54°F
weather icon Mostly Cloudy

Commercial topdressing products replace bagged steer manure

Q: We applied Red Star steer manure as topsoil during overseeding tall fescue three days ago. Is it OK to apply granulated fertilizer to this or should we wait longer?

A: So we are on the same page on this: You are spreading some seed on your tall fescue lawn to increase its density, thickening up some thin areas and maybe improving the look of your lawn because of some brown spots or dead areas. Once the seed is spread and fertilizer is applied, you are spreading a thin layer of steer manure as a “topdressing” (you are calling it “topsoil”) to improve the germination of the seed. The best time to do all this is from about mid-September to mid-October. It is getting late now.

Bagged steer manure was used in the past as a topdressing for lawns when overseeding. It was smelly but it worked well. Years ago, you knew it was fall overseeding time because of the steer manure smell in the neighborhood. Now there are commercial topdressing products available, but bagged steer manure still works.

In lawn seed germination, a rule to follow for good seed germination when overseeding lawns is good soil and seed contact. It is important that the seed applied is in contact with the soil after the application is done. The steer manure or topdressing was a blanket that pushed the seed down and helped keep the area moist.

Make sure the lawn is mowed as short as possible (for fescue I wouldn’t mow shorter than 1 inch) and any debris on the soil surface (thatch) is disturbed or removed. This is done with a dethatcher, power rake or verticutter. This can be done by hand using a garden rake if it’s a large area. For best results, you should see bare soil when you are finished.

After the lawn has been dethatched is the best time to apply a starter fertilizer for overseeding because it is high in phosphorus. This fertilizer is applied at this time so it lands on bare soil along with the seed used for overseeding.

The phosphorus is the part of the fertilizer you want on the bare soil because it doesn’t help the seed as much if it is applied after the job is finished. Remember this in the future. It’s the same fertilizer used in vegetable gardens during soil preparation prior to seeding or planting vegetable transplants. The final application is a thin layer of topdressing, in your case the steer manure.

Applying a starter fertilizer after it’s all finished is not the best but better than nothing. Go ahead and apply it. It’s not optimum but it will do some good as the seed is germinating and taking root.

Q: When using soap sprays for controlling insects, what do you use?

A: I mix the soap spray for insect control myself, and it becomes one of the tools I use when I see an insect infestation. Another one is an oil spray. Soap sprays work best on soft-bodied insects like aphids and gnats. Oil sprays work excellent on scale insects and insects trying to survive winter.

I use an unscented Castile soap sold as a baby shampoo that has been certified organic by one of the certifying bodies for the USDA. It is more expensive compared with liquid dishwashing soap, but I am more comfortable using it.

Does it work better than an inexpensive dishwashing liquid? Probably not. I just figured if it is certified as organic and used as a baby shampoo it should be safe to use on most plants and still kill the bugs. I use 3 tablespoons of it mixed in a gallon of water as recommended by Clemson University.

An alternative method is to buy one of the commercial brands of insecticidal soap sprays such as Safers. These insecticidal soaps (if it is used to kill insects it is technically an insecticide) are usually formulated with a decent soap or detergent that kills insects while keeping contaminants at a minimum. For this reason, I use unscented soaps with no other additives like hand lotions.

Laundry detergents are a no-no. They are too harsh to mix with water and spray on plants.

There is a misconception that insecticidal soaps can be sprayed anytime because they are safe. These types of sprays will kill any insect that is sprayed, good or bad. Their big advantage is once sprayed, they don’t stay long in the environment. When using insecticidal soaps as an insecticide, they must be sprayed more often for that very reason. Spray when there is a problem.

Some liquid soaps used as insecticidal sprays are made from yucca (Grow More’s EZ Wet, for instance) and can be sprayed the same day vegetables, herbs or flowers are harvested. These types of soaps are also used to commercially clean vegetables before they are sold.

Insecticidal soap sprays, the kind you buy or the kind you make, do affect plants. Some plants like portulaca, gardenias and Easter lilies may show some damage after being sprayed with insecticidal soaps. If you are unsure, spray a little of your formulation on a few leaves of an infested plant to find out before you commit to spraying the whole thing.

Q: I would like to plant a pomegranate tree this fall but I am worried that the weather is going to be cooling down soon. Do you think I missed my opportunity for planting, and should I wait until spring?

A: Just because it is getting colder doesn’t mean you can’t plant. Ideally, you want a few weeks of root growth in the fall after planting. The timing may not be optimum for root growth when soil temperatures are cold, but it will still work out. If you find a variety you like, get it in the ground.

Temperate plant roots (like pomegranate) grow best when soil temperatures are between 60 to 75 degrees, but they still grow even when soil temperatures are as low as 45 F. They just don’t grow as fast. Try to plant early enough so that there are four to five weeks of warm soil temperatures before the soil gets cold.

How do you estimate the soil temperature? The best way is to buy a soil thermometer for about $15 and measure for yourself but, otherwise, you can make a rough approximation. Soils are always a bit warmer than air temperatures.

