Gimme More Sunshine!

competitionSpring has been reluctant for us St. Louisans, but I’m not complaining! I’d rather have a slow start than a quick warm up and a disastrous freeze!

That said, many of you are already thinking about creating new beds, renovating beds or just expanding them. The picture above may be a little dark, but it tells a great story. Zoom in to see that little sucker on the far right. About 4 years ago my neighbor planted 4 new hostas (‘Francee’, nothing special), all purchased from a big box store and approximately the same size. She planted them 3 feet apart in a decently ammended clay loam soil.

I took this photo last June, because it really shows how competition for sunlight, water and nutrients affects plants. The hosta on the far right is really about 1/4th the size of the hosta on the far left. There’s a very linear reduction in plant size from left to right. Because this neighbor tended to overwater I don’t need to go out on a limb and say that the size gradation is the result of competition for sunlight.

Keep this in mind when you’re planning and planting. Few plants enjoy being directly underneath a thick canopy. Even the shade tolerant hosta shows a preference for being out from under that canopy of this ‘Forest Pansy’ redbud. If you want to plant underneath an established canopy, be sure to limb up the branches ahead of time, and consider thinning their crowns, to allow more sun to hit the soil beneath.


2 thoughts on “Gimme More Sunshine!

  1. I have battled my neighbors lawn for years. He has zoysia grass or possibly bermuda (i don’t know the difference) all I know is this grass stays brown from October to May and I hate it. I cannot convince him to get rid of it so it therefore invades my lawn and takes it over. Is there any thing that will kill zoysua but not hurt the fescue? I would like a nice green lawn throughout the year and am frustrated as to how to accomplish this. I do not want to create a non grass dividing area between our properties so that is not an option


  2. Hello Randy,
    Your situation is a very tough one to address, but it’s very common! There are herbicides you can apply that won’t kill your cool season turf but they only “wear out the zoysiagrass or bermudagrass”. But these materials have to be applied every 6 weeks or so. Is it possible to install a landscape bed between your neighbor and you? That would allow you to spray Roundup on the invading grass in the landscape bed. If that’s not practical–stay tuned–I’ll be posting on this situation in a few weeks. You can’t do anything anyway, until the z-grass or b-grass is green and growing. Thanks for the great question!


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