Question: My lawn has crabgrass in it despite two applications of crabgrass preventer this spring. What happened?
Answer: A majority of the crabgrass preventers mixed with fertilizer generally last from 8-12 weeks. If applied around March 15, the first application deteriorates around mid-May. If the second application is applied around mid-May it will deteriorate around the end of July. Increased rainfall shortens that period, giving crabgrass seed more opportunity to germinate and therefore pop up in your yard in late summer. With all the recent rains, it is no wonder more crabgrass is appearing. One crabgrass plant can produce up to 150,000 seeds. It is no wonder we cannot escape crabgrass infestations in our yards. There are proponents of using one season-long application of a crabgrass preventer in late winter and others that think a split application is better. Both strategies work provided the rate is correct according to the area you are treating. With that said, Mother Nature still holds the cards on how well they all work.
Question: Why won’t my St. Johns Wort bloom anymore?
Answer: St. Johns Wort is an excellent ground cover and is known for its flowers. For maximum flowering, this plant requires almost a full day of sunshine. Shade limits flowering. Over time, shade can creep in as the surrounding trees expand their canopy. What was planted in full sun or partial shade years ago may now be much shadier and flowering is drastically reduced. Also, you should know that St. Johns Wort blooms on new growth. If your plants are in full sun and not blooming, I would prune the plants back drastically this winter. The new growth that appears this spring should produce flowers. It is worth the effort.
Question: I have decided that we are going to have a vegetable garden next spring. How do I prepare the soil this fall?
Answer: Mark off the area and mow all the grass and weeds as low as you can. Cover the soil with a tarp for several weeks if the garden is small. This kills the grass and weeds beneath it. Remove the tarp and spread 2-3 inches of leaf compost or bagged cow manure (Black Cow) over the soil. I used to get horse and cow manure for my garden. With as many farmers I knew, I thought it was a sin to buy it. Turn the manure or compost into the soil to a depth of 4-6 inches with either a tiller, shovel, or garden fork. Organic matter adds microscopic organisms to the soil to improve the soil's health and structure. At some point during this activity, mix into the soil 5 pounds of agricultural lime per 100 square feet of garden. This will reduce soil acidity over the winter. Let the soil remain fallow over the winter. Freezing temperatures will fracture the clay into smaller particles. If winter weeds begin to appear, rework the soil to kill them. I would avoid using a cover crop on small gardens. They can become unmanageable for both tillers and shovels. In the spring, rework the garden, mixing in a high phosphate fertilizer prior to planting.
Question: I planted a white peach called Elberta a year ago but the peaches turned out to be yellow. What happened?
Answer: You where sold a yellow peach variety and not Elberta. The tree was mislabeled. It could have happened at the garden center or from their supplier. Tags can fall off during transportation and handling. There is no way to know which tree it fell off of because all peach trees look the same until the fruit forms. It could have happened in the nursery field too where another variety accidentally got planted amongst the others. Mix-ups happen when you are dealing with thousands of plants.
Rett Davis is a retired Alamance County Extension Director and Certified Arborist. You can email your questions or plant photos to him at Rett_Davis@ncsu.edu.