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Garden Geek: Most Commonly Asked Questions

From time to time we like to reveal what your fellow readers are asking about. The questions tend to be seasonal, though not always.

Below are some of the questions we tend to get come fall, as well as our well-thought out responses.

Why is my grass dying?

Invariably, lawn questions fall into these two camps. Dying grass generally results from too little sun or too much water. A brief reminder: grass needs sun and Bermuda needs the most. If you don’t have at least six hours of full direct sunlight, forget about grass. Also, water no more than once a week or your grass may develop brown patch, Take All Patch, or gray leaf fungi.

How can I kill Bermuda grass?

We prefer to offer primarily organic solutions, but we’re not entirely averse to conventional methods. Here are your options.

  1. Organic spray: 2 ounces of orange oil per 1 gallon of strong vinegar (+18 percent) and 2 teaspoons dish soap.
  2. Cover it up with newspaper.
  3. Solarize in July and August with clear plastic.
  4. Grass kill-only chemicals: fusilade, sethoxydim (Poast, BASF Vantage)

Is there really such a thing as deer-resistant plants?

The only truly deer-resistant plant are those made of plastic and silk, but the best advice from the Geekster is to use only plants that are stinky, sticky, fuzzy or thorny. A list of these plants can be found on our website or in county extension offices.

Which trees are fast-growing?

The problem with fast-growing trees is that most of them are short-lived and generally fall on your house or vehicle. The best time to plant a tree is now (fall) with the following species that have relatively fast growth, longevity, and minimal maintenance: Monterrey oakMexican sycamoreMontezuma cypress, Texas red oak, cedar elm and certain varieties of crape myrtle.

When do I fertilize and with what?

Fall application of fertilizer is the most important fertilization of the year. At least 80 percent of new growth in the spring uses the nutrients supplied in the fall. If using a synthetic fertilizer with high nitrogen, apply by mid-October. If using an organic product, then you may apply earlier and later than mid-October. The preferred ratio is 3-1-2 or 3-1-1 of nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium. Always remember that too much fertilizer is a bad thing, resulting in either lawn fungi or polluted groundwater.

Well, folks, that’s all for now. Keep those questions coming.

Mark Peterson
Mark Peterson
Mark A. Peterson is a conservation project coordinator for San Antonio Water System. With over 30 years of experience as an urban forester and arborist, Mark is probably the only person you know who actually prunes trees for fun. When not expounding on the benefits of trees and limited lawns, you’re likely to find him hiking San Antonio’s wilderness parks or expounding on the virtues of geography and history to his friends.
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