Balky grass seed may need patience, consistent water

BACKYARD Q&A

September 23, 2001|By Dennis Bishop | Dennis Bishop,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Q. We planted grass seed several weeks ago, but it has still not germinated. Do you think there is something wrong with the seed or is there another problem?

A. The seed could be stale, but the seed on most store shelves is fresh and should germinate. I would check the date on the label, but this is an unlikely cause of the germination failure. Another unlikely cause is low temperature. Grass seed will not germinate properly when temperatures are consistently below 60 degrees; however, that would rarely be a problem this time of year.

A more likely cause is a lack of consistent moisture. Grass seed germinates best when it is kept consistently moist between planting and germination. When possible, I would water every day. If you have been doing that, it is possible that you just need to give the seed a little more time. While the seed of ryegrass and tall fescue should germinate within two weeks, other seed may not. For example, bluegrass may take up to 3 weeks to germinate.

Q. We would like to plant a tree in the front of our house to get some shade from the late afternoon sun. How close should we plant the tree to the house?

A. It depends upon the mature size of the tree. Most shade trees grow at least 40 feet tall but can vary considerably in width. Of these two factors, width is often the most important. In general, I would take the mature width of a tree and divide by 2 to determine the planting distance from the house. For example, if the mature width of your tree is 30 feet, I would plant the tree about 15 feet from the house. This distance can be somewhat shorter or longer depending on your home and landscape.

THIS WEEK'S CHECKLIST

1. Do you have crabgrass in your lawn? It is not too late to pull it out and reseed the vacant spots. This will help limit the spread of crabgrass next year.

2. Be sure to keep diseased plant parts out of your compost pile. They should be removed from your yard.

3. Are your trees dropping leaves early? This is typically a sign of some other stress on the tree that is worth investigating.

Dennis Bishop is an urban horticulture educator for the Baltimore 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.

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