Tree-cutters, be advised: Sawdust can smother turf

BACKYARD Q&A

February 07, 1999

Q. I had to cut up three good-sized trees that broke apart in the ice storm a few weeks back. As a result, there is a lot of fresh sawdust in my yard. Will it hurt the grass? Can I compost it?

A. Sawdust that completely covers the turf could smother and kill it. You can spread it out with a rake, but you will need to apply nitrogen fertilizer to the area in the spring because soil microbes will use up the existing nitrogen to break down the sawdust. This action could rob your turf of needed nitrogen.

You also can safely add the sawdust to your compost pile, but be sure to add additional nitrogen to the pile in the spring.

Q. I've noticed some nasty-looking black growths on the branch ends of my cherry trees. Frankly, they resemble dog droppings. Are my trees going to die?

A. You are describing black knot, a very common disease that infects plum and cherry trees. Prune out affected twigs and limbs by cutting at least 6 inches below the growths. Put these infected prunings out with the trash. Your trees will not suffer any permanent damage.

THIS WEEK'S CHECKLIST

1. Use a commercial repellent to keep deer off your property. Deer will browse even the most resistant plants during winter rather than face starvation.

2. Order fruit plants from catalogs and be sure to specify cultivar name, type of rootstock and desired delivery date.

3. Clean, repair and oil garden tools that have been neglected over the winter. Extend the life of wooden tool handles by rubbing them with linseed oil.

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 www.agnr.umd.edu/users/hgic.

Pub Date: 02/07/99

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