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MSU Extension Service

Home Grown is an educational, entertaining, question-answer column seen weekly in "News from the Genesee MSUE Office," a weekly newsletter for Genesee County Master Gardeners. Special thanks to the Genesee, Oakland and Livingston county MSU Extension offices for providing this service.


2004 Editions

01-13-05 Fungus gnats; deer protection for trees
01-19-05 After cutting down trees: to chip or not to chip? Also: starting seeds indoors for spring planting
01-27-05 Excessive plant growth in ponds; problem trees and/or problem sites
02-11-05 Diplodia Tip Blight on Pine trees; caring for African violets
02-14-05 Caring for Ficus in winter; indoor pests: larder beetles
02-14-05 bonus! Fertilizer for gardens - designer vs "regular"; why gardenias don't like our houses 
02-21-05 vole damage in lawns & woody plants; how to root cacti and succulents
03-04-05 tree-climbing vines; hibernating insects
03-08-05 deer pests in the landscape; grain moths in kitchens
03-15-05 ants in the kitchen; mythological apple trees
04-07-05 spring care of ornamental grasses; little beetle in basements
04-13-05 Preventing crabgrass; flies on the wall 
04-18-05 Buying perennials in boxes; care of perennials in early spring

This week's HomeGrown

Extension web sites:












We have a dog that uses our fenced backyard for exercise. The dog is also leaving brown spots where she urinates. I have talked with various people and gotten many ďsure fireĒ ways of fixing the spots so they will green up again. The latest involves spreading lime on the spots. Before I listen to them, how can I stop this problem?

Buy a leak-less dog. The good news is that you love your little doggy but the bad news is that there isnít any magic whiz fix. So what is the component of doggie puddles that kills the grass? Basically, it is an overdose of nitrogen. Think ďurination equals urea fertilizer.Ē A large application of nitrogen, whether from a bag or out of a dog, will kill the grass. Nitrogen has the ability to attract moisture. It literally pulls the moisture out of the grass roots and they die. No amount of dumping of lime will reverse that overdose. When you see the brown spot, the grass is dead. There will be no miraculous resurrection. Lime will make the soil more alkaline but wonít bring the grass back to life. Alkaline soil isnít a good thing. The only way to prevent dead spots will be to trail the dog around the yard with a garden hose. After the piddle event, water to dilute the concentration of urea. Mixed with enough water immediately, there will be no grass death. Or, if this was a sodded lawn, buy strips of sod and replace the dead stuff. Then, the dog can follow you around the yard, dampening your sod patches. So, there really isnít any good way to prevent lawn spots. It comes down to dog or lawn. Hopefully, the dog wins.

I have evergreens of all kinds on my property. Many of them have partly or all brown needles scattered on the branches. Some of the worst are those that have really short needles. They were fine in the fall. Does this mean that the trees are dying? How would I know?

Look at the end of the branches. Right now, evergreens are announcing their intentions. If there are extending candles, which are new growth, their intentions are to stay on the planet. If the damage happened during the winter, it is probably weather-related. There arenít any insects or diseases of evergreens that are working during the winter. Last winter was tough on many evergreens. The ground didnít freeze and evergreens didnít go dormant as they do most years. Add sweeping winds and cold temperatures and many needles became desiccated or dried out. The shorter the needle, the faster it happened. Desiccated needles are brown needles. In some cases, one side of the tree looks worse than the others. If this was facing a road that was salted, salt spray will cause even more browning. If the side was to the prevailing winds, it may also be showing more browning. Scattered brown needles are much different than a tree that is all brown. Completely brown trees with no buds or candles are formerly living things and can be removed. Even though the trees are called evergreen, needles donít last a lifetime. Depending on the evergreen, needles will live three or four years and then will be shed off. At the same time, needles are forming at the branch ends. If these trees have three or four years of no damage, the brown needles will have fallen off. You will hardly remember your current unhappiness.

Gretchen Voyle, MSU Extension-Livingston County Horticulture
Agent 517/546-3950


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