Garden Plot: Thatch, new lawn, bamboo

Female mosquitoes hang around during winter

wtopstaff | November 14, 2014 12:37 pm

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Mike McGrath, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – Gary in Fredericksburg writes, “Our lawn took a beating this summer from the heat and drought. I know from your program that now is a great time to seed bare spots, so I was going to dethatch and overseed, but the lawn is a tall fescue and I’ve heard that you shouldn’t dethatch a tall fescue lawn. Is that true?”

No, Gary, it is not true, it is safe to dethatch any of the grasses that grow in our region. Thatch is a layer of dead brown stolons that sit right at the soil line; the biggest cause is overfeeding with chemical fertilizers. When the layer of thatch is a half inch or deeper, the lawn should be detached.

If the lawn is a cool season grass like your fescue, the time to dethatch is in late summer/early fall. If it’s a warm season grass like zoysia, you wait until it greens up in spring.

But, and this is a big but, many lawn care experts now say that a core aeration will do even more for the long-term health of a thatchy turf than dethatching. Either way, the time to do the work on a cool season turf is now.

Need a new lawn, or are you just looking too close?

Kirsten up in Adamstown writes, “Our lawn has been terribly neglected and is full of weeds. I recognize some clover and the crabgrass is so thick in areas there is no fescue to be seen. I can’t enjoy sitting in my back yard anymore. Can you please help?”

Sure, Kirsten, but lighten up a little! If there are no bare spots and you cut it at 3 inches high, you have a sea of green that’s really only a problem if you insist it is. And if insist you do have a problem, tear it all up and replant it. But don’t delay. You’ll need to till up and rake out most of the old turf, add topsoil or compost, level the surface, sow the new seed and water to get the new grass up and growing by the end of the month. Otherwise, the root system may not develop enough to survive a hard winter.

Or, you know, you could just cut what you have at 3 inches high and not stare at it so much…

Running bamboo is the ultimate plant bugaboo

Tom in Silver Spring writes, “What is the best and most permanent way to rid my garden of the neighbor’s bamboo, and to also keep his bamboo from popping up in my yard again?”

The honest answer is move to San Diego, Tom. I was going to say Kentucky, but that might not be far enough away.

Running bamboo is one of the toughest, most persistent plants to permanently eradicate. And if you don’t remove it, it will eventually begin to undermine your home and other structures.

Tearing it all out with a backhoe is an expensive and brutish solution, but it has a good chance of success. Your other option is to keep cutting the culms, the name for what appears to be the individual bamboo plants, down at the soil line until the massive root system runs out of gas. That is typically around year three. One positive note: If your neighbor planted this menace, the neighbor is legally responsible for getting it off of your property.

For more depressing information on this horticultural menace and the rhizome barrier that can keep it out of unwanted areas, visit the American Bamboo Society.

Rose fans alert: Big show next weekend

The 65th Annual Colonial District Rose Show will be held next weekend both Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 22 and Sept. 23, at the Merrifield Garden Center in Fairfax, Va.

Sponsored by the Potomac Rose Society and the Arlington Rose Foundation, the show is free and open to the public from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

The news release notes that consulting rosarians will be on duty to answer your questions. Do me a favor and give them a hard time if they tell you to use chemical sprays or fertilizers. Roses are some of the easiest plants to grow organically! Visit The Potomac Rose Society for more show details.

Free fall garden day at Green Springs Gardens

A lot of great events are held at Green Springs Gardens in Alexandria, Va., throughout the year, but none is as much fun or as easy to attend as the annual Fall Garden Day, which will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 22. No reservations are required and admission to the event is free.

More than 25 plant and craft vendors will be on hand, and the fabulous Friends of Green Spring volunteer group, or FROGS, as members are affectionately known, will host a slew of family activities, including a hold a silent auction to help support one of Virginia’s most innovative and exciting public gardens.

The FROGS remind you that fall is a great time for planting and I concur. Plants installed in the fall have a much better survival rate than plants installed in the Spring. So do some smart shopping for a good cause at the Green Spring Gardens located at 4603 Green Spring Rd. in Alexandria, Va. or call 703-642-5173.

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