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Gary Garner



Garden news, thoughts, tips, musings, rumors, gossip and occasional good advice
from Gary Garner, the Guru of Grass.

Planing For Fall Lawn Care August, 1st 2018


Have you taken a good look at your lawn lately?  I don’t mean the kind you see when you ride over it with a lawn mower.  I mean have you really walked over the lawn and paid attention to the bare spots in the grass and the weeds growing in the yard.  Take a serious slow walk over the yard and you might be surprised.  If you don’t see anything get your wife to walk with you.  Now you will see all the spots you missed.

If you see need for serious work on the lawn now is the time for planning.  If you plan on doing any seeding this fall the earlier you do it the better results you will get. Weather permitting, I want to plant fall lawn seed as soon after August 20 as possible.

If you have a lot of weed growth you need to apply a weed killer as soon as possible.  You should not plant seed until 30 days after a weed killer is applied.  If you decide to completely renovate the lawn and want to kill everything then apply a glyphosphate product.  You can reseed 48 hours after this is applied.

You want to get the yard seeded early enough for the grass to be mowed two to three times before mowing ceases.  You also want the grass to be growing well before the leaves start to fall.  If you have newly planted grass try to remove the leaves at least once a week.  If leaves pile up on new grass it will likely be killed.

Continue to mow the lawn on your regular schedule.  If it’s totally new grass then mow as soon as it reaches a height of about four inches. I will assume you applied fertilizer when you seeded the yard.  Also, lime if it was called for.


They need to be done in three separate applications not all mixed together.  They have different weights and consistencies so they won’t spread evenly if mixed. That said, these three applications can be made all in the same day one after the other.

Keep the leaves off the new lawn through the winter.  Make certain the new seeding has proper moisture.  About an inch of water per week.  Apply two more applications of fertilizer about six to eight weeks apart in the fall.

Come spring you should have a lawn that will be the envy of the neighborhood.

With all that said one more piece of advice.  Hire a good professional and let them do the job.  You will save money and most likely have a better looking lawn.

Keep 'Em Pretty - July 24th


I don’t know about your summer flowers but mine are beginning to show the wear and tear of summer heat, excessive rain and then hot dry days.  Also, some disease and bug damage along the way.  All normal things but put together my summer flowers don’t look all that great.

Should I take them up and plant more?  Should I just let them go until time for mums and pansies or should I look at a third option?  I think I will look at a third option.

I am going to take the pruners in hand and give them a good old-fashioned shearing. When I finish most of them will have little or no bloom left and they may only be three to four inches tall.  I will then throw a good handful of 10-10-10 in the pot or in the bed, in addition I will see they get a good soaking of water, rain or irrigation and step back and wait.

In a few days new growth will be flourishing, in two to three weeks new blooms will be showing and in four to six weeks they will look better than they have looked all summer.  This will be the second time this summer I have performed this kind of surgery on the plants.  Each time I do this they look better than before.

This will keep them looking great and in bloom until hard frost. Probably until close to Thanksgiving.  Now, there is one problem with this. Pansies will be arriving in the stores in just over a month.  I am going to want some as soon as they arrive.  If my summer flowers are looking so pretty where am I going to plant pansies?

I don’t want to wait until frost kills my flowers to plant pansies.  If I do the pansies won’t have time to grow and be nice looking for the winter.  I want my pansies planted no later than the end of September and would like to have them in sooner.  I want them to have plenty of time to grow and mature before hard frost.  Cold is not going to kill the pansies but they are not going to do much growing during the winter.

I try to plant pansies in between the summer annuals where I have room.  I might clip the ends of the annuals to give me room for the pansies.  If all else fails I pull up the summer crops and plant the pansies.  After all, the pansies will be there all winter and the summer crops only have a few weeks left.

July Garden Issues - July 10th, 2018


July brings with it lots of issues for the garden.  One thing we have to deal with is the heat.  At this point, with about one third of July gone we are already in the mid-teens in the number of days the temperature has exceeded 90 degrees this summer.  As a general rule most vegetables don’t mind hot weather.

The problem arises when people misinterpret what happens to a plant in hot weather.  When many gardeners see their tomatoes flopped in mid-afternoon their first thought is to grab a hose and give the plants a good dose of water.  In fact, the plants likely do not need water at all.  Flopping is nature's way of protecting the plant from the heat. Go back out about nine o'clock at night and the leaves have come out of the flop and the plants look great. This is true of other plants as well.

