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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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Tuesday - July 07, 2015

From: Pflugerville, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Problem Plants, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Dead, brown Habiturf lawn
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I planted Habiturf seeds last fall and had a good lawn all winter. Now the grass is brown and dead. Did it drown with all the rain we have had? If so, what should I do now? If not, what should I do now?

ANSWER:

The following is from John Hart Asher, Environmental Designer and Project Manager, Ecosystem Design Group at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center:

We advise people to plant grasses, Habiturf included, during the spring so that the plants will get a full growing season allowing proper root development and adequate coverage before going into winter dormancy. It is difficult to diagnose what exactly went wrong in this case, but the soil type paired with the wet winter and spring could have contributed to fungal growth such as Take-All Patch, which could have killed the grass. If you left too much thatch after verdant growth, that could have also contributed towards the decline as the large amount of organic material provides a growing medium for fungus and also acts as a mulch. Here is more information about Take-All Patch from RealGreenLawns.  [Mark Simmons, the Director of the Ecosystem Design Group of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, said that if you really do have Take-All Patch then amending the pH below 7 will help (e.g., with sulfur) since our soils do tend to be alkaline.]  Again, it’s difficult to diagnose what went wrong in this case with such little information.

For best results:

  • Prepare site by removing weeds and improving soil if needed
  • Sow seed in the early spring to allow full season of growth
  • Apply low NPK organic fertilizer if needed during germination to help establishment
  • Stay on top of weeds, especially during establishment period
  • Mow no shorter than 4” at least twice a year to encourage stolon development. Turf can be mowed more than this, but too much mowing will likely promote weed growth
  • Remove excess thatch after turf goes dormant for the winter. This will prevent the mulching effect, remove growth medium for fungus, and allow new growth to take advantage of growing conditions in the spring

Please see our links to Habiturf, the Ecological Lawn.

 

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