Take the average air temperature over the past couple of weeks (low + high and divide by two) and add 5 degrees. Surface mulch, rock or woodchips conserve soil warmth in the fall and insulate the soil from the heat in the spring and summer months.

In my experience, using your sense of touch is accurate to within about 5 degrees F of temperatures ranging from the refrigerator (40 F) to the spa (105 F).

Fall planting is always superior to spring planting of winter-hardy plants.

The general rule of thumb as the amount of water to apply is a minimum of half the gallonage of the plant. So, if it is a 15-gallon plant, apply at least 7½ gallons of water each time.

I know the container does not hold 25 gallons. It’s just a rule of thumb. I would round that up to 10 gallons personally.

The amount to apply, if it is enough, is not as critical as how often to apply water. You always want to overapply water a little bit anyway to move salts out of the root area.

How often you water really depends on the soil but roughly twice, maybe three times, a week this time of year and after planting. Water once a week after it is established, and cover the soil with woodchips. Notice I said woodchips? This plant does not like rock covering the soil surface as a mulch. It should be planted with a soil mixed with half its volume with compost and the surface of the soil covered with woodchips.

Bob Morris is a horticulture expert and professor emeritus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Visit his blog at xtremehorticulture.blogspot.com. Send questions to Extremehort@aol.com.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Local Videos
Governor Sisolak responds to Dental Board lack of action
Governor Steve Sisolak responds to questions about why a pair of top staffers remain in place on the Nevada Board of Dental Examiners after they were supposed to be terminated Dec. 5. (Angus Kelly/La Vegas Review-Journal)
Cowboys help Las Vegas police
Cowboys at Horseman's Park help Metro apprehend a suspected carjacker on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. (Colton Payne/Facebook)
Las Vegan battles his HOA and wins in the Supreme Court
Jonathan Friedrich paid HOA fees to Rancho Bel Air Property Owners Association, Unit 2 for 10 years when he found out he didn't live in the HOA. "That was the start of the big fight," he said. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Two people died in a two-vehicle crash in northeast Las Vegas - VIDEO
Two people died in a two-vehicle crash in northeast Las Vegas early Friday, Dec. 13. The crash occurred about 3 a.m. on Pecos Road near East Lake Mead Boulevard. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Holiday displays brighten properties along the Las Vegas Strip - VIDEO
Las Vegas hotel casinos celebrate the season with holiday displays. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Shop with a Cop North Las Vegas
Some 42 kids and their families received $200 apiece in free presents thanks to the North Las Vegas Shop with a Cop program. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Centennial Bowl Bridge
The Centennial Bowl bridge will be the second-longest bridge in Nevada at 2,635 feet long when complete. (Mick Akers/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Memory of Pearl Harbor fading, warn last 2 survivors in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Lenoard Nielsen and Edward Hall, believed to be the last two survivors of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor living in Las Vegas, aren’t sure that the lessons from the “date which will live in infamy” will withstand the test of time. (James Schaeffer, Briana Erickson, Michael Quine / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Homicide Pecos and Washington
Metro Homicide Lt. Ray Spencer talks about an investigation into a man's death at an east Las Vegas apartment complex on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Homicide investigation Pecos and Washington
Las Vegas police investigate an incident at a single-story apartment complex on the 3500 block Folage Drive on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
DUI suspect nearly twice legal limit in fatal crash on Thanksgiving
A 27-year-old Las Vegas man had nearly twice the legal limit of alcohol in his system when he crashed on Thanksgiving and killed a mother of three, a prosecutor said Tuesday.
NHP Trooper Travis Smaka explains a fatal, wrong-way crash on Interstate 15
NHP Trooper Travis Smaka explains a fatal, wrong-way crash on Interstate 15 North. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Family, friends remember woman killed in Thanksgiving crash - VIDEO
A vigil was held Sunday evening to honor the 32-year-old California woman killed in a crash on Thanksgiving morning in Las Vegas. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Victim in suspected DUI crash in Las Vegas on Thanksgiving IDd - VIDEO
Family members have identified the victim of a suspected DUI crash that happened on Thanksgiving in southwest Las Vegas. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Snowfall in Summerlin - VIDEO
Snow was falling in Summerlin the day after Thanksgiving, Nov. 29, 2019. (Jim Prather/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
JCPenney at Meadows Mall opens at 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving - VIDEO
JCPenney at Meadows Mall opened at 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day for early Black Friday deals. The first 1,500 customers through the doors received a coupon for $500, $100 or $10 off their purchases on Thursday. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
DUI suspected in fatal crash in southwest Las Vegas - VIDEO
A 35-year-old woman was killed in a crash on Thanksgiving morning after a suspected DUI driver ran a red light in southwest Las Vegas, police said. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rj Consumer Tips: Black Friday and Cyber Monday prep
Review Journal Business and Consumer reporter, Subrina Hudson, discusses best strategies to navigate through your Thanksgiving holiday shopping weekend.
