Weatherford Democrat

March 24, 2013

ASK A MASTER GARDENER: Is it OK to compost henbit, chickweed?


Weatherford Democrat

— Today we begin a regular feature in which members of Parker County Master Gardeners answer questions on topics of interest to North Texas gardeners. Submit a question to pcmgaquestions@gmail.com. For more about PCMG or to become a member, call 817-598-6096 or visit www.pcmg-texas.org.

Question: Can weeds such as henbit and chickweed be composted?

Answer: Yes, but care must be taken to ensure that your compost reaches the temperature necessary to completely decompose the plant as well as the seeds. Otherwise, you will be replanting the weed when you spread your compost. Plants should be very thoroughly dried in the sun before adding them to the compost bin. A thorough composting in a hot system should kill most weed seeds.

Special note: As a general rule, it would be best to not compost plant material that is diseased because of the chance of re-infecting your garden.

Question: Is it all right to mulch newly planted trees?

Answer: Mulching your trees will help retain moisture in the soil, which is desirable in our drought conditions. It will also discourage grass from growing around the base of the tree and competing with the tree for nutrients in the soil. Be sure to use good clean mulch; and make sure there are no insects or rodents in it.

Question: When do I fertilize my established lawn this spring? Are there advantages to applying ammonium sulfate to St. Augustine grass?

Answer: Begin fertilizing in early April. Because of the alkaline soil in Parker County, your choice in fertilizer matters. Most lawn fertilizers contain a fair amount of phosphorous, which will raise the alkalinity of soil. When choosing a fertilizer, pay close attention to the ratio. A ratio of 4-1-2 or 3-1-2 works well for most of our lawns.

If you want more accurate information for your particular lawn, stop by our office and pick up a soil test kit.

Ammonium sulfate is an acid forming fertilizer that contains 21 percent nitrogen, and is particularly good for our soil. As pH rises, other elements and nutrients in the soil become unavailable for plant use. This fertilizer helps maintain, or can help reduce the alkalinity in your soil. The ratio of nitrogen will reduce the chance of foliar burn. Remember to always water your lawn well after applying fertilizer.

– Special thanks to Dr. Jerral Johnson, Professor Emeritus, Dept. Plant Pathology and Microbiology, Texas A&M University.