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Volume xviii, Issue 25 ~ June 24 to June 30, 2010

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The Bay Gardener

by Dr. Francis Gouin

Clover Is No Miracle
Lawn Feeder

It makes no nitrogen to spare

A few weeks back (June 3), we talked about how to grow a clover lawn. There are advantages to clover, but feeding the grass isn’t one of them. It’s true that clover is a legume, and it fixes its own nitrogen from Earth’s atmosphere. But clover won’t fertilize the lawn where it’s growing.

The nitrogen that clover fixes is totally utilized by the clover plant and is not released into the soil unless the clover plant is killed. Only after the nitrogen has entered the soil can the roots of the surrounding grasses utilize it.

So the only nitrogen clover gives your lawn comes from the decay of clippings — and that only when you cut your grass-and-clover lawn tall and let it fall in place.

To witness this phenomenon, spray a patch of clover growing in your lawn with a selective herbicide, such as Speedzone or Weed B Gone, which kills only broadleaf plants. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for use. Allow at least two weeks for the clover to die and another three to four weeks for the roots of the clover to decompose, as will happen if there is adequate moisture in the ground.

If conditions are right, you should be able to detect a change in the color of the surrounding grass from light green to dark green as a result of the nitrogen release from the decomposing clover roots.

Most of the clover in lawns is white Dutch clover. It has relatively small leaflets and grows only four to five inches tall at the most. It is capable of fixing between 80 to 100 pounds of nitrogen per acre per year, which is sufficient to sustain a crop. But you’d have to kill your lawn to get it.

Nurturing Squash to Harvest

Q We’ve always had success with great big zucchini squash plants. One day they’re beautiful; the next they are flat on the ground. I understand this is due to some sort of beetle that eats the stems. We’ve been using Sevin pesticide on our garden, but it doesn’t stop them, so it seems.

–Peter Brooks, Chesapeake Beach

A With regards to your zucchini squash, stem borers are a big problem. One method I use is to spread a liberal amount of wood ashes around the plant just before it begins to sprawl on the ground. I also spray the stems and vines weekly with Sevin, making certain that the spray is directed inside the plant and not on the foliage Spraying the foliage has no effect on the stem borer because it attacks the stems and not the leaves.

It is also important not to let the zucchini dry out. I irrigate my squash patch every second or third day depending on the amount of rain we receive. I try to give each plant four to five gallons at each watering.


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


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