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Gardening with Laurie: Taller grass means deeper roots, less watering

By By Laurie Garretson
May 31, 2012 at 12:31 a.m.

Laurie Garretson

By this time of the year most home owners are regularly mowing their lawns. Keep in mind that the roots of your lawn will grow proportional to the length of the blades of the grass. In other words, the taller you keep your grass the longer the roots will be.

The longer the roots, the deeper they go in the soil. The deeper they go in the soil, the better chance they find water. A better root system means less watering for you. Plus cutting your lawn too short can lead to sun-damaged grass.

If you are replacing your lawn or even just a small section of the lawn, be sure to even up the ground before putting down the grass. It's much easier to level the ground before laying the sod than trying to do it after the sod is in place. You should also prevent foot traffic on a newly laid lawn. Repeated traffic will cause indentations in the lawn that will also be hard to remedy once the sod is in place.

If you have recently put in a new landscape, be sure to keep all of it regularly watered. New plants are establishing new root systems, so it is very important to keep them well watered to help keep up that growth.

Crape myrtle trees are prone to powdery mildew and aphid problems this time of year. You might notice a sticky residue or a black sooty appearance on the foliage as sure signs of aphids. A strong spray from the garden hose should get rid of the aphids. Powdery mildew will appear as a white powdery coating on the foliage. Treat this with a fungicide. Feed crape myrtles to help keep them healthy and to help with their blooming.

There's another pest in town that is causing grief to many people with pecan trees. This pest is called a walnut caterpillar. This caterpillar and its hundreds of siblings love nothing better than to defoliate pecan trees.

Walnut caterpillars are reddish brown to black in color and have long white hairs. They can grow up to two inches in length. One sure way to identify this pest is the way it will arch its head and back end when it's disturbed.

Another characteristic is that these caterpillars will move as a group to a lower limb or trunk of the tree each time they molt. After molting they leave their old molted hairy skins on the tree and go back up into the canopy to continue feeding on the foliage.

When they finish feeding on your tree, they will drop to the ground and pupate in the soil. Some people say there are so many of these worms in their trees that they can actually hear them eating the leaves. With this many worms, you will also find lots of worm droppings on anything under the infested trees.

Seldom do walnut caterpillars seriously damage mature trees. Young trees can be damaged by these worms, especially if the tree is already stressed from drought and the heat. Your Spinosad or Bacillus thuringiensis insecticide products can safely get rid of these pests.

Until next time, let's try to garden with nature, not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.

Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to laurie@vicad.com or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.

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