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Friday, August 18, 2017

Fall is for Planting

Fall is a time for planting and now is the time to get busy with your yard and garden. This is the time of year when lawns are over seeded with rye, irrigation schedules get changed and fall bedding plants should be installed for color that will thrive throughout winter.

Lawn Transition
Your Bermuda lawn will become fully dormant and brown with the first frost. For optimum germination of your winter perennial rye seed, over seed when the nighttime temperatures are in the 60s for at least five consecutive nights and the daytime temps are below 95 degrees for eight to 10 consecutive days. The “magic date” here is usually mid-October. So, why am I writing about this now? Two reasons. Usually, people get the urge to plant rye seed when daytime temperatures begin feeling like fall, and this can be as early as late September. Put out too early, rye seed will merely lie there, rot, or feed the birds and possibly wither with too vigorous competition from the warm-weather Bermuda. Also, there are some maintenance steps and seed choices to take care of now. This will smooth the transition from a summer Bermuda lawn to a winter Rye lawn, and keep your lawn looking its best throughout the process.

Begin transition maintenance on your Bermuda by mowing your lawn at increasingly lower mower deck heights. Each week from now until mid-October, lower your mower deck slightly when you mow. Then, just before over-seeding with rye grass seed, de-thatch or scalp your lawn. This enables the seed to come in contact with the dirt and increases the germination and therefore the density of your lawn.

Before you consider purchasing rye seed for this year’s winter lawn, educate yourself. The kind of rye you purchase–the varieties of rye in the seed blend–have a dramatic effect on how much you will spend initially on rye seed for the over-seeding project, not to mention water for germination. The blend will also determine how the lawn will look and what maintenance issues you will encounter.

Types of Seed
There are three types of rye seed: annual, perennial and intermediate. Annual rye is characterized by a wide blade, fast growing (four to six inches per week), high water use, sometimes it appears rangy and has a high moisture content. Perennial rye has a much finer blade, lower water use, is slower growing (half-inch per week if fertilized with slow-release fertilizer), more dense, high disease and insect resistance, higher heat tolerance and lower moisture content. Intermediate rye is just that–an intermediate choice. It is somewhat courser than perennial, has a wider blade, but not as wide as annual and is faster growing than perennial. Intermediate rye is commonly seen on fairways at golf courses. For home applications, I always recommend perennial rye. Perennial rye, frankly, is a higher quality grass: it looks better, uses less water, gives off less clippings and the lower moisture content means the kids’ clothes won’t have those huge mushy grass stains when they come in from playing. Not to mention, the grass won’t clog up the mower deck with huge, soggy, globs of grass.

The primary objection people have to using perennial rye grass seed is the cost. This objection, however, is based on a myth that quality costs more. Not only will perennial rye grass cost you less in the long run with time and water, it only appears to cost more to use initially. When buying grass seed, the cost per pound confuses people. Annual grass seed may cost $0.79 per pound, while perennial grass seed may cost $1.64 per pound. While it appears that perennial rye grass will cost more, educate yourself: Read the seeding rate on the bag and do the math. The seed count, the number of seeds per pound, is almost double in perennial rye versus annual rye. You will be able to cover more area with 10 pounds of perennial rye than with 10 pounds of annual rye, and, invariably spend less overall using perennial rye.

Plant Rye Seed
Sow the seed in two directions to ensure even distribution. Spread half of it in one direction and the other half perpendicular to the first. I recommend applying seed with a broadcast spreader on a calm day. Seeding rates vary by blend, so read the label.

To save water and seed, cover the seed with top dressing mulch, a finely ground mulch, at a rate of one cubic yard per 1,500 square feet. Top dressing protects the seed from drying out and greatly aids germination. Manure is frequently used for this task, however, I do not recommend using manure because it frequently contains weed seeds, odor, and high-soluble salts that are detrimental to seedlings.

Water five to seven times per day, about one-eighth inch each time starting about 7 a.m. with the last watering about 6 p.m. Keep the lawn moist until germination is complete. After germination, the intervals between watering should be gradually decreased until the lawn is being thoroughly watered once or twice per week.

