Monday, April 23, 2012

Weeds – Identify and Manage

Know the Enemy 

The weeds are numerous.  The weeds grow most everywhere.  The weeds are like unwelcome houseguests that don’t know they stayed too long!

Weeds find weaknesses in the landscape – poor soil is an open invitation. Poor soil is hungry for nutrients.  Weeds don’t care.  Poor soil is dry and rocky.  Weeds don’t care.  Poor soil is in need of vegetation.  Weeds don’t care if they have good neighbors. They are quite able to adapt to less than perfect conditions. 

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Weeds are classified into three groups – annuals, perennials, and biennials.
Annual weeds include crabgrass and foxtail.  These grow from seed in the spring, mature, produce seed, and die at the first frost in autumn. 
crabgrass in lawn foxtail
Lawns and gardens that are in need of good management are just asking for these intruders.

Biennial weeds include Musk Thistle and Burdock. This is the rosette of year one.
Musk thistle Burdock
Biennials need two years to mature.  The first year they grow these rosettes above and store energy.  The second year they use that energy and flower and produce seeds.  At frost, they die.

This is the flower of Musk thistle, and Burdock. 
Musk_Thistle bloom Burdock flowers

Perennial weeds include many familiar varieties.  Dandelion, Bindweed and Canada thistle are just some of them.
field-bindweed  thistle
Bindweed and thistle spread by horizontal roots and are difficult to control.  If the plant is pulled, some of the root may remain.  This root will continue to grow and will grow a plant from each end, thus doubling your weed problem.
thistle roots

Using an herbicide is the best remedy for control.  The organic option of horticultural vinegar (20%), Acetic acid, clove oil or soap based herbicides will all weaken the plant and eventually cause the plants death if used repeatedly before the plant forms seed heads.

Lawn weeds are classified as broadleaf weeds and grassy weeds.  Some of the broadleaf weeds include plantains, white clover, and dandelions.
clover plantainn

Clover indicates poor nitrogen in the soil.  Fertilize the lawn with Nitrogen, (the first element of the N-P-K) on the fertilizer label.

Plantains thrive in over-watered areas with compacted soil.  Reduced watering and core-aeration will improve the conditions and reduce plantain.
core aeration
Core aeration

A good management of lawns is always to fertilize, water deeply, and mow high.

Grassy weeds are particularly difficult.  Annual grasses like crabgrass and goosegrass  can be controlled by using preemergents.  By applying preemergents before seeds germinate in the spring, seeds will not take hold and stop the cycle for annual grasses. 

Nimblewill is a warm season grassy weed that I have.  The control is difficult because there are few specific herbicides for these type of grasses.  A non-selective herbicide will kill anything that the herbicide is used on.
Nimblewill2 (1) 

Quack grass is a cool season grass and spreads rapidly by underground rhizomes. 
quack grass
Again, spot treating with an organic herbicide is recommended.  When the grassy weeds die from the herbicide application, a bare spot will be apparent.  And unless these bare spots are planted with a desirable grass seed, weeds will eagerly jump in to fill in the spot. 
chickweed2 Chickweed
Chickweed is an annual weed that spreads quickly.  Hand pull or scrape away with a spade.  Aerate and fertilize lawns to discourage its growth.

nutgrass roots spread
Nutgrass is not a grass per se, but a sedge.  Specific herbicides for nut sedge will control this weed in the lawn.  Horticultural molasses, an organic product, also has good results. 
pictures_lawn_weeds_buckhorn_plantain_03 Buckhorn plantain
As a perennial weed, plantain can easily be removed by loosening the soil down the tap root with a dandelion weeder or flat head screwdriver.

pictures_lawn_weeds_carpetweed_01 Carpetweed
The annual weed, Carpetweed  can be controlled with a pre-emergent.  Carpetweed is commonly found in newly seeded lawns or in thin turf. A broadleaf weed herbicide can be used as a post emergent. I would use the organic herbicide with a clove or soap base.

purslane Purslane
Control Purslane by hand weeding.  Cover vacated area with mulch.

protrate spurge Prostrate spurge
Prostate spurge, also known as spotted spurge, likes hot, sunny, dry areas.  Since this weed has a tap root (one long root downward) hand pulling can be ineffectual. Preemergents in spring can reduce seeds from germinating.  Weak lawns allow this spurge to take hold.  Fertilize and water to maintain a healthy, full turf.

Horticultural vinegar works well on this weed too.
Weeds are going to appear in any landscape. Taking a less than panicked attitude to weeds may reduce our knee-jerk approach to grabbing the strong, chemical herbicides. Acceptance of a ‘few’ weeds will go a long way to reduce harmful chemicals in the landscape.

Mulch 2 – 3” thick on flower beds will keep light from weed seeds, and reduce the number of seeds that germinate. Mulches can be pine, cedar, hardwood chips, grass clippings, leaves or straw. Even thick layers of newspaper can serve as a mulch. 

Weeds in the lawn may be more difficult to control, but a good maintenance program will limit their infestation. Mow grass high, don’t scalp the blades and don’t remove more than 1/3 of the blade at any cutting.  The high turf will shade weed seeds and keep soil moist.  Regular organic fertilizer applications can keep the lawn thick and healthy.

 healthy lawn
May the road rise up to greet you, and the weeds stay far away.  Enjoy your lawn and garden, relax……and have a great day!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Compost – The Vital Ingredient

New Beds Get Compost

The compost bin was full and I needed to remove the ‘black gold’ from the bottom.  The door slides up – but my back does not bend these days.  So, I disassembled  the bin.  Simple(r)!
I set up the bin a few feet over, and started my treasure hunt.  By returning the raw material to the bin, I

soon had uncovered the ‘good stuff’. 100_0411 100_0418100_0412

Compost should be grainy, moist, and have an earthy small.  If it smells like garbage, it should be allowed to decompose longer.

