Save on spring bulbs

Rainy season could be ruining your crops

wtopstaff | November 14, 2014 11:04 am

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Mike McGrath,

Spread corn gluten on your lawn as soon as temps drop

It’s almost time to feed your lawn and prevent some of next year’s weeds. That’s right. Based on sensational new information from Iowa State University turf grass expert Dr. Nick Christians, I’ve moved my recommendation for the so-called “fall feeding” of cool-season lawns (like bluegrass, fescue and rye) back an entire month, to (depending on the weather) roughly Aug. 15 through Sept. 1 instead of mid-to-late September.

The Iowa State research shows that feeding your lawn all natural corn gluten meal as soon as the summer heat stress period is over can prevent the germination of dandelion, plantain and clover seeds. And because corn gluten’s natural pre- emergent activity lasts six weeks, it should still be active when chickweed and henbit seeds try and germinate a few weeks later.

Note: Don’t expect corn gluten (or any pre-emergent) to magically dissolve existing weeds. It only destroys the seeds that would have grown next year’s weeds, giving you a big leg up. Every weed that doesn’t germinate is one less weed for you to deal with next year.

But don’t spread the corn gluten just yet. It’s still too hot out there. Wait until the extended forecast shows no more daytime highs in the 90s. Right now, the 10-day forecast shows those kinds of high temperatures continuing through at least next Saturday, which is good. It gives you time to get your corn gluten meal in hand.

When the time does arrive, spread 10- to 20 pounds of corn gluten per 1,000 square feet of turf, water it in, and let it dry-that’s how you get the maximum weed-prevention activity.

And corn gluten, with its natural slow release nitrogen content of 9 percent to 11 percent, also provides the perfect feeding for your turf as it prevents future weeds-without chemicals of any kind.

But you can’t weed, feed and seed

Spread corn gluten as soon as the “summer heat stress period” is over, and you’ll help your cool-season lawn recover from this killer hot weather and prevent lots of broadleaf and winter annual weeds from germinating. Just remember that corn gluten prevents the germination of all seeds, so you can’t use it and sow grass seed.

So if overseed you must, feed the lawn with compost or a bagged organic lawn fertilizer instead this season. Or get the new grass up and growing for a week or two and then apply the corn gluten (you’ll still prevent those winter annuals from sprouting).

Whatever you do, please don’t use Bay-killing chemical fertilizers on your lawn. We really need to be done disrespecting one of our greatest natural resources.

Save a cool $100 on a sensational spring bulb show

If you want to recover from Seasonal Affective Disorder without meds next March, plant spring bulbs like tulips and daffodils later this year — lots of them! Unlike most other plants, spring bulbs love being tightly crowded; and a big patch of 100 tulips looks 50 times more impressive than a teeny 10. But a lot of people don’t buy in the kind of bulk that makes for a real springtime show stopper because of the cost.

Well, have I got a deal for you.

Breck’s bulbs is offering WTOP listeners $25 off a $50 order, $50 off of a $100 order, or a cool $100 off a $200 order. And shipping is a flat $10, further enticing you to go for that top discount.

Choose inexpensive varieties (some nice ones sell for as little as $10 per 25 bulbs) and you can get 400 or so springtime killers for a $110. We’re talking serious “Springtime Show” here.

Here’s how to get the deal. Go to the Breck’s website, do your shopping and then enter the code 0735869. It’s good for all three offers: $25 off $50, $50 off $100, or $100 off $200. You can go to, where the company has set up a redirect that will give WTOP listeners the discount. (Or ‘brecks25′ or ‘brecks50′ for the lower amounts.)

Order early for the best selection, but store the bulbs in a cool dry place when they arrive and then plant them outdoors right after Halloween.

Harvest tips and tricks

The season of good eating is officially in full swing!

  • Pick cucumbers and summer squash while they’re still small — they’ll taste better and it keeps the plants producing.
  • Same with bush beans, pole beans and string beans — pick them before the seeds begin to bulge for the sweetest, most tender flavor and to keep the plants pumping out more produce. (If you leave string beans unpicked long enough for the seeds inside to get big, the plants will stop producing.)
  • Pick tomatoes as soon as they’re fully ripe or even a day or two earlier; they can lose a lot of flavor sitting ripe in the sun. (And keep them out of direct sun after picking)
  • But be patient with so-called “green peppers” — let them ripen up until they achieve their oh-so-sweet final color of red, yellow, orange or chocolaty brown.
  • And check daily for stink bugs. Spray any you find with insecticidal soap or horticultural oil. Or just squish the stinkers.

Apple tree issues: Incorrect care and evil squirrels

Melissa in McLean writes: “Should I cut down my beautiful 5-year-old apple tree? For the last two seasons years it has been so heavily laden with fruit I thought I would have to cull half the apples early to keep the branches from snapping. Yet I have never tasted a single apple because the loathsome squirrels eat every one! How do I stop the squirrels?”

Well, Melissa, I personally keep despicable evil squirrels out of my peach trees with a motion activated sprinkler (two different models are available from Contech and Havahart) and another motion activated device called “the Deer Chaser” that shines a bright light and turns a loud radio on when the beam is broken. (Great for nocturnal pests, like deer and possums.)

But you’re also going to have to start caring for that tree correctly. Apple trees need to be pruned every year in late winter, and then the developing fruits must be thinned. Forget about “half.” You need to remove a good three quarters of the baby fruits to get sweet, full sized apples at the end of the season.

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