Beetle grubs have enjoyed a feast of sod since last spring

BACKYARD Q&A

October 31, 1999

Q. The new sod I laid last spring is brown and dead in patches -- the grass just pulls up in clumps. When I dig in the soil, I see a large number of fat, light-gray worms. Are they killing my grass? What are my options?

A. The worms you describe are the white grubs of scarab beetles. There are many different types of scarabs, including June beetles and Japanese beetles. They feed on the roots of grasses that are typically found in sod, such as bluegrass and ryegrass.

The turf insecticide imidacloprid is very effective at controlling white grubs. Apply it next spring; follow label directions carefully. Reseed your dead areas with turf-type tall fescue, which is more resistant to grub feeding than bluegrass and ryegrass.

Q. I contracted with a lawn service last month to core aerate and reseed some dead patches in my front lawn. Now the guy says he can't come out till the first week in November. Should I wait until spring?

A. Yes, unless the company is willing to guarantee you good results or come back if necessary to reseed at no extra charge in the spring. Grass seed takes about 10 days to germinate during 60-to-70-degree weather in October. It will take 12 to 15 days to germinate in November -- if it's fairly mild.

You may get lucky with the weather, but do insist on some written assurances. It is possible that only half the seed will germinate this fall.

Q. I ate the most fantastic winter squashes at a dinner party last week. One was called 'North Georgia Candyroaster' and the other was 'Tahitian Melon Squash.' The host had bought them from a farmer in North Carolina. Will the seeds germinate if I plant them in my garden next year? Will these two squash types cross and lead to a disappointing crop?

A. It is very likely that the seeds are sufficiently mature to germinate. You can test them this winter by germinating some between moist paper towels.

Fortunately, the two cultivars you named are members of different species and will not cross with one another. The 'North Georgia Candyroaster' is Cucurbita maxima and the 'Tahitian Melon Squash' is Cucurbita moschata.

THIS WEEK'S CHECKLIST

1. Cover spinach, garlic, carrots, turnips and other fall crops loosely with a straw mulch to protect them from hard freezes.

2. Make a batch of compost this fall by mixing together grass clippings, shredded tree leaves, garden annuals and some finished compost.

3. Stop feeding the fish in your pond. They cannot properly digest extra food during cold weather.

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.

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