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March 3, 2018


I have an asparagus bed in my yard that has been there for about 45 years.  I harvest asparagus from it every year, getting enough for a few "messes" each season.  Grass grows up in it and I can usually keep it under control, cleaning it out late winter before the new asparagus shoots come up, but this time the grass in the bed is huge!  And there is so much of it.  My question is, would it be safe to just burn the old grass before the new crop of asparagus starts coming up?  Also, does the new growth come from the roots of the previous year's growth?   Or does it come up from seeds dropped from the previous year's growth?  Just wondering mainly if I can safely burn the grass in the bed -- safe for the asparagus, that it.  (Will be most vigilant and careful when/if I do burn, of course.)


Controlled burning is used to control many grasses and weeds in appropriate places, and in a place where burning is allowed (not is city limits here).  However, I think you are getting a bit late in the season to consider it.  These mild days are going to have asparagus popping out of the ground any day.  Even with careful attention the heat that is generated could damage the spears close to the soil surface.  Asparagus is a perennial plant which comes back from the crowns and roots each year.  If seeds are left to form, there can be some seedlings emerging but the true harvest comes from the crowns.



August 12, 2017

QuestionPlease see the attached picture.  It shows part of the front yard of a rental property I own.  There is a lovely tulip poplar tree on the north side of the property, but all of the grass under it has died.  I've tried Bermuda and St. Augustine, but with no luck. What can survive under the shade of the tree?  I'd prefer grass, even if it doesn't match the rest of the grass in the yard, but I'll even settle for some type of ground cover if necessary.  Do you have any good suggestions?


Grass and shade do not mix.  To add insult to injury, your tulip poplar tree is going to grow taller and taller and provide even more shade.  If you want it to look like grass, plant the groundcover Mondo grass (ophiopogon) or a little bit taller monkey grass (Liriope).  There are other groundcovers as well, but these would be the most grass-like. 


June 17, 2017

QuestionSummer is heating up and so is my frustration with people and their need to water. My neighbor, after more than 20 inches of rain, was watering her grass after mowing. I asked her, "why?" She said because she was watering in the fertilizer that was on the cut grass. I thought, maybe, in an article, you could explain that all she was doing was watering her grass. I could have explained that the cut grass would decompose and the nutrients from past fertilizations would then go into the soil. I have 5000 sq. ft. of lawn and never, ever water all summer. If a person has a healthy root system, they don't need to water. But, why am I telling you this. You already know.  Water is a precious resource. People all over the world are dying because they do not have clean water.


There are definitely people who overwater, and some who don’t water enough.  If you have a well-established Bermuda grass lawn with great soil, then you can get by without watering even in a dry summer.  In my first house, we had great soil, lived on a level lot and I rarely watered.  The yard I have now is on a slope with a ton of rocks.  While I amend the beds, there is still a need for me to water my vegetables and flowers with regularity.  I don’t water my zoysia that often, as lawns are typically more tolerant.  Recycling yard waste is also recycling nutrition.  Many people over-fertilize their lawns too.   I think it all comes down to what you are growing, spacing of plants, soil type, amount of sunlight and age of plants.  My pet peeve is sprinklers going off in pouring rain.  We all need to be conscious of how much water we are using and making sure we use it properly to conserve what we have.  


April 8, 2017

QuestionMy lawn has been treated with pre-and post-emergent herbicides.   There are bare spots that need to be over-seeded.   If I break up the surface before planting will the grass seed germinate.  


Pre-emergent herbicides prevent weed seeds from germinating, and often don't differentiate from grass seed.  I would try spot sodding and avoid herbicides while it is establishing.


April 2, 2016


Thank you for your efforts in fighting Crepe Murder and volcano mulching--both noble causes. I'm also concerned about the low cutting heights used for the lawns in MacArthur Park.  Is there any reason why they cut the grass so low?  It would seem that a greater depth would allow for more water retention and soil development.  And it would reduce mowing costs.  As it is right now, the lawns are showing lots of clay.


For years people felt the need to scalp their lawns in the spring to get rid of winter weeds and dead growth to encourage new growth.  Scalping is not good for the lawn.  Mowing at a slightly lower setting for the first mowing to remove debris is ok, but low mowing (cutting back to 1-1 ½ inches) and scalping where you can see bare ground are quite different.  After the first mowing, keeping the lawn mown to a height of 2-3 inches can give you a stronger root system, and help to shade the soil. When we have thin turf, we have more weed competition, and you will need to mow and water more often.


