Don't clear out your woods to plant grass

Garden Q&A

May 31, 2008|By Ellen Nibali and Jon Traunfeld

We want to clear out our woods and plant grass. What kind of grass seed should we buy?

Think twice. Grass needs three to four hours of direct sunlight, minimum. We get many calls from frustrated homeowners who spent huge amounts of money and energy trying to get grass to grow under trees. (Tree roots also compete with grass for water and nutrients.) Try identifying what good plants are in your woods. It may take four seasons to see all the plants, including ephemeral spring bulbs. Keep the native plants such as ferns and shrubs that flower, berry and provide winter interest. Clear out the non-native invasive plants such as choking vines and thorny plants, which make it difficult to enjoy your woods. Removing your entire forest understory is dicey. Because deer eat young plants, it is difficult to replace.

What's eating holes in my strawberries? Ants?

Ants are attracted to strawberry sugars, but they would not make the holes. Birds, slugs or turtles may be sampling your strawberries. To foil slugs, put down a board and scrape off the slugs that hide there overnight. Birds or turtles will require netting. Sap beetles, too, make holes. These small black beetles like sweet ripe fruit. Prevent them by picking your strawberries promptly and removing any damaged or overripe fruit.

Checklist

Pull Indian mock strawberry (yellow flowers) and garlic mustard (white flowers) before berries and seeds appear. They are expanding rapidly now.

Plant vegetable rows either north-south or east-west, unless you have some tall plants. In that case, make rows east-west with tall plants on the north side.

Ellen Nibali, a horticulture consultant, works at Maryland Cooperative Extension's Home and Garden Information Center, and Jon Traunfeld is the director of the Home and Garden Information Center. The center offers Maryland residents free gardening information. Call the center's help line at 800-342-2507 or e-mail plant and pest questions through the Send a Question feature at hgic.umd.edu.

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