If you have St. Augustine grass in your lawn, you need to check it for infestations of chinch bugs. I found some in my lawn last Saturday.
I knew something was wrong because early on with chinch bug infestations, the grass turns a little yellow and looks like it needs water even though it's been watered enough. So I got down on my hands and knees, looked among the grass and saw chinch bugs.
The reason I am so surprised is that chinch bugs usually cause no problems until August. I know populations build during the summer, but never in My 14 1/2 years in Augusta have I seen them do damage this early.
Beverly Sparks, an entomologist with the University of Georgia, attributes the early infestations to mild winter temperatures. And when we have dry weather, watch out for an explosion in the population.
They get even worse when we have water restrictions, but let's hope that doesn't happen.
If your St. Augustine is showing signs of yellowing and looks like it needs water, you'd better check it out. The best way to look for chinch bugs is to cut the bottom out of a large coffee can, then work the can an inch or so into the ground in a suspected area, and fill it with water. In a couple of minutes chinch bugs will float to the top.
Adult chinch bugs are about 1/6-inch long and are black with white markings. Young nymphs are half the size of a pinhead, red to orangish, with a white band across their back. The full-grown nymph is back and has a white spot on the back between the wing pads. The nymphs actually do more damage than the adults.
Chinch bugs damage grass when they insert a slender beak into the grass, inject a toxin, then extract the plant juices.
Chinch bugs are usually found feeding in open, sunny areas. They seldom bother grass that gets a good deal of shade. I've seen chinch bugs eating in sunny areas and not bother shady areas only a couple of feet away.
If you have a grass other than St. Augustine, you can rest easy. It's rare for chinch bugs to damage other turf grasses.
Chinch bugs are easy to control. You can use insecticides such as Diazinon, Orthene or Dursban. Insecticides should be watered in (Orthene is the exception), since chinch bugs are found in the thatch area.
There are three problems I am hearing about:
Blossom end rot. The disease is a brown, leathery, sunken area on the end of the tomato. Remove the infected fruit and discard it.
Mulch your plants and keep a more uniform moisture level. Apply calcium chloride (Stop Rot) to the plant. Go ahead and sprinkle some lime around the plant.
Early blight and tomato leaf spot. Both diseases cause the leaves to turn yellow from the bottom of the plant up. The leaves slowly turn yellow-brown as the diseases progress. You can spray with Daconil 2787 to help with control.
Bacterial Wilt. The whole plant suddenly wilts in a couple of days. There is no control. Pull the plants up and get rid of them. Do not replant in those areas. The disease spores can live in the soil for up to eight years.
Sid Mullis is director of the University of Georgia Extension Service office for Richmond County. Call him at (706) 821-2349, or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Richmond and Columbia county offices have a Web page at www.griffin.peachnet.edu/ga/columbia.