February 6, 2016


I have never seen this addressed so I'm seeking information on the subject of pre-emergent herbicides. How is it used and where is it available?


Pre-emergent herbicides are weed preventers.  They should help suppress annual weeds from germinating.  Since we have two seasons of weeds—winter weeds and summer weeds, they can be applied in the fall to prevent winter weeds from germinating and then in late winter/early spring to prevent the summer weeds from germinating. Again, they only work for annual weeds, not perennial weeds like nutgrass, dandelions, etc.  An annual is a plant that germinates, grows, sets seeds and dies in one season.  Pre-emergent herbicides are often sold at nurseries and garden centers in the fall and early winter.  I only recommend them for use in well-established lawns.  While there are some formulations for flower beds and vegetable gardens, I want some of my plants to reseed themselves, so I don’t use any herbicides in these gardens—just a good hoe and mulch.  For lawns, they often sell what is known as a weed and feed.  Right now if you are using it, you would be fertilizing winter weeds, since the lawn is still dormant. I prefer using a stand-alone pre-emergent, not one mixed with fertilizer. 


October 24, 2015

QuestionWe have a beautiful giant red oak tree in the front yard.  Unfortunately, the ground around it is almost bare.  Do you know of any kind of grass that will grow in the shade of this tree?  My husband prefers to purchase blocks of sod grass from a sod farm because he has had success with these in another area of our yard; however, we could seed the shaded patch. We will appreciate your help very much.

AnswerShade is a wonderful commodity in an Arkansas summer, but it doesn’t bode well for lawn grasses.  The most shade tolerant lawn in central Arkansas is St. Augustine or Centipede and they need some filtered light.  They are not typically as winter hardy in NW Arkansas.  Tall fescue is the best option up there, but again, they are a struggle to grow in the shade. I would give up trying to fight it and put in a groundcover or simply mulch the area.    For groundcover options consider mondo grass which can look like grass, or sweet flag (Acorus species) another grass look alike, or  ajuga.  There are numerous evergreen groundcovers that can blanket the area although don’t tolerate high traffic. Stepping stones or a path put in the middle can help you have a path.  


September 19, 2015

Question  We have lost the majority of the grass in our backyard leaving nothing but dirt and dust. We have full shade in the backyard, so I know that is part of the problem, but my question is this: What type of grass sod or grass seeds could we lay or plant to establish a backyard lawn that would thrive in shade. We are committed to thoroughly watering whatever can be done to have a backyard lawn.

AnswerGrass does not grow in the shade. You have several options.  You can mulch the yard to make it more attractive, or put in groundcover.  There are numerous options, including Asiatic jasmine, ajuga, Mondo grass and monkey grass (liriope).  You could also establish a moss garden, which you can walk on and is a nice green cover in the shade.  You could create a combination, with pathways of mulch and beds of groundcovers or shade loving perennials and shrubs. You just can’t grow a typical lawn in the shade, but it doesn’t mean you have to have dirt and dust.  


 (September 2012)

QuestionI have just had much of my yard tilled up (to loosen the soil) and had Bermuda sod laid to replace the areas that did not make it during the drought/summer. Planting sod in September seemed to me was the right time of year. Was I right? Should I broadcast any fertilizer on the sod or just omit the fertilizer?

AnswerSodding is something that can be done year-round, as long as you are willing to water. I usually don’t recommend any fertilizer on warm season grasses past mid September. We don’t want to encourage a lot of rapid new top growth heading into winter. The key is to keep it watered to develop a root system and fertilize next spring after the lawn has totally greened up.

(June 2012)

QuestionWe used a pre-emergent herbicide on our lawn this year and it did not stop the progress of the weed called crabgrass. Is there something I can do to rid my yard of this grass?

AnswerThe standard herbicide for crabgrass control for years was MSMA and it is no longer on the market. We now have products that contain quinclorac for control. However most homeowner products are combined with another herbicide –many have 2,4-D (a broadleaf weed killer) which could burn warm season grasses when applied during the hot summer months –trade names include Weed-B-Gone Max, Weed Stop plus Crabgrass Killer and All in One Lawn Weed and Crabgrass Killer. Some products are combined with sulfentrazone—a sedge killer; trade names include Image Kills Crabgrass or Sedge and Grass Killer. Make sure if you are applying herbicides that you read the label beforehand. Follow recommended rates and read if there are any temperature restrictions and that it is safe for the type of lawn you are growing. Many herbicides are not recommended for use on St. Augustine or Centipede lawns. Also, make sure that the lawn has ample moisture before applying chemicals or fertilizers or you could damage the lawn. Don’t spray on a windy day and don’t treat the entire yard if you just have a patch here and there—spot spraying would be much safer.

