Dear Neil: I have a lot of either goosegrass or crabgrass in my frontyard. How do I tell which is which?
A: It really doesn't matter. Since both are warm-season annual grasses, the pre-emergent weedkiller you would use to prevent their germination would be the same. Dimension, Balan or Halts will all stop sprouting of the seeds if you made your application prior to that germination. Usually, that translates to about two weeks before the average date of the last killing freeze for your area. Repeat the application 90 days later for a full season of control. For the record, goosegrass stems are creamy white and very flattened where the clumps emerge from the ground.
Dear Neil: My plumerias bloomed very well this summer, in spite of the heat and drought. Now, they have a bumper crop of banana-shaped seed pods. Can I start new plants from the seeds, or should I stick with stem cuttings?
A: The Plumeria Society of America website says that new plants can easily be started from seeds, but they warn that it takes 3 to 5 years for the new plants to begin flowering. They also remind us that plumerias are all hybrids. That means that their seedlings will not be the same as the parent plants, in color, flower size or fragrance. You'll find a lot of helpful information at their website, specifically Volume 5, Number 2 of their Plumeria Care Bulletin.
Dear Neil: I've been using a potting soil that does not appear to retain water. It just runs right through. What would the ideal potting soil mix be?
A: My own preference, and the mix I've used for many years, is about 50 percent (by volume) high-quality Canadian sphagnum peat moss, 20 percent finely ground pine bark mulch,
20 percent horticultural grade perlite and 10 percent expanded shale.
Dear Neil: What is the best time to trim oleanders?
A: Immediately after their main spring and early summer bloom. However, don't use that pruning as a means of controlling height. If you have to do major trimming of oleanders, it's going to cost you one or two years' worth of flowers as the plants regrow right back where they were before.
Dear Neil: I have sunburned dwarf Burford and dwarf yaupon hollies, also Indian hawthorns. They're overgrown as well. Can I trim them back by half? When?
A: You can always remove dead tissues from plants, so that type of pruning can be done now. Major reshaping, however, is best left for late winter. If these plants are growing too large consistently, you really ought to take this opportunity to replace them with shorter types of plants. Talk to your nurseryman.
Dear Neil: We've been bulldozing our fishing pond. Now, I need to know what type of grass I should plant to prevent erosion when rains finally do return.
A: The best permanent grass would be common bermudagrass. You could solid-sod it now, or you could plant ryegrass as a temporary winter cover. If you intend to plant plugs or seed of the bermuda, you'd want to wait until May. It will grow more quickly in the warmer conditions. You'll have to irrigate to get it established.
* If you'd like Neil Sperry's help with a plant question, drop him a note in care of The Eagle, P.O. Box 3000, Bryan, Texas 77805. Or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.