Weatherford Democrat

March 31, 2013

ASK A MASTER GARDENER: Growing grass under trees

Weatherford Democrat

Here are this week’s gardening questions and answers, provided by Parker County Master Gardeners. To submit a question, send it to For more information about Parker County Master Gardeners, or to become a member, call 817-598-6096 or visit

The grass is dead under my trees? What do I do?

Turfgrass needs sun to grow. While St. Augustine is the most shade-tolerant grass we have, it needs six-to-eight hours of direct sun each day.

For shaded areas, you have two options. You can prune lower branches from the trees to let light in, or you can change the landscape. You may replace the grass with pavers or decomposed granite to create a sitting area, or create a bed with shade-tolerant plants and ground cover such as blue mist flower, coral bells, lenten rose, phlox and liriope.

We will have these and many other varieties available at our annual plant sale on Saturday, April 13, from 8 a.m. to noon, at the AgriLife Extension Office.

What are the planting dates for tomatoes in Parker County?

Tomato transplants should not be planted until after the last normal Parker County freeze/frost date.

In spring the best dates are March 25-April 15. If you plant them and a late freeze/frost occurs, you must give them protection.

For fall gardens, suggested planting dates are July 1-July 25.

What can I do about webworms?

One of the most common foliage-feeding caterpillars in north Texas is the fall web worm. This caterpillar is active throughout the warm season and will mature into a non-descript white moth. If you catch the nest before it spreads, you may be able to prune the limb to remove the infestation.

You may also remove the web by hand, pulling off the caterpillars and disposing of them in a garbage bag. If you cannot reach the web or there are too many to remove by hand, you may choose to treat the tree with a low impact pesticide such as: insecticide soap, horticultural oil, Bacillus thuringiensis (BT), or an insecticide spray containing spinosad or pyrethrum.

Unless the infestation completely covers the tree, they usually are not that damaging to tree health. An otherwise healthy tree may withstand up to 40 percent defoliation during summer months and still re-leaf after being stripped by caterpillars.

Special thanks to Michael Merchant, Extension Entomologist, Texas A&M University.