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Agriculture Today

Sideoats grama, state grass

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October 12, 2011 | 2,842 views | Post a comment

Q. I saw some sideoats grama at the nursery the other day. It looked interesting. Please tell me a little about it.

A. Sideoats grama is the state grass of Texas. It also has landscape value as an ornamental grass. It grows to 3 feet tall, but is often shorter in poor soils. The foliage is less upright than the other ornamental grasses, so it is not as effective as a specimen plant. Use sideoats grama as a groundcover. The oak-like seed heads add to the interest by laying over the planting like a cap. Sideoats have some shade tolerance. It is also a favorite butterfly and bird-feeding plant.

Q.We have not seen any spider mites on our tomatoes yet this fall. Do you think we need to use our usual neem oil/seaweed extract preventative spray?

A. That would be the safest thing to do. Neem oil/seaweed spray (2 tablespoons of extract per gallon of water) is not a perfect control, but seems to slow them down if you cover the underside of the leaves every week.

Q. My grandchildren visited last weekend. They had a wonderful time watching the hummingbirds on our sugar water feeders, pentas, and firebush. How much longer should we feed the hummingbirds?

A. I provide sugar all year. Usually there is a rufous hummingbird that hangs out most of the winter. The golden fronted woodpeckers and house finches in my neighborhood have also learned to use the sugar water.

Don’t worry about the sugar water encouraging hummingbirds to stay. The experts agree they are independent of the feeders. Most leave in November.

Q.Is it time to fertilize the lawn?

A. Yes, apply a “winterizer-labeled” formula to contribute to winter hardiness and a fast green-up in the spring. The most common formulas seem to be 15-5-10 or 18-6-12. Both work well.

Q.We have limited space. Which of the cole crops is the most productive? We like broccoli best.

A. You are in luck, broccoli is very productive. Plant transplants now for a big harvest in November and December. After the large initial heads are used, the plants produce smaller heads into early spring. Collards, mustard, chard, and other greens are also very productive. Brussels sprouts produce a lot, but not until early spring.

Q.Our Chinese pistache tree is producing fruit. Will it make a mess?

A. Probably not. The birds usually eat the fruit before it falls to the ground. The berries are also very small, so don’t seem to make much of a mess.

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

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