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Weedy wisteria and sanding a lawn

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Routinely applying a layer of soil or sand to a lawn (topdressing) can cause more damage than good. Plus, it is a lot of work. Filling in low areas or bare areas, dealing with an identified thatch problem or possibly covering surface tree roots are the main reasons to top-dress a lawn.

Q. I planted Wisteria for its beautiful spring flowers but it grew and took over everything. New plants are sprouting up to ten feet away from the original plant. I now need to know how to control it?

A. Chinese Wisteria is an invasive plant. I’ve seen entire fields taken over by it. Yet, many people wonder why you would want to kill a beautiful plant like wisteria. But with time, shoots coming from roots usually escape and begin growing on adjacent property, climbing trees, etc.

Persistence is needed to control a mature vine. Outside of moving, it’s best to use a “cut stump” treatment on the main plant and every shoot that sprouts. Look for a brush killer type herbicide with the active ingredient triclopyr. Cut the main stem (trunk) and immediately apply the product to the freshly cut “stump.” Always follow label directions and precautions and be very careful to not get the product on adjacent desirable plants, including their roots.

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This UF/IFAS Extension publication includes additional info on the “cut stump” method.

http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ag245

Q. I see people putting sand over their lawns during spring. Is this a good practice?

A. Routinely applying a layer of soil or sand to a lawn (topdressing) can cause more damage than good. Plus, it is a lot of work. Filling in low areas or bare areas, dealing with an identified thatch problem or possibly covering surface tree roots are the main reasons to top-dress a lawn.

Topdressing soil/sand should be free of weeds/seeds. Introduced weeds create additional work and expense to control. The topdressing also should be of the same soil type (texture) as that on which the turf is currently growing.

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It can be difficult to evenly spread the sand in a timely manner. Many times, the sand pile remains in the same spot for days, or longer, shading out and frequently killing the grass below.

To fill a low spot, shovel the sand, no more than about an inch or two deep, into the area. It’s best to maintain the lawn normally until the grass has grown on top of the first layer. Repeat until the low spot is filled. Overdoing it with too thick a layer can smother the lawn.

Homeowners are sometimes convinced that topdressing will improve the condition of their lawn by increasing the spread and thickness of their turf.

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“Topdressing home lawns has minimal agronomic benefits” according to Dr. Bryan Unruh, University of Florida Extension Turfgrass Specialist. When asked his advice for homeowners on topdressing, his reply was “don’t”.

Larry Williams is the Extension horticulture agent with the Okaloosa County Cooperative Extension Service, University of Florida. Contact Larry at 689-5850 or email lwilliams@co.okaloosa.fl.us.

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