Documents: Special Interest: In The Yard:

Turnips, Impatiens & Lawn Moss

Where are the old-fashioned turnips available; how to handle impatiens mother plants; and no less than four questions about moss in lawns!
by Art Drysdale
by Art Drysdale


Art Drysdale, a life-long resident of Toronto and a horticulturist well known all across Canada, is now a resident of Parksville, British Columbia on Vancouver Island, just north of Nanaimo. He has reno-vated an old home and has a new garden there. His radio gardening vignettes are heard in south-western Ontario over radio station Easy 101 FM out of Tillsonburg at 2 PM weekdays.

Art also has his own website at

March 26, 2006

Here are some more interesting questions! The first one from Diane, likely on Vancouver Island as I think she sees me on TV there (new 2½ minute segments on Shaw each Tuesday and Friday and almost hourly on the weekend with repeated segments).

“You said if a person has a question they could ask you. I am, ha! When I was a kid (now 50), living in Northern Ontario, my Mom always had a great garden. I particularly loved the turnips she would grow. They were dark yellow & had a wonderful sweet taste. As my kids were growing up I also had a garden each year. We'd have up to eleven veggies on the table each night. My problem is that I can't find that veggie that Mom used to grow. I also used to grow them but I never paid much attention to the name. I would see it on the outside of the seed pack-age and just buy it. I can't seem to find it any more. I tried growing Rutabaga last fall, hoping that perhaps I just had the name wrong. Unfortunately they were bitter and pretty much white. I figure if anyone knows the answer to my problem, you're the man. Thank-you for your time.”

Well thanks for the compliment Diane (aka, Broomhilda)! I also grew these back in the 50s, but enjoyed (and en-joy) eating them still now. The tasty ones are creamy-white or yellow coloured at the bottom, and purple on top. They grow from seeds planted in mid-May, and are generally harvested in September. And, they can be left in the ground for winter harvesting, or stored in sand or peat moss kept barely damp.

Now, as to where to get them, that is a good question. I checked major seed catalogues and was not sure that even my friends at Stokes Seeds in St. Catharines or OSC Seeds in Waterloo had the old types. Stokes’ ‘Purple Top White Globe’ looks and sounds like what we want, but there is no indication that the interior is yellow rather than white. OSC and William Dam Seeds do not seem to have anything resembling what is desired.

Thompson & Morgan (T&M) offer the rutabaga variety ‘Brora’ and it looks to me to be what Broomhilda is seeking. I suggest she order that one. She may be able to find others, or even that one, on T&M seed racks in retail out-lets, or in offerings from other rack companies such as Aimers (now a subsidiary of OSC) and McKenzie Seeds.

Mary Fraser wrote from Magog Québec in the middle of February with this question: “Last summer I had two absolutely gorgeous huge Impatiens plants hanging on my patio. Very expensive, they were from Bolivia or else-where in S. America [likely New Guinea]. In September I brought one in and gave the other away. Will mine bloom again or does one have to take cuttings?

“I think orchids are more fun, I have 6 and all in bloom.

“I would love to save my Impatiens. There are, I think 3 or 4 plants in the pot, the leaves are healthy, but many have fallen off. And what about watering? It seems to need less than half than it did outside in the summer; the water seems to go right through instantly. Thank you for the wonderful work you do.”

I’ve just found out that Mary is related to one of our old neighbours on Nesbitt Drive in Toronto. A coincidence.

It is not necessary to take cuttings, but you could have if you wished; however I would guess it is almost too late for cuttings to grow well into decent-sized plants for this year. The ‘mother plants’ should begin to bloom especially in another month as light levels increase. Be sure to fertilize them well with, for example, Liquid Growth fertilizer about every two weeks.

The fact water runs through the growing medium in the pot “instantly” is indicative of most soil-less mixes and this is telling you that there will likely be no nutrition in the medium, unlike there would be with soil. Hence my advice about the fertilizer.

Another TV gardening segment viewer, Heinz Sperber, wrote for further details about moss in lawns. In fact, no less than three other folks on the Island here (Phil Taylor, Colette Hay of Qualicum Beach and Connie Holden of Nanoose) also wrote with similar lawn moss questions.

