The Magic Garden

The grass is always greener somewhere else


We have a patch of lawn that was dug up for a sewer line. It is 100 by 10 feet and over 50 percent crabgrass. We have tried top dressing and extra fertilizer without success. What would you suggest?
Delores, Duluth, MN

The best weed control is a tight healthy lawn. I would cut the grass in this area down to a half inch. Rake up or collect the clippings in a catcher. Rototill with a heavy duty machine. You need to go at least six inches deep and preferably eight inches. Rake the surface with an iron toothed rake. Put down a high potassium fertilizer and rake it in with the iron rake. Put down a grass seed mix with at least 25 percent winter rye and the remainder perennial rye and blue grass. Rake the seed in gently with a wooden toothed rake. Roll the seed into the soil with a half filled roller. This will establish a base that feed the blue and ryes for the spring. If holes appear before the summer, fill with more perennial rye. Crabgrass seed germinates in early summer. Keep top dressing each year until there is no room for weed seed.

We had a terrible time growing grass here in Austin, Texas this year because of the drought and water restrictions. My St. Augustine grass turned gray and just got worse as the year went on. I used fertilizer and chinch bug control to no avail. Can I save it?

You need to apply a fungicide like Benlate now and in the spring. You also need to aerate your soil with a heavy duty aerator. Rake out the plugs and save them in a compost pile through the winter. Top dress the aerated soil with new loam and with a mix of 50 percent St.Augustine and winter rye. Stenotaphrum secumdatum has excellent lateral growth and will quickly fill in the winter rye in the spring. You can use gypsum as an amendment and additional fungicide this fall.

My Persian Lilac has root showing and dead branches. It is about six feet tall and against the cement steps. I tried putting top soil and lime on it but it does not help. What do you suggest?
Mary, Preston, CT

You will need to transplant the lilac when the leaves start to fall. You need not get a ball of dirt to have a good transplant. You can cut two feet off the top. This will help assure a successful move and make it easier to handle. Do not tear the roots when you dig it up. Cut them clean with loppers, if necessary. Use good loam in the new hole and no fertilizer for the first year. You may have few flowers, if you cut it back but you increase the probability of not losing the plant.

I purchased a Navaho Willow this spring. It grew to three feet by three feet rather quickly. I watered faithfully. It is a three-foot hole with plenty of humus and I used 16-16-16 fertilizer. It has turned yellow and then brown from the edges. What can I do?
Warren, Taylor, AZ

Stop fertilizing. You have fertilizer burn. Leave the plant alone except for watering when necessary. You gave it too much TLC.

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