Over 1.4 million Houstonians garden for a hobby or pastime, and GardenLine is where they listen for advice and information on gardening and landscaping.
Every Saturday and Sunday morning from 6 to 10, GardenLine's Randy Lemmon answers listeners' questions on everything from aphids to zoysias. He's Houston's absolute expert on lawns and gardens, offering help to listeners both with and without "green thumbs."
Randy's a Texas Aggie who truly KNOWS plants and flowers. He explains them with ease and candor, and is as competent a "plant person" as there is. He studies, and he practices. He embraces "new methods" as well as the "old" ways of dealing with problems. Call for Randy's solution for your question ... 713-212-KTRH (5874).
Today, I would like to answer the plethora of email questions that have come in during the past week concerning turfgrasses, fertilization, compost, aeration and herbicide treatments. If your question is not covered in this lineup, please give me a call on GardenLine during our live broadcast from The Woodlands Home & Garden Show.
By the way, this is just a sampling of the questions I get each week, and if you like this format, let me know. I can easily make each week's posting a collection of questions from listeners!
Q: If I missed the "early green-up" with 15-5-10 fertilizer, do I still need to do it? Or can I just do the April 1 feeding?
~ Mary, Bellaire
A: You can still do the 15-5-10, but you need to do it immediately. Then, you need to wait 30-45 days before you put down the April fertilization. Or, you could just pick up the schedule with the early April application. The choice is yours. Just don't put off the 15-5-10 any longer.
Q: I bought a 15-5-10, but it was a weed-and-feed. Did I get the wrong product?
~ Stu, Memorial
A: Yes, you got the wrong product. The 15-5-10s I recommend are Nitro-Phos Imperial or Southwest Fertilizer Lawn Special 15-5-10. Never, ever, would I recommend a weed-and-feed with that!
Q: You talk about the new Sweet Green Organic fertilizer, but how does it fit in to your schedule?
~ George, Pearland
A: It is interchangeable and multi-purpose! You can use it in place of any of the synthetic fertilizers or in place of any of the organic fertilizers. But it is specifically for lawn use, and not much else. I actually did an entire article on Nitro-Phos Sweet Green 11-0-4 a few weeks ago.
Q: Is there a perfect time to do a core aeration?
~ Steve, The Woodlands
A: Actually, a core aeration can be done at almost any time of year, but April and May are truly the ultimate window. If you have no clue about core aeration, please read this tip sheet.
Q: Randy, do you have to do an aeration before applying a compost top dressing?
~ Freida, Northside
A: No, you do not! However, you get a greater benefit if you do. In the tip sheet above about aeration, you'll also learn that you can use permanent soil amendments like gypsum or expanded shale besides a compost top dressing.
Q: I know you recommend specific compost for top dressing, but can I use any others?
~ Franklin, Kingwood
A: Yes, there are many types of compost, in bulk and by the bag, you can use these days. I believe the Two-Year-Old Leaf Mold Compost from Nature's Way Resources is the best in the business, but it is also the most expensive. There's also Living Earth Premium Compost for top dressing. Plus, the bagged materials from a plethora of organic providers can be purchased for smaller spots and smaller yards. Any compost from Black Kow, Lady Bug Natural, Southwest Fertilizer, Soil Mender and Natures Guide are great products.
Q: Do you recommend a company that does compost top dressing, if I don't have time or the energy to do it myself?
~ Arthur, Cypress
A: Yes! Green Pro at 281-351-GREEN. They are true experts at this. And be careful ... other companies say they do this, but not all of them use high-end compost from Nature's Way Resources. The quality of the compost makes all the difference.
Q: If I didn't apply pre-emergent herbicide in March as you recommend on your schedule, can I still put it down?
~ Gene, Sugar Land
A: Yes! When it comes to herbicide treatments, I always say, "it's never too late to do the right thing." Just get it down right away, because you will need to do it again in 30-45 days ... that gets us to the May application per the schedule.
Q: It looks like you took Easy-Gro Premium off your schedule. Do you no longer recommend it?
~ Sandy, Houston
A: I still recommend it, but it's dang hard to find these days. They seem to have given up marketing it in Houston. (Although, if you ask me, Houston made Easy-Gro a household name, so why they've given up is beyond me.) It's available at only a handful of garden centers these days. There was a time when every nursery, garden center, feed store and hardware store mentioned on GardenLine had Easy-Gro in stock. Today, the only places I know that have it are Houston Garden Centers and Southwest Fertilizer. Products recommended on my schedule must be widely available. If you can still find it, you can keep using it. But I predict that by 2015 you won't see Easy-Gro ever again in the Houston market, unless they start marketing it differently soon.
Q: You've said that there's a temperature at which you would no longer use Bonide Weed Beater Ultra. What is that?
A: Both Ultra and Fertilome Weed Free Zone are considered cool-season herbicides, and they are quite good at wiping out weeds during the winter and early spring months. But, the warmer it gets, the more likely they will burn grasses. So, once the daily high temperature is consistently above 80 degrees, we suggest that you stop using cool-season herbicides and go to herbicides designed for southern turfgrasses. Bonide's is Weed Beater for Southern Lawns, and Fertilome's is Weed Out.
Q: I think I lost a tree to overuse of weed-and-feed. I am now listening to your advice and won't do that again. But what can I do to protect my other trees from suffering the same fate?
A: Saturate the soil every two weeks for a couple of months with a soil activator like Medina. Hopefully, that will break down the atrazine herbicide a bit quicker so it doesn't damage the root systems of the trees and shrubs in the area.
Q: I swear I heard you say there would be a replacement for atrazine coming to the market, and that it might change your perspective on recommending weed-and-feeds in the future. Whatever happened to that product?
A: Great question. About a year ago, I was lobbied by a major fertilizer company, hoping I'd get on board with them as they developed a new "somewhat natural" herbicide that would replace weed-and-feed fertilizers that contain atrazine. I was truly excited about its possibilities. But, as it turns out, the new herbicide was killing pine trees left and right while it was being tested up north. OOPS!!!! So, they simply couldn't move forward with it. That's a shame. Atrazine-based weed-and-feeds continue to slowly and surely kill trees in people's yards, and most users don't have a clue what's happening. Most simply blame it on last year's drought. Needless to say, I'm going to remain skeptical of any news about weed-and-feeds being developed, but I will monitor the progress as long as I'm doing GardenLine.
This weekend, instead of an appearance at a garden center or Ace Hardware store, I will be broadcasting live from The Woodlands Home & Garden Show at the Waterway Marriott.
It's a great chance for you to see how we broadcast GardenLine from remote locations, and it's an even better way to get some free gardening goodies. Plus, you can sit in on the garden show seminar I always do at 10:30.
Ask anyone who has attended in the past, and they'll tell you this is the best way to get some seriously free goodies like plant foods and herbicides and fungicides and gardening tools. Pretty much all you need to do is show up and ask a question, and we will reward you accordingly.
You can also ask me questions during and after the seminar and bring plant samples so that I can "get a pair of eyes on that issue." This is also a time to get your hands on my book, "1001 GardenLine Questions," since it will be specially priced for the home show. Also, many of the companies and products I recommend above are going to be on display at this show: Green Pro, for aeration, compost top dressing, and year-round organic fertilization services; Living Earth for mulches, composts and soils; and Nature's Way Resources for mulches, soils and compost, including the Two-Year-Old Leaf Mold Compost.
The doors to the show don't open till 9 a.m., but you can still watch us do the broadcast starting at 8. The seminar is 10:30-11:30, and I will answer questions at our broadcast booth 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.