Heinz had a good question, “I enjoy your gardening tips very much as they are so well presented. Regarding spray-ing iron solution to kill moss: is there a temperature requirement? I thought it was not effective at cooler temperatures but the container does not mention it.”

Some people suggest (and basically I concur) that it is best if the temperature reaches 10o C (50o F) but perhaps more important that the moss be good and wet when the iron product is applied, and that it not rain for two days following the application!

Phil Taylor’s question had to do with a regimen he uses for his lawns: “I'd just like to share some get the lawn looking proper; First thatch it, then rent a puncher [aerator] and punch it, then, (and this is important), buy about a ton of sand and sand the heck out of it. Then you can do the liming and fertilizing because the liming and fertilizing you do before that will just be superficial and it will not last for any length of time. Then, water. Does that sound reasonable? (A Yes or No would suffice.)”

First Phil, let me say that my philosophy to gardeners’ questions, for the last 40+ years, has been and continues to be that if you are doing something a way that is different than what I have suggested, and it is working, then by all means stay with your system. If you are having problems, then try my suggestion.

I would always hold off de-thatching until about two weeks after the application of the iron product to kill the moss, because you’ll then do two tasks (thatch and moss removal) at once. Your suggestion of aerating the lawn and applying sand is extremely important and I would advise that you might want to do that twice each year—early spring and possibly mid-summer. But, that only applies if you are on a heavy or moderately heavy clay soil. In my own case, our garden is all 100% sand, and I really never need to aerate.

It is also important to do the liming in the spring about two weeks before you do the fertilizing. In our case we do the liming fairly early (mid to late February) and hold off on the iron application until even late March.

As to Colette’s questions, I’ve answered most of them in the foregoing already. Here it is: “I just recently moved to Qualicum Beach from Ontario so moss is pretty new to me. I saw you speaking on the tely and you looked like you knew what you were talking about, so I'm taking you up on your offer for advice. I just finished raking the lawn and I bought some Dolopril (prilled lime). So here are my questions: Is it too soon to put the Dolopril on? Do I rake again in a few weeks to pick up more moss or fertilize instead? When do I fertilize? I came here too late to do a winter fertilizing. I also need to add topsoil and seed, but when? Thanking you for your consideration. By the way, I haven't seen even one squirrel yet, so far I'm happy. I can hardly wait for my first spring on the island.”

Get the lime on now Collette, and in two weeks or so, the fertilizer. Or, if you wish to put iron on to kill the moss, do that before the fertilizing so you can rake off the dead moss once it dies and before the fertilizing. I would not bother putting topsoil or seed on, let the fertilizer thicken and fatten up your lawn! With topsoil you just import a lot of new weed seeds, and most of the lawn grass seed applied in the spring (unless you actually re-seeding small bare spots) just becomes bird feed unless you cover it with sand or peat moss.

Finally this week, here are Connie Holden’s questions: “A note to say how much I enjoy your friendly, helpful hints on "the Daily Gardener"--channel 4. As relative newcomers out here in Nanoose I wouldn't mind further clarification on what to do with moss in lawns. I have put the Dolopril on the grass. Does it turn the moss black (like Moss Out)? I understand I have to rake up the moss--how long should I wait after putting on the Dolopril to do this? I then hope to top-dress it with new soil and fertilizer as well as aerating. Also, I have rhodos that are se-riously wilting. Is this a drainage or nutrient problem? Any further information you provide is most appreciated.”

As you will have gathered from all of the foregoing, Connie, the lime (Dolopril or any other type—Dolopril is the fastest acting) does not kill the moss, just lessens the acid content of the soil which in turn discourages the growth of moss. You’ll need to apply an iron product such as the De-Moss you mention in order to kill what you have. And, about two weeks after its application (remember the advice about temperature and rain-free days after application), is the time to rake it hard to remove the blackened moss. Again, my advice to Colette also applies to you with regard to top-dressing. And, no doubt by now your rhodos are not looking as ‘wilty’—that is a condition caused simply by the cold weather and nothing to cause any worry.

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