Pull up or turn under crabgrass now, then reseed and be vigilant in the spring

Backyard Q&A

In the Garden

October 05, 2003|By Dennis Bishop | Dennis Bishop,Special to the Sun

I have a small front lawn that has been completely taken over by crabgrass. What can I do to get my lawn back?

The summer rains have helped produce a bumper crop of crabgrass this year. Crabgrass is an annual grass that dies out in the winter. However, it is a prolific seeder and returns each summer from overwintering seed.

To get your lawn back will require two steps. First, you must get rid of the crabgrass you already have so that you can reseed the area. And second, you must prevent the crabgrass from returning next summer.

I would start by digging out all of the crabgrass in your lawn, or, if the entire lawn is badly infested, you may want to turn the entire yard under and start from new. Once the crabgrass is removed or turned in, you can reseed the lawn. You should do this very soon, before the weather gets too cool. I would seed heavily at the rate of 8 pounds per 1,000 square feet for turf type tall fescue, or half that rate for bluegrass.

It is likely that your current crabgrass has already dropped a lot of seed into your soil, so it will come back again next year. You can prevent the seed from germinating by using a pre-emergent herbicide. The herbicide should be applied in early spring. Or, you can allow the seed to germinate and pull the seedlings as they begin to grow.

Fifteen years ago, we planted yews at the corners of our house. They have now outgrown the spot. Can I cut them back hard or should I remove them?

If you are thinking in the long term, I would remove them and plant something that naturally grows to the size you would like. There are several evergreens that can be used in place of yews, or you can look for a smaller-growing yew. I would suggest that you call a local garden center and tell them the size and shape of plant you would like to purchase. They can then recommend something to you.

If you choose to trim your yews instead, keep in mind that yews generally respond well to a hard pruning in late winter or early spring. The pruning will remove most of the foliage and leave them bare for one to two years. They will fill back in, but several years later they may need another hard pruning to keep them in bounds. If you decide to prune them hard, you should be prepared to prune them firmly every year.

Checklist

1. If you are planning to plant grass seed this fall, do not delay. Seed planted later in the month may not have a chance to establish itself before winter arrives.

2. Keep fallen leaves off newly planted grass. The leaves can smother grass seedlings.

3. It's time to bring houseplants indoors. Bring in plants before nighttime temperatures dip below 55 degrees.

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.hgic. umd.edu.

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