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Monthly Archives: December 2016

Tips to Control Weed in Your Garden

Previously, the U.S. government has prescribed the utilization of napalm to wipe out annoying vegetation. Kidding aside, weeds are a major issue: as the not really glad proprietor of the National Champion Pokeweed, I should know. Like any difficult issue – destitution, bigotry, Britney Spears – there is no simple arrangement. There are, in any case, approaches to improve things (with the exception of the Britney Spears part.)

Weeds are just plants developing where we don’t need them to. They spread a similar way attractive plants spread: through seeds, by over the ground runners, and by underground roots. We should take a gander at seeds first.

Any garden soil contains a “bank” of weed seeds prepared to grow. In the event that we give those seeds the light, water, and supplements they require, they’ll sprout and develop. Here and there the very procedure of turning or working the dirt uncovered new weed seeds to light and dampness. Observe recently turned soil for growing weeds, and cut them off with a scraper as soon they show up. In the end, the seed bank will run out, and upkeep will get to be distinctly less demanding.

Weed seeds also blow or drift into gardens. Keep a close watch on wild areas of your yard to make sure that weeds don’t go to seed. Regular mowing helps prevent dandelions and other pests, including unwanted grasses, from reproducing themselves. In some cases, a thorough eradication program is necessary to remove the source of the invading seed armies – we’ll talk about some chemical options later on. Mulch, useful for so many reasons, also helps prevent seed germination.

Weeds like false strawberry (correct name?) and many brambles spread by runners that take root and create new plants. These weeds knit themselves so tightly into the garden that the only way to get rid of them is to pull them out by hand. Make sure the roots come with the tops, or the problem will continue. (This is true for most weeds.) That brings us to the question of soil preparation. A fertile, healthy, soil with good “tilth” – the horticultural word for proper soil texture – makes a great growing medium for weeds as well as garden plants. There’s no way around that fact. The good news is that it’s much easier to pull weeds out of healthy soil than it is to remove them from hard, compacted, unhealthy soil.

Weeds that spread underground are my least favorite. Bindweed and thistle are the two worst offenders in my garden, and they are very difficult to get rid of. Both have similar thick underground roots that spread parallel to the surface. You can physically remove the roots, but if you leave even a small piece, they will regenerate. If you remove the tops of these plants often enough, they will eventually weaken and die, but they are very persistent. I use one chemical trick with thistle that works pretty well (see below), but if bindweed has mingled itself through your valuable plants, hand-pulling is the only answer I know of. Don’t let either of these menaces go to flower, by the way.

We haven’t talked about herbicides (unless you count napalm, or for all I know, Britney Spears). There are basically three kinds of plant-killing chemicals: non-selective, which kill any and all plants on contact; selective, which kill only certain kinds of plants on contact; and pre-emergent, which prevent seeds from germinating.

Glyphosate, sold commercially under the name Roundup (among others), is an example of a non-selective herbicide. Glyphosate is considered by many authorities to be more “environmentally friendly” than alternative products, but there is a great deal of controversy regarding its effect on humans and the environment. With this and with any herbicide, follow the label instructions and cautions exactly. Glyphosate will kill most plants within a few days, generally breaks down within two weeks after application, and does not tend to migrate into the soil.

Remember: Glyphosate will kill or damage any plant whose leaves or green stems it contacts. Here’s a way to eliminate deep-rooted, established perennial weeds that have come up in the middle of a bed and can’t be sprayed: cut the stem and apply a single drop or two of undiluted Glyphosate (I use a recycled nasal applicator. Label it carefully!). This will kill even persistent thistle, burdock, pokeweed and small trees, is economical, and doesn’t endanger surrounding plants. Wear protective gloves during this process and wash up thoroughly!

2-4D, the active ingredient in most “weed and feed” products, is an example of a selective herbicide, acting only on broad leaf (dicotyledenous) plants, which is why it can be used on grass lawns and corn fields (grasses are monocots, and corn is a kind of grass.) “Drift” from this or any herbicide can lead to unintentional damage to nearby plants. In some cases, this damage mimics fungal or other disease symptoms. Many formulations are granular, which means you must use a carefully-calibrated spreader to apply them. If you spray, do so on still days, and once again, read and follow the instructions.

Pre-emergent herbicides won’t substantially harm existing plants, but they make it difficult or impossible for germinating seeds to grow, in some cases by preventing new root growth. Pre-emergents will only work if you have already removed all the adult weeds in the area you want to protect. You must also make sure that the plants you want to keep are well-established, especially if you want to treat a newly-seeded lawn. The pre-emergents will kill young grass plants just as effectively as they do anything else.

