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Homepage / Special Features  / Gardening 101  / Ask the Experts – November 2017

Ask the Experts – November 2017

By Kelly Young

I didn’t get my winter ryegrass planted in October. Is it too late to plant now?

In the low deserts of Arizona, people commonly plant ryegrass (Lolium spp.) seeds over the top of Bermuda grass during September and October. The timing should be based on the weather rather than the calendar. It’s best to wait until daytime temperatures fall below 90, which sometimes doesn’t occur until November. Cold nights below 50 may hamper germination, which leads to a patchy lawn prone to weed infestation. Be sure that the Bermuda grass is dormant and cut low so that it doesn’t interfere with germinating rye seeds. Keep in mind that ryegrass doesn’t spread like Bermuda grass, so it is crucial to evenly distribute the seeds throughout the area. Use 15 pounds of ryegrass seeds per 1,000 square feet and plant half walking in a north-south direction, then the other half moving from east to west.

An indoor chrysanthemum that was given to me as a gift was covered in very fine spider webs, so I immediately threw it away. Now, several of my houseplants are looking sickly and have webs on them. I didn’t think that spiders attacked plants. What’s going on?

You are correct that spiders don’t attack plants. But their tiny arachnid cousins, spider mites, are serious pests of plants, indoors and out. You were wise to quickly eliminate the source. Carefully inspect all remaining houseplants for webbing. Because spider mites are so small, they are hard to detect with the naked eye. Use a magnifying lens to inspect the undersides of leaves, or shake plants over a white piece of paper and watch for moving specks. Quarantine any infested plants in a separate room, and wipe their leaves with a solution of water and insecticidal soap, available at garden centers. Consider discarding any heavily infested plants as they may not recover anyway.

A sweet potato that I left on my countertop last summer started sprouting leaves, so I planted it in my garden. The vine quickly covered the entire area, and I have been eating the leaves in salads for months. Do you think that the plant also grew new sweet potatoes underground?

Yes! Your sweet potato vine has been stockpiling sugars all summer into the underground tubers. As the vine covered your garden, new roots formed where the stem made solid contact with the soil. Carefully dig where you find roots and you will likely discover tubers attached. Cut the tubers from the stem and brush off the excess soil. Allow the tubers to cure in the sun for two to three days, until the cut has calloused over for a sweeter, less starchy flavor. Enjoy your accidental harvest.


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