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Sedum: Great Groundcover Choice

I have always thought of sedums as being a great ground cover choice for sunny areas that tend to be on the dry side.  Now I appreciate how well they also do in dry, part-shady locations.  Rita and I love how the various colors and textures work well together.  They are relatively problem free.  We feed them once in early spring with Osmocote Outdoor & Indoor Plant Food.  It is easy to drop in a new plant in a blank space.

When you find individual pots of sedum or a sedum tile mixture in your local garden center… give them a try.

Last year I experimented with planting a “Sedum Tile Mixture” in a dry, partial shade location. I divided the sedum tile into 6 smaller squares. One year later the sedums have spread so now they are easily double their size a year ago. (click photo to enlarge)

Sedums growing in dry sunny area. Click photo to enlarge

Sedum growing in dry, sunny area. Click photo to enlarge

Sedum growing in a dry, sunny area. Click photo to enlarge

Grub Reminder

A lot of people think that grubs are just about the worst thing that can happen to your lawn… and I agree.  Even a carefully tended lawn can become a nightmare when you’ve got grubs.

Grubs are the white larva of common beetles, including those pesky Japanese Beetles, and let me tell you, grubs are nasty things.  They feed on your lawn’s roots, eating away where you can’t see them – until one day your lawn turns brown and you can roll up sections of it like a carpet.

Grubs are the white larva of common beetles, including those pesky Japanese Beetles. They feed on your lawn’s roots, eating away where you can’t see them – until one day your lawn turns brown and you can roll up sections of it like a carpet. (click photo to enlarge)

Right now is the best time to prevent hungry grubs from feasting on your lawn like an all-you-can-eat buffet later this summer.  Fortunately Scotts GrubEX will wipe them out first.  GrubEX has a one-of-a-kind formula to kill grubs early on in their life cycle before they can destroy your lawn’s root system.  If you do not take the step to stop them now they could leave you with brown patches of lawn that peel right up like a carpet.  Just one application in late spring protects your lawn for the rest of the season.

Be sure to water your lawn good after spreading GrubEX.

Number 1 Lawn Mistake

Many folks cut off TOO MUCH grass when they mow.  Your lawn suffers when you mow off more than 1/3 of the top growth at a time because you force it to scramble to create more leaf growth to survive.  This extra energy to create leaf growth comes at the expense of root growth.  If you mow frequently enough so that you never cut off more than 1/3 of the leaf growth you will not “shock” your grass plants and stunt their root system. So the 1/3 rule would mean if your final cut is 3 inches you can allow your grass to grow to 4-1/2 inches and then remove 1-1/2 inches when you mow.  If your final cut is 2 inches you can allow your grass to grow to 3 inches and then remove 1 inch when you mow.

Do not mow your lawn too short.  This Kentucky Bluegrass/Tall Fescue lawn is being mowed at a 3 inch mowing height.  (click photo to enlarge)

So the question comes up:  “What is a good mowing height for my grass?”  Different kinds of grass types like different mowing heights, so here are some guidelines for how tall your grass should be after you mow.  The higher end of the range is good during the hot summer months.  The lower end of the range is good for spring and fall.

2-1/2 to 4 inches for Bluegrass, Ryegrass and Fescue

2 to 4 inches for St. Augustinegrass and Bahiagrass

1 to 3 inches for Centipedegrass

1/2 to 2 inches for Bermudagrass

3 /4 to 2 inches for Zoysia

If you have no idea what your grass type is, click here to go to Scotts easy to use grass type identifier.  They start with your zip code to narrow down the kind of lawn you have, then help you figure it out with descriptions and pictures of grass types that grow in your area.

Why Should I Pay More for Scotts Weed & Feed?

You want a weed and feed to kill dandelions and other weeds without hurting your good grass.  So you see the cheaper stuff in your garden center and wonder if this will work as good and maybe you can save a couple of bucks along the way.

My answer:  “Be careful… you want the one that will actually stick to the dandelion leaves and kill it root and all.”

The small particles in Scotts Turf Builder Weed & Feed stick like glue to your dandelions and other weeds.  This is absolutely crucial for penetrating and killing down to the root.  That’s the rule of thumb:  If it’s going to kill, it has to stick.  You don’t want those big particles that bounce off weed leaves and don’t stick and don’t work as well.  You find them in those weed & feeds that may cost a little less resulting in “hit or miss” weed control.