A quick review of weed control methods, in order of both time and preference:

Prepare your soil well – weeds will be easier to remove.
Remove sources of weed seeds, and keep potential weed beds mowed.
Mulch – not only does it conserve moisture and add organic material to your soil, but it prevents weeds from germinating.
Hand pull or dig weeds from established beds or plantings, and be sure to remove the roots.
Use appropriate herbicides only when necessary and only as directed.

Water Wise Gardening

Water preservation is critical whether we are amidst a dry spell or not, since water is a constrained asset. Over portion of the water we utilize goes into our scenes, so it bodes well to search for approaches to spare water as we garden. Xeriscaping, or water astute planting, is a progression of systems that spare water, as well as time. Here are the fundamentals.

Arrange, arrange, arrange. Each great garden starts with a decent plan. In this way, as you consider see, presentation, capacity and the various components of configuration, think water, as well. To spare water, gather plants with comparable water needs. Put plants with the most noteworthy water needs nearest to your water sources. Wrestling hoses or unlimited containers out to far-flung parched plants is my slightest most loved garden task.

Limit the size of your lawn. How much lawn do you really need? Lawns require more time, effort and water than most other parts of your landscape. So, reduce the size of your lawn. Instead, plant drought resistant ground covers, native plants or low maintenance trees and shrubs.

Use appropriate plants. Look for plants with low water needs, often marked as “drought resistant” on plant tags or catalog descriptions. Also, consider native plants. They are generally well adapted, have lower water demands and fewer pest problems. For a list of drought resistant plants, visit the Maryland Cooperative Extension office on Montevue Avenue in Frederick and ask for the free flyer, “Xeriscaping and Conserving Water in the Landscape.”

How you plant is nearly as important as what you plant. Plant trees and shrubs in mass plantings. Prepared beds allow for greater root spread and water take-up, plus grouped plantings look better. Also, plant in spring or fall when it takes less water to get plants established. And remember to make catch basins around newly planted trees and shrubs to catch water.

Improve the soil. Add plenty of organic matter to help hold moisture in flower beds and areas where you plan to plant trees and shrubs. Soil amendments such as peat moss and compost can improve root development, water penetration and retention. A good rule of thumb is 4 to 6 inches of organic matter in new beds. Add organic matter to your gardens every year to keep the soil and plants healthy.

Use mulches. Mulches minimize evaporation, reduce weeds, slow erosion and prevent soil temperature fluctuations. To help you choice the right mulch and apply it properly, pick up a free flyer on mulching at the Extension office.

Water efficiently. Water only when necessary, based on the condition of the plants rather than a fixed schedule. Don’t panic over a little droopiness. Remember, most plants wilt in hot sun, then recover.

Timing is everything. Water in the early morning since you lose nearly half of the water to evaporation in the heat of day. And when you do water, water deeply. Watering only when needed and thoroughly produces deep-rooted plants that are more water efficient and drought enduring.

Take advantages of new and old technologies. Try soaker hoses or drip irrigation to water deeply and encourage deep root growth. And hook up a rain barrel or two to your downspouts to capture free water. A mere 1/8 inch of rain on an average roof will fill a 60 gallon rain barrel. My rain barrel and I bonded during last year’s drought. I wouldn’t be without one now.

Practice appropriate maintenance. Keep your irrigation systems running properly. A leaky hose can waste gallons upon gallons of water. Practice proper pruning, weeding and fertilization to keep plants healthy and not overly thirsty. Mow the lawn high to reduce weeds and evaporation. And control weeds to reduce competition for water.

Plants You Can Grow in a Drought

It is hard to recognize what to do about putting resources into new plant material this year. Regardless of fears of dry spell, it has been raining some this spring and I trust you can purchase new plants and have great accomplishment with them this season. Be that as it may, you should give watchful consideration regarding plant determination, arrangement and care. Truth be told with the expanding recurrence of water deficiencies around there over late years, cautious determination of dry season tolerant plants ought to be the standard, as opposed to the exemption.

There are numerous lovely dry spell tolerant plants that are promptly accessible in nearby nurseries and home/plant stores. They arrive in an extensive variety of hues and sizes. Some great perennials include:

Perennial Bachelors Button (Centaurea montana). This lovely rounded plant grows about 12 inches high and 12 inches wide. Its leaves are long and a silvery green. Flowers are blue and about 2 inches in diameter. With deadheading (removal of spent flower heads before they go to seed) Centaurea will bloom from May through September. The one downfall of this plant is that it spreads by underground runners and may also reseeds itself throughout the garden. You can take care of this problem by pulling up unwanted seedlings in the spring.

