Fall planting time is close at hand, so it's time to talk about grass seed. Many people have the idea that all grass seed is basically the same. Big mistake! Choosing quality seed is one of the most important steps in successfully planting or overseeding your lawn. If you don't know what to look for, you may be introducing unwanted intruders into that new stand. In particular, we are concerned with seed contaminated with orchardgrass and/or rough bluegrass (also known by its Latin name, Poa trivialis, or Poa triv for short). These are both perennial grassy weeds that cannot be selectively controlled once they are in a lawn.
Orchardgrass is a problem because it is faster growing and lighter green than our turfgrasses. It is a bunch grass and so doesn’t spread, but infested areas are still unsightly due to small tufts of this species pockmarking the lawn.
Rough bluegrass is fine-textured and forms circular patches in the lawn. It blends in fairly well until summertime heat causes it to turn brown rapidly. If the rough bluegrass would just die in the heat, it would only be a temporary problem. Unfortunately, it usually just goes dormant, turning green again with cooler temperatures and rain.
Buying quality seed starts with knowing how to decipher the seed label. One of the most important things to look for is listed as percent "Other Crop Seed” or “Other Crop.” "Other crop" refers to any species that is intentionally grown for some purpose. That would include turfgrasses (those species other than the one you are buying) and pasture grasses.
Orchardgrass and rough bluegrass both are listed as “Other Crop” seed. Seed labels are required by law to show the percentage (by weight) of "Other Crop Seed" in the bag, but unless a species constitutes 5% or more, the label doesn't have to list each species by name.
How much "Other Crop" is too much? That’s a difficult question to answer, but the tolerance is very low. It depends on what the "Other Crop" actually is, and the quality expectations of the buyer. In practice, "Other Crop" may refer to something relatively harmless, like a small amount of perennial ryegrass in a bag of tall fescue, or it may refer to something bad, like rough bluegrass or orchardgrass. The homeowner really has no easy way of knowing what the "Other Crop" is, although there are some hints. If it is something bad, less than ½ of 1% can ruin a bag of seed. Obviously, if your expectations are high for the area you are planting, you would want the "Other Crop" to be as close to zero as possible. Good quality seed will often have 0.01% “Other Crop Seed” or less.
Another line on the seed label is “Weed Seed.” It should also be 0.01% or less. (Ward Upham)
August through September is the time period our spring-flowering shrubs set flower buds. Therefore, watering, as needed, at this time can help with next spring’s bloom. Also avoid pruning at this time of year as it can reduce bloom for next spring.
Examples of spring-flowering shrubs include Forsythia, Flowering Quince, Almond, Beautybush, Deutzia, Pyracantha, Lilac, Mock Orange, Cotoneaster, Weigela, Viburnum and Witchhazel. (Ward Upham)
Crabapples are safe to consume as long as you don’t eat too many of them. Actually, the only difference between crabapples and apples is the size of the fruit. By definition, crabapples have fruit that are 2 inches or less in diameter, and apples are more than 2 inches in diameter. By this definition, most of the apples grown from seed will be crabapples. The fruiting apples are grafted.
Did people ever plant crabapples from seed? Of course they did. Just think of Johnny Appleseed. But those apples were normally used for jelly, applesauce, and cider and not for fresh eating.
There is one other caveat with using crabapples from a tree in the landscape. Make sure the tree hasn't been sprayed as an ornamental with a pesticide that isn't labeled for fruit tree apples. If it has, then the fruit should not be used. (Ward Upham)
Daylilies need to be divided every three to four years to maintain good flower production. Though they may be divided in early spring before growth starts, it is more common to divide them at this time of year. Many gardeners cut back the tops to about half their original height to make plants easier to handle.
Daylilies have a very tough root system that can make them difficult to divide while in place. Dividing in place is practical if it hasn’t been long since the last division. In such cases, a spading fork can be used to peel fans from the existing clump. If the plants have been in place longer and are well grown together, it is more practical to divide them after the entire clump has been dug.
