Grass Planting, Drought Tolerant Trees, Compost

1Q. I have seen your article on summer grasses and you do not recommend planting sod after August 1. The article mainly talked about Bermuda and Buffalo grass. Does this same rule apply to St. Augustine. If it does not, how late in the fall can St. Augustine be planted as sod? Does your response account for a possible mild winter, as we have experienced the last two years? – L.C., Dallas

A. The article was about planting from seed. Solid sod can be planted year round when available, especially if we continue to have winters like the last two. No one would argue that there’s no risk. If we have another sever ’83-’84 type winter, newly planted grass of any kind will be lost – so would the established turf grasses.

2Q. What do you suggest about applying compost over grass clippings on the lawn? Is there a point at which the grass clippings may be too heavy or cause problems under about an inch of good black rich compost over a thick carpet of St. Augustine grass? – R.B., Dallas

A. Applying about an inch of compost in the fall is probably the very best thing you can do for the turf.

3Q. What are some of the most popular drought-tolerant native species trees for Dallas/Fort Worth? Also, for St. Augustine yard in light of the drought, should we fertilize now or wait and with what? – M.W., Dallas

A. Some of the best drought tolerant trees are bur oak, Texas red oak, Texas ash, cedar elm, Eve’s Necklace, chinkapin oak, and lacey oak. Now is an excellent time to fertilize with one of the gentle organic fertilizers such as Garden-Ville, Greisens, Bradfield, Maestro-Gro, Alliance and Bioform. The analysis of these products will range from 1-1-1 to 7-2-2 but all should be applied at 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet. The organic approach is to feed the soil and stimulate the growth beneficial microorganisms. The healthy soil feeds the plants slowly, naturally and completely.

4Q. I have been organic for 2 ½ yards and love your show. I hurt my back two months ago and have let the yard go while I wait for surgery. This morning I awoke to a pest control man that my wife and mother-in-law contracted to help me rid my yard from grasshoppers and fire ants. Well, now we have lots of dead grasshoppers, fire ants, dragonflies, earthworms, and praying mantises. I have the stuff to fix the wife and mother-in-law but what is the best way to detoxify and get back on track? Thanks for your info and broadcast. – K.M., Dallas

A. Detox the Contaminated Soil 101: 1. Apply the activated carbon product called NORIT per label directions. 2. Drench or spray the soil heavily with Garrett Juice plus 2 oz. orange oil or d-limonene per gallon. 3. Give the wife, mother-in-law and pest control guy a copy of my free handouts that explain the Basic Organic Program.

I’ve had several questions about last week’s House & Garden column on composting. My main objections and disagreements are as follows:

The most important element in compost is the life. The greatest value of compost comes from providing microorganisms and carbon – food for microorganisms. Natural soil fertility for landscaping and food crops results from the waste materials and dead bodies of microbes.

Containers are unnecessary unless space is very limited. Since raw materials shrink about 70%, during the composting process, an extremely large container is needed for the raw materials in order to have enough finished compost. If space allows, just pile the raw materials on the ground. You can make more material and the pile is easier to turn.

The truth about what can and cannot go into the compost is quite simple. If the material was once alive, it can and should go in the compost. Human waste should go into the city system, be handled commercially and used efficiently as it is in such products as Milorganite, Hou-Actinite, Dillo Dirt and others. Pet waste should go into the compost pile. Yes, I know all the scare talk about pathogens but think – when would the pathogens be the most active? Right! When the manure is wet and fresh, not after it’s been composted. Some of the cleanest and most beautiful gardens around have been grown with composted food scraps, pine needles, and multitudes of animal manures.

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