Q. I am preparing to plant my grass seed as you suggest in early September. How should I prepare my soil before planting grass seed?
A. I always recommend doing a soil test before preparing the soil. The soil test will indicate what you should incorporate into your planting area. After that determination is made, you can begin preparing a seedbed for your grass to grow in. You can prepare the ground much as you would for vegetables or flowers.
To prepare the seedbed, I would first spread any lime or fertilizer recommended by your soil test on the ground, along with some additional organic matter (leaf compost or other). I would then till as deep as possible. In general the deeper the tilling the better, but you must have at least 1 to 2 inches of loose soil for the young grass roots to get started in. The soil should then be raked smooth, seeded and gently tamped.
Q. Some of my beds have been taken over by a grassy weed that has wide, yellow-green blades and is about 12 inches tall. Do you know what it is and how to get rid of it?
A. It sounds as though you have yellow nutsedge, which can be very difficult to control. For example, Round-up has little effect on it. If you would like to spray with a chemical, I would try an herbicide containing basagran. However, even basagran may not work well this time of year. It is most effective on yellow nutsedge when applied early in the year to young, actively growing plants. I would recommend hand pulling before it gets completely out of control.
THIS WEEK'S CHECKLIST
1. Are some of your annuals looking old and tired? It is about time to start planting pansies. They should be available at your garden center soon.
2. Now is a good time to de-thatch or core aerate your lawn. Both help get oxygen to the lawn's roots.
3. Keep an eye out for ground bees in lawn areas. They are very active this time of year, but they will not sting unless disturbed.
Dennis Bishop is an urban horticulture educator for the Baltimore City office of the Maryland Cooperative Extension Services. If you have a gardening or pest problem, you can call the Home and Garden Information Center hot line (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 1-p.m.) at 800-342-2507. You can also e-mail questions, order publications and diagnose plant problems by visiting the Web site, www.agnr.umd.edu / users / hgic.