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The Readers/Listeners/Viewers Continue to Write
by Art Drysdale
by Art Drysdale

email: art@artdrysdale.com

Art Drysdale, a life-long resident of Toronto and a horticulturist well known all across Canada, is now a resident of Parksville, British Columbia on Vancouver Island, just north of Nanaimo. He has reno-vated an old home and has a new garden there. His radio gardening vignettes are heard in south-western Ontario over radio station Easy 101 FM out of Tillsonburg at 2 PM weekdays.

Art also has his own website at http://www.artdrysdale.com


May 2, 1999

Two letters arrived by e-mail this week, and I thought many listeners/readers might find the information of interest. Heres the first: "My wife and I live on the Hamilton Mountain and in our area the lawns have been under attack by white grubs, ours included. We have been wanting to remove all of the grass from the front yard and plant various perennials, grasses, ground covers etc., however we are concerned that if we don't prepare the area properly the grubs may start attacking our plantings."

My first comment is to be sure that eliminating your lawn is what you want to do. Grass is our BEST groundcover. And, keep in mind this comes from someone who eliminated his front lawn in 1983 and back lawn in 1984, and then did the same at a new [built in the 30s] home one year after buying it in 1986. Nothing else means less maintenance; everything else means more maintenance. However, a garden such as I have both front and back, means you get to choose when to do the maintenance, rather than having to cut the grass on an every 5-days or every 7-days schedule.

I would not eliminate my lawn solely because of lowly white grubs. Kill them with Diazinon in late August. You might have to do it two years in a row, but that would likely be it. Be sure you are not sold Chlorpyrifos by a garden centre to do this. Diazinon is superior in getting through the thatch of an old lawn; however, most garden centres are over-stocked with products containing Chlorpyrifos. It's OK for use on a garden where there are grubs and NO grass as there is no thatch to get through. Also, be sure the grass is well soaked (if watering, it needs to be at least two hours) when you apply the liquid, and then water it again for an hour after the application.

If you are going to eliminate the grass, be sure you include some colourful evergreens, both upright and spreading, rather than just perennials, as currently being suggested by many Johnny-come-lately "garden and landscape experts." I'd also include some deciduous shrubs (perhaps some of the newer Northern Lights azaleas, and summer-flowering azaleas) as well as some smaller trees. Some items I have you might want to consider are: rose-of-sharon, Heptacodium, Daphne cneorum, weeping larch, Sunkist arborvitae (cedar), spreading junipers, rose bushes, and English ivy. Do some research by checking at several garden centres and nurseries on the different cultivars of each available. (A run to Humber Nurseries, especially re the ornamental grasses, would not be a bad idea!) Leave room to put in things like standard fuchsias in slightly shaded parts, and even other exotics like Mandevilla (Dipladenia splendens), Port St. John's creeper (Podreana ricasoliana) and Lantana in sunny areas. You can take thhese out for the winter and store in a basement room under slight fluorescent light.

And leave room for spring bulbs to be planted this autumn. There are many other suggestions. But make it your own garden; just be sure to have lots of evergreen, or deciduous material with interesting winter features (bark colour or texture, fruit, shape etc.) so there is something for the long winter season.

The second letter that arrived came from Lou Corkery in the west end of Toronto. She asked, "We've decided to put new sod down and have been advised to use Roundup on the existing grass and weeds, and then lay the sod after two weeks (instead of taking up the old sod). Is this a good idea and will the Roundup kill the crabgrass as well? Also, I want to plant groundcover where the front lawn now is, so if I use Roundup on that area of grass, will it harm my newly planted Hydrangea and Linden Leaf tree? Thanks for any help you can give me."

My response to this was to provide some facts, which I hope may prove helpful for others with similar plans. Glyphosate (Roundup) only kills what it touches, i.e. only the plants on whose foliage it is applied. It rapidly and completely biodegrades as soon as it hits the soil. It therefore will not affect any plant whose roots may be entangled with something else that is sprayed, so long as the foliage of the desirable plant is not touched. Also, it has no affect on seeds; therefore, if crabgrass has not germinated it will not have an affect.

Regardless of what may be on old labels, you can sow grass seed or seed for anything else, or plant anything, three days after the application of Roundup. The older formulations of Roundup will not show ANY effect until at least seven days, but the effect will definitely occur about seven days after. Point is, after three days, the plants that you're trying to kill will have absorbed the chemical, and the rest will have biodegraded, even though the subject plants will show no sign of impending death.

If you are going to lay down new sod, I would do it on the 4th or 5th day after application of Roundup, but I would definitely use some method of churning up the old soil/turf just before laying the new sod. Anytime after the third day, you could do this either by hand, or using a powered cultivator or rotivator. I would also incorporate Vigoro super phosphate (0-20-0) into the churned up soil; i.e. apply it according to box directions just prior to doing the churning up. Then get the sod down asap. The longer you wait, the more chance for weed seeds to germinate. Remember, the Roundup does not do anything to anything (including seeds) in the soil.

Finally, I would suggest you use Roundup, and NOT WipeOut. Though they are similar, they are two different chemicals, and only Roundup actually kills the weeds right to the tip of their roots. WipeOut kills roots, but not to the tips.

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