QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS FOR THE THIRD WEEK OF MAY
QUESTION: We planted some common bermuda
seed in mid-April. I think the weather was too cool for it
to germinate, because I'm seeing minimal results. We have
kept it continuously watered so it doesn't dry out. My question:
now that the temperatures are warmer, will the seed germinate
or should I re-seed? We spread about 2 to 3 inches of sandy
loam and lightly raked it in, but as I said-- nothing yet.
ANSWER: Only time will tell whether or not it is going
to come up. Do you know if the seed you planted was hulled
(the hull removed)? It could make a difference in germination
time if you planted a hulled seed. If you do not see lots
of germination in the next few days with the temperatures
as warm as they are now, I recommend that you replant using
QUESTION: I am having trouble with an area of Comanche
Buffalo grass that my husband and I installed last year. The
grass area over our lateral lines in the front yard have always
been the first to "white up" when there's a rain
shortage, but since the remaining grass has turned green since
winter, the lateral line area has not. We have fertilized
all of the grass, including that area but to no avail. This
one specific area will not cooperate! The rest of our yard
looks terrific. But the spots where the lines are look as
if an alien has left a landing pattern on our grass! I feel
pretty certain it has to do with the fact that the sod in
this area is resting on mainly sand. The question: what can
do we put on this area to compensate for whatever the grass
ANSWER: I hate to be the bearer of bad
news but if your grass has not greened up by now, I fear that
it isn't going to. It is more than likely dead!
I am not familiar with a buffalo grass named
Comanche and I could find no reference to it on internet.
The buffaloes which are commonly available are '609', 'Prairie'
If the grass was never watered enough to establish
some deep roots, it probably succumbed to the combined stress
of the drought and the winter (mild as it was). Try applying
a couple of inches of compost such as the compost sold by
San Antonio Water System to help sod get established in those
areas. It is sold at their Northwest Conservation Site, located
at 6798 Culebra Road (inside Loop 410). The phone number is
See this Virginia Tech web site for information
on planting over your septic system drain field:
QUESTION: We just put down El Toro Sod.
Is it too late to fertilize in May? Which is the best fertilizer
ANSWER: We recommend a fertilizer with
slow release nitrogen. The most commonly sold one in this
area has a ratio of 19-5-9 and is sold under many brand names.
There are others such as Scott's 27-2-2 that works just as
well. Your sod should not need to be fertilized for approximately
45 days. Right now, it needs to concentrate on getting roots
established. After 45, days you can fertilize.
QUESTION: I have an English walnut tree
that is at least 6 years old, but it has never produced. Is
there something wrong with the tree, or is it still maturing?
ANSWER: It normally takes walnut trees
6 to 8 years to start bearing. So I would think the tree should
set some nuts this year. If it fails to set nuts in the next
couple of years you may have a pollination problem and you
may have to hand pollinate a nut with pollen from a different
walnut tree. Once the tree sets a nut, it will always produce
sufficient pollen to pollinate itself.
QUESTION: I have a few questions about
grass seed vs. sod. What is the fastest growing grass seed
that is drought-resistance? If we wanted our yard to look
decent within the shortest amount of time should we go with
seed or sod? I saw on one of the craft shows where they planted
grass seed in a pot and it sprouted within a few weeks. Is
that possible, and if so, which type should we use here in
ANSWER: If your lawn area is in full
sun, you can establish a good drough- tolerant bermuda turf
using seed. However, if you have shade, your only choices
are St Augustine and Zoysia both of which must be established
Certainly a lawn established with sod will look
the best in the shortest amount of time. You have a complete
lawn as soon as you lay the sod. However, if cost is a factor
and you have the sunny location, it is much cheaper to establish
the bermuda lawn from seed.
Bermuda seed, planted on a prepared area and
kept moist, will sprout within a week and can usually be cut
for the first time in approximately 3 weeks. It will take
some time to become a tight turf, but will look quite respectable
See this PLANTanswers web site for links to
many articles on turfgrass:
QUESTION: How can I control Greenbriar. I have it under
some of my live oak trees. I have cut it to the ground but
it quickly comes back.
ANSWER: You describe one of the species
of Smilax which are commonly called Greenbriar. It is extremely
difficult to eradicate since it reproduces itself from an
underground tuber. The best means of attack, if you cannot
dig out the tuber, is to cut it back to the ground and continually
cut off the new growth. It will eventually run out of stored
energy and succumb. See this Rutgers University web site for
a description along with links to pictures of Greenbriar.
