GARDENER'S MAILBAG

Crabgrass prevention requires pre-emergent

By Neil Sperry | Published Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Dear Neil: How can I eliminate crabgrass in my lawn? I’ve had a small patch of it in the past, but this year it’s rampant. Why would there be so much now?

Crabgrass is an annual grassy weed. It germinates in early spring, grows and begins producing seed by early summer, and it continues growing and reseeding until frost.

Just to be sure we’re talking about the same grass, it’s light-to-medium green in color, and it produces short runners, 8 to 12 inches long.

The seed heads are borne above the grass, and they somewhat resemble helicopter rotors. If that’s what you’re seeing, it probably got a toehold during the drought and has taken advantage of your turfgrass.

There is nothing you can apply now to kill the existing crabgrass without killing your lawn grass, too. You’ll need to prevent its germination next year by applying pre-emergent herbicide granules (Halts and Dimension are two common ones.) a week or so before your average last killing freeze date and again three months later.

Dear Neil: A year before my father died he gave me a mulberry tree seedling from Georgia. My mother made heavenly jam from its parent tree. My tree is now 8 years old and has never produced a single fruit. Will it ever do so? It has grown well, but I am so hopeful to have fruit.

Be patient. It’s not uncommon for fruit trees that have been grown from seed to take that long to start producing. They invest most of their early years simply in growing to their mature size and form.

Mulberries are just a bit odd in the way they produce their male and female flowers. But one of the next several springs it will probably start producing, and it will never stop. I have yet to see a seedling mulberry tree that didn’t eventually have fruit.

Of course, it will grow best in full or nearly full sunlight. Hopefully it has that much sunlight.

Dear Neil: When do we trim oleanders? Mine have gotten really leggy. Last winter’s cold damaged them some, too.

They should be trimmed immediately after their main, late-spring bloom. It’s not too late, but you’ll want to do so immediately.

Do as little pruning as you can to lessen the chance of soft new growth and subsequent freeze damage. If there are dead shoots from the freeze, you can certainly remove them now.

Dear Neil: Should I freeze the seed from a really good peach before I plant it? Someone told me that I would get better results that way.

First and foremost, remember that no fruit crop will “come true” from a seed that you plant. It’s just the same as with us – we are not genetically the same as either of our parents.

Hybridizers plant tens of thousands of seeds to find the one good variety to name and introduce. If you want a quality peach, find out what variety you bought and buy a young tree that has already been grafted to be that variety.

However, to answer your question, you do not have to freeze the seed to get it to germinate.

Dear Neil: You mentioned some time ago when the best time to trim trees would be. When should we cut an Arizona ash back?

That one little word “back” puts chills up the spines of horticulturists. No established shade tree should ever be “cut back” by topping. Hopefully that’s not what you meant.

Topping is the quickest way to ruin a mature tree. In most cases, they will never recover.

However, assuming you’re just talking about removing a major branch or two, that kind of pruning is best done in mid-winter, while the tree is completely dormant. Truth is, however, you can prune most trees in the summer and fall just as well as in winter. Know exactly why you are pruning, and determine the best way to accomplish it.

Dear Neil: Will webworms affect the harvest of pecans this fall?

They won’t affect pecans as much as the drought will. While they’re certainly neither attractive nor desirable, webworms shouldn’t do much to reduce the yields of pecans.

Actually, pecan scab fungus, hickory shuckworms and pecan weevils are much more threatening to the yield than the webworms.

Dear Neil: We have recently been given a Japanese maple. Along with it came the instructions not to plant it where it will get sun after mid-morning. I had one in a similar Texas setting about 20 years ago, and it lasted maybe two years. What can I do to keep this one alive?

Those instructions were correct. Japanese maples are from much colder climates. As good as they are in the shade if they’re kept moist, they struggle with our Texas summers if they’re planted in sunny locations.

Their leaves will turn brown around their edges. As the season progresses, they can even turn brown entirely if they’re in full sun, especially in reflected heat near walls and driveways.

Plant it beneath another larger shade tree where it can benefit from the shade. Plant it into a highly organic planting medium that will retain water well. Keep it moist all through the summer, and it should be a handsome addition to your landscape.

Many of us grow them in pots, so that we can move them into shade and, at the same time, provide the very best potting soil.

Have a question you’d like Neil to consider? Mail it to him in care of the Wise County Messenger, P.O. Box 149, Decatur, TX 76234 or email him at mailbag@sperrygardens.com. Neil regrets that he cannot reply to questions individually.

Leave a Reply. Note: As of March 24, 2011, all posted comments will include the users full name.

WCMessenger.com News and Blog Comment Guidelines

You must be logged in to post a comment.