Use a spade to lift the entire clump out of the ground. Although it is possible to cut the clump apart with a sharp spade, you'll save more roots by using two spading forks back-to-back to divide the clump into sections. Each section should be about the size of a head of cauliflower. An easier method involves using a stream of water from a garden hose to wash the soil from the clump, and then rolling the clump back and forth until the individual divisions separate.
Space divisions 24 to 30 inches apart, and set each at its original depth. The number of flowers will be reduced the first year after division but will return to normal until the plants need to be
divided again. (Ward Upham)
These large (1-1/3- to 1-5/8-inch long) wasps fly slowly above the ground. Cicada killers have a black body with yellow marks across the thorax and abdomen. Wings are reddish-orange.
Although these wasps are huge, they usually ignore people. Males may act aggressively if they are threatened, but are unable to sting. Females can sting, but are so passive that they rarely do. Even if they do sting, the pain is less than that of smaller wasps such as the yellow jacket or paper wasp and is similar to the sting of a sweat bee.
The cicada killer is a solitary wasp rather than a social wasp like the yellow jacket. The female nests in burrows in the ground. These burrows are quarter-size in diameter and can go 6 inches straight down and another 6 inches horizontally. Adults normally live 60 to 75 days from mid-July to mid-September and feed on flower nectar and sap. The adult female seeks cicadas on the trunks and lower limbs of trees. She stings her prey, flips it over, straddles it and carries it to her burrow. If she has a tree to climb, she will climb the tree so they can get airborne and fly with cicada back to the nest. If not, she will drag it. She will lay one egg per cicada if the egg is left unfertilized. Unfertilized eggs develop into males only. Fertilized eggs develop into females and are given at least two cicadas. Cicadas are then stuffed into the female’s burrow. Each burrow normally has three to four cells with one to two cicadas in each. However, it is possible for one burrow to have 10 to 20 cells.
Eggs hatch in two to three days, and larvae begin feeding on paralyzed cicadas. Feeding continues for four to 10 days until only the outer shell of the cicada remains. The larva overwinters inside a silken case. Pupation occurs in the spring. There is one generation per year. Cicada killers are not dangerous, but they can be a nuisance. If you believe control is necessary, treat the burrows after dark to ensure the female wasps are in their nests. The males normally roost on plants near burrow sites. They can be captured with an insect net or knocked out of the air with a tennis racket during the day. Permethrin may be used for control. Products with permethrin include the following.
Eight Garden Dust - Bonide
Multipurpose Garden and Pet Dust - Green Thumb
Garden, Pet & Livestock Dust - Hi-Yield
38 Plus Turf, Termite & Ornamental Insect Spray - Hi-Yield
Eight Vegetable, Fruit & Flower Conc. - Bonide
Eight Yard & Garden RTS - Bonide
Lawn, Garden, Pet, & Livestock Insect Spray - Hi-Yield
Though Kentucky bluegrass is not as heat and drought tolerant as tall fescue and the warm-season grasses, it is commonly used in northeastern Kansas, where there is sufficient annual rainfall. It is also grown under irrigation in northwestern Kansas where the higher elevation allows for cooler summer night temperatures. The following cultivars have performed well compared to other bluegrasses in this region. Use this list as a guide. Omission does not necessarily mean that a cultivar will not perform well.
Recommended cultivars for high-quality lawns, where visual appearance is the prime concern, include Alexa II, Aura, Award, Bewitched, Barrister, Belissimo, Beyond, Diva, Everest, Everglade, Excursion, Ginney II, Granite, Impact, Midnight, NuChicago, NuGlade, NuDestiny, Rhapsody, Rhythm, Rugby, Skye, Solar Eclipse, STR 2485, Sudden Impact, Washington and Zifandel. Such lawns should receive 4 to 5 pounds nitrogen per 1,000 square feet per year and would typically be irrigated during dry periods to prevent drought stress.