(May 2012)

QuestionI'm hoping you can help me with a problem we are having with our grass! We live out in the country in the middle of a field. We have always had several varieties of different grasses in our "yard". However, this year, what grass we have seems to have been taken over by stickers! The "grass" which is now mostly stickers is all brown and crunchy. We have lots of little white blooms of some kind (I'm assuming they are the seeds of the sticker "grass") all over our yard. Can you offer any advice as to what we can do to kill these things and save our grass? We can't even walk the dog without him getting them stuck in his paws!! Where could they have come from? Our yard is about an acre in size.

AnswerWeeds of all kinds seem to be more prolific this year. The weed that produces the tiny sticker is called spurweed. I doubt you still have any blooms on it, because they were out most of the winter and are dying now. The sticker is the seed of the plant. Spurweed germinates in the fall, producing a ground-hugging plant with small parsley-like leaves. It does have a tiny white flower and then the seeds are produced which have stickers. It is a winter annual which dies back in the spring/early summer. The seeds will germinate in the fall and start all over again. A few this year, become a lot more each subsequent year if you don’t do something. For now, fertilize the grass (and water when dry) to get it high enough to buffer the seeds/stickers, so you and the dogs can walk. Next fall, either use a pre-emergent herbicide, or spray with a post-emergent herbicide with 2,4-D in it between December and February to kill the weeds before they set more seeds next spring.

QuestionWe are having a problem with dead patches in our lawn. We have had a lawn service for 3 years who fertilize every 4 months and apply weed pre-emergence once a year. I understand dead patches from weed killer, but it keeps getting worse. My husband attached a grass catcher to our mower, this being the 3rd summer. My question is whether the weed pre-emergence or the grass catcher could be causing the problem or even both of them. I have heard that grass clippings should be left on the ground - also, that the clippings should be raked up.......I hope you can help with my thoughts & concerns.

AnswerDead patches in lawns can be caused by a number of things, from over-application of fertilizers and herbicides, to insects and diseases, and in cold winters, winter damage. Shade is also a factor in how well a lawn grows—grass does not do well in the shade. The type of lawn grass you are growing can also impact how much traffic it can take and how much fertilization it needs. I like to recycle lawn clippings. As long as you are mowing frequently, and not removing more than one third of the lawn grass at a time, you shouldn’t have to bag your grass clippings. The grass clippings can actually add nutrition back to the soil. If the grass gets tall in between mowing leaving behind heavy accumulations of wet grass, then bag or rake, since the clumps of dead grass could damage your lawn, and they are unsightly. Fertilizing every 4 months is a bit odd for a fertilization program. Normally we recommend waiting until the lawn is totally green and then fertilizing. If you grow St. Augustine or Zoysia, you could get by with one application of fertilizer per year, or you could apply one more application midsummer or late summer depending on the amount of moisture we have and how hot it is. Bermuda grass will tolerate fertilizer every month from May through August, but you will mow like crazy, so you may want to only fertilize twice a year. Take a sample of your dying grass to your local county extension office to see if they can determine the cause.

(March 2012)

QuestionThings to do in the garden in the month of March.


AnswerThings to do in the garden this month: Plant a vegetable garden. Prune roses, crape myrtles, butterfly bushes (if you haven''t already done so.) Don''t worry if they are already growing. Many plants have started growing early this year. Cut back ornamental grasses, including monkey grass or liriope. Check to see how tall the new growth is before you cut. Fertilize spring flowering bulbs and winter annuals. Pay attention to the weather, and keep extra mulch on hand for a cold snap. If your summer and fall blooming perennials are too crowded, divide them as they emerge. Mow your lawn to keep winter weeds from blooming and setting seeds. Weed your flower beds with a sharp hoe. Put down a fresh layer of mulch in your gardens.


QuestionOn common Bermuda grass, what do you recommend to fertilize this time of the year?


AnswerThe best time to fertilize Bermuda grass is after it is fully green and growing--no sooner than mid April. Fertilizing it now, will just make your weeds grow faster.

(Oct. 2010)

QuestionOur yard was sodded with Zoysia this year. The yard was somewhat shaded, so we had the trees trimmed up 10-12 feet so sun could shine through. We have had no rain but we do have a sprinkler system and do water every other day, however the sod is dying. I guess we will have to re-sod next spring. What do you suggest for a yard that has 3 large oak trees in it-- Zoysia, St. Augustine or what? The yard before the drought was green.