This year we have had nice rains most of the growing season gardens planted in the ground have not needed to be watered.  Raised beds and containers have needed extra water.  I looked at a large garden last night that was beautiful.  It starts with almost 100 tomato plants, several rows of various types of beans, a long row of peppers, several rows of corn, cukes and melons all of which look great.  Some disease caused mostly by the rain standing on the leaves.  The point is that all the water this garden has received was furnished by Mother Nature.  It has not been irrigated at all.

Even in dry years this particular garden receives no water except that provided by rainfall.  It is one of the most productive gardens year in and year out that I know of.  My opinion, for what it is worth, is that most gardens planted in the ground would be more productive if people watered little or none and cut their fertilizer use by half.

Plants don’t flower and set fruit when they are growing.  Excess water and fertilizer produce beautiful plants but usually very little produce. In the garden I talked about above, the tomato plants are only waist to chest high but hanging with large tomatoes. My guess is that the plants will produce 30 to 40 pounds of tomatoes per plant.

Also, a last point is that this garden is bothered very little with garden pests.  Healthy plants have very few pest problems.  The beneficial insects far out-number the pests in the garden.  Spiders do a great job on controlling a lot of pests. Birds and bats clean out a lot of bugs.  A bad crop of beetles or potato bugs can be controlled with a light application of Sevin.

Enjoy your garden, work with Mother Nature and things will work out just fine.  One of the best ways I know to not stress over the garden is to leave the garden alone.  If you don’t have something to do in the garden don’t go check on it.


P. S. Let me know how some of the advice I give works out for you.  I would like to hear what is working for you.

June 19th, 2018 - Mow Your Lawn The Right Way!



The lawn mowing season is now well under way for this year.  The reason for this blog is to point out that the right way to mow your lawn now is not the same as it was a couple of weeks ago.  A well-maintained turf type tall fescue lawn should be kept at a height of three to four inches. This means if you want it kept at three inches then when it reaches a height of four inches the lawn should be mowed.  You should not cut off more than an inch of top growth.

Grass is approximately 90% water.  An inch cut should dry up and be gone in about 48 hours.  If you have to cut of 3 to 4 inches you will end up with piles of brown unsightly grass that needs to be removed from the lawn.

During the period of almost daily rain we had this spring, a well-maintained lawn likely needed mowing at least every other day to stay looking nice.  Cut at 3 inches during the cloudy, rainy days we just had the lawn did not dry out all day. Wet grass with cloudy humid conditions offer perfect conditions for lawn diseases to proliferate.

All this discussion points the fact that the lawn should be mowed based on how fast it is growing not on some pre-set schedule.  Sometimes mowing should be done every other day, sometimes once a week and in dry periods once a month might be all it needs.  On average a well-maintained lawn will need mowing from 28 to 32 times per summer.

Why do we mow our lawns to begin with?  It is important to the health of the grass.  If you clip off the growing points (the crown, where the new leaves develop) the plants branch out and the plants become denser.  This will cause the grass to thicken up and become dense turf.  If you didn’t mow at all the lawn would soon look like a patch of pasture or an uncared for field.

The equipment you mow with will also determine what the finished job will look like.  The best-looking cut would be made by using one of the old-fashioned reel push mowers. They are still made and available but it is hard to find anyone using one today.  A 21-inch gas powered walk behind will give a better look than a 36-inch rider.  On the other hand, the time it takes to mow, physical limitations, and other factors may dictate what type of mower you use.  To some people the thrill of sitting on that big green tractor may be worth more that the look of the lawn.

Last word on mowing, if possible cut down and back.  Cutting in circles and cutting around the outside gradually working in makes for some strange looks in the yard.

Mowing is not the only factor in having a good-looking lawn.  Fertilization, weed control, over-seeding all play into having a nice lawn.  In the long run it starts with good mowing practices.

Deer O Deer - June 12th, 2018


I thought that was a cute way to begin.  We hear so much about the problems people have with deer.  Recently, I have seen a number of posts with pictures on Facebook of deer in yards. Pictures of deer strolling along the street in broad daylight doing no harm.  Just out for a stroll.

In my own case I have looked out the window about midnight, four nights in a row, to see deer grazing in my yard.  I have not seen any damage they have done to my plants.  I haven't tried to scare them away.  Just taken a kind of live and let live attitude.