A winter storm warning was issued for parts of Clark County
A winter storm warning was issued for parts of Clark County — though not in the Las Vegas Valley — and adjacent counties from 10 a.m. Wednesday until 4 a.m. Friday. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Flash The Sloth debut at Sea-Quest
Flash the 10-month-old sloth is now at Seaquest Las Vegas for viewing and interacting
Police investigate hit-and-run on Las Vegas Strip - VIDEO
Las Vegas police are investigating a hit-and-run crash involving a pedestrian on the Las Vegas Strip near Wynn Main Gate Drive on Monday, Nov. 25, 2019, in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Las Vegas Valley may see snow on Thanksgiving week - VIDEO
The Las Vegas Valley could see snow this week as a major winter storm heads toward the Great Basin just in time for Thanksgiving, according to the National Weather Service. (James Schaeffer, L.E. Baskow / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Cosmopolitan Tree Lighting Starts the Las Vegas Holiday Season - VIDEO
With a flip of an actual switch the Cosmopolitan lit their tree to signal the start of the Las Vegas holiday season. Golden Knights favorites Marc-Andre Fleury and Max Pacioretty were on hand to help with the event and skate around the rink with fans. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Driver killed in crash involving semitrailer in North Las Vegas - VIDEO
North Las Vegas police say a speeding driver was killed after he apparently ran a red light and crashed into a semitrailer at Losee Road and Cheyenne Avenue, Nov. 22, 2019. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Man who fatally shot Las Vegas casino executive sentenced - VIDEO
Rachel Lee asked the judge to give Anthony Wrobel, 44, the maximum punishment allowed by law for killing her mother, but added she could not harbor anger and resentment. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Henderson police shoot man suspected of shooting another at restaurant - VIDEO
A man shot an employee Wednesday at a restaurant near Warms Springs Road and Marks Street, then was shot by officers, according to the Henderson Police Department. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Hail in northwest Las Vegas - VIDEO
Small hail was falling in the Centennial Hills area in northwest Las Vegas on Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2019. (Cassie Soto/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Two people rescued from Las Vegas Wash - Video
Two people were rescued from the Las Vegas Wash about 7:30 a.m. Wednesday as widespread rainfall covered the Las Vegas Valley. (Nathan Asselin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Flooding at Linq parking garage - VIDEO
Heavy rain caused flooding at the Linq parking garage on the Las Vegas Strip. (Elizabeth Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Wet and cold weather (for some) in downtown Las Vegas - VIDEO
Eric Hagen of Madison, Wis, walked in the rain and cold through the Fremont Street Experience in downtown Las Vegas in shorts and a T-shirt with no umbrella on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Fremont Street is getting a new LED sign - VIDEO
The Fremont Street Experience is planning to add an LED sign that pays tribute to downtown Las Vegas’ history. The 430-square-foot sign is set to be built on the east side of Main Street and Fremont Street. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ethel M Chocolates cactus garden lit for Christmas - Video
The 26th Annual Ethel M Chocolates Cactus Garden Lighting in Henderson, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. The garden will be open until 10 p.m. daily through the holidays. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae
Therapy dogs dress up for Halloween at Poets Walk Henderson - Video
Therapy dogs dress up for a Halloween costume contest at the Poet's Walk Henderson Memory Care facility. (Nathan Asselin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Cat survives 15-mile commute in car bumper - VIDEO
A Las Vegas Review-Journal employee was surprised to learn she had a passenger during her 15.5-mile commute to the office on a September Sunday. (Tony Morales & James Schaeffer/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Shortages of OB-GYN doctors in the Las Vegas Valley - Video
Dr. Michael Gardner discusses the shortages of OB-GYN doctors that will happen and what steps are being taken to entice them to come or stay in the Las Vegas area.
THE LATEST
Control whiteflies as soon as you see them

Whiteflies are a bad insect problem for any plant. Their populations grow so quickly that small numbers lead to large numbers very fast. For that reason, it’s important to get them under control early, as soon as you see them.

Cutting tree roots always damages the tree

You can typically remove about one-third of the total tree roots with no problem. This is done sometimes when trenches are cut in the soil for burying irrigation lines. But when roots are cut, about one-third of the top should be removed as well.

Deep watering stakes not necessarily needed for new tree

The annual South Valley Rose Show will be held Nov. 9 at the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension offices on the corner of Windmill Lane and Paradise Road. Rosarians will be present to answer questions about growing roses in our hot desert climate and poor soils from 1 to 4 p.m.

Container trees have problems retaining water, fertilizer

Trees grown in containers are more finicky than those planted in the ground because the roots don’t have access to as much soil mass. The limited soil volume in containers makes watering and applying fertilizers more complicated; the tree runs out of both more quickly.

Select desert plants for privacy hedge

My Saturday, four-week class, “Fix Your Landscape” will start Oct. 26 in North Las Vegas. This weekly landscaping class will show you design tricks that save water and electricity, plant selections that work, planting methods that are successful and how to fix problems, and irrigation installation and how to water.