Welcome to Weston Nurseries
By R. Wayne Mezitt
Gazing out my window onto the barren and dormant January “viewscape”, I’m amused, recalling similar viewings back in July. Despite the bright midday sun, today’s frigid, windy and raw conditions render venturing outdoors just as unappealing as six months ago, only then-challenged by the unpleasantly high temperature and oppressive humidity. Interesting how our gardening comfort is so fundamentally modified by the weather.
These days I find it helpful to regard winter as two sections: early and late. For me early-winter starts in November or December when the days are the shortest and temperatures decline so that normal plantings are more challenging to accomplish. The term “the dead of winter” sometimes seems appropriate for this period. But around the end of January each day starts becoming noticeably longer and indications of the upcoming spring begin to appear: many buds start to swell, and on warm days witch-hazel (Hamamelis) unfurls its flowers, the maple-sap-run is soon to start.
Today, as “late-winter” approaches, my thoughts tend toward planning next spring’s gardens. Arriving each week by mail and email, are updated catalogs, lists and publications detailing intriguing seeds, plants and projects to accomplish when the weather “turns”. So many new plants and ideas, I’ll need to develop lists to help sort out what to do first and how to plan my upcoming year’s activities.
For many years I’ve kept a journal daily detailing what’s accomplished; reviewing this during winter serves as a most valuable resource for planning upcoming tasks. Drawing upon past successes and failures I’m better prepared to use my time and resources more wisely, providing I take the time to heed them. Now seems the perfect time to review last year’s notes to enhance my activities going forward; in just a few weeks the time will be right for sowing certain seeds.
Today’s frozen ground surely makes ill-advised most any working-of-the-soil, so my ability to accomplish many outside chores is limited. Back in July (recognized only in retrospect as its severity continued to deepen) we had embarked upon a season-long drought that continues until now. And of course anything planted in summer required the added burden of weekly watering to assure its health.
Perhaps it’s this very extreme-weather-polarity that we appreciate most about living in this part of the world—as each season gradually evolves, every day presents a refreshingly different outlook for those of us who appreciate gardens and gardening!
Wayne Mezitt is a 3rd generation nurseryman and a Massachusetts Certified Horticulturist, now chairman of Weston Nurseries of Hopkinton and Chelmsford, MA, and owner of “Hort-Sense”, a horticultural advisory business; he currently serves as Trustee chairman for the Massachusetts Horticultural Society at Elm Bank in Wellesley MA.
Most people might think of Spring as the best time to start a new lawn, but the truth is that late Summer and early Fall are far better for starting a new lawn from seed. Any time after August 15th is prime lawn time; the warm soil in combination with cooler air temperatures will encourage far better seed germination. Weeds are also typically not as aggressive late in the season, so grass seedlings don't have to compete for nutrients.
Early Spring is the second-best time to start a lawn from seed, but it has some drawbacks: the young grass has less time to become established before the hot weather of summer sets in, and the results can be generally unsatisfactory. You'll usually end up having to assess your lawn again anyway in the late Summer and Fall and then over-seed where it did not grow as well.
PREPARE YOUR SOIL
- If more than 70% of your area is weeds and bare spots you may want to apply a broad spectrum weed killer like Bonide Kleenup to kill what is there. Apply according to the directions, and be patient. In 7-10 days you should be able to install the lawn by seed safely.
If you prefer not to apply a weed killer, use a rototiller, spade, or rent a sod cutting machine to remove any of the living matter.
- Turn the soil to a minimum depth of 4".
- Remove sticks, stones, roots and other debris which could interfere with the establishment of the grass seedlings.
- Take a soil test sample to determine the soil pH. Having the correct pH allows fertilizers to be more effective and your lawn will look healthier longer. Once you know the pH you can amend the soil with lime using a spreader. The products which we recommend are Rapid Lime, MAG-I-CAL or Pelletized Lime.
- Incorporate organic material into the soil, such as compost, manures, peat moss, etc.
- Use a fertilizer spreader to apply Jonathan Green Love Your Lawn and New Seeding Fertilizer at the recommended rates.
- Grade the soil by raking and pitching the land so proper drainage will occur. Here's a good trick: lightly water the area in order to see where puddles tend to form. Lightly rake the high spots into the low spots. Roll or slightly compact the soil making sure air pockets are removed from the soil.
You are now ready to install your grass seed.
Select the appropriate grass seed based on the amount of sunlight in the area during the growing season. Jonathan Green has developed blends which can grow in sun or shade. A Sunny blend will need at least 6 hours of sun in order to thrive, while shady blends can live in sun or shade. We recommend Jonathan Green's Black Beauty seed blend for a lush green lawn with improved drought and disease resistance.
- Apply the seed with a spreader for best results. After seeding, use the backside of a spring rake to help to distribute the seed evenly and smooth off the surface.
- To help ensure the overall seed germination, apply Hydretain to the entire area. Hydretain will draw water molecules from the soil and bring it into the root zone.
- Next apply Straw, Jonathan Green Mulch, or seed blanket to the newly seeded area. This prevents the seeds from drying out as quickly.
- For the first two weeks, water the seed a at least once a day for 5 to 10 minutes, right up until germination begins. If the soil is moist you can hold off until it dries out slightly.
- Once the grass begins to germinate, you should switch to watering for 20-30 minutes every 2nd or 3rd day.
- Mow the lawn once it is 2-3” high and make sure your mower blades are clean and sharp.
- Once your new lawn is established you can maintain your lawn with the Jonathan Green New American Lawn Program.
Here's what's happening: The tree has a reduced root system from being recently dug out of the fields. With the weather being very hot and very windy the moisture from the leaf is being pulled out faster than the small root mass can replace it, and as a result the leaf margins dry out and become crispy, giving the appearance of being dead.
In most cases the buds for next year are fine and the tree will be okay. Just keep watering and the tree should be fine. It's not pretty, but given the dry summer we have had this is not an uncommon condition, and we are seeing the same condition in some well established trees at this point as well.
For more information, the University of Missouri Extension has an excellent in-depth guide on Leaf Scorch: CLICK HERE
Oh, so you thought you were going to sleep in Saturday morning and lay low in the blistering heat this weekend? NOPE!
As you can see from the pale blue swaths across the area on this NOAA precipitation report, we've had negligible rainfall over the past week and we're now entering a straight-up drought. With no relief for your thirsty plants in sight, it's now up to you, intrepid plant stewards, to get yourself up early in the morning and water your gardens.
It's not that terrible though: while the rest of the neighborhood sleeps, make the most of these rare and lovely summer mornings. Treat yourself an iced beverage, put on your flipflops and a floppy sun hat, fill up the watering cans and haul some hoses, wiggle your toes in the grass, and listen to the morning birdsong. Your plants will really appreciate the effort!