Cultivars that do relatively well under a low-maintenance program with limited watering often differ from those that do well under higher inputs. Good choices for low maintenance include Baron, Baronie, Caliber, Canterbury, Dragon, Eagleton, Envicta, Kenblue, North Star, and South Dakota.
Instead of the 4 to 5 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet per year, low-maintenance program would include 1 to 2 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet per year. Obviously, a low-input lawn will not be as attractive as a higher-input lawn, but you can expect the cultivars listed above to look fairly good in the spring and fall, while going dormant in the summer. (Ward Upham)
Though several cool-season grasses are grown in Kansas, tall fescue is considered the best adapted and is recommended for home lawns. The cultivar K-31 is the old standby and has been used for years. However, there are a myriad of newer cultivars that have improved color, density and a finer leaf texture. Most of these newer varieties are very close to one another in quality.
Each year the National Turfgrass Evaluation Trial rates tall fescue varieties for color, greenup, quality and texture. Quality ratings are taken once a month from March through October. The cultivars listed below received an average rating of 5.8 or above when 2012 - 2017 ratings were averaged. The highest rated cultivars were Rebounder, Michelangelo, Traverse 2, Black Tail, Reflection, GTO, Thor, Paramount, Temple, Valkyrie LS, Avenger II, Technique, 4th Millennium SRP, Rockwell, Titanium 2LS, Rowdy, Regenerate, Leonardo, Falcon V, Firebird 2, Terrano, Maestro, Grande 3, Bloodhound and Hot Rod. There are many more that rated nearly as well and should be considered worthy of consideration. See http://newprairiepress.org/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=7599&context=kaesrr for a complete list of all cultivars trialed. Note that K-31 consistently rates at the bottom. Keep in mind that blends of several varieties may allow you to take advantage of differing strengths.
Though K-31 may still be a good choice for large, open areas, the new cultivars will give better performance for those who desire a high-quality turf. (Ward Upham)
Most pear cultivars should not be allowed to ripen on the tree. They should be picked while still firm and ripened after harvest. Tree-ripened fruits are often of poor quality because of the development of grit cells and the browning and softening of the inner flesh. Pears ripen from the inside out and waiting until the outside is completely ripe will often result in the interior of the fruit being mushy and brown.
Commercial growers determine the best time to harvest pears by measuring the decrease in fruit firmness as the fruit matures. This varies with growing conditions and variety. A Magness meter is used for testing and measures the pressure needed to push a 5/16-inch tip a specified distance into an individual fruit. Home gardeners can use these other indicators:
1. A change in the fruit ground color from a dark green to light green or yellowish green. The ground color is the "background" color of the fruit.
2. Fruit should part easily from the branch when it is lifted up and twisted.
3. Corking over of lenticels. Lenticels are the "breathing pores" of the fruit. They start out as a white to greenish white color and turn brown due to corking as the fruit nears maturity. They look like brown “specks” on the fruit.
4. Development of characteristic pear aroma and taste of sampled fruit.
Pears will actually be of higher quality if they are cooled immediately after harvest. Temperatures between 31 and 50 degrees will work with the warmer temperatures actually reducing the amount of chilling needed. Just don’t go over 50 degrees. Homeowners may want to use a refrigerator, if possible. The amount of chilling required varies by cultivar from 2 days to several weeks.
Pears ripen in one to three weeks after being removed from storage if held at 60 to 65 degrees F. They can then be canned or preserved. If you wish to store some for ripening later, fresh-picked fruit should be placed in cold storage at around 31 degrees F and 90 percent humidity. Placing fruit in unsealed gallon plastic bags can provide the necessary humidity.
Ripen small amounts as needed by moving them to a warmer location and holding them at 60 to 65 degrees F. Ripening at too high a temperature (75 degrees F and higher) may result in the fruit breaking down without ripening. (Ward Upham)
Ward Upham is the Kansas State Master Gardener Coordinator and runs the Horticulture Response Center. Other contributors include K-State Extension Specialists.