Garden Path: Turnips, grass headliners for the month of September
Posted: Tuesday, September 4, 2012 8:00 pm
By: By Jimmy Williams
The Messenger 09.04.12
We trust your turnips are well up and growing. Before long you’ll have fresh greens.
Summer, horrendous as it was, is winding down. August was kinder than July, but still yet another drought month. Are we morphing into a desert climate?
At any rate, my yuccas are thriving. With conditions of the past few years, I may just put over our non-irrigated areas into a monoculture of yuccas.
Meanwhile, September is staring us in the face, and we hope it will be a wet month. In fact, we must assume it will be, else we will continue to wallow in despair and our gardens will go further to pot.
First on tap — today if you can manage it but anytime until early October — is to revamp your lawn. Nights are cooler, the soil is still warm, and it is the ideal time for the project.
Unless your sward is as perfect as Sam Tharpe’s (check it out) you doubtless have places, minimal or maximal, worn, like an old rug, right down to the pile.
If the area is relatively small, a hand-operated rotating tool that will scurf up the top inch or two of soil will suffice. One brand is the Weasel, and it works like a charm. I am in partnership with Bucky Purcell in a Weasel, but since I use it more than he does, I am claiming controlling interest.
Once the soil is prepared, seed is applied, fairly heavily, then fertilizer broadcast, not too heavily, and all is raked in lightly. A topping of compost will help and, on a slope, a light mulch of straw or pine needles will prevent erosion.
All this, it is understood, is for so-called “cool season” grasses, i.e. nearly always lawn type fescue in these parts. There are numerous varieties and blends, the latter (one is Southern Gold) made up of several kinds, so that if one of them fails others will still take hold.
If your lawn is, unfortunately, bermuda, then you will wait until mid-October to scalp it down and overseed with annual rye grass. This is the system used a lot in Memphis and other places to our south where cool-season grasses fare even more poorly than here.
In that case, a heavy seeding of annual rye can be sown right over the Bermuda, then spiked in with a lawn aerator, which punches holes that allow seeds to fall into. Often a newly overseeded Bermuda lawn can be spotted by the little dots of newly sprouted rye in the holes. They soon fill to make a respectable winter lawn.
The rye grass will stand quite a lot of cold and in recent post-Gore winters with little severe temperatures, winter rye lawns have been immaculate. In late spring the rye starts to melt out, and by then the Bermuda will have greened up. This works with zoysia too.
I hate a browned (or whitened; zoysia turns virtually white after freezes) lawn in winter, so I use the cool-season fescue regimen. In recent years my lawn has looked better most of the winter than it does in July and August.
Cool-season lawns, in the aggregate, are more difficult to maintain than Bermuda or zoysia. Disease, primarily brown patch, is the controlling factor in a fescue lawn. Brown patch will melt out, for good, a fescue lawn right before your eyes in a muggy (aren’t they all?) July. Green can turn to brown overnight.
The only answer is preventive spraying with an anti-fungal agent, at least once a month when night temperatures are above 70 degrees, usually June, July and August. Miss just one spraying and it’s Katy bar the door.
If all this seems to be a lot of trouble (it is) your best bet is to hire one of our excellent lawn maintenance firms to do it all for you. Then your lawn will do you proud.
From Poor Willie’s Almanack
I questioned Mayor Tharpe on how in the world his fescue lawn could look like a three-inch deep green carpet, in August, for crying out loud. He gave all the credit to Someone upstairs. Well, He surely had a part, all right, but Sam should take some credit, too, because I saw that lawn before he moved in.
Editor’s note: Jimmy Williams is the garden writer for The Paris Post-Intelligencer, where he can be contacted on Mondays at (731) 642-1162.
grass, The Garden Path, turnips