Fix for balding lawn needn't be drastic

Garden Q&A

September 08, 1996

I have areas in my small yard where the grass is thinning, but I'm not interested in a complete lawn renovation. What can I do?

Over-seeding is a good, inexpensive alternative to a complete lawn renovation. September through mid-October is the best time to over-seed a small area. Follow these steps for success:

1. Have your soil tested. Request a soil-test kit from your local Extension Service office or from the Home and Garden Information Center ([800] 342-2507). The cost is $5. Follow the recommendations that are mailed back to you.

2. Use a metal rake to remove dead or weak grass and weeds and to roughen the soil surface.

3. Select a recommended turf cultivar. You'll need about half a pound of grass seed per 100 square feet. Spread the seed over the area and rake the area lightly to promote solid contact between seed and soil. Cover the area thinly with some straw to prevent the seed from blowing or washing away. Spread a starter fertilizer over the area according to directions.

4. It is very important to keep the seed bed moist for two weeks after sowing. Don't mow until the grass is 3 inches tall.

5. A lawn fertilizer should be applied four to six weeks after emergence of grass.

My hibiscus plant has been outside all summer and is beginning to drop leaves. Should I move it back inside?

It's normal for the older leaves of most houseplants to die and drop. But this is a good time to begin moving houseplants back inside. Aim for a smooth transition from outdoor to indoor conditions before nights turn cool. Plants should be repotted in fresh soil before they are moved indoors. Remove dead or brown roots and cut into the root ball about 1/2 inch deep with a sharp knife to stimulate new root growth.

Check plants closely for signs of insect or disease damage. Turn leaves over and inspect for mites, whiteflies or aphids. Use a houseplant spray to control these pests. (Make sure the spray you choose is labeled for houseplant use.) Take care to spray the upper and lower leaf surfaces thoroughly.

Keep plants in a sunny indoor location for two to three weeks before moving them to their permanent location.

I bought some potted mums in the grocery store. Should I plant them in the ground now? Will they come back in the spring?

Most potted mums bought from garden centers, hardware stores and supermarkets are garden-type mums that can be planted in good garden soil at this time. They should be mulched after the first hard freeze to help them overwinter. The earlier you plant your mums, the greater the likelihood they will regrow in the spring.

Tender, florist-shop mums are generally not a good choice for planting in the garden. They often die over the winter.

Garden tips are provided by the Home and Garden Information Center of the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Maryland. For additional information on the above or other gardening questions, call the center's hot line at (800) 342-2507.

Checklist

Sow an edible fall cover crop by mixing 1 ounce each of kale, collard, mustard and spinach seed into a small bucket of sand or fine garden topsoil and broadcasting the mixture over a 100-square-foot area. Gently rake the seeds in and walk on the area to press the seeds into the soil. Keep the seedbed moist.

Chop up spent flowers and vegetable plants and work directly into the soil to enrich it. Or, use in compost.

Seal screens around the house to prevent invasions of cluster flies and crickets.

Pub Date: 9/08/96

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