Luffa vigorous but not invasive

Q: I am writing a newsletter article about luffa vine. The fruit of the vine has lots of seeds and I want to be sure it’s not invasive. — Gayle Dean, Columbus

A: If you plant a luffa gourd seed in April, you’ll worry by summer’s end that the vine plans to cover your house and snuggle in bed with you. Fortunately, the vigorous vine is reliably killed by winter cold, leaving the brown-skinned gourds for you to harvest and make luffa sponges. I have details on the process at bit.ly/GAluffa.

Q: I have an older friend whose yard and beds I’ve taken on as a fall project to make them low-maintenance. I’ve read online about using thick wood chip mulch to make better soil. What do you think? — Ann Marie Whitley, Fayette County

A: I think the best use for wood chips is for mulch under trees and shrubs and to cover paths. A loose layer 4 inches thick will compact to 2 inches and will protect the plants for a year or two. For potential garden plots, a foot-thick layer of wood chips can be spread over the area and allowed to decompose over a couple of years. The resulting soil will be rich and black, with little effort on your part.

That said, mulching flowers and vegetables with wood chips can be problematic. Chips can make an effective flower mulch but the layer should be no more than an inch thick. At this depth, the chips will decompose in one season and will not be immediately tilled into the soil, which could lead to a loss of nitrogen. In your friend’s case, I think tilling the flower beds once, after adding a 2-inch layer of composted organic matter, will make them plantable.

Q: Should centipede and St. Augustine lawns ever be overseeded in fall with rye? — Travis May, Summerville, S.C.

A: No to both. Although Bermuda grass tolerates rye grass overseeding reasonably well, centipede and St. Augustine lawns do not. The fertilizer you give the rye will stimulate the centipede and St. Augustine turf and make it susceptible to freezing. Rye grass growing on top of tender lawns holds winter moisture and causes disease. Rye also competes with the grass when it is trying to green-up in spring.

Q: I want to dig my asparagus bed and move it to my new home. Can I move it now? — Debbie Neal, Carroll County

A: Now is a terrific time to move the asparagus. Even if the ferns haven’t yet turned yellow, cut them at the base and remove. Soak the bed area once a day for two days until the soil is soggy. This will make it easier to explore the root system with a spading fork and bring up as much of the crowns and roots as possible. I assume you’ve amended the new “home” with organic matter to make the soil soft and productive. Plant the asparagus there, spreading the roots in all directions. There’s no need to fertilize now but you can start feeding the plants next spring and summer to insure good crops in the future.

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Listen to Walter Reeves Saturday mornings on News 95.5 FM and AM750 WSB. Visit his website, walterreeves.com, follow him on Twitter @walterreeves or join his Facebook Fan Page at bit.ly/georgiagardener for more garden tips.

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