Watch Out for Puncturevine in Your Garden

Spikes cover the puncturevine fruit

I have had the very unpleasant experience of stepping on the fruit of the puncturevine (Tribulus terrestris).  This weed produces an abundance of seed pods that are covered with very sharp spikes. They are so sharp, in fact, that they have the ability to embed themselves into your clothes, shoes or the tires of your vehicle.

Other names for this species include puncture vine, caltrop, goatheaddevil’s eyelashes, tackweed, cat’s head, bullhead, devil’s weed and devil’s thorn. Some people say that it offers benefits for improving fertility.

What Makes It a Weed?

As I have mentioned before, the simplest definition of a weed is a plant that has started growing where you do not want it. You definitely would not want to come across this species in your garden by accident! Weeds are often very prolific in their seed production and the puncturevine is no slacker; each plant can produce up to 5000 of these seeds in just one growing season. They harden as they age and are quite painful when you accidentally step on them or otherwise come into contact.

Each plant can quickly spread a few yards away from its base. It acts like a groundcover since it forms into a low mat.

How Can I Get Rid of Puncturevine?

You generally do not need to apply chemicals to control this plant in your garden unless it has been allowed to spread profusely. It reproduces by seeds, so you want to remove the plant when it is young and before it has a chance to start fruit production. This plant has one tap root (one long root that goes down) and you can kill the plant just by removing it. You also want to carefully remove any seed pods that are present on the ground.

Have you come across puncturevine in your garden? How did you get rid of it?

Image by Starr Environmental under a Creative Commons Attribution License

Battling Common Mallow in Your Lawn

One weed found in lawns is the common mallow

If you have noticed a plant in your lawn with crinkly lobed leaves and flowers in shades of white, pink or light purple, it may be the common mallow (Malva neglecta). This relative of hibiscus, hollyhocks, cotton and okra is one of those plants that do offer benefits (in this case, nutrition,) but are too invasive to use as a garden plant.

The common mallow can be either an annual or biennial depending on where it is growing. In general, it tends to act as more of a groundcover and stay close to the ground, but it can reach a couple of feet high if left unchecked.

How Do You Get Rid of Common Mallow?

Watch out for this weed and pull it out while it is little. You definitely want to remove it before it produces flowers and goes to seed. As the plant matures, the roots also become stronger and woody, so it will be much harder to pull them out.

Using this method will help keep this species from colonizing your lawn. This is the best way to control this weed since chemicals do not usually work very well. You can use a tool like a dandelion digger to help you get out the long tap root. If the plant has been growing for a while, it can possibly resprout if some of the root is left.

As always, keeping your grass lush and healthy is another way to help stop this weed from spreading. When plants are growing well, their roots spread out appropriately and it is harder for other species like weeds to become established.

How have you stopped common mallow in your garden?

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Is Field Bindweed Taking Over Your Lawn?

Field bindweed in grass

At first glance, you might think the field bindweed is just another pretty little plant. It features many white or pink trumpet-shaped blossoms that are much like its relative, the morning glory. However, it is definitely one of the worst weeds that you could come across.

What Makes the Field Bindweed So Noxious?

The simple definition of a weed is a plant that is located where you don’t want it. Some plants have such difficult growing habits that you would not want them anywhere! For starters, they are very good at survival. This species is a perennial, so it is naturally structured to live more than one year.

The stems tend to act like a vine, twirling around surrounding plants and strangling them. One plant can spread across several yards, so it would not take many plants to overtake your lawn if you leave it unchecked for several years. It bears an abundance of flowers that can produce thousands of seeds, perpetuating the problem.

It gets even worse when you look at the root system. This tenacious plant develops an extensive mass of roots that can spread several feet beyond the width of the top plant. It has one main taproot, but also sends out side roots that grow for a few feet, then move down. It has the ability to send out new stems from any roots left behind after pulling as long as it has buds.

If It’s That Bad, What Can You Do?

There are systemic herbicides available that can help curb this problem. As the Penn State Extension office suggests, you should apply this when the flower buds have formed or just started to bloom. The plant is focusing its energy towards pollination and fruit production, so it uses up some of the energy stored in the roots to accomplish this. When you apply the herbicide, it has a greater chance of killing off the roots, though you may likely have to repeat this several times to truly get rid of the plant.

You can also achieve the same effect with manual removal over the long-term. If you keep removing the plant, it will slowly starve. Penn State asserts that a good time to remove the new growth is about 2 weeks after it appears.

Have you wrangled with field bindweed? How did you finally conquer it?

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Try Drip Irrigation for Your Trees, Shrubs, Vegetable Gardens and Flower Beds

Drip irrigation can help you save water in your garden and keep your plants healthier.

These lettuces are being watered using drip irrigation

For the past few weeks, my mother and I have been working on our plots at the community garden. I have been in charge of setting up the drip irrigation system. I love how you can deliver water straight to the plant instead of using a general spray.

