NDSU Extension Service
Q: Buffalograss is
invading my lawn. There are some fairly large patches so the yard resembles
a patch-work quilt. Would a severe power raking allow for the introduction
of bluegrass or fescue? Currently the buffalograss is just starting to
show signs of growth. (Mott, N.D.)
A: Power raking
will encourage buffalograss growth. If possible, advertise that you
have buffalograss available. Have them cut it out with a sod cutter.
I'm almost certain that, in your part of the country, there will be
some takers. They can cut it into plugs and plant it on their property.
Seed where the buffalograss was and begin using cultural practices that
encourage a cool-season grass to grow.
Q: I’m sending
you an article on Zoysia grass. Are you familiar with it? It sounds too
good to be true. Also, is there any liquid spray for crabgrass? I have
about four acres to mow so it’s not economical to use a granular.
If I use Post over tree roots, will it kill the tree? (Browns Valley,
A: It happens every
year without fail that, when the Zoysia ad appears in the paper, I get
inquiries about growing it in our region. If I knew when the ad was
coming out, I would take one opposite to it and say, “Don’t
believe it - it is too good to be true!” Zoysia is a warm-season
grass that does well in transition zones such as Missouri, Kansas and
Nebraska. It greens up when the temperatures are dependably above 70
and goes dormant (turns brown) when temperatures go below 40. Even in
areas where it thrives, it takes a long time to establish. Once established
it is a good lawn surface and in some cases, used on golf courses. For
crabgrass control, try to find a product containing fenoxaprop-p-ethyl
such as Acclaim. There are several on the market, and they are definitely
less expensive than granular material.
Q: We have four or
five houses in our development that have automatic sprinklers. The rest
of us water with hoses. When it gets hot in the summer, we run short of
water in our supply tank. We have to water on even or odd number days
according to our house numbers. How much water is needed for a lawn to
maintain a green color? How much water should a lawn receive per week?
What is the minimum? How long should an automatic sprinkler run to get
the right amount of water on the lawn? We have some people that want a
green lawn no matter what and they will use however much water they want
to keep a green lawn. (Mandan, N.D.)
A: Forget the odd
or even watering. Instead, water as needed. I know that probably will
not get approved, but on an odd or even basis, people figure they have
the right to water even if it’s not needed. As a sweeping generalization,
lawn sprinkler systems will deliver one inch per hour using a fixed
spray. With the rotaries that are used on larger areas, anywhere from
1/4 to 2/5 inch per hour is delivered. To figure out what one inch of
water is, calculate it on an acre-inch basis, which is 27,152 gallons.
If a 10,000 square foot lawn is being watered, that is approximately
23 percent of an acre, so 23 percent of 27,152 is 6,245 gallons of water
needed to apply one inch to 10,000 square feet. A Kentucky bluegrass
lawn, if it is not over-fertilized, and is mowed at the optimal height,
which is 3 inches with the clippings left on the grass, can get by and
still look green on 80-85 percent of the PET (Potential Evapo-Transpiration
- assuming an average of 0.20-0.25 of an inch per day) rate. The water
required is then about 5,000 gallons. People with an automatic system
should make sure no water is being wasted on drives, walks, sides of
buildings or streets. They should water in the early morning hours,
setting their controllers to start watering at 3:30 or 4 a.m. With the
fixed sprays, a run time of 20 minutes will deliver about 1/3 inch of
water. Not all exposures will need that much water each time (such as
the east and north exposures). They should not water to the point that
runoff is taking place because that is wasting water. Assuming there
is no runoff and watering takes place in the early morning hours, under
the worst conditions, the lawn would need watering three times a week
to deliver a total of one inch of water to keep the grass green. Now
that all of this has been said, one can greatly reduce the amount of
water and lower the water bill by allowing the grass to go dormant (turn
brown). Once in that state, a light watering every other week of 1/4
to 1/3 inch will keep the crown of the grass alive and allow it to turn
green once the cooler autumn weather returns and hopefully, more frequent
rainfall. Wind is another issue. It is stupid and very wasteful to run
an irrigation system when the wind speed is above 10 miles per hour.
The sprinkler pattern is distorted, the application is uneven and water
is often carried onto non-living areas. If it’s always too windy
in your development, have the sprinklers refitted with lower trajectory
nozzles which will cut down on the drift.
