Seasonal Grass

By Jeff Rugg

April 15, 2020 5 min read

Question: When I used my drop spreader to fertilize my lawn, it made stripes of fertilized and unfertilized grass. I do not want to buy another spreader. How do I use this one properly, and how do I correct the stripes I have now?

Answer: You will have to live with the stripes for a while. If you try to fertilize the unfertilized stripes, you will give the fertilized parts too much fertilizer.

Try testing your spreader to see if it is dropping fertilizer over the whole width of the spreader and that none of it is clogged. Use sand on the driveway to see where the fertilizer actually drops to get the proper overlap. The spreader may not be dropping any fertilizer next to the wheels, so you may have to overlap a little more than you thought. Next time you fertilize with the drop spreader, watch the wheel marks in the grass very carefully.

The next time you fertilize, close the spreader door to only allow half as much fertilizer to fall out. Then go over the lawn once. Go over it again, but this time, overlap the first set of wheel marks halfway. Do not go at right angles to the first path, or you will end up with a checkerboard pattern, with some areas not getting any fertilizer, some areas getting it once and some areas getting it twice.

Question: Last year, my tomatoes were tasteless, and they took forever to ripen on the vine. Some of them just stayed pinkish-green, and others were only ripe part of the way through. What can I do to have better tomatoes this year?

Answer: I had several reports of dry or tasteless tomatoes last year. This is generally the result of weather extremes. Weather that is too cold (below 60 F) or too warm (above 90 F), or soil that is too dry, waterlogged, compact, has too much nitrogen and not enough potassium, or has too much shade will all cause tomatoes to develop poorly. Wow, with a list like that, it is a wonder that we ever get good-tasting tomatoes.

Since most tomato problems are not related to insects and diseases, spraying them with pesticides will not cure the problems. Look at the list and then look at your garden's location. Is there a soil or drainage problem you can correct before planting in the garden this year? If the location is too hot, can you install a trellis to grow a vine crop, like cucumbers, peas, beans or morning glories?

Be sure to move all of your crops around each year. Do not plant the same thing in the same place because insect and disease problems can build up in the soil. It is best to not even plant crops from the same family in the same location. Tomatoes, potatoes and peppers should not go in the location of one of the other plants. The same thing goes for all of the vine crops.

If your tomatoes had brown interiors, you may have had a disease problem. Fruit that turns brown inside may have tobacco mosaic virus. This spring, move the tomatoes to a new spot in the garden. Get tobacco-mosaic-virus-resistant varieties, and watch the soil and fertilizer.

Question: My neighbor has a cottonwood tree, and all the fuzz blows into my lawn, ruins my flowers, etc. I am thinking ahead and wondering if there is any way to prevent the cotton balls from forming.

Answer: Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do about a cottonwood's seed production. Cottonwood trees are generally messy and short-lived, but they are fast growers that provide shade quickly and grow in some tough climates like the desert of the Southwestern United States. The seeds drift with the wind to coat everything downwind of the tree. Be sure to check your air conditioner cooling coils. The cooling fan can suck in a lot of seeds that will ruin the efficiency of the air conditioner. The seeds often come up as weed trees in places they can cause problems. The trunk can grow very wide, but that is not good if the tree sprouts up next to a wall.

Cottonwoods are good trees for natural areas, but they do not make good residential trees. Is there any way you could replace the tree with a better one? I am sure the neighbor does not like the cotton either. Maybe the whole neighborhood could chip in to cut it down and plant a good tree species. I imagine that this solution won't be a tough sell to the neighbors.

Email questions to Jeff Rugg at [email protected] To find out more about Jeff Rugg and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Photo credit: Free-Photos at Pixabay

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