I had a full wheelbarrow full of compost.  I spread it onto the new border garden – formerly the ground under the pine tree. 

These shrubs have been moved here from a too shady area.  They are a pretty pink Clethera called ‘Pink Summersweet’. Hopefully, I can get them to fill in and become ‘bushier’.  In their previous location, they became spindly and did not bloom well.  I have spread the compost at the base and with the extra sun, I’m hopeful they will revive.


As the stump of the pine tree is ground to the ground, it is still ‘in the ground'. We are going to use it to be a base for a birdbath for the next few years, until the stump decomposes.

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These Azaleas are theBloom ’N Again® series, call "Arabesk".  These evergreen shrubs are hardy to Zone 6 - 9 and are hybridized to bloom throughout the summer. They need light shade – to bloom well. The soil should drain well and be slightly acidic.


The compost added to the planting holes will allow the soil to hold moisture without being soggy.
To determine the pH of your soil, a soil test needs to be done.  The local extension office or lab can give you a report on the elements of your soil.

Seven on the pH scale is considered ‘neutral’.  Below 7 is acid, above 7, is considered alkaline.  These BloomNAgain® azaleas need acid, so the reading needs to be below 7.  I’ve had to add Aluminum Sulfate to my soil to lower the pH into the acid range.

Back to the compost bin – I returned the raw coffee grounds, filters, old oranges, and egg shells to complete the decomposing process.  Since the mix was pretty dry, I added some liquid to the mix.

The beer has yeast, and adds fuel to to the brew. Off and running on a new batch!

Thanks for stopping by today.  c

Saturday, April 14, 2012

What a Pretty Spring – 2012

Spring Plants Full of Color

Nice combinations – and planning for the next step in the renovation.
Muscari – Grape Hyacinth and Virginia Bluebells ((Mertensia virginica; also Virginia Cowslip, Lungwort Oysterleaf, Roanoke Bells) provide  blue to purple hues to the spring garden. As a spring ephemeral, the Virginia Blue Bells will dry and disappear until next spring.
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The Honeysuckle Vine never did go dormant this winter.  It has filled in and bloomed quite early.  Have not seen any Hummers yet – they visit regularly when they are in town.

 The Lungwort ( Pulmonaria)  really stretched out and I have moved pieces around the garden. I have several varieties including ‘Mrs. Moon. Pulmonaria 'Majeste'  is a solid silvery-gray leaves with a very narrow green margin. In late spring, light pink buds pop open to reveal darker bluish-pink flower bells.

Pulmonaria 'Raspberry Ice'  has long, frosted green leaves edged in pearl with raspberry pink flower clusters provide a stark contrast, and really seem to light this plant up. Even after the flowers fade, the unique foliage plays nicely with hosta all season.

'Sissinghurst White' is the earliest to bloom in my garden – in early March.  White flowering, the leaves are speckled with silver.

Epimedium, top, also known as Rowdy Lamb Herb, Barrenwort, Bishop's Hat,  and Bleeding Heart, (Dicentra), center,  along with the Primrose are anchored with the Creeping Jenny.  Sweet!
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Variegated Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum odoratum 'Variegatum ) and white Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilisAlba) brighten up this area. The crisp leaves of the Solomon’s Seal give some height – 12” or so – to the summer garden, even after the dangling white ‘teardrops’  fade.

This is  Lamium, Archangel, and Primrose Primula vulgaris .
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These Forget-Me-Nots (Botanical Name: Myosotis. )  are 6 – 8” tall. - much fuller than previous years. I really like the blue flowers.

This Big Root, a hardy geranium, Geranium macrorrhizum: cranesbills  is just about to pop with magenta flowers. It stays evergreen all winter -  a real nice plant for part shade areas.
False Nettle, Lamium, Archangel, has a variegated leaf with a bright yellow bloom.  Lamium does well in the dry, shady bed. There is no sun under this Little Leaf Linden, so the Lamium is a great alternative to grass, which will not grow here.
The coral bells, ( Heuchera)  Chocolate Ruffles and Limelight are sending up buds.
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The hypertufa’s overwintered nicely with just a covering a leaves. Pictured are H. Chartreuse Wiggles, and H. PoPo (top).
Japanese Painted Ferns were potted up last fall so we could start the renovation of parts of the yard from shade to sun.  They may stay in the containers for a while yet since I am still working on the layout of the beds.
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These shrubs, Junipers, flank the front walk.  I’m thinking about moving them to the back.  They have been in these fiberglass containers for many years, and are almost too big.  Note: when you plant containers for year round use, use plant material that is at least hardy to one zone colder than your zone.  That way the roots don’t freeze to the killing point, and the plants will thrive.
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This daylily has caught my attention!  No, it’s not blooming – it has sent up a sport!  The foliage has turned into a variegated leaf – Wow!  I’ve spoken to Barb Kedler, a knowledgeable plant person at Knollwood Garden Center near me.  I have instructions how to divide out the root section with the white striped leaves from the solid green one.  I will replant the striped leaf roots and see if I can’t cultivate a fully variegated plant.  Looking forward to this experiment.  I’ll let you know how the process is going. 
Nature is calling – it’s too nice outside to be in here – so join me again next time.  Enjoy your day!