Plant Health Care in Richmond, VA

What to do when clover loses its cute

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What to do when clover loses its cute

Q: While the existence of clover is cute, when it takes over your whole yard it’s not. Please help. My wonderful husband has tried all he knows and has bought different things to eradicate this menace but I’m losing patience. Please help me before I resort to Astro turf.

Answer: I should start by saying that for years, white clover was recommended in lawn mixes with fescue, for low maintenance lawns. In fact, in many states, it’s still included. Clover is a legume and has the ability to fix nitrogen in the soil. When mixed with fescue, it helps feed the grass and eliminates the need for some of the chemical fertilizer normally used. My beekeeper friends would also want me to remind you of the importance of clover as a nectar plant for local bees. Our native bees are in enough trouble as it is without eliminating even more of their food sources.

That being said, if you’ve decided that some or all of your clover has to go, the ideal time to control it is late October and early November. There are several broadleaf herbicides on the market that will control it and not hurt your grass. Timing is critical and remember that clover is a perennial, so some may return next year and require a repeat application. Your favorite garden center can recommend a product that controls clover.

Q: I would like to ditch my lawn mower and put in a perennial garden that will attract butterflies. Is there a way to eliminate the grass without using chemicals?

Answer: A lawn can be the most labor intensive part of any landscape. Converting some or all of it to a perennial garden can reduce your maintenance and provide terrific seasonal color. My suggestion would be to use a tiller to cultivate the soil and uproot the existing grass. Follow the tilling with a good stiff garden rake to remove the unwanted grass plants and discard them. This would not only get rid of the grass, but also begin to prepare the soil for planting your perennials. Once you’ve planted your perennials, be sure to cover as much of the open soil as possible with a good landscape fabric before adding your mulch. Even a tiller won’t get rid of all the roots from the grass and other plants you tilled up, the landscape fabric will help to deter them when those roots try to produce new plants next spring.

Here’s another option. If this is a shady area where tree roots could be a problem for your tiller, start by covering the grass with black landscape fabric. That would block out the light to your grass and cause it a slow death. The fabric is porous, so it would still allow water through, which would eliminate concerns about runoff of rain water. As the trees shed their leaves this fall, allow them to cover the fabric giving a nice natural appearance to the area for the winter. By spring, your bed will be ready to plant. Simply cut holes in the fabric to plant your perennials.

Q: I have white dogwood in my front yard, that is at least 20 years old. In the past two years it has died back in the summer and further declined in the winters. This summer it lost a number of leaves and some top branches as well as here-and-there branches throughout. I would like to try to cut it back to green wood as much as possible. I realize I would cut off potential blooms, but I can’t let it suffer another year in this way. How severely can I cut it back?

Answer: It sounds like your tree is exhibiting symptoms of dogwood canker. This is a slow, debilitating disease that eventually kills the tree. You may want to take a sample of a dying branch to your local Extension Office for diagnosis. They can’t tell from a totally dead piece, so be sure to take one that still has some green wood. In the meantime, pruning back to healthy wood is a good idea. Now that the tree has gone dormant for the winter, you can remove the dead or damaged wood at any time. Unfortunately, if it is canker, I’m afraid it will just continue to get worse. Depending on how bad it looks after your pruning, it might be worth considering replacing it. It’s still a great time to plant new trees in central Virginia.

Plant new trees or shrubs in your landscape. Fall is a great time to plant in central Virginia. The cool soil and adequate moisture will help your plants acclimate to their new site. Be sure to dig a hole two to three times wider than the root ball to insure plenty of space for root development.

Written by vaphc

November 11, 2012 at 6:46 am

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