AnswerIt has been a tough season for gardening and continues to be dry. How much are you watering every other day? For newly laid sod we normally water a little bit every day to establish roots, then start increasing the amount of water but applying it less frequently. I suppose it is possible the grass is going dormant early, but you will have to gauge how well it comes back next spring before deciding to re-sod. St. Augustine is probably the most shade tolerant of the warm season grasses, followed by centipede and Zoysia.

(September 2007)

QuestionWhy is our grass only green on top? There is no green what-so-ever further down the stalk. We have had this problem all year.

AnswerYou are probably mowing your lawn at too high a setting, or letting it grow too much between mowings. If you mow high, every time you mow, you remove the only portion of the lawn that had direct sunlight—and thus green leaves. The top part of the grass is actually shading the bottom. The term for this is sheathing. It takes a day or two for the unexposed lawn to re-green after cutting. For next season, try mowing your lawn at a lower setting or mowing more often, so that you don't remove more than one third of the leaf blade at a time. Some lawn grasses are more susceptible to this problem, with hybrid Bermuda being one of the most susceptible.

(September 2006)

QuestionI saw this devise in a recent publication. I will try to explain; it was a metal plate with spikes, which you slipped on your shoes to aerate the lawn. Do you know where I can find this or point me in the right direction?

AnswerThey are available from many garden catalogs, however, I don't think they are very effective. If your lawn is truly compacted, punching holes in it with spikes will not alleviate the compaction; in effect, it can make it worse. To truly make a difference, core aeration is best, where you actually remove plugs of soil. You can rent these machines from any rental place. They look somewhat like a lawn mower and you simply walk the yard, and it pulls out plugs of soil.

(September 2006)

QuestionWe are confused. We thought our zoysia grass should be left longer as winter approached. However, we had an article recently in our local newspapers home improvement section that espoused that grass should be short, without scalping, at this time. Please enlighten us.

AnswerYou are correct, the article is wrong. It is possible the article was a wire service story and was dealing with cool season grasses, which are beginning their growing season. For those of us in the south with warm season lawns, we start mowing low in the spring to get rid of the dead over-wintered tops of the lawn. As fall and winter approaches, we gradually raise the height of the lawn to increase root production, and thus winter hardiness. Low mowing or scalping now would expose the lawn to potential winter damage.

(November 2005)

QuestionWhat can I do for my lawn grass at this time of year? The drought we had this summer in SW Arkansas ruined what grass I had left. Ten years ago I had a great St. Augustine grass lawn and now most of it has died. Over the years the ice storms and heat have taken its toll. Can you help me?

AnswerThis is probably not the ideal time to begin a new lawn. The key to growing grass in Arkansas is at least some sunlight and water. St. Augustine is a good lawn for south Arkansas, but it does need water. If you can't irrigate at all, you may run into problems having a great lawn. If you have full sun, Bermuda grass is probably the toughest, and the most drought resistant. Sodding or seeding can be done. Seeding should be from April through early June, while sodding can be done year-round. It will not grow in the shade. Zoysia is another option if you have a bit more shade, but it would need some irrigation to survive.

(December 2005)

QuestionWe have a centipede lawn established from sod 5 years ago which has done very well. We have an irrigations system and wonder what the water requirements are for the dormant season. We have had a very dry summer and fall. Do we need to water on a regular basis so long as weather conditions remain dry, or can we cease watering in the dormant season?

AnswerIt has been extremely dry in the majority of the state. Watering is a good thing to continue-just not as frequently. If we go two to three weeks without water, do irrigate if you can. Most folks drain their sprinkler systems for the winter, so it may mean bringing out the hoses, but it can be helpful. Lawns are probably not as needy as shrubs. Pay particular attention to plants prior to a really hard freeze. If there is not ample soil moisture, there won't be anything in the plants to protect them from a freeze. This can lead to dried out dead tissue. Pick a mild day and give your plants a drink, even in the dead of winter. Dry winters lead to more winter damage. Container plants are even needier, even in wetter winters.


QuestionI know you said to put a pre-emerge herbicide on at this time of year for the stickers that look like carrot tops but I don't remember what kind to get.

AnswerSince many winter weeds are already germinating, you may simply want to wait until January or early February and apply a post-emergent herbicide containing 2,4-D. This should kill most broadleaf weeds, including the spurweed --the sticker weed. The key is to control these winter weeds while they are young.

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