Why Should You Try Drip Irrigation?

Since lawns continuously cover a large area, sprinklers that shoot over a wide area work well. However, it can sometimes be problematic if you try to water other plants in the same way.

  • Diseases can set in if parts of the plant like the leaves and trunk stay wet for a long period of time.
  • Since the sprinklers are set to cover a general area, specific plants may not receive enough water. They may also be overwatered.
  • You use more water than is needed in this case. Drip irrigation is designed to deliver water to the roots of each specific plant.

Types of Drip Irrigation

There are several different types of drip irrigation that can be utilized in your garden. Some lay on top of the ground, while others can be buried. In the example of my vegetable garden, we have some hoses that have drip emitters embedded into the hose every 18″. You can just plant your seeds or starts near these holes so their roots can get watered.

Elsewhere, I have hoses where I have punched holes as needed to attach smaller hoses that are outfitted with a drip emitter at the end. These allow more flexibility in getting water to your plants, especially if you are trying to add this to an established garden.

Finally, I will be setting up some soaker hoses this week for our rows of corn since they are placed closer than 18″. These are made out of recycled tires and have small holes punched throughout the hose to slowly ooze out water along its length.

They also sell small sprayers and bubblers that you can place in the vicinity of your plants, as well as garden hoses with holes punched along the line.

How Do You Plan Out Your Drip Irrigation?

I would suggest creating a map that is to scale of the current layout of your garden that includes each of the current plants, as well as any future plants that you are considering. Head out to a sprinkler supply store or home improvement store. Associates there should be able to help you pick out the right parts for your situation. We can also definitely help you figure this out!

Do you use drip irrigation in your landscape? What has worked well for you?

It’s Time to Prune Spring Flowering Shrubs and Trees

 

Prune forsythia after blooming

Forsythia should be pruned after it is done blooming in the spring

You may have heard that you should do much of your pruning in the spring while your trees and shrubs are still dormant. However, this could destroy the floral display of some species. Why would this happen and which species are affected?

Last Year vs. This Year: Wood and Buds

Trees and shrubs vary on when they produce their flower buds and generally fall into two groups: the “planners” and the “procrastinators”. We are prone to imagine that they fall on the procrastination side and produce flower buds every spring as new wood emerges. These are safe to prune in late winter or early spring before the plant blossoms since you won’t be disturbing the blooms.

However, some trees and shrubs do fall more into the “planner” category. They are efficient and start forming their flower buds in the fall before the next growing season since they tend to put forth their flowers so early in the year. If you were to prune them while they are dormant, you definitely run the risk of stripping away a lot of the flower buds and destroying your blossom display. Instead, you would prune spring flowering shrubs and trees once they are done blooming.

Which Trees and Shrubs?

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but here are some of the most common trees and shrubs that should be pruned after they are done blooming. It is a good idea to ask a professional about the specific trees and shrubs in your yard to be sure.

  • Azalea and rhododendron
  • Beautybush
  • Deutzia
  • Flowering crabapples
  • Forsythia
  • Hawthorn
  • Honeysuckle
  • Kerria
  • Lilac
  • Quince
  • Viburnum
  • Weigela

Do you have any of these trees and shrubs in your garden?

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Do a Spring Lawn Mower Tune Up Now

Do a spring lawn mower tune up every year

When the spring rains start to fall and grass awakens from its dormancy, it is time to take out your garden tools and check them over. Every year you should do a spring lawn mower tune up to make sure that it is working properly and ready to go.

Check Over and Replace Parts as Needed

Lawn mowers are a lot like cars when it comes to basic maintenance. Disconnect your spark plug for safety and look at the engine. Notice your spark plugs, oil filters and air filters and change them out to keep your mower running well and make it easier to get it started. If there is corrosion present around the spark plugs, clean it off. Check the wheels, string and other parts to see if there is too much wear and tear.

Clean and Sharpen Your Blades

You may have already done this as part of your preparation for the end of the gardening season, but it’s a good idea to look at the blade now. You don’t want to start mowing and damage your grass because the blades are dull. Remove it from the mower and clean off any rust after securing it firmly in a vice or similar device. Use a file to sharpen the edges and make sure it is balanced once you are done. Otherwise, it could cut oddly or cause other problems.

Add Fresh Oil and Gas

As part of this general tune up, do an oil change to make sure that your mower has the best chance of starting up and running smoothly. It is also a good idea to use fresh gasoline as it will degrade over time.

What steps do you take as part of your spring lawn mower tune up?

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Apply Your Pre-Emergent Weed Control Now

PreEmergentWeedControlFlickranneh632One of the best ways to control weeds, of course, is to never let them get started. A good dose of pre-emergent weed control will keep seeds from germinating and dominating your lawn.

