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The Plant Medic

  • Spider mites are harmful
    Q. My bean plants are not doing very well. The foliage is turning yellow and then brown. Do you know what is wrong?A. I looked at the sample you dropped off at the Extension office.
  • Be vigilant with moths and clothes
    Q. Recently, I noticed holes in clothes that I had hanging in my closet. It sure looks like moth damage, but I don’t think I had any wool.
  • Sweet clover can be boon or bane
    Q. I have seen a tall plant that seems to be very abundant with yellow flowers growing along the highways this spring. Do you know what it is? Why are they so numerous this year? A.
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Use bluegrass and rye on yard

Q. We recently moved into a new home out in the country and our yard is a mess! There are many bare areas, and it is clear we will need to put more seed down next spring. I want a really nice looking lawn in front, and we don’t care so much about our backyard, which is more like an old field. We don’t have a lot neighbors, or time and cash to devote to lawn care. Any ideas?

A. A premium Kentucky bluegrass / perennial rye blend is still your best option for an attractive lawn for the front yard. In a way, establishing a lawn is a bit like cooking – if you use premium quality ingredients, then the results can be exceptional. Usually a premium blend will contain some of the highest-rated cultivars based on a variety of qualifiers. The National Turf Grass Evaluation program tests various cultivars of many species at locations all across the United States. The scientists look at color, disease and drought tolerance, establishment, and other factors to evaluate the cultivars.

Turf grass professionals will use the ratings to mix up their own blends of grasses to sell to consumers or use in their lawn care operations. Some garden centers sell pre-mixed bags of seed to sell to consumers.

I recently looked at the huge volume of data from turf grass evaluations by the NTEP. These seven bluegrass cultivars rated the highest in tests performed from 2006-2010: Allexa, Midnight, Nuchicagu, Solar Eclipse, Bewitched, Granite and Sudden Impact.

If you look on the label, or see any or all of these particular bluegrass cultivars in the mix; chances are your lawn just might be the most attractive in the neighborhood.

Your backyard is a different story. You could consult with a lawn professional and use a mix geared more toward drought and disease tolerance. There is a trend in the industry to develop some cultivars that are tougher and slower-growing. Either way, I would definitely allow outlying areas to grow longer. Mow it less often and higher. You don’t want a weed patch, but then again, it will still look fine with minimal maintenance. You could also opt out for a pasture mix in the back. These mixes might contain orchard grass, or a mix of fescues. I like the fescue mixes because some can be quite attractive and drought tolerant. I notice many folks with larger areas of land out in the county leaving larger areas au natural. I applaud them for their efforts to be more sustainable. It is sometimes possible to have the best of both worlds – higher maintained areas in highly visible areas, along with lower maintenance natural areas in larger home landscapes.

The Plant Medic, written by Ricky Kemery, appears every other Sunday. Kemery is the extension educator for horticulture at the Allen County branch of the Purdue Extension Service. Send questions to kemeryr@purdue.edu.

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