Q: I am moving into
a new home that has arborvitaes around the patio for privacy. There are
some areas that are dead and no longer green. Can I cut it just below
the dead zone or should I just cut into a green area in late spring? (E-mail
A: At your earliest
convenience, cut back to where there is some green. Never leave a stub.
Q: The wind snapped
the top off our weeping willow. Is there any hope for it? (E-mail reference)
A: It takes more
than a mere broken top to wipe out a weeping willow. If it dies or is
dead, let me know. It might not look pretty, but it should survive unless
something else is wrong with it.
Q: I have a flowering
ornamental crab apple tree in my garden. The fruit doesn't fall off until
spring and then I have lots of raking to do. This is difficult, since
the plants in the garden are coming up so I have to rake around them.
Should I worry about cleaning up the fruit? Will it decompose quickly
if I just leave it? (E-mail reference)
A: The fruit that
is falling off in the spring is probably smaller than marble size, and
having gone through the winter, should be one step away from becoming
compost. If it blankets the soil in your garden and you consider it
unattractive, then pick up what you can easily and let the rest remain,
either turning it into the soil or mulching over it with sphagnum peat
moss or bark.
Q: Now that the fern-leaf
peonies are up, what should I do so they bloom the best? (Brookings, S.D.)
A: Not much for
now. Their culture is the same as for other peonies. You might want
to stake or protect it in some way against our prairie winds if it’s
a problem in your area.
Q: I heard about a
particular type of lilac bush that blooms multiple times a year. Can you
tell me what the name of the lilac bush is? (E-mail reference)
A: While there are
lilacs that bloom at different times of the year, I have never heard
of one that blooms more than once a year.
Q: My father recently
passed away and had a very large stag horn fern that he dearly loved.
My brother now has it but I would like to take a cutting off of it. Can
I do it without damaging the original plant? (E-mail reference)
A: It’s best
to propagate them from the spores on the fronds or from the little "pups"
at the base of the plant. They can also be propagated easily via cuttings.
Q: What is the difference
between long- and short-day onions? Is one better for storage than the
other? Does it have something to do with day length? Can you recommend
some varieties? Also, do you know if peaches will grow this far north?
A: Day length refers
to the bulbing initiation. In the north, ours are long-day varieties,
while the south has short-day types. They can’t be successfully
grown in other regions. Lack of bulbing or an undersized bulb is caused
by planting too late. In our part of the country, onions should be planted
as soon as the soil can be worked. There are probably dozens of varieties,
but some to consider that have been around a long time are Sweet Spanish,
Early Yellow Globe and Southport White Globe. Peaches will not grow
in our part of the country without an awful lot of manipulation on the
part of the gardener. It simply gets too cold! The minus 30 degree temperatures
do them in. Even if it should survive an unheard of mild winter, the
swinging spring frosts we live through would take out the blossoms.
Q: I was encouraged
to use a hibiscus plant as a nutrient for my hair, but I can’t find
out what is in the plant that is supposed to be so nutritious. Can you
tell me? (E-mail reference)
A: I am no hair
care expert, but I have heard that it is used to heighten hair color,
especially red hair, and give it a good sheen. I stand to be corrected
by anyone who knows more about this than I do!
Q: I know someone
that wants to change the spot he uses for his garden. He wants to move
some sod from the area where the new garden will be and put it in the
old garden space. Can that be done now or should he wait? (E-mail reference)
A: He should wait
until the grass is actively growing, which is after the third time he
Q: My godmother had
a crab apple that was red inside and made great applesauce. The tree blew
down several years ago and no one knows what variety it was. Any ideas
and, if so, where could I get one? (E-mail reference)
A: It’s probably
the same one that my wife uses to make red applesauce, the Dolgo. It
should be available on the market. Inquire at your local nurseries.
Do you have a gardening
or houseplant question? Write to Hortiscope, Box 5051, NDSU Extension
Service, Fargo, ND 58105 or e-mail to Ron Smith at email@example.com.
Note to e-mail correspondents: please identify your location (city and
state) for most accurate recommendations.
Smith, (701) 231-8161, firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor: Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136, email@example.com