Weatherford Democrat

March 23, 2014

ASK A MASTER GARDENER: Made for the shade

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

I have a very shady yard, covered in pine and oak trees. I want a lawn, and have tried St. Augustine without much luck. What do you recommend?

Very few turf grasses are shade tolerant. Although St. Augustine will tolerate some shade, even it requires 4-6 hours of sun to do well.

Tall fescue is a cool season grass that generally tolerates shade; however, it requires significant water and should be mowed at 3 inches, higher than most lawns.

Your best bet would be to consider a ground cover such as vinca minor, mondo grass, or lyre leaf sage (a very aggressive grower). English ivy also thrives in the shade, but requires annual pruning. Another option is a seating area with a shade garden. Check our website below for a wide variety of ornamental and native shade plants that thrive in Parker County.

Based on the weather forecast for the next seven days, I decided to go ahead and plant my tomatoes. What should I do if we get a late freeze?

Almost anything that will cover the new plants will provide protection— flower pots, 5-gallon buckets or blankets. For longer-term protection from frost, as well as wind and insects, use a frost fabric, available at local nurseries and online.

Wrap the fabric around a tomato cage, or one built with concrete reinforcing wire, 18 inches in diameter and 5 feet tall. Leave it in place until the leaves touch the sides, and cover the top of the cage only if frost is forecast. Water plants thoroughly before a predicted freeze.

When is the plant sale?

The annual Master Gardener Plant Sale is Saturday, April 12, from 8 a.m. to noon, at the Parker County Agrilife Extension Office, 604 N. Main St., Weatherford. We will have a wide selection of plants including annuals, perennials, herbs, native and ornamental grasses and wildflowers. Many are grown locally by the master gardeners, who will be available to answer all your gardening questions.

We will also have programs throughout the day on topics such as gardening for butterflies, birds, wildlife and honey bees, plus container gardening, herbs, water conservation, drip irrigation and composting. These short, 15-minute classes will provide you with lots of creative ideas you can easily implement in your own garden. We hope to see you there!