After sowing, pre-emergent herbicide may be applied to areas like flowerbeds where you do not wish seed to germinate. Amaze, Weedstopper (products containing Surflan) or Barricade pre-emergent herbicides will keep beds clean for months.

Fertilizing a Lawn
For a really green, healthy start to your winter lawn, I recommend using a starter fertilizer and acidifying with water-soluble sulfur. Balanced fertilizer formulations with a slightly higher second and third number like 10-18-22 with IBDU slow release Nitrogen (will last 10-12 weeks), or 6-20-20 are great choices. To apply, spread five pounds of fertilizer over 1,000 square feet. Acidifying when you over seed will help any water penetration problems, raise soil pH, increase nutrient availability in the soil and also deter birds that might otherwise feed on your seed. The best product, from my years of experience, is a product I helped develop called First Step Soil Acidifier or Disper-Sul. Apply it at a rate of five pounds to 10 pounds per 1,000 square feet. A follow-up fertilization should take place in four weeks, using a high nitrogen, slow release fertilizer, such as, 25-6-12 or 32-3-6.

FAVORITE FALL FLOWERS FOR FOR FULL SUN AREAS
These are some of the abundant and varied color choices for this time of year

Alyssum: This fantastic low growing, mounding border plant comes in a myriad of colors: white, mixed, lavender, violet, purple.
Calendula: Capture the sun with beautiful Calendulas in yellow and orange. Great for picking.
Chrysanthemum: We offer a hardy variation called ‘Paludosum’. These are low growing, ever-blooming and best used as borders and in foregrounds.
Dianthus: We find that this flower, ranging from 8 – 10 inches tall, radiates enough charm to stop customers in their tracks! Ideal for edgings and low growing plantings, Dianthus is available in: Crimson, Purple, Rose, Violet, Raspberry, Strawberry, Mix, Pink, Scarlet and White.
Dusty Miller: Primarily used as an accent plant, it has beautiful gray leaves – perfect to show off the color in your flowerbed!
Geranium: Good for full sun or shade, no garden is complete without a splash of color from this regal beauty; with colors such as red, white, rose, light pink, violet, pink, salmon, light lavender, and scarlet.
Lobelia: This delicate flowering annual is famous for its vibrant blue and striking white but is also available in purple, lilac and rose. Lobelia is low growing and makes an impressive border plant and is also beautiful in planters and hanging baskets.
Pansy: Pansies are invaluable for fall and winter color. They provide mass color in borders and edgings, or as ground covers. They are available in a huge selection of sizes as well as both solid and combination colors such as: yellow, blue, white, lavender, orange, pink, purple, rose, and scarlet.
Petunia: Singles and doubles; petunias come in almost every color in the rainbow, almost any shape and size, and are one of our most prolific fall bloomers. Feed them well and plant in acidified soil.
Snapdragon: These popular, tall beauties come in a huge array of colors and varieties. They make a perfect, tall background flower. Purple, bronze, cherry, mix, pink, red, white, yellow, crimson and orchid are some of the colors.
Verbena: Trailing verbena is an excellent, colorful ground cover that comes in pink and purple.
Viola: Violas resemble miniature pansies and also come in a host of colors! This delicate bloomer is great in borders and comes in shades of blue, yellow, cream, purple, and lavender.

FAVORITES FOR SHADY AREAS
Begonia: These small, round plants are great for low borders, mass plantings, containers and hanging baskets. It’s green to bronze foliage is complimented beautifully by contrasting blooms in red, white and pink.
Lobelia: Described above. Also great for lightly shaded areas.
Pentas: This beautiful plant displays clusters of delicate blooms in shades of pink, red and violet.
Primula: Also known as primrose, this low growing, bushy flower comes in magenta, red, rose, pink and a color mix.
Viola: Described above. Also great for lightly shaded areas.

Gary Petterson is president and horticulturist of Gardener’s World, located at 3401 E. Baseline Road in the South Mountain District. Contact Gardener’s World at 602-437-0700.

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