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Category Archives: Landscape Basics

Killing Nutgrass

If ever there was a villain in the garden, nutgrass would be the culprit.

It is one of the most hated weeds and very aggressive, robbing desirable plants of water and nutrition.   Nutgrass rankles my sister  so much she tells me she can see it out of the corner of her eye as she walks through her garden. Then, like any good gardener she attacks it and tries to dig up the whole plant along with the rhizomes and the tubers (also called nuts). Any tubers left behind will generate a whole new set of weeds.

Though it looks like grass, the plant is actually a sedge. The  varieties most often seen are  Cyperus esculentus (yellow nutsedge) and Cyperus rotundus (purple nutsedge).  Even our own garden has an unwanted plot of purple nutsedge in the Edible Garden area.

What should we do about this problem intruder? How can we kill nutgrass organically in a large garden area? *Kim Kirkhart has had success with her variation of the  loose landscape fabric method taught by Skip Richter, Texas AgriLife Extension  Agent for Harris County.

What’s  needed:

  • Heavy black plastic
  •  Plastic pots
  • Bricks or rocks to hold plastic in place
  • Time-this method takes several months  up to a  year

Recycled Plastic Pots

Begin by setting plastic pots in the garden area. The pots have a dual purpose. They  hold up the black tarp and also spot kill nutgrass. 3 or 4 pots are stacked together (turning them each to cover their holes).

As you can see, not all the nutgrass is under pots.  Don’t worry though, those invaders will die under the tarp, without light.

Heavy Black Plastic

Next lay the black plastic over the whole garden area on top of the pots. The pots keep the plastic elevated so emerging nutgrass shoots can not puncture through the plastic and let light in. Overlap the seams of the plastic to keep the light out.

Bricks hold the plastic in place, remember to keep the plastic lifted.

Carefully place bricks or rocks around edge of plastic and wait for the nutgrass to die.

This organic way of killing nutgrass requires patience. We started this process July 26 and plan to take off the plastic in October in time for fall gardening. We will let you know the results of our test!

Pictures  by *Kim Kirkhart, DCMGA class of 2006

Ann Lamb

Click here for Skip Richter’s article, Weed Wars.  We have used the expert advice in this article for our method of killing nutgrass organically.

The Rainbow Garden at Raincatcher’s

If your green thumb is ready to branch out into living color, visit our Rainbow Garden for inspiration and plan on taking lots of photos. You’ll find a colorful mix of flowers and vegetables growing in harmony. In the summer heat, early morning is a good time to stop by. Enjoy iridescent dragonflies and come face to face with giant bees casting their drunken shadows on the garden, touch fuzzy silver green lamb’s ear, and see if you can identify standing cypress. (Hint- it is red.)

See the violet morning glory threaten to take over the purple heart growing beneath it. Compare the many shades of blue flowers and notice the exuberant orange Mexican sunflower. Inhale the aroma of fresh basil and see how the eggplant and strawberries are doing. 

Now take a shady break under the garden’s charming vine-covered entrance arbor and make notes before heading to the nursery to create your own rainbow. The rainbow garden doesn’t get any shade from the hot summer sun and receives only minimal supplemental water so you know these plants can take the heat in your own sunny spots at home. Drop by anytime and let the garden inspire you.

Gail Cook

 Pictures by Starla Willis and Ann Lamb

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Grass Plots at The Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills

We have  five plots of grass, each 10’x20′. Drip irrigation has been installed under each plot. Walk from east to west to learn about the grasses and their water needs.

Buffalo grass occupies the west end of our demonstration as the grass needing the least amount of water. We have watered our Buffalo grass  twice this summer.  Too much irrigation risks the invasion of unwanted Bermuda grass. Sodding is recommended rather than seeding.

Above: Buffalo Grass

Above: Buffalo Grass

The HABITURF plot is next to buffalo grass.  We started this grass by seed, August 2015.

Above: Jim Reseeding Habiturf

Above: Jim Reseeding HABITURF

The prize for the prettiest color goes to the low water St Augustine.

Above: Low Water St. Augustine

Above: Low Water St. Augustine

Unfortunately this grass is not available to the public yet; maybe next year.

Jim told me he likes the Zoysia best.   Try this grass barefooted.  It feels so soft.

Above: Zoysia Grass Palisades

Above: Zoysia Grass ‘Palisades’

He nicknamed the tall fescue as “bad boy” becuase doesn’t look very good at our garden.  We should re-evaluate, though, when temps lower because it is a cool season grass. We plan to reseed the fescue this week.

