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Milberger's Nursery and Landscaping
3920 North Loop 1604 E.
San Antonio, TX 78247

Three exits east of 281, inside of 1604
Next to the Diamond Shamrock station
Please click map for more detailed map and driving directions.

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Weekly Gardening Column


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 hulled seed.

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 is lacking?

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' and 'Stampede'.

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 522?9220.

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 to use?

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 San Antonio?

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 by sod.

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 fairly quick.

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
become hard?

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 loss.

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 insects.

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!!!