Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Bermuda Grass

I live in Brownsville and have clay soil in my backyard where I have been growing Bermuda Grass. I do have some brown patches where there is no grass growing. I was wondering if I needed to amend the soil and raise the pH a bit. Do you have any suggestions? Ruben P, Brownsville

Dr. Enrique Perez, Cameron County Extension agent, wrote that this maybe be a regular hot spot in which this area is so compact that there maybe no aeration or moisture for the roots. High clay turf areas have this symptom. "I recommend some aeration, and providing organic matter to the area. This will help in forming a more porous soil to improve filtration for both air, water and nutrients needed for plant growth and development. You may want to have a soil test done for the problem areas. This will give you the nutritional values of the area."
A local turf specialist, Jimmy Wilson, MS in turf management from Texas A&M, states that Bermuda Grass is extremely hardy and should be able to withstand most soil and environmental conditions in the Valley. Amending the soil to change the ph would only be a temporary solution and would be a constant job. Most often problems with grass in the Lower Rio Grande Valley are due to cultural practices of grass selection for that particular site. If the rest of the lawn looks healthy, shade or water are the most likely culprits. To check water, the pros use a soil probe (but you could use a hand trowel) to dig down and sample the soil. If the soil is dry below a 1/4 of an inch or so, it's too dry. Try watering deeply - an inch of water in the early morning hours every week in the summer months. If the spots are in shady areas, try trimming back nearby trees to let in some more light. Bermuda needs FULL sun to really thrive. That said, whether your soil has clay or sand, topdressing with compost over the entire yard would be beneficial and is recommended.

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Plants for La Feria

Are red yuccas, autumn sage, and mexican feather grass good choices for our landscape in La Feria? - R.D. Trimble, La Feria

Both Red Yucca, Hesperaloe parviflora, and Autumn Sage,Salvia greggii are accepted good performers in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. However, there are mixed reviews on Mexican Feather Grass.

Mexican Feather Grass, or Silky Thread Grass, Needle Grass, or Pony Tails, Stipa tenuissima is a self seeder that is considered invasive in some areas. It produces large numbers of seed that blow in the wind. On Dave's Garden one person stated that her six plants quickly became a hundred. Another, whose Mexican Feather Grass was planted beside her pool, complained that the seeds clogged the skimmers and pool cleaning apparatus. All the "free" plants from self-sowing plants can be nice - but often it adds alot to your weeding chores.
Purple fountain grass, Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum', would be a good alternative. You propagate it by dividing the root ball.

Choose a well-drained location for both Red Yucca and and Autumn Sage (also known as Texas Sage or Gregg's Sage). These are desert plants that do not like "wet feet". Hummingbirds and butterflies will be attracted to both of these plants. Autumn Sage is a
self-sowing plant but not prolifically.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Touring Ceyanes' Native Garden

Join the Cameron County Master Gardeners for a tour of Helen Ceyanes' Native Garden on Saturday, May 16th. Beginning at 10 am, we will be able to wander the improved pathways that run throughout the seven acre property. Yes, that is not a typo - this is a SEVEN acre property - Ms. Ceyanes has divided it into different "gardens" - she has an prairie and a Palm garden to name a few.

MG Interns Anna, Sheila, and Tomara have already toured this private sanctuary. They should have some great information to share with us on Saturday!

Beautiful native lantanas should attract a nice number of hummingbirds and butterflies.

Identifying signage will help us learn some more of our natives. Dr. Alfred Richardson, the author of Plants of the Rio Grande Delta and Wildflowers and Other Plants of Texas Beaches and Islands (to name a few) will give a short program on our native trees and plants. This is sure to be a fun and educationation morning! Hope to see you there. And if you can't attend, check back here next week. We'll post a little info on our visit to Helen Ceyanes' Native Garden.