Above: Tall Fescue,

Above: Tall Fescue, ‘Rebel’

Look to the right under Raincatcher’s Resources on our front page

for  more information about our grass plots.


Interested in flowers, not grass ?

 Come to our garden today to learn the best bulb choices for Dallas.

Enjoy Certified Master Gardener C.A. Hiscock’s tips for picking bulbs for Dallas’ warm winters and clay soils. The free class will be from 11 am to noon, Tuesday, September 27th at the Midway Hills Christian Church Fellowship Hall, 11001 Midway Road.  C.A. will discuss choices from crinums to rain lilies and will have handouts with favorite suppliers and resources.

Support the Master Gardener Raincatcher’s Garden with purchases of bulbs from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs. Delivery for our area will probably be in late November, the perfect time for planting bulbs.

Go to www.bloominbucks.com and from the pull down menu, select Dallas County Master Gardeners. With one click, you’re ready to select the bulbs you want from the Brent and Becky’s website.  Smaller jonquilla and tazetta daffodils do particularly well in Dallas and often have four to eight flowers per stalk.

Ann

Pictures by Starla

 

Mary Louise Whitlow’s Garden, October 1, Garden Tour

Above: Whitlow Garden on Tour, October 1

Above: Whitlow Garden on Tour, October 1

Mary Louise Whitlow had an “ah ha” moment in the 1990s. She was watering the grass taking up her home’s parkway with a garden hose.  “Why am I doing this?” she asked herself.  “I don’t even like grass.”

Next thing you know, the grass was out, and she had started on what became a large pollinator garden of native and adapted plants.

Over the years, the garden has expanded past the sidewalk and up the yard’s slope to stop at the shade from her large pecan tree.

Mary Louise grew up in the charming home, one of the few original houses remaining in University Park.  Her grandmother gave the pecan tree to her parents when they moved in the house in the mid-1950s.

Mary Louise’s landscape philosophy is straightforward: buy one or two plants of a variety and see what works with limited water, fertilizer and organic pesticides.  Now she has “more salvias than you can count.”  She particularly loves Gregg’s mistflower and frostweed because the plants attract Monarch and Queen butterflies.  She has found zexmenia to be as “tough as nails” and pipevine so resilient that “the caterpillars eat it to a nub and it’s back in a week.” The Jerusalem sage yellow blooms are so beautiful, she says, that her neighbors “stop and stare.”

Two hugelkultur gardens are mounded by the front door.  Mary Louise has found that the layers of rotten tree limbs, branches and soil are very efficient in breaking up Texas clay soil and retaining moisture.  She has successfully planted tomatoes in decomposing organic straw bales in the backyard.

Her backyard chain-link fence is lined with fig trees, including ‘Alma’, ‘Brown Turkey’ and ‘Celeste.’  Mary Louise harvested enough figs this year to can 71 pints of fig jam.

Elizabeth

Click here for full garden tour information.

October 1st, Dallas County Master Gardener Fall Garden Tour

alexander yard

Call it love at first sight. Linda and Art Alexander were in the market to purchase a new home in 2006.  They swooned over a Bluffview listing awash in April wisteria, dogwood, azaleas and tulips.  They quickly signed the contract.

Her landscape reflects a love of entertaining. One of Linda’s favorite quotes is: “The ornaments of your house will be the guests who frequent it.” The Alexanders have hosted more than 100 get-togethers at the 1948 ranch designed by noted regional architect Charles Dilbeck.

Visitors to the Alexander garden can see how Linda carefully edited mature landscaping from previous owners to frame the historic home. She developed cohesive garden rooms on the large lot, adding shrubs and perennials along the circular drive to welcome visitors.  Tall live oak trees shade conversation and seating areas for backyard entertaining.  She even planted Oklahoma-red pentas for the fall Texas-OU Red River Showdown post-game party. Linda’s updated raised vegetable beds are tucked behind the guesthouse.

Following herb expert Marian Buchanan’s advice, she particularly loves to grow herbs and uses them for cooking, flower arrangements and in the landscape. She says Art likes the herb scents when he brushes against the plants on a garden path.

You’ll often find Art and Linda in the garden swing in the backyard patio. They welcome the morning sun, cuddle a new grandchild and enjoy the yard they call “our sanctuary.”

