Ask the Master Gardeners: April 2013
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April 1, 2013
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Q: Is it time to fertilize? Can I use weed and feed?
A: Doug Welsh, in his Texas Garden Almanac, is particularly adamant about not using weed and feed fertilizer because the timing for weed control and feeding is so different. Spring lawn fertilizer is put out in the spring after you have mowed a couple of times, while summer weed control herbicides are applied in late winter (February for here). Fall fertilizing is done after the first frost and the lawn has stopped growing which is usually mid October through November, while pre-emergent herbicides are applied in August or September.
Post emergent herbicides can’t tell the difference between a weed and a tree or shrub. Welsh suggests that if your lawn is properly mowed, fertilized and watered, weeds are seldom a major problem. In fact, my husband carefully sprays a dot of glyphosate in the center of dandelions to take care of our lawn weed problem. Over a period of five years we have finally eliminated grass burs by digging each plant before we mow. The first year was terribly back breaking. Now, however, there are only a few near our neighbor’s yard.
Q: How short can I mow my lawn?
A: According to Welsh, the optimal height for common Bermuda is one to three inches (or three fourth inch to two inches for hybrid Bermuda). The height for St. Augustine grass is three to four inches. Make sure you have a mulching lawn mower. Those grass clippings decompose rapidly and provide nutrients for your lawn. Mowing at the highest recommended height helps your lawn withstand heat and drought. Taller heights develop deeper root systems.
Q: I don’t have room for a garden. What can I plant in a pot?
A: This is a question I get frequently. Almost anything will grow in a pot as long as you remember to water. Some of my bigger pots (the blueberries) are hooked up to my automatic drip irrigation system. My Mexican lime is near the house so I have to remember. Tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, cucumbers and squash (with a trellis), broccoli and many others will all grow well in pots. You must have 6 to 8 hours of sun. My pots are on the east side of the deck so do well.
If you are still wary of planting vegetables, why not try herbs. They are useful as well as beautiful. In fact, my culinary sage is in full bloom right now. Other herbs that can be planted now are different types of basil, chives, garlic chives, dill (also a good butterfly larva plant), Mexican mint marigold (use instead of tarragon or anise), Mexican oregano, many different mints, oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme. I have my sweet bay laurel in the ground, but my daughter-in-law has hers in a pot and it does just fine. I always keep a pot of parsley near the house for instant use. At a meeting recently someone made a dish of tabbouleh which had chopped parsley, mint, tomatoes, and green onion; this was mixed with olive oil, lemon and cracked wheat. Delicious!
Clara Mae Marcotte is a Texas Master Gardener with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. If you have a question to be answered, call the Master Gardeners at 830-379-1972 or leave a message to be answered. The website is guadalupecountymastergardeners.org. The Master Gardener research library is open Mondays from 8:30 to noon, on the second floor of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension building, 210 East Live Oak in Seguin.