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How to pick the best-suited grass seed

When selecting a grass seed, look for one with Kentucky bluegrass, the species best adapted to northern climates. Special to Forum News Service

Q: What is the best grass seed to use for bare spots in a lawn? Last year I planted some grass seed and it grew, but the grass is dead in that area this year. I think it was a cheaper seed. I'd like something with longevity. - Julie Nelson, Fargo.

A: You're right about cheap seed. When surveying grass seed packages and comparing prices, inexpensive types are poor investments because their ingredients aren't best-suited for long-term lawn beauty.

Check the ingredient label. Most grass seed packages are mixtures of several grass species, listed by percent. Kentucky bluegrass is the grass species best adapted to northern climates and is the region's predominant lawn grass. Choose grass seed mixes that contain at least 30 to 60 percent Kentucky bluegrass. There are many cultivars, so you'll find names like Kenblue, Newport, or Glade Kentucky bluegrass, with Kentucky bluegrass being the key root-word. Many mixes contain several Kentucky bluegrass cultivars, so add up the percentages to determine the 30 to 60 percent guideline.

Most lawns perform best with a mixture of grass types, and besides Kentucky bluegrass, another good ingredient is creeping red fescue, the best shade-tolerant grass. For shaded lawn areas, select grass seed mixes that contain 15 to 30 percent creeping red fescue.

Q: I have a profusion of weedy wild violets popping up everywhere. I've tried numerous things, including digging, but can't seem to get rid of them. I've tried Roundup, Ortho Brush Spray and other chemicals, but the violets just wilt and then grow even healthier. Any suggestions? - Evelyn Bymoen-Karppinen, Moorhead.

A: Wild violets are persistent, which requires us to outdo their persistence. Purdue, Iowa State and other universities recommend herbicides with the active ingredient triclopyr, which is reportedly more effective against violets than other products like Roundup or 2,4-D. Check the fine print active ingredients for triclopyr, which likely won't kill the violets in one try.

The most effective time to spray violets and other hard-to-kill weeds is in the fall. Spray now, when they are blooming and actively growing, and spray again in September. It will take persistence for several years at least.

Q: I have a tree stump that keeps sending out green shoots. How can I kill those? - Rosalyn Brockman, Lisbon, N.D.

A: As the shoots begin to leaf out, cut them down as close to the ground as possible with a pruning shears. Then squirt each newly cut surface with 2,4-D (such as Weed-B-Gon), used straight, not diluted. Saturate the open cut. If the cuts are low enough to the ground, cover the stubs with a handful of soil to seal in the fumes. I learned this method about 40 years ago for killing cut-off stump sprouts. Don't use this on the basal trunk sprouts of good trees, of course, just stumps you don't want to resprout.

If you have a gardening or lawn care question, email Don Kinzler at ForumGrowingTogether@hotmail.com. All questions will be answered, and those with broad appeal may be published, so please include your name, city and state for appropriate advice.

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