg Grant (Aug 2, 2020)
Chinch bug damage
Chinch bugs are a common pest of St. Augustine grass and often cause significant damage or death during the hot summer months. Typical damage looks like drought stress but doesn’t respond to watering. While St. Augustine grass is the only turfgrass to suffer severe damage from chinch bugs, they can also feed on centipedegrass, zoysiagrass, and bermudagrass. However, feeding on these grasses usually occurs only when they are grown next to St. Augustine grass and the damage on them is typically minor. Chinch bug damage is almost always in full sunny areas next to the reflected heat of sidewalks, walls, and streets.
Chinch bugs go through gradual metamorphosis changing from eggs, to nymphs, to adults. The adult chinch bug is 1/8 to 1/10 of an inch long with a black body and white wings. The wings fold over the body giving somewhat of a silver X appearance. During the winter, adults are the most common life stage, but nymphs and eggs can also be present in small numbers. Chinch bugs go through five life stages (instars). Though small, the nymphs and adults are visible to the naked eye. After nymphs have matured, adult chinch bugs spread primarily by walking but can also spread through mating flights. After mating, females lay their eggs into the crevices of grass nodes and at the junctions of grass blades and stems. Eggs take approximately 2 weeks to hatch depending on the temperature, at which point the life cycle begins again. When present in the turf, chinch bugs of all life stages can be found in the thatch and at the base of plants. They damage the grass by feeding on its sap and injecting a toxin that kills the plant tissue. If left untreated, chinch bug damage can cause irregular yellow patches that may spread outward and ultimately kill the grass.
One factor that makes chinch bugs particularly difficult to control is that they hatch quickly and mature in 4 to 6 weeks. In Texas there can be as many as 3 to 6 generations each year. A number of active ingredients can effectively control chinch bugs, but timing the application correctly is a key to success. Many insecticide product labels state they should be applied before the eggs hatch, when 1st instar nymphs are observed, or when damage first appears. Therefore, it is important to scout for chinch bugs before significant damage occurs. You can do this by pulling back the turfgrass canopy and looking for nymphs and adults at the edges of damaged and undamaged areas. If chinch bugs are present and causing unacceptable damage, apply an appropriate insecticide as soon as possible. Many products that are labeled for chinch bugs recommend watering the product into the turfgrass canopy. This watering maximizes control by placing the active ingredients into direct contact with the chinch bugs. Always consult the product label for specific instructions on application rates, methods, timing, and safety.
Greg Grant is the Smith County horticulturist for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. He is author of Texas Fruit and Vegetable Gardening,Heirloom Gardening in the South, and The Rose Rustlers. You can read his “Greg’s Ramblings” blog at arborgate.com and his “In Greg’s Garden” in each issue of Texas Gardener magazine (texasgardener.com). More research-based lawn and gardening information from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service can be found at aggieturf.tamu.edu and aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu.
by Larry Hutson – August 2, 2020
If you are like most of us, the first thing you want to know when you go to a plant nursery is “what grows in East Texas?” Too many times we are all guilty of buying something that is pretty in appearance but doesn’t work out well when we plant it. Once you learn to embrace the plants that are native to East Texas, you will be a much happier gardener.
So you say “What Are Native Plants?”. Native plants are local and occur naturally without human help in a given area. Many have thrived in our soil for centuries. Native plants include flowers, shrubs, trees, grasses, and vines that you can use in your landscape. They produce flowers, fruits, and seeds throughout the year that encourage our wildlife such as birds and butterflies to our yards.
Once native plants become established to a soil and climate that they love, they require less watering and need no chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides to thrive. They withstand drought and are more resistant to attack by insects and diseases. Once you experience the beauty and advantages of Native plants in your landscape, you won’t have to worry about having a “green thumb”. Nature will take care of it!
Just keep in mind the advantages of native plants that thrive in East Texas:
. Need little maintenance
. Save water
. Save money
. Create wildlife habitat
. Provide natural character to your landscaping
The next time you visit a nursery, look for these native plants that will bring that desired beauty to your home:
. Trees— Drummond red maple, Sweetbay magnolia, Texas redbud
. Vines— Passion Flower, Crossvine
These are just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many choices! You will be absolutely amazed how little effort it will take to create a beautiful garden. Just sit back and enjoy the beauty of nature! It’s all at your fingertips! Think NATIVE!!!
The Smith County Master Gardener program is a volunteer organization in connection with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.