April’s plant clinic and should I put sand on my lawn?

The year’s first plant clinic will be held Friday, April 14 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. in Fort Walton Beach at the Okaloosa County Extension building, 127 W. Hollywood Blvd.

Bring a fresh sample of the weed, plant, insect, etc., that you’d like diagnosed to the clinic. This may include a plant stem with several leaves, a 4-inch square of grass with roots attached, etc. You also may bring a sample of soil for pH testing.

Here’s how to collect a soil sample.

Collect a composite soil sample by removing sub-samples from ten to fifteen small holes dug throughout the sample area (e.g. the front yard). To obtain the sub-samples, carefully pull back mulch, grass or ground covers to expose bare soil. With a hand trowel or shovel, dig small holes six inches deep and then remove a one inch thick by six inch deep slice of soil. Combine and mix the sub-samples in a clean plastic bucket. Place about two cups of this mixture in a plastic bag or small throwaway plastic container. Close the container. If the soil is wet, let it air dry by spreading it out on newspaper before putting it in the container. Make sure to attach a slip of paper with your name, phone number and where the sample was taken (e.g. lawn, vegetable garden, flowerbed, etc.).

Q. Is topdressing a lawn with sand a good practice?

A. Topdressing your lawn with sand or soil on a regular basis is not a recommended practice. It can cause more damage than good. You can introduce weed seeds, nematodes and even diseases with some sources of lawn dressing.

Basically, the only reasons to apply a layer of soil or sand to a lawn are to fill in low areas or bare areas, as a method of dealing with an identified thatch problem or possibly to cover surface tree roots.

While low spots can be corrected this way, you can easily overdo it and smother your lawn.

It can be difficult to evenly spread the sand. Homeowners start with the best intentions only to find that the job is slow and difficult. The sand pile remains in the same spot for days, or longer, frequently killing the grass below. Once the initial enthusiasm wanes, just trying to reduce the mountain of sand overcomes the objective of spreading it consistently and evenly over the lawn.

“Topdressing home lawns has minimal agronomic benefits” according to Dr. Bryan Unruh, University of Florida Extension Turfgrass Specialist. When asked his advice for homeowners on topdressing, his reply was “don’t.”

Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension, Okaloosa County, April 5, 2017

plant clinic

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