Dig your Christmas tree hole

Happy All Hallow’s Eve Eve, all you merry ghouls and
gardeners. Speaking of holidays, it’s time for some of you to start thinking about Christmas.

No, I don’t mean you need to get ready to inflate your
giant Homer Simpson Santa for the season yet. But you
should start digging if you intend to buy a truly live
Christmas tree — one with its roots still intact — that
you hope to plant outdoors. Dig the hole now, before the
soil freezes hard for the season.

When you choose what you think is a good location, look
around before shovel you shove. Be sure there’s enough
room for the FINAL size of the tree. It isn’t going to
stay a tidy 5 feet tall for long.

Be aware that all sides of an evergreen need to receive
sunlight to prevent the bottom branches from turning
brown. And, of course, make sure there’s no underground
wires or pipes in the area you’ve chosen before you dig.

Then dig a wide hole, not a deep one; cover the hole with
something solid for safety and save the removed soil.
You’ll need that dirt at planting time.

Lawn Seed is Slow to Sprout Late in the Season

Neil in Greenbelt recently (Oct. 22 to be exact) wrote, “I
was assured by the nursery that it was still OK to plant
my new lawn with their seed. In fact, they said you can
safely seed up until Oct. 30 or so. But it’s been a week,
and no new grass. I’m depressed, and feeling a little
foolish. Should I re-seed in the spring?”

No, Neil. Spring seeding almost never delivers good
results, and all the turf grass experts I’ve interviewed
over the years agree that even seeding a little late in
the fall is a much better idea. But you do have to be
patient at this time of year, as the soil has become
somewhat cool, and germination is naturally a little
slower than around the ideal seeding time of Aug. 15 to
Sept. 15.

Luckily, I suspect that our recent warm spell gave you
some nice new green to look at. And don’t worry; that new
green will thrive in the crisp, cool air to come.

Make the Final Cut the Same Height as the First One

Lou Ann in Rockville writes: “How short should our new
grass be after its final cut of the season? We have large
oaks that shade most of our lot.”

Whether its brand new or senior sod, cool season lawns
planted in a shady situation should never be cut below 3
1/2 inches, Lou Ann. And your grass, which I’m hoping is
mostly fine fescue with that much shade to contend with,
is very tender; so the less foot traffic the better.

I’m more concerned with all the leaves you must have on it
by now. Suck the first runs up with a blower/vac set on
reverse (use these shredded leaves to make compost or to
mulch perennials after the ground freezes hard for the
winter). Mow the last thin layers of leaves directly into
the new grass using a mulching mower with a super-sharp
blade; the pulverized leaves will provide a nice natural
late feeding and a little bit of early season frost

Worried about Ants in Her Plants

Florence down in Bethany Beach writes: “I have several
houseplants that have spent the summer outdoors. We have a
lot of ants in our area and I want to be sure the pots are
not infested before I bring them in. How can I treat
them? I don’t see any evidence of ants, but how do I know
if ants are beneath the soil?”

Sounds like you’ve got a bad case of ant-a-phobia, Flo.
I’ve been bringing plants inside for decades and have
never had any such hitchhikers. The big danger is aphids
and other small sap-suckers sneaking in, which is why you
should blast the leaves repeatedly with sharp streams of
water before the plants come inside.

If you see indoor ants at any time of the year, don’t
panic. Just set out some boric acid bait traps and the
colony will be destroyed within a week.

Leave Landscaping in Place When Selling a Home

Condolences to Shelly, whose mom recently passed away. She
wrote me for advice, explaining that she has to ready the
house for sale and wants to save most of the plants in the
garden, but she lives in an apartment.

Well, my advice is to leave that garden alone — for at
least three different reasons.

First, as soon as a house is shown for sale, the
landscaping legally becomes part of the deal. You can’t
remove plants in the yard any more than you can take a
nice set of windows out of a wall.

Second, landscaping can account for a hefty part of a
home’s sale price-typically upwards of 10 percent, so you
could cost yourself some serious money if you made the
outdoors unattractive. (The last thing you need in this
market is an incentive for someone to NOT buy the property
because the outside is drab.)

And third, there really doesn’t seem to be anywhere for
these plants to go.

Instead, try and find buyers who will love those plants as
much as you do, then you can ‘visit’ them anytime you
drive by, and know that they keep your mother’s gardening
legacy very much alive.

(Copyright 2010 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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