GARDENING: Landscape liner is the devil incarnate

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Well, my shade garden I inherited from the previous home owners was half started. They had planted ground cover and hostas, all with landscape liner. They also set pavers as paths creating a very graphic design to the garden, and I think used the landscape liner to help delineate the garden plots around it and to prevent weeds or overgrowth to encroach on the pavers.

Here is the problem. Yes, landscape liner prevents weeds from growing. But it prevents everything else from growing! It also prevent ground cover to creep along the dirt and grow as well. I pulled the landscape liner out of the sections I was going to work on, and I did it too soon before planting. When I tried working with the hard-packed soil underneath the liner, it was impossible. It was damp, full of clay, had few earthworms and just sat in clumps. After I put my plants in, I had one problem after another. Poor drainage caused root rot. I had mold and mildew. I also had slugs. In hindsight, I should have pulled the liner off in the fall. Turned the soil over. Then mixed in peat, mulch, grass clippings as well as mulched dead leaves all throughout the beds, and let them sit and breath through the winter. Come spring I would have had a much happier shade garden.

So I performed plant triage to my shade garden. I bought a lot of peat and black forest soil conditioner, and I aerated around all my plants with a small hand tiller. Than I mixed in the materials and tilled again. The death and destruction seems to have stopped. I am hoping for a better year next year!

If you are going to use landscape liner, DON'T. Just weed the old fashioned way! I will give you an update next year.

GARDENING: What should I do with patchy grass?

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There are many reasons you might have patchy grass. I have seen everything from having sun grass where a tree has grown so big that the lawn in that area now needs shade seed to sporadic watering. Patchy grass could be from animals scratching, burrowing and urinating. The most common reason to patchy grass that I have seen is insects, most notably, grubs. Whatever the reason, the best defense is a strong root structure to your lawn. A healthy lawn can combat critters and insects. I use a lot of Jerry Baker's advice when taking care of my lawn.

1: De thatch in the spring with a stiff rake
- Get rid of all the dead grass under the green stuff and throw the debris in your compost pile

2: Aerate the lawn in early spring, and throughout the summer
- Jerry Baker advises getting some thrift store golf spikes and wearing them in he yard during yard work. This aerates the soil, allowing the roots to breath and grow. We just grab our pitch fork and poke holes in the yard in early spring while the yard still looks bad.

3: Fertilize and put down GrubX every two weeks
- I would even recommend putting it on the snow in February and March-once it gets to be 60˚, grubs hatch and it is a losing battle all season.

4: Epsom salt. Epsom salt, Epsom Salt
- Sprinkle Epsom salt evenly once a month. Epsom salt greens up the yard, promotes root structure and broadens the leaf. I have heard that Epsom salt is also bad for slugs.

5: Consistent water
- Grass likes water-lots of it. Get your sprinkler going, especially during the hottest months.
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