I don’t think they do as much damage as they get blamed for. There are other animals that damage our plants and deer get the blame.  Rabbits, squirrels, racoons just to name a few.  Damage down close to the ground is likely not a deer.  Taller plants and plants with the top eaten out is probably deer.  Regardless, we don’t want our plants destroyed by wildlife.  I understand that.

When we were running the garden center I always thought it was funny to hear people complain about deer problems.  First, they always seemed to think the deer picked on them exclusively.  No one else had a deer problem.  If they said they had four in their yard last night and I said I just had a customer left the store that had six in their yard.  With the next breath the ones in their yard had grown to eight.  I always wondered how they multiplied that fast.

Let me say here that generally what will keep one animal away will keep most if not all animals away.  Plants that one animal will eat most animals will eat.  So as a general what works for one works for all.  Nothing seems to work all the time.  Wish I could give you a hard and fast rule.

In my case, I spray plants that I really want to protect with Deer Off every three months.  Ones that I am not too concerned about I leave alone.  They get nipped sometimes but usually not enough to worry about.  I will point out here that Deer Off does not have edible plants on the label.  However, the cost of testing and putting edible plants on the label was so expensive that the Company that produces Deer Off made the decision not to put edibles on the label.

Animals generally do not eat plants with a fragrance.  Very few herbs are subject to being damaged by animals.  They also suffer very little insect damage.  White flowers are very seldom bothered by animals.  Why, most white flowers have anywhere from slight to overpowering fragrances.  Fragrant roses have less damage than non-fragrant roses.

Mixing herbs and highly fragrant flowers such as marigolds in plantings of edibles or flower beds can help animals away.  I have containers of vegetables and flowers on my deck.  I usually stick a marigold in all the planters because I have a problem with squirrels. So far it has worked.

Animals have tastes just like we do.  What they eat tonight they may walk right by tomorrow night.  What they don’t eat in your neighbor's yard, they may totally destroy in your yard.  Just Mother Nature.

So' I would say don’t let the deer or other animal decide what you are going to plant.  Plant what you like where you like it.  Use a little common-sense and the damage will be little or none.  I use pesticides where needed. If you make the decision to use them read the label.  I have found they rarely work for people that don’t read the label.


Tomatoes - To Water or Not To Water



I would say you would do your tomatoes less harm by underwatering than you would by overwatering.  All of this assumes that your tomatoes are planted in the ground, in full sun and in well-drained soil. Container and raised bed plantings would be watered totally different from plants in the ground.

Every garden is different and the final answer to the question raised is ultimately your decision.  Certainly, all the rain we just had was not good for tomatoes, short term or long term.

Let's look first at how to water, if you decide to water.  Never water over the top.  Wet foliage is the perfect breeding ground for disease.  I know Mother Nature waters from the top but it's still not good for the plants.  Water underneath the plant for best results.

Always water long and deep and do not water often.  When you water soak the ground thoroughly.  Water for an hour or longer so that the water reaches below the root ball of the plant.  Then wait a couple of weeks or longer before you water.  If I decide to water my tomatoes I want the ground to be so wet I can't walk in the garden for a few hours.

When you water for a few minutes daily all the roots stay right at the top of the ground.  The plants then suffer quickly during a dry spell. Deep watering carries the roots down and helps the plant survive dry weather.

It seems most gardeners think when they see their plants flop they need to grab the garden hose and water the plants.  Flopping is the way the plants protect themselves from hot weather.  It does not mean they need water. When you see your plants flopped leave them alone.  Go back out to the garden after the sun goes down and its cooler then you are likely to see the plants standing up and out of the flop.  If they don’t come out of the flop overnight then they need a good soaking watering.

A quick word about fertilizer. You can over fertilize just as you can overwater.  Plants don’t grow and bloom to any extent at the same time.  We had customers coming in the store saying I have beautiful tomato plants.  They are six or eight feet tall but they aren't blooming.  Their way of dealing with this was to apply more fertilizer and more water.  The plants were growing so hard they didn’t have time to bloom and set fruit.

Gardens don’t need to be babied.  Neglect often is the most productive thing you can do for a garden.

Give me some feedback if this helps.  Send me some pictures of your garden, problems or successes, but let me know how it turns out.  Or better yet, a big red tomato or a jar of salsa would really prove the advice worked.

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