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Gardening Q&A

Ask the Master Gardeners: April 2014

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Guadalupe County Master Gardeners is responsible for this content, which is not edited by the Wilson County News or

April 1, 2014 | 7,960 views | Post a comment

Q: I know that you should apply spring fertilizer to your lawn after you’ve mowed the grass twice to make sure that it is actively growing and ready to use the fertilizer. However, I’m not sure how much to apply. I’ve been hearing about the overuse of fertilizer and the pollution of our creeks and rivers. Exactly what is the correct amount?

A: You do not need to apply more than one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of lawn. Doug Welsh in his Texas Garden Almanac, reminds us that we are probably loaded with phosphorus and should consider using a fertilizer with just straight nitrogen. I had a soil test done in my yard to make sure, and he was right. Nitrogen is all I need except for possibly some iron. Remember that the amount listed on the bag may be more than you really need. Do not fertilize before a predicted heavy rain. As Welsh reminds us, nitrogen and other fertilizer nutrients can easily run off into the storm sewers and then into creeks and streams. This nitrogen in the river can cause an algae bloom that uses up the oxygen in the water and kills the fish.

Q: How do you feel about using a bag of weed-and-feed instead of straight fertilizer on the lawn? Wouldn’t that save time and money?

A: It may sound good, but it’s not. The timing is off. Pre-emergent herbicides should be applied in late winter for summer control, while fertilizer is put out in mid spring after you’ve mowed a couple of times. In the fall, the timing is off again. Pre-emergent herbicides should be applied to the lawn in late summer or early fall, while the fall application of fertilizer should be after the first frost and the lawn has stopped growing. I am very careful with my use of herbicides because I do not want to lose shrubs, trees or my perennials. I did use a pre-emergent when I was trying to get rid of grassburs in the lawn but was not satisfied with the results. We eventually resorted to the tried and true method of digging them by hand. (This only works with small yards and takes a couple of years to get them all.)

Q: What summer herbs can I plant now?

A: Your cilantro will bolt from the heat, but basil is a good summer substitute for your garden. Try several different types and colors this year and sample the different flavors. My dill came up this winter and is almost ready to cut and dry. You can still plant it by seed in your garden. Mexican mint marigold is a favorite of mine. It has pretty yellow flowers and is drought and heat tolerant. Oregano is a very hardy plant. I’ve had mine for a number of years and it is spreading across the garden. I have to prune it severely each spring.

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 The Master Gardener research library is open Mondays from 8:30 to noon, at the Mary B. Erskine School in Seguin at the corner of E. Krezdorn and N. River.
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