Q: I have followed your instructions on keeping geraniums over winter, and here is a picture of my pretty blooms in my front yard here in Wahpeton, N.D. I have kept the red geraniums for three years and the pink are one year old. My garden friend was ready to throw the pink out last fall when I asked if I could take them. Thank you for your weekly guidance in the Forum. - Connie B.
A: Thanks for sending the photo, and I’m glad you’ve had success following the method for keeping geraniums from year to year. As we’ve discussed in previous columns, cuttings can be taken from existing plants and coaxed to root, creating brand new plants. But you can also save the current plants, as you have.
The method isn’t difficult. Remove the plants from their containers or flower beds before frost threatens, shake the soil from the roots, cut back all stems to 2 to 3 three inches above the roots, even if no leaves remain, and repot into 4- or 5-inch diameter pots in top-quality potting mix. Place the pots in a sunny window or under fluorescent or LED lights.
Husky new growth will soon sprout and by next spring, the geraniums will be ready to go back outdoors into pots, planters and flower beds.
Q: With so many lawns having so many dead spots including mine, I’m seeing recommendations to aerate and then seed the areas, but my lawn has so many areas of quackgrass. Would it be better to kill it all off this fall and reseed or sod in spring? — Glenn E.
A: Since your lawn needs remedy after this summer’s drought anyway, it sounds like a good opportunity to tackle the quackgrass problem. Quackgrass can be killed with an application of glyphosate, which is the active ingredient in original Roundup and other brands. Glyphosate will kill the remaining “good” lawngrass as well, but there are no products that will selectively remove only the quackgrass.
Apply the glyphosate now, and within seven to 10 days you should see effects. Reapply to any spots that are still green that might have been missed the first time. Quackgrass has the nasty habit of sprouting from dormant underground buds that aren’t killed with the first glyphosate application, so next spring you might expect some sprigs of regrowth by late April or early May, which you can hit again.
Then by mid-May you’ll be able to reseed. Although sod can produce a nice lawn also, seeded grass tends to root more substantially into the soil below, and is the process preferred by most turf researchers.
Q: We know we’re supposed to water evergreens and newer trees this fall, but the recommendations always say to “soak well,” or “water deeply.” How do we know how long to run the water hose to accomplish this? — Ron M.
A: It’s especially important to water evergreens in September and October so the soil is well-moistened before the ground freezes in November. Evergreens are better able to resist winterburn if their needles and root system are well hydrated.
Along with evergreens, deciduous, leafy trees planted within the past seven years can benefit greatly from fall watering, especially since the subsoil in which tree roots are growing is still quite dry. Recent rains have aided the topsoil but haven’t penetrated to any great depth yet.
To water trees in the fall, concentrate especially on the zone around the outer dripline of the tree, instead of next to the trunk. Depending on the type, sprinklers might not be as effective as an open-ended hose for soaking tree root systems.
Instead of running the hose full-bore, reduce the water stream to about half strength. Run the hose for at least 20 minutes or more, moving it several times over the root zone, which should accomplish the recommended deep soaking.
If you have a gardening or lawn care question, email Don Kinzler, NDSU Extension-Cass County, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions with broad appeal may be published, so please include your name, city and state for appropriate advice.