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Agriculture Today

Succeed with grass, herbs

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April 19, 2011 | 3,183 views | Post a comment

Q.I live in a very rural area and my yard is a combination of some grass, some coastal, and some weeds. However, I have cultivated the “some grass” to the point that it looks pretty good.

My question is about spreading grass seed to the whole 1-acre fenced area. What is a good time for me to spread the seed, what kind should I use in this area, and how much should I spread? After you spread it, do I have to roll it in or can it just be watered in?

A. You probably have two choices. For a lawn that gets mowed every week, use Bermuda grass seed. I like common Bermuda. It should be planted after April 15. If you want a more natural planting that does not get mowed very often, consider one of the native grass mixes. Douglas King Seed Co. in San Antonio will mail it to you if you don’t have a source in your area. Find them on the web. Plant the mix after April 15 as well. The seed needs to reach soil so the organic material needs to be cleared as much as possible. Rolling helps but is not necessary.

Q.I am hoping you can help with a gardening question. I have an extensive container garden on my back deck, where I grow mostly herbs. We are cooking fanatics, and we enjoy going out and snipping fresh herbs for our dishes.

Something new is happening this year. In the past, I’ve planted parsley -- curly leaf and Italian -- celery leaf, and fennel frond with no problem at all -- other than the spring caterpillars, which I am able to control. This year, something is eating them all, right down to the dirt. (Too early for caterpillars, and besides, they just eat the leaves, not the stems.)

The offending critter leaves alone everything else -- thyme, rosemary, chives, mint, oregano, sage, and the few vegetables I have. I am grateful for this, at least, but I would really like to have at least parsley outside.

Any ideas/suggestions?

A. I cannot think of anything obvious and would need more information to determine what else might be involved. With the limited green material and water out in the landscape this winter it could be squirrels, rats, and even birds in addition to insects. Try covering a new plant with bird netting or agricultural fabric. Spray another new plant with Sevin. If the Sevin plant is uneaten, the culprit is an insect. If only the fabric-covered plant is uneaten, it is probably birds. Put a baited (peanut butter) live trap or rat trap out to catch the mammals.

Q.My snapdragons got burnt by the freezes this winter pretty badly and now they have a yellowing leaf. Under the leaf is a red powdery material. Is it a disease? What should I treat it with?

A. The symptoms you describe are caused by rust, a fungus disease. Most snapdragons catch it each year when temperatures get hot. Pull the plants; there is nothing that works as a treatment. It is time to plant zinnias.

Calvin Finch is a horticulturist and the San Antonio Water System’s project director of regional initiatives and special projects. Hear him on “Gardening South Texas” on KLUP 930 AM radio Saturdays noon to 2 p.m., and 1-3 p.m. Sundays. Or, e-mail him at reader@wcn-online.com.

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