And a second bit of good news:  Scotts Turf Builder Weed & Feed gives your lawn that deep Turf Builder feeding which helps to strengthen your good grass so it is a better competitor against new weeds that may try to take hold.

So to keep it simple, stick with the weed & feed that sticks to the dandelions:  Turf Builder Weed & Feed.  And here is a helpful hint:  Apply Turf Builder Weed & Feed to a moist lawn on a day when rain is not expected.  I put mine down first thing in the morning when the weeds are loaded with dew.

This short 45 second video shows you how it is done:


Great Way to Make Mother’s Day about Your Kids

I pass this suggestion along just about every Mother’s Day because it is a great idea that is guaranteed to be remembered as an extra special surprise for Mom or Grandma.  (I asked Rita if she could help me think of a better idea that did not involve expensive jewelry and she said this idea works for her.)

So here’s the plan:  This Mother’s Day weekend your family makes a visit to the local garden center to pick up the components for an extra special Mother’s Day gift. And… the best part is Mom (or Grandma) is in on the “picking-out-part.”  She selects a container, several herb or flowering plants and the secret ingredient to success:  Miracle-Gro Moisture Control Potting Mix.

Then here is the cool part.  When you get home you teach your kids how to plant the container.  Kids learn something cool, Mom is impressed that she has such a thoughtful family, and oh yes… you score some extra points that are sure to come in handy.

Note to Mom:  Hint dropping is allowed in this instance!

This video gives you some planting tips:

We planted a single Mexican Feather Grass in the center. We then surrounded it with 3 ‘Golden Ingot’ Ivy plants, 3 ‘Golden Globe’ Lysimachia (Creeping Jenny) and 3 ‘Charmed Wine’ Oxalis plants. (click photo to enlarge)

Select herbs that have different colors and textures. Pinch frequently to enjoy fresh herbs in the kitchen and to keep the container looking good. (Click photo to enlarge)

Snake Guard Idea for your Bluebird House

I sadly remember the day I saw a snake rob the eggs in our bluebird house when we lived in Ohio.  I had attempted to grease the pole to deter snakes from climbing the pole to no avail. 

Here are a couple of links to info from the Virginia Bluebird Society and the North Carolina Extension Service that may give you some ideas to protect the nests in your Bluebird and Purple Martin Houses.

A recent chat with my brother in Virginia led to the idea of using plastic zip ties to place wooden carpet strips on the pole with the nail side out.  He sent me these photos of how he set this up.  I am not in favor of doing harm to the good snakes in nature, many of which are also the ones responsible for cleaning out the bluebird nests.  So hopefully this works to deter them while not causing injury so they will feed on mice and voles rather than bird eggs.  To provide extra protection for the pole feeders I suggest you sprinkle Ortho Snake B Gon Repellent on the ground around your nesting boxes.

Carpet Strips to help deter snakes from climbing the pole to the nests in your bird boxes. (click photo to enlarge)

Carpet strips are easily connected using zip ties (click photo to enlarge)


Lace Bug Damage on Azalea and Rhododendron

A couple of years ago our Rhododendrons looked sick because of a Lace Bug attack.  Lace Bugs also love to attack Azaleas.  We also had scale insect problems on other shrubs.

The upper leaves of plants infested with Lace Bugs appear to be speckled. Lace Bugs are a common pest of Azalea and Rhododendron that can cause the plant to decline with continued infestations. (click photo to enlarge)

I do not like the hassle of repeat sprays and trying to get the timing exactly right and the difficulty of having to spray the undersides of the leaves to stop Lace Bug damage.  My solution:  A good systemic insect control to protect the plant from the inside/out with just one treatment to the soil.  (A systemic insect control is absorbed by the plant roots to get inside the plant to protect it.)  I had great success with Ortho Tree & Shrub Insect Control Ready to Use Granules.  One spring application did the trick for all the whole year.  

I also feed our shrubs one time in spring with Osmocote Outdoor & Indoor Plant Food.  One more thing, our soil is naturally on the acidic side so we do not need to do anything to help lower the soil pH like you need to do in some areas of the country to grow Rhododendron and Azaleas.  If your acid-loving plants are not doing especially well in your location, test your soil to determine if you need to lower the pH by adding sulfur and begin feeding them with a special plant food for acid-loving plants like this one from Miracle-Gro (click here for more info).

As you can see our Rhododendrons look great once we got Lace Bugs under control. Be sure to feed your Rhododendrons and Azaleas after they bloom.