Sooner is better for seeding lawns

  • Franklinia, Ben Franklin tree
Franklinia, Ben Franklin tree (University of Delaware,…)
September 05, 2012|By Ellen Nibali, For The Baltimore Sun

How early in fall can I plant grass seed? I hear fall is the best season.

The ideal planting window for cool-season fescue begins, surprisingly, in mid-August. Temperatures begin to temper then, yet the soil is warm and fosters quick germination of the grass seed. Of course, if you're in a drought, you'll probably want to wait until there is some moisture in the soil. The window for planting lasts until mid-October. There is also less competition from weeds in the fall. So the sooner the better, especially if you know leaf removal will be necessary later in autumn. Remember to count any fertilizer you apply when seeding to your total nitrogen amount for the year.

Last year, our stink bugs were so bad they killed the computer. It conked out and the repairman found a hundred stink bugs inside! Any new ways to combat them?

Good news. Researchers have discovered that at least three species of our own native nonstinging wasps (very tiny ones) are parasites of the invasive brown marmorated stink bugs. Although these wasps may have been minor players in the ecosystem up to now, they are stepping up in a big way to take out these new foreign stink bugs.

In some areas the wasps have parasitized up to 25 percent of the stinkbugs. They attack several life stages: eggs (parasitized eggs turn from pale to dark), nymphs (juveniles), and adults. If you find a hollow stink bug with a hole in its back, celebrate! It's the work of the wasp larva. This is a good example of why we conserve nature. Who knows when an obscure insect of unknown "worth" will be critically valuable in our ecosystem?

Marmorated stink bugs aggregate in swarms about the third week in September. Light attracts them, so turn off those outdoor lights at night and tighten up your house.

Why did my sedums flop over? They looked great until recently.

Tall sedums such as "Autumn Joy" are tough plants that thrive on neglect. Too much fertilizer, rich soil or water leads to flopping. They are sun-lovers and will flop in too much shade, too. You can pinch or cut them back by half or a third in early June to make them sturdier.

Can I use the same sprayer for fungicide and deer repellent? Or do I need two separate sprayers?

What you must avoid is using a sprayer for a product that kills plants (an herbicide or weed killer) and then using the same sprayer to apply something on desirable plants. So designate one sprayer to be used exclusively for herbicides. Another sprayer can be used for various other products, such as fungicide and deer repellent, as long as you wash it well between uses.

Plant of the week

Franklinia, Ben Franklin tree

Franklinia alatamaha

It's enough that Franklinia is that rarity among trees — a late-summer bloomer — but sometimes it even flowers against the background of its orange, red, and purple autumn foliage. What a show! If you're seeking a specimen plant for that special spot in your garden, this small tree may fit the bill. Franklinia, named in honor of Benjamin Franklin, is a small 10- to 20-foot deciduous understory tree with a rounded crown but can also be grown as a multistemmed shrub. Leaves are narrow and glossy. Flowers are white, fragrant and camellia-like. Because of its sparse fibrous root system, select a plant that is potted or balled. Install it in full sun to partial shade in well-drained soil. Best flowering and fall color is in full sun. Keep moist but not wet. It prefers acidic soil between 5.0 to 5.5 pH. This is a challenging tree to grow, so once planted, do not plan on moving it. – Bob Orazi

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