Fall brings both good and bad

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 21, 2007

This is the time of the year when weather begins changing for the good or bad depending how you look at. Grasses beginning to go dormant means less lawn cutting but you sacrifice the beauty of your green lawn. Leaves falling, on the other hand, mean both thinner looking trees and raking leaves as another chore. Any way you look at it, changes is in the air and everyone should find some good with the new season ahead. With all this said here are some questions to help with yard decisions.

Q. What is the advantage to planting rye grass in your home lawn?

If you have a new home site or an area of your yard that has been recently worked with lots of exposed soil at this time of the year, it is too late to establish a permanent lawn, therefore establishing a temporary lawn would be advisable, especially on sloping terrain. In the case of a home site this would reduce mud and dirt being tracked into the home, increase appearance, and reduce erosion. If you have an established lawn and host winter events or like the year round beauty of a colorful lawn this would also be a good reason, but there are some negative consequences.

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Overseeding your permanent warm season lawn with cool season grasses will delay next springs green-up of the permanent lawn. Just keep in mind that cool season turf species thrive at temperatures in the 60-70 degree range so next spring when your permanent lawns begins to break dormancy the cool season turf species will be very competitive and competing for nutrients, water, and space in your yard just like weeds. Another reason to hold back on cool season grasses is the simple fact mowing, fertilizing, watering, and pest management must be continued throughout the winter for an over seeded lawn. Personally I like the break from lawn care for a few months.

However if you do decide to go with a winter lawn I would recommend perennial rye grass. Compared to annual rye grass, perennial rye grass has better color, less prone to clumpiness, and less seeds stalks produced in the spring. If you plan to overseed your summer lawn for winter a good time to do so would be between now and early November.

Q. How can I use propagation to have more of my favorite plant?

Here is a common and simple technique called “layering” you can use to make clones of your favorite plants. Choose a new shoot that’s long enough to touch the ground and that’s on the side of the plant that receives the most sun. Next take a sharp knife to cut the stem on one side, cut a slit at an angle halfway through the stem or scrape a narrow band of bark from around the stem.

Bend the injured stem so that it makess a firm depression in the soil with the tip of the stem protruding from the soil. Cover the injured part of the stem with good soil, and anchor it in place with a brick or rock. Let it remain in place all winter. Then in spring, cut the rooted stem free from the parent plant. With little effort if all goes well you should have clones of your favorite plant to share with friends or to pot for transplant later in the spring. Good candidates for layering are azalea, rosemary, sage, rose, fig, lavender, abelia, forsythia and weigela.

David Carter is director of the Adams County Extension Service.