Volume XVII, Issue 27 # July 2 - July 8, 2009

The Bay Gardener

by Dr. Frank Gouin

Father Didn’t Know Best

I’ll say it again: Don’t weed-and-feed!

This has been the perfect year to fortify reasons why weed-and-feed lawn fertilizers should not be used. I have for many years preached against the use of weed-and-feed lawn fertilizers because they are not needed if you mow your lawn tall and let it fall. Cutting the grass tall and letting the clippings fall back to the ground promotes the growth of healthy, dense turf that chokes out weeds.

I was recently visited by a Bay Weekly reader whose ornamentals and trees were exhibiting distorted foliage. The forsythia leaves looked similar to those of weeping willow, the leaves of his Japanese maple were cupped and the tips of the leaves looked like pieces of string. The ends of the new shoots of many plants were twisted like corkscrews.

This young man’s father had convinced him that the only way of obtaining a weed-free lawn was to apply a weed-and-feed lawn fertilizer in the spring. Shortly after he had applied it, there was a heavy downpour. Thinking that the fertilizer had been washed away, he sought the advice of the store where he had purchased the material. The manager as well as his father convinced him that he should reapply the weed-and-feed fertilizer.

Needless to say, the heavy rains washed the weed-killing part of the fertilizer blend deep into the soil, and the repeated application followed by additional rain added insult to injury. The weed killer was now being absorbed by the roots of the ornamental plants and translocated to the branches and leaves.

Many ornamental plants are just as susceptible to the herbicides used in weed-and-feed fertilizers as are dandelions, plantains and other weeds. Once these weed killers enter the roots of ornamentals, nothing will stop them from migrating to the stems and foliage. Most plants recover despite the fact that they will appear distorted through most of the growing season.

Don’t make the same mistake. Learn to cut your grass tall and let the clippings fall.

Soil Is a Great Filter; Let’s Keep Some Around

Q My neighborhood was developed with gravel driveways in front of each home to serve as a filter for runoff. One by one, neighbors have black-topped their driveways. Given our troubled estuary and charges that states and regulators don’t have the will to clean up the Bay, what about the will and practices of citizens?

–M.L. Faunce, Churchton

A With regard to covering the world with asphalt, it only causes more surface runoff to enter the Bay along with motor oil and other pollutants. Soil is a great filter; it is a shame that we are covering so much of it with asphalt and concrete. We are compounding our pollution problems.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at [email protected]. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly.
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