Posts tagged germinate

Garden experimentation

   The following is by Linn County Master Gardener, Claire Smith: My daughter’s garden is going to amount to a hill of beans.  Her first family garden last year was so much fun that they planted another.  Michelle dug a hole for a tomato and as she picked up the  plant, two year old Charlie dumped a half package of green beans in the hole and then proceeded to cover the seeds with his yellow plastic rake, “Back and forth, Gramma, back and forth”.  No problem, we’ll just use a trellis and enjoy Charlie and his beanstalk.  Catie was a big help, too.  She labeled a stake for both ends of the rows so we’ll be sure to know what we planted.  FYI, the rows are all of ten feet long.  Watering the seeds daily until they germinate hasn’t been a problem as long as no one minds that Charlie can turn on the spigot and water himself, Catie, and the neighbor’s dog.  We’re waiting to mulch the plants until they sprout in an effort to keep Charlie off the rows. With limited garden space, they’re experimenting with a hanging container cherry tomato plant. The container will probably require watering daily, allowing the water to run through the container. 

   Charlie helped us plant Hosta in their back yard this week.  The family is renovating the yard so some landscaping is in order. Their home is nestled on a hill surrounded by mature trees.  We planted several Hostas between a retaining wall and a tree where they will enjoy speckled sunlight.  Hosta prefers a rich organic soil, but they will grow in about anything.  We have access to aged horse manure to augment the soil and topped that, of course, with hardwood mulch. 

   Michelle plans to alternate Day Lilies and Iris in a sunny spot in front of the house.  Both are perennials preferring full sun and fertile, well drained soil, but once established will tolerate drought.  The latter makes them a good choice for a busy working Mom with two equally busy youngsters.

   Annuals will supplement other spaces.  Petunias, Snapdragons and Salvia are sun lovers.  Impatiens are shade/part shade lovers.  All are easy keepers.

    Eventually there will be shrubs and other flowering perennials.  Michelle and her family are having such a good time experimenting with what works and what doesn’t with both their vegetable and flower gardens.  And that’s what gardening should be about:  family and fun!

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Overseeding lawns

Richard Jauron, Horticulture Specialist at Iowa State University Extension, offers the following on overseeding lawns:

Healthy, well maintained lawns are attractive landscape additions.  Lawns in poor condition, however, are somewhat unsightly.  The poor condition of a lawn may be due to poor management, heat, drought, diseases, insects or other factors.  In severe cases, the existing lawn may have to be destroyed and a new one established on the site.  Lawns that contain over 50 percent desirable grasses can often be improved by overseeding.  

Overseeding is the sowing of grass seed into an existing lawn.  In Iowa, the best time to overseed a lawn is late summer (late August to mid-September).

Site Preparation

Good site preparation is necessary for successful overseeding.  If possible, identify and correct the problems causing the lawn to decline.  Overseeding may only be a temporary solution if these problems are not corrected. 

To reduce the competition from the established turfgrass, mow the lawn at a height of 1-1/2 to 2 inches.  Successful overseeding also requires good seed-to-soil contact.  Simply throwing or broadcasting seed over the lawn typically results in poor seed germination as much of the seed is resting on the thatch layer or soil surface.  Rakes, core aerators, vertical mowers, and slit seeders can be used to ensure good seed-to-soil contact. 

Overseeding Small Areas

Small areas can be prepared by gently raking the thin spots.  When raking, it’s necessary to break the soil surface without pulling out the existing turfgrass.  After raking, sow the seed by hand.  Then, work the seed into the soil by gently raking the areas a second time. 

Overseeding Large Areas

Large areas can be prepared by using a core aerator.  Core aerators are machines with hollow metal tubes or tines.  They remove plugs of soil when run over the lawn.  To prepare the site, go over the lawn three or four times with the core aerator.  When finished, there should be 20 to 40 holes per square foot.  Apply the seed with a drop seeder.  Afterward, drag the area with a piece of chain link fence or drag mat to break up the soil cores and mix the seed into the soil. 

It’s also possible to prepare the site with a vertical mower.  When run over the lawn, the knife-like blades of the vertical mower slice through the thatch and penetrate into the upper 1/4 to 1/2 inch of soil.  One or two passes should be sufficient.  Afterwards, remove any dislodged debris from the lawn.  Sow grass seed over the lawn with a drop seeder.  Work the seed into the soil by again going over the site with the vertical mower. 

Large areas also can be overseeded with a slit seeder.  A slit seeder makes small grooves in the soil and deposits the seed directly into the slits. 

Core aerators, vertical mowers and slit seeders can be rented at many garden centers and rental agencies.  If you would rather not do the work yourself, many professional lawn care companies can overseed your lawn. 

Post Seeding Care

Keep the seedbed moist with frequent, light applications of water.  It’s usually necessary to water at least once or twice a day.  Continue to mow the lawn at a height of 1-1/2 to 2 inches.  Mow the lawn frequently to reduce the competition from the established turfgrass.  When the new seedlings reach a height of 1-1/2 to 2 inches, gradually increase the mowing height over the next several weeks.  The final mowing height should be 2-1/2 to 3 inches.  Approximately six weeks after germination, fertilize the lawn by applying 1 pound of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet.  

When properly overseeded, a thin, scruffy-looking lawn can be turned into a thick, lush lawn in just a few weeks. 

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Just getting started

Maybe it’s the snow shoveling that’s occupied my time every weekend, (or has it been every other day?) but I’m not as prepared for spring as I normally would be. By this time last year, I had started cabbage and kale seeds indoors and several flowers that are either slow to germinate or need 12 weeks of growth before being transplanted outside. I also give my peas a start inside. They can tolerate almost any outdoor temperature, but by germinating them indoors, you can get a jump on the season when the snow finally clears enough to plant them outside.

Now that we’ve had to spring ahead for daylight saving time, will it actually feel like spring? I know there’s some controversy surrounding the change – that it disrupts the body’s natural circadian rhythm, doesn’t really save energy, etc. But as far as an extra hour of daylight at night, I’ll take it! In fact, I’d prefer to keep daylight saving time year-round. Even though we “gain” an extra hour of sleep in the fall, I’d prefer the tradeoff of keeping that daylight into the night. When you leave work and it’s already dark outside, it gets a bit gloomy. Plus, if there was no change in the fall and in the spring, wouldn’t that keep our natural sleep rhythms in order better than forcing an adjustment every time we have to switch our clocks??

While many of us are tired of the cold and the snow,  I think nature prefers a constant snow cover over a winter that goes through cycles of thawing and freezing, as we’ve seen in recent years. The snow acts as a good insulation for plants and prevents those eager beavers who want to clear out their beds on the first warm day of February or March from doing so. Now, let’s hope that our warmup (it will come, right??) is a gradual one and we don’t jump straight into summer.

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