Help for Winter Damaged Lawns

The snow and cold weather we had this winter not only turned grass browner than usual but it also stimulated turf diseases like Snow Mold and Red Thread. Although these diseases damage the top growth, they usually do not damage the roots and crowns under the soil. In most cases you will see new shoot growth in damaged areas as weather warms.

Old brown grass can be raked out by hand or you can rent a power thatcher. If damaged spots are too large or too slow to fill in, consider over seeding with perennial ryegrass. If you have shady areas, look for a shady blend which also contains fescue. Be sure to scratch the soil with a rake so grass seeds can take root as they germinate. Cover seed lightly with top soil or bark dust. If rain is not regular enough to keep the top of the soil moist, sprinkle with water.

Now is also a good time to apply regular lawn fertilizer. Make sure the fertilizer contains iron to kill moss which may have developed over winter. You can also apply moss control products separately, but they are almost as expensive as fertilizer with moss control. You might as well accomplish both jobs with one product.

Winter Damage to Evergreen Shrubs

Winter snow and cold damaged some of our marginal broad leaf evergreens such as Mexican Orange, (Choisya ternata), Escallonia, and Viburnum tinus ‘Spring Bouquet’. Branch tips and leaves have a scorched brown or black look. Damaged growth can simply be pruned off. However, don’t be in too much of a hurry to prune. In some cases the old damaged leaves will drop off and the branch tips will grow new leaves. Wait until the branch tips do not develop new leaves before cutting them off.

Plant Cool Weather Vegetables Now

We may not all have a spot designated for vegetables, but a few vegetables can easily be worked into sunny shrub or flower beds. Cool weather, frost tolerant vegetables do better if planted early. It is easy to tell if a vegetable is cold tolerant or not. If you eat the leaves, roots, flower buds or stems, it is frost tolerant. The only major exception is sweet potatoes, which require warm temperature to thrive. I like to plant small patches a foot or two square of radishes, carrots, green onions, Swiss chard, leaf lettuce and spinach. Colorful leaf lettuce mixes and multi-colored Swiss chard look as pretty as flowers. These are all vegetables which will go from seed to harvest in less than 60 days.

Speed Warm Weather Vegetable Growth and Prevent Weeds

Serious vegetable gardeners look for and plant early-maturing varieties so they can harvest their own fresh vegetables as soon as possible. There are some techniques and aids to speed vegetable growth which will help even more.

The most important vegetables to baby in order to speed growth are the long season ones like tomatoes, peppers, squash, corn, and melons.

I like to plant my corn seed as soon as the soil temperature reaches 50 degrees. That is often 2 weeks before the average last frost date (late March to early April). Not only does it take corn several days to germinate, but it is somewhat frost tolerant. Since it grows from the bottom up, it will continue to grow even if the tops of the leaves are singed by frost. I normally plant 3 varieties, one with a 60 to 65 day maturity, one with a 70 to 75 day maturity, and one with an 80 to 85 day maturity.

Squash, melons, cucumbers, and beans require a soil temperature of 60 degrees for the seed to sprout. I usually wait until May to plant beans, but I can fudge a few days on cucumbers, squash, and melons. Since a couple of plants is usually enough of each, I plant about 3 seeds together and cover them with a gallon milk jug from which I have cut off the bottom. The radiant heat warms the soil inside and seeds germinate quickly. The milk jug will also protect from a couple of degrees of frost.

I also use red, green, brown or black plastic mulch for all my long season vegetables. Red plastic is best for tomatoes and melons. Green or brown works well for everything else and is also okay for tomatoes and melons. If you can’t find red, brown or green plastic, black plastic is the third choice. Black plastic laid flat on the ground absorbs the sun’s heat and transfers it to the soil which it touches. Red and green plastic allow some of the sun’s heat rays through the plastic, so they warm the soil even more. In addition, red plastic reflects some light up into the plant leaves. All four shade out the light which stimulates weed growth. The only place where you will have to remove weeds is right near the holes which you make for your plants.

Get your soil completely ready for planting including adding fertilizer. I like to make a furrow to catch water. Lay the plastic on the soil over the furrow and place soil around the edges to hold it in place. Make holes at intervals for transplanting plants or placing seeds. Plastic can also be placed over transplanted plants, and X holes made to pull plants through.

If plastic strips are no more than 4 feet wide, sprinkler irrigation on top will provide adequate water. Water runs on top of the plastic above the furrow until it finds a hole and then runs in.

Floating row covers (woven, translucent plastic cloth) can also be used to speed growth. They work like a mini-greenhouse over plants. Warm weather crops like tomatoes, peppers, melons, cucumbers and squash can be planted outside up to a month early. The row covers not only protect from light frost but raise the temperature inside by 10 degrees or more, so they grow faster. Red, brown and green plastic mulch and floating row covers can be ordered from Johnny’s Seeds ( and Territorial Seed Co. (

Wall-O-Water plant protectors work well for individual tomato or pepper plants. They have a series of tubes which are filled with water. The water gives off heat on frosty nights. They also heat the air inside the circle which makes heat loving vegetables grow faster.

Leaf Diseases in Flowering Cherry, Dogwood, and Roses

These three plants develop several different leaf diseases as the new leaves come out in the rainy spring weather. Make sure to rake up all dead leaves under them because they are the source of reinfestation. Several fungicides prevent these leaf diseases including organic ones. We can apply fungicides for you.

Call or Email your Garden and Landscape Questions

One advantage which comes with this newsletter is free garden advice. I have been answering individual garden questions for over 30 years. I consider it to be my best way to serve my community. Of course some questions lead to additional business for me. I am rewarded either way.