Daylily (Hemrocallis). We are all familiar with the daylily by now. There are more than 20,000 registered hybrids, in colors ranging from yellow, to red to deep purple. They range in height from 6 inches to over 30 inches. Most bloom only once per summer, but every year more repeat or continuous bloomers are being developed. The most famous and earliest repeat bloomer is ‘Stella d’Oro’. The foliage of daylilies stays attractive all summer, although the appearance of the plant does benefit from removal of spent flower heads and browning leaves. Daylilies generally need to be divided every 4 or 5 years.

Candytuft (Iberis sermpervirens) is a great spring-blooming low-growing plant for the front of the border. The flowers last for about 10 weeks. Its evergreen foliage is dark green and the flowers are pure white. The plants have a woody base and should be cut back severely every other year to insure that they do not get leggy.

Black Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) and Coneflower (Echinacea) are well-known summer blooming, daisy-like flowers of similar habit. They come in yellow, pink and white. Plants typically grow 3 to 4 feet high, although some dwarf varieties have been developed. These are low maintenance plants, but deadheading is recommended to improve plant appearance and prevent reseeding.

I could go on-and-on describing drought tolerant perennials; however, space does not permit. The Maryland Cooperative Extension Service has a publication number HG25, “Xeriscaping and Conserving Water in the Landscape” that lists many more draught tolerant perennials, as well as trees and shrubs.

Many of our popular annuals are also quite tolerant of dry conditions. Marigold, Zinnia, Geranium (Pelargonium), Spider Flower (Cleome), Cosmos, Portulaca, Nasturtium are just a few. Most herbs are also happy in low water conditions, as are ornamental grasses.

Americans have had a great love affair with the Impatience plant for many years. This is one plant that has high water needs. If you do want to plant Impatience put them in shady areas where water will not evaporate from the soil quickly. Also be sure to mulch the soil around the plants.

Even drought tolerant plants will not grow completely without water. Their needs are about 50 percent of the water needs of non-drought tolerant plants. What should you do to insure their survival? First of all, now is the time to buy and plant them! We are getting some rain and weather conditions are somewhat cooler than they will be in June, July and August. Buying and planting them now, and hand watering them when rain is insufficient will give them the start they need to survive a hot, dry summer. Water your plants infrequently as deeply as your soil drainage situation permits, rather than doing light, frequent waterings. Deep watering encourages deep root development, which will stand your plants in good stead when dry, hot summer conditions arrive.

Other things you can do to ensure your plants’ survival include mulching your beds about 2 inches deep. This helps the soil retain moisture and also reduces the temperature of the soil surface.

When planning your garden, it is good idea to try to group your plants according to their water needs, as well as taking into consideration their sun/shade tolerance. By planting your water and typically shade loving plants away from the drought tolerant ones, you will avoid over watering the latter in order to keep the former alive.

Keep container gardening to a minimum under hot and dry conditions. Containers will need watering once per day, if not more in mid-summer. If you do have containers, mulch them as you do your garden and keep them in a shady area on really hot days. If water restrictions become severe, concentrate on keeping your trees and shrubs alive first, then your perennials. Let your annuals go if you must.

Plants have a remarkable ability to adapt to their environment, provided they are healthy and well established. Do not be discouraged from purchasing new plants this spring, provided you have time to give them the tender loving care they need when you first plant them.

Tomato Problems

A current deluge of tomato issues gave the motivation to the current week’s article. The developing season has been especially troublesome for the plant specialist particularly the tomato planter. We have had unpredictable spring temperatures, little summer precipitation, and hot exhausting extends. What’s next? I don’t have the foggiest idea (ideally some rain). Intensifying the majority of this is the way that watering limitations are getting more tightly and more tightly.

The tomato issues will turn out to be more serious as the mid year advances. Tomato plants can experiencing a condition known as “Bloom End Rot”. This is a physiologic issue related with an absence of calcium. The organic product on the affected plants builds up a dull delicate base that amplifies as it ages. This issue is brought about by inadequate calcium in the dirt or an excessive amount of or too little soil dampness. The greater part of the issue can be credited to absence of dampness. It is best to pick off any organic product that is demonstrating manifestations and shower the foliage with a calcium chloride arrangement and water profoundly (in the event that you can). You can normally discover these calcium chloride splashes in your garden focus.

The other reoccurring problem to cross my desk is spider mites (and they can effect plants other than tomatoes). These particular pests are serious trouble in hot dry weather. Their populations grow explosively when it is hot and dry, and they can kill a plant quickly. Spider mites are extremely small 8-legged bugs that are typically found on leaf undersides. They feed by piercing the leaf and withdrawing the plant fluid. Heavy mite infestations will yellow and then eventually brown the leaves of the plant. The best control is early treatment, before infestations are too heavy, with a registered pesticide.

Be careful when using these pesticides, they can easily damage tomato foliage in this heat. An alternative that many people find effective is to use a strong stream of water to knock the mites off the plant.