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Volume 16, Issue 45 - November 6 - November 12, 2008
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The Bay Gardener by Dr. Frank Gouin

Cover up Your Bare Spots

Reseeding from the ground up

Fall is the best time for re-seeding those bare spots in the lawn. But unless you reseed properly, the bare spots will most likely reappear again next year. Reseeding means more than sprinkling seeds in the bare spot and a little peat moss over the seed. Most likely the seeds will germinate and grow, but odds are that the soil is compacted in that spot, so the new seedlings will die after a few weeks of drought.

Soil compaction is the most likely cause for dead spots in the first place. Unless the soil compaction problem is resolved, it will recur. The most effective way of permanently solving the problem of bare spots is to first loosen the soil to a depth of at least four inches, then amend that soil with about an inch of compost. Work the compost thoroughly into the loose soil before firming the amended soil in the area. After you firm the soil by walking over it several times, scratch the surface lightly before spreading the seed.

Cover the seed lightly with compost, and spread compost over the surrounding grass over an area twice the size as the dead spot. That keeps the seed cover from being washed away by heavy rains or careless watering.

For grass seed to germinate properly it needs to be kept moist, but not wet, at all times. This means daily light misting at about high noon. If you cannot meet this requirement, sprinkle a light coating of straw or pine needles over the seeded area. However, limit the thickness of the pine needles or straw to create only 20 percent shade. Applying an excessive amount of pine needles or straw will shade out the young seedlings.

As the seedlings begin to grow, limit watering to twice to three times each week for the first two weeks. By allowing the soil to dry, you encourage deeper rooting. Keeping the soil moist at all times will promote shallow rooting, which can be detrimental as the cold season progresses.

Trees for Calvert

Q I’m a newcomer to the area. Could you advise me as to a listing of plants (trees, hedges, etc.) that are well suited to Calvert County’s sandy, dry soil and tolerant of the winds for Bayfront property?

In particular, I was considering planting a dawn redwood, (Metasequoia glypt). I like that it is a fast-growing hardwood and deciduous. I am concerned that the strong winds from the Bay would blow the leaves off.

–Doug Crow, St. Leonard

A The Bay is surrounded by hardwood trees, and they survive without losing their leaves to strong winds. However, Metasequoia will not tolerate salt sprays. Why not plant pond cypress? They tolerate dry sandy soils and salt spray.

Make up a list of plants, and I will tell you what will survive and what will not. I do consulting work when not busy here at Upakrik Farm or writing articles, but I am not ready to write a book.

Editor’s note: Calvert County environmental planner Steve Kullen has already written a book on Calvert natives that will do better than this water-loving alien, which will require more maintenance to establish and keep it healthy. Go to and look for Forest Conservation. Three bullets beneath is the “Calvert County Native Plants Guide.”

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.

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