||Sunday Supplements - Take Two
I'm getting a lot of emails, and a few phone calls on the air again,
regarding the advertisements for Zoysia. The latest email said it
perfectly in his question to me... "It sounds too good to be true!"
While Zoysia is a good grass for the Houston area, it has to be
solid sodded and it can't take over in three years if you buy plugs
through a Sunday Supplement Ad or even over the internet.
As I noted almost two years ago to this date, in one of our very first
email tips, BEWARE THE SUNDAY SUPPLEMENT ADS, when it
comes to horticultural goods.
We’ve all seen them at one time or another, gardening advertisements in
the back of Sunday Supplement Magazines. And, boy don’t those
promises sound too good to be true? A tomato tree that will produce
year-round. Trees that will grow 10 feet each year. A fruit cocktail tree
that grows more than one kind of fruit. And of course, my personal
favorite, zoysia grass plugs that stay green year-round and will take hold
with only a few plugs.
Well, you know what they say about something that sounds too good to
be true? It usually is! I’ve been affiliated with GardenLine for over 6
years now, and I still get phone calls and emails specifically about that
Zoysia grass in the back of the Sunday magazines. First, let it be known,
that here in Houston Zoysia grass must be solid sodded for success. I
like the grass, especially since it is more drought tolerant, needs less
fertilizer and less water. But to think that it can fill in a Houston-based
yard, by adding a few plugs is ludicrous at best.
Every spring, the toilets explode; Every Halloween the trees are filled…
OOPS! That’s a line from the movie Animal House. How’d that get in
there? What I meant to say; Every spring advertisements appear in
newspaper and magazines extolling the virtues of plant material and
garden products. Some of the advertisements are clearly fraudulent.
Their claims are too unbelievable. The truthfulness of other
advertisements is more difficult to determine. To help the home gardener,
here are the claims of several advertisements appearing in newspapers,
magazines, and catalogs along with important factual information are
Advertisement: Here's mosquito repellent that works without nasty
chemical odors, dangerous electrical currents or greasy lotions. The
Mosquito Plant is the first of its kind in the world. Used indoors or out,
the Mosquito Plant emits a delightful fragrance that keeps mosquitoes
away. One plant protects a 10-foot radius.
Fact: The Mosquito Plant, also sold as Mosquito Shoo, is a species of
Pelargonium (geranium). It along with lemon grass and lemon thyme do
contain citronella oil. Citronella oil is used in mosquito-repelling candles.
However, no plant will repel mosquitoes just growing in a pot or in the
garden. Plants release significant amounts of their repellent oils only
when their leaves are crushed. According to Dr. Arthur Tucker, plant
fragrant specialist at Delaware State College, the best way to use the
citronella oil containing plants would be to rub crushed leaves on your
skin. Be sure to "test" yourself for any allergy to these leaves by
repeatedly rubbing a small amount of material on your inner forearm for a
day or so. If there is no irritating skin reaction, its safe to use the plants.
Advertisement: Amazing grass seed mixture guarantees you a lush,
green lawn quickly and easily! Guaranteed to grow green, hardy and
spread fast in just days in any climate. Developed in Canada where
temperatures range from 20 F below to 100 F . Guaranteed to choke out
crabgrass and unsightly weeds.
Fact: Canada Green is a poor quality grass seed mix that contains annual
rye, Kentucky bluegrass, and red fescue. Annual ryegrass is a quick
germinating, cool-season, annual grass. Use of annual ryegrass in seed
mixtures is discouraged because its aggressive growth prevents the
establishment of the more desirable perennial turfgrasses. Home
gardeners can buy good quality turfgrass seed mixes at their local garden
center for about half the cost of Canada Green.
Advertisement: Your zoysiagrass lawn saves you time, work, and money!
Zoysiagrass is the low cost answer for hard-to-cover spots, play-worn
areas, or to end erosion on slopes. Thrives from part shade to full sun.
Zoysiagrass lawns grow so thick and deep-rooted, the grass simply
stops crabgrass and weeds from germinating. Also, resists insects and
diseases. Mow your lawn once a month -- or less.
Fact: Zoysiagrass (Zoysia japonica) is a medium-textured, slow-growing,
warm-season grass. When managed properly, zoysiagrass will form an
attractive lawn. Problems, such as excessive thatch, may develop if
zoysia is managed poorly. Some of its growth characteristics may also be
objectionable. Zoysiagrass is established vegetatively from plugs,
stolons, or sod. Due to its slow growth rate, it may take two or more
years to form a dense turf. Zoysia grows best in well-drained, slightly
acid soils. It does not tolerate poorly-drained soils. In alkaline soils, the
color of zoysiagrass may be a chlorotic yellow. Zoysia performs best in
full sun. However, it will tolerate light to moderate shade. The turf will be
thinner in the shady areas.
Zoysiagrass possesses excellent heat and
drought tolerance. Also, a thick, well-established zoysia lawn provides
few opportunities for weeds. Cool-season annual weeds, such as henbit,
may be the biggest problem. A heavy-duty lawnmower and a sharp blade
are necessary when mowing zoysiagrass because of its tough, dense
foliage. Zoysia should be mowed at a height of 1 to 1 1/2 inches. During
the period of active growth (June to September), it will usually be
necessary to mow on a weekly basis.
One characteristic that many home gardeners find objectionable is that
zoysia is slow to green up in the spring (typically mid to late May) and
turns dormant with the first frost in the fall. In Iowa, zoysiagrass is
dormant 8 months a year. The color of the turf during the dormant period
is straw or pale yellow brown.
Another potential concern is its spreading habit. Zoysia may spread into
flower beds, vegetable gardens, and into adjacent lawns.
Advertisement: The Austree is a tree for all reasons. Hardy and disease
resistant from Alaska to Florida. Austrees are not susceptible to most
insects. Austrees are very fast growing trees. Many people experience
up to 15 feet of growth the first year. Austrees have a life expectancy in
excess of 50 years depending on the growing conditions and the
Fact: The Austree is a hybrid willow. Its parents are the corkscrew willow
(Salix matsudana) and white willow (Salix alba).
Austrees planted in 1990 by the Department of Forestry at Iowa State
University have grown rapidly, especially those in moist sites. Growth
has been slower on drier sites, but is still averaging 12 to 20 feet tall after
4 years. The major concerns about Austrees are potential disease and
insect problems. Both corkscrew and white willows are susceptible to
canker diseases. In 1995, the Plant Disease Clinic at Iowa State did
receive several Austree samples with stem cankers.
Because of potential disease and insect problems, the staff in Forestry
Extension recommends that Austrees be planted with caution. Their best
use would be as a component in a tree planting, for example as a row in a
windbreak. They are suitable for quick, temporary screens, but should be
planted along with longer-lived, more permanent trees and shrubs.
Austrees grow best in moist sites.
Other examples include the tree tomato (tamarillo), the amazing tomato-
potato, and "Quicklawn." Home gardeners should use common sense
when scanning these and similar advertisements. If it sounds too good
to be true, it probably is. By the way, another thing that comes in the
spring are countless seed and plant catalogues. Here’s a great “do’s and
don’ts” article from an Extension Agent who’s seen it all. It’s from the
Home and Garden Television (HGTV) website and it’s also filled with
some practical advice when ordering plant material through the mail.
Until next issue, here's to
Great Gardening from the GardenLine, heard
exclusively weekend mornings from 8 to noon
on Talkradio 950 KPRC.
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