Gypsum is not helpful for soil softening or raising soil pH

Credit: Walter

Credit: Walter

Q: We’ve been in our new house for our second spring. It has been very difficult getting fescue to grow from seed, so we’re considering Bermuda sod. A friend suggested putting gypsum down with the lime I continue to apply because the soil is so hard. Is gypsum a good idea? Might it help? Parkey Thompson, email

A: Gypsum, calcium sulfate, will not affect the soil pH, nor will it help soften the soil. Gypsum is used in large agricultural fields to soften the crust of the soil. In a homeowner situation, this does not occur. Gypsum is sometimes used to neutralize sidewalk salt in winter, and it’s very useful for that. Chemically calcium sulfate does not react with calcium carbonate in garden lime to lower pH.

Q: I have grown a small patch of northern sea oats, Chasmanthium latifolium, from seed supplied by a friend. What is the quickest way to make it grow bigger? Dave Jones, Norcross

A: I have a love-hate relationship with northern sea oats. On one hand, the beauty and gracefulness of the brown seeds hanging from the ends of branches are gorgeous. On the other hand, a small patch of sea oats will soon become a big problem. The seeds germinate easily, and you will see sprouts the year after you admire the seeds. You won’t know anything is problematic, but neither did the girl swimming at the beginning of “Jaws.”

Q: We planted a Brown Turkey fig two years ago. The first season it had four rudimentary fruit. There are lots of green figs this year, but they do not seem to be ripening for us. We’re hungry! Any advice? Lynn and Wink Weinberg, email

A: My friend Rob waited and waited and eventually his figs ripened … because he had a Black Mission fig, not the Brown Turkey he thought he’d purchased. Are the figs growing near the tip of branches? This indicates that they should be ripe now and are not those from early spring’s breba figs. It wouldn’t be uncommon for ripening to be weird on young plants. It takes a while for the ripening hormones and energy storage process to become integrated.

Q: What do you think is wrong with my oak tree? The leaves are bubbled and misshapen. It looks like it has some systemic problem going on. Tom McAdams, Grant Park

A: This is a fine description of oak leaf blister. The disease is favored by cool, moist conditions during budbreak and in the early stages of leaf development. It doesn’t seem to damage trees permanently. Given a dry spring next year, you may not see it at all. Be sure to rake and remove leaves in fall.