Elizabeth

We will be featuring one garden a week until the October 1st Fall Garden Tour on Dallas Garden Buzz. Tour tickets can be purchased now online at the Master Gardener website.  Brunch will be served at the Alexander home and are also available now.  Plan ahead and purchase your tickets because the brunch tickets are limited. The menu will be based on recipes from the Master Gardner cookbook, A Year on the Plate. To pre-order the cookbook, click here.

Tour Tickets purchased before October 1-$15

Brunch Tickets-$15

Cookbook-$40

Deadheading, Just Do It

DEADHEAD—it sounds maybe dangerous—at the least not pleasant. But, I needs to be done.  Here is why.

Flowers bloom for a reason, it has nothing  to do with making gardeners  happy.  Flowers have a serious mission—they want the world to be full of plants.  Not just any plants of course—plants  like them.

Flowers attract pollinators to allow fertilization and seed formation. That’s it.  That is what flowers want.  When they have set seeds they can and usually do, go on to the great beyond with joy—mission accomplished.

We must stop them. Plants covered with fading flowers and  seed heads  do not make for a cheerful summer  show.  Gardeners want  lots of flowers on healthy plants..  For this to happen—deadhead early and often.

Pretty Flowers But Could Be Better With Deadheading

Rudbeckia in Need of Deadheading

How to do it? It’s not at all hard.  For many plants, such as zinnias, coneflowers or cosmos cut the stem of the fading flower back to the first set of full healthy leaves.  This hides  the cut and encourages branching and new flowers.  Do not cut just below the flower.  This leaves a stem to turn brown –not at all the way to tidy up the garden.

Deadheading Cosmos

Deadheading Cosmos

For some plants, like salvias, the best plan is to shear back all the stems about two to three inches. This removes the dead flowers and encourages a fresh flush of blooms.

Be sure to collect the blooms—they are great for the compost.

Don’t forget your herbs! If you want basil for fall tomatoes keep those flowers cut—remember  they are tasty and can go straight to the kitchen.

Keep the Herbs Coming by Deadheading as shown

Keep the Herbs Coming by Deadheading as shown

More flowers—tidy garden—sounds perfect—so why the resistance??

First— summer temperatures are still with us and its hot—that’s true.  Early morning is an ideal time to go out—do a bit each day and things won’t get out of hand.  Evening works too—just don’t put it off.

You will be rewarded. You will see things that might well have been missed.  A quick visit by a hummingbird,  a just hatched baby anole or delicate lace wing eggs that look like a tiny modern sculpture.

A Reward-Lacewing Egg Sighting

A Reward-Lacewing Egg Sighting

What about bees and butterflies? .

Are they still using those flowers? Well no, those flowers are past their prime for pollinators too. Really you are doing a big favor when you remove the old flowers—more will soon appear as the plant continues to try and fulfill its mission.

Susan

Buy Discounted Tickets Now for DCMGA 2016 Fall Garden Tour

alexander yard

Five spectacular gardens by members of the Dallas County Master Garden Association will be featured on the 2016 Garden Tour set for Saturday, October 1st.  Visitors will see formal English gardens on Swiss Avenue, edible landscaping in Preston Hollow, a buzzing pollinator garden in University Park, native perennials and ornamental grass in Old East Dallas and landscaping for gracious entertaining in Bluffview.

Make your tour complete by enjoying a seasonal Garden Brunch featuring recipes from A Year on the Plate, the new master gardener cookbook.  Guests will be treated to a menu chosen from fall produce, including Iced Herb Gazpacho and Artichoke Bites.  Brunch will be served on a lovely Bluffview patio shaded by live oak trees from 11am to 1pm the day of the tour.  Visitors can also preorder a copy of A Year on the Plate, the new DCMGA cookbook, at the same location.

Presale tour tickets will be $15 and on the day of the tour, $20 each. Tickets for the Garden Brunch must be purchased ahead at $15 each.  A limited number of brunch reservations will be taken.

Presale tickets for the brunch and tour will be available soon on the dallascountymastergardener.org website using PayPal. North Haven Gardens and selected Calloway’s Nurseries locations will sell only tour tickets in September.

Your ticket purchase will support a major fundraiser for the Dallas County Master Gardener Association. The 2016 Garden Tour is the first time DCMGA has opened its members’ gardens in three years. Please help make the tour a success by asking friends and neighbors to attend and by publicizing the tour in venues like Next Door. All profits go to fund the DCMGA educational programs and more than 30 community and school projects.

Elizabeth

GardenTourLogowithDate001

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