Germination is doubtful for 4-year-old grass seed

Backyard Q&A

November 29, 1998

Q. I have some 4-year-old grass seed that I was planning to throw down now on some bare areas. Do you think it will germinate and grow?

A. Grass seed loses up to 50 percent viability for each year it is stored at room temperature. Cold-temperature storage helps to limit the loss of viability. Chances are, only a very small percentage of your seed would germinate even under the best conditions. Your second problem is that seeding a bare area in November or December is "iffy" in central Maryland. The best time is late August through October.

Q. My father-in-law is determined to dig up and give me two young redbud trees he grew from seed. Will the trees survive if they're transplanted this late?

A. Probably not. All transplanted trees go through a period of shock, even when most of the roots are saved and the new site is properly prepared. You can greatly improve your chances for success by waiting until March, when the ground can be worked and the trees are still dormant.

Q. My neighbor and I love to compare compost piles and usually disagree about how best to get to the final product. Our most recent discussion involved lime and walnuts. He insists on adding ground limestone to his bins, and I warn him repeatedly not to compost walnut leaves. Are we both off base?

A. Yes, you are. Lime will retard the composting process by inhibiting the microbe decomposers. It also drives off nitrogen.

As for walnut leaves, they contain juglone, a chemical that also is exuded by walnut roots. Juglone inhibits the growth of certain plants, but the composting process breaks it down, making it harmless to your pile.

This Week's Checklist

1. Check yourself and family members for ticks when hiking or doing yard work on mild days. Ticks remain active as long as temperatures exceed 45-50 degrees.

2. Protect vulnerable trees and shrubs from winter-burn by covering them with burlap or erecting a windbreak on the windward side, 18 inches away.

3.Water evergreen plants if dry weather continues.

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 these questions, or if you have questions of your own, call the center's hot line at 800-342-2507, or visit its Web site at

Pub Date: 11/29/98

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