Greenbriar, Smilax spp. is also called "bull
briar" and "cat briar". The green, woody stems
are armed with long, sharp spines which readily tear clothes
and flesh. It moves as a vine and will completely cover the
edge of woods or a blueberry field. As it weaves itself together
it becomes impenetrable. As a member of the lily family, it
has a bulb situated deep in the ground. Control is virtually
impossible except by continued cutting. Attempts to dig up
the bulb have been unsuccessful.
QUESTION: What is causing the leaves
of my African violet to
ANSWER: Succulence in African violet
leaves (I think this is what you mean by "hard")
is generally caused by too much nitrogen fertilizer, or too
high light, or a combination of both. Crowding of the leaves
may be due to suckers popping up from the sides of the stem;
if this is the case, you need to pinch the suckers out when
they are young.
QUESTION: I would appreciate any advice you could give
me with the following items. About a week ago I sodded a new
lawn (3000 sq ft) with Emerald Zoysia. The sod was laid over
approximately 12 inches of native black (clay) soil with 4
to 6 inches of sandy loam added on top and raked smooth. I
live in the hill country just west of Austin and the daily
temperature has been 85 to 90 degrees. I have been watering
the grass with a droplet sprinkler twice a day for approximately
30 minutes each time and although the ground is saturated
down to the clay layer, the grass that is in full sun is still
turning brown around the outer 2 inchesof each square. It
is also a very light green color. The first few days, it was
a solid dark gree color. My main 2 questions are: 1) Should
I water for less time but more frequently? 2) Should I apply
a fertilizer this soon after laying the new sod, and if so,
what ratios. I assume that it would be better to fertilize
with something for the root system. I think I read an article
on your site a few weeks ago that said a 1-2-1 fertilizer
would work well with Zoysia; however I haven't been able to
find that article again and can't remember if it pertained
to "newly" sodded areas. Any advice would be greatly
appreciated since all of the nurseries I have contacted have
given me conflicting advice, further confusing me.
ANSWER: Did you lay the sod down solid
or did you checker board it? The drying out of the edges indicates
to me that either you laid it in a checker-board or you did
not get the pieces butted together tightly. This is allowing
air to get to the dirt under the sod and dry it out. In any
case, if there are separations between sod pieces, filling
in with some good garden soil should help the evaporation
I do not know the volume of your sprinkler system,
but I am sure that the lawn would benefit from more frequent
applications of less water. If you cannot do this, then I
would cut back somewhat on the duration of your 2 applications.
The sod should not need fertilization for approximately
45 days after installation. After that time, give it an application
of any of the slow release fertilizers that are recommended
for your area (your nurseryman can give you guidance or you
can call your local county extension horticulture agent).
The reference to the 1-2-1 fertilizer came from this PLANTanswers
web site and it applies to Zoysia lawns established from seed:
It says: "A newly planted Zoysia grass
turf should be fertilized with a 1-2-1 or similar fertilizer
at a rate of 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft. of area
at the time of planting."
QUESTION: My Mom, who lives in Houston,
swears that she has what looks like saliva appearing on several
different plants in her tropical flower garden. The substance
is not sticky, and has no obvious source. Any ideas what it
is and how to get rid of it?
ANSWER: Has some pervert been spitting
on your old Mama's plants!?!?!? Or is it just a bunch of little
disgusting insects disguised in a spit-like substance and
consequently called spittle bugs?!?!?
Spittlebugs are sucking insects of the order
Homoptera, family Cercopidae. They are not true bugs but rather
closely related to leaf-hoppers and are sometimes called frog-hoppers.
The remarkable thing about spittlebugs is the frothy mass
enveloping the nymphs. Children call in frog spit. This spittle
is a combination of a fluid voided from the anus, and a mucilaginous
substance secreted by glands on the 7th and 8th abdominal
segments, mixed with air drawn in between a pair of plates
under the abdomen. The mixture is forced out under pressure,
as from a bellows, to make uniform bubbles. The tail, going
up and down, operates the bellows and keeps the bubbles coming.
As soon as the first bubbles are formed, the nymph reaches
back with its legs and hooks onto the globules, dragging them
forward to its head. The greenish nymph is soon hidden under
a mound of snow-white foam, protected from sun and preying
Many spittlebugs are relatively harmless but
several are economically injurious to plants. Spray with methoxychlor,
Malathion, or endosulfan, or use systemic insecticides such
as Orthene. I hope you did not read this answer soon after
or before consuming a meal ?? if so, I apologize for the graphic
description. See, your Mama wasn't imagining things!!!