When Should You Apply It?

One of the main weeds that you are trying to avoid is crabgrass. You want to apply just before that starts germinating. If you do it earlier than that, it is quite likely that rains and snows will lessen the concentration or even wash it all away. If you wait until too late, you risk the possibility of crabgrass germination starting robustly and the chemical does not have a chance to affect the seeds, wasting the opportunity.

As Cornell University mentions, crabgrass germination is usually most successful when the ground temperatures are in the range of 59F to 65 F. You want to do your weed control just before this happens for the best results.

What About My Grass Seeds? Will They Be Affected?

This kind of herbicide works because it affects seeds during the germination phase. Grass seeds are not immune to this process and they will fail to sprout if you try to grow them when a pre-emergent has been applied. You should have at least a few months time in between reseeding and pre-emergent weed control. Fall is another good time to try patching up your lawn.

You could seed your lawn a few weeks before your herbicide application in the spring. Cornell also mentions that parts of your landscape with little or no plants will warm up sooner since they have one less layer protecting it. Patch up your lawn first and there should be enough time before the crabgrass starts that you can have a successful grass germination rate.

Why Do a Split Application of Pre-Emergent Weed Control?

If you try to do only one application, you may still have problems with crabgrass and other weeds. Seeds may be blown or carried into the area and germinate after the herbicide has been washed away. When you do a second application a few weeks later, you can catch these stragglers and keep weeds at bay,

Call us today to get your applications set up. We can help keep those pesky weeds away from your beautiful lawn.

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It’s Spring Lawn Assessment Time!

Spring Lawn Assessment Including Raking

Spring cleanup season is now in full swing. Your next task is to do a good lawn assessment so that you can see what might need to be done.

Dethatching and Aeration

Over time, lawns tend to build up a layer of living and dead parts on the top of the soil that can make it difficult for water and nutrients to reach the roots. Every spring you should check the thickness of your thatch to see if you need to take steps to remove it.

If you do have too much thatch, one way to help remedy the problem is dethatching through raking. This action can remove some of the built up matter and allow your grass to breathe better. You can use a power rake or vertical mower to complete this process. If you do not own either of these, they can usually be rented at your local home improvement stores or you could have us come through and dethatch.

Another tool that you may want to rent or contract out is core aeration. These machines remove small plugs of grass and soil, opening up the thatch and improving the health of your lawn. You should water the ground before doing this as it is difficult to do when the soil is dry.

Raking Out Fungus

You may also have noticed that there are dead patches in your lawn that has pink or white fungi on it. These could be caused by a type of fungus called snow mold. As the weather warms up, the grass will repair itself and usually green up nicely. You can help accelerate this process by doing a light raking to help the grass dry out and get rid of the snow mold.

What else do you do as part of your spring lawn assessment?

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Start Your Spring Garden Cleanup!

SpringGardenCleanupsFlickrDick Howe Jr

Spring is only officially about two weeks away at this point – huzzah! Now is the time for a good spring garden cleanup to usher in the growing season.

On a day when the snow has melted, look around and pick up any trash that may have blown in during a storm. You can also rake up any leaves that were left over from last fall. Those would likely be a great addition to your compost heap or, if you have enough, in its own pile to create leaf mulch. There are some plants like black walnuts that bear harmful chemicals in their leaves and other parts, and should not be included. 

If you have not put down fresh mulch yet this year, now is a good time. It will help protect your plants throughout the year and freshen up your landscape to boot.

Look over your machines and tools to make sure they did not get rusted or otherwise broken during the winter. Sharpen them as necessary, especially if you did not do happen to winterize your equipment.

You can prune many trees, shrubs and perennials at this time. Go over your trees and shrubs to make sure that there are not parts that are dead, damaged or diseased. There are some like maples where they may bleed too much sap if they are pruned too early, so they should be trimmed later in the season.

If you are running short on time or would just prefer that someone else prep your landscape, give us a call. We would be happy to discuss a plan to get your garden into tip top shape for the coming growing season!

What do you do as part of your spring garden cleanup?

Image by Dick Howe Jr under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License

Are Your Spring Flower Bulbs Emerging?

SpringBulbsEmergingFlickrArtotem

Spring is finally just around the corner! I went to my parents’ house today and saw a few variegated bearded iris blades peeping through the soil. It won’t be too long before they fully emerge and proudly display their gorgeous purple blooms.

This is one time of year where it can be a little nerve-wracking in your garden. Some of your bulbs, trees, shrubs and other plants may start putting out leaves and even flowers, but the threat of frosts is not over. If the temperatures fall too much, the plant could be damaged.

Thankfully, many of the spring-flowering bulbs are naturally adapted to lower temperatures. Think about how you sometimes see the earliest-blooming flowers like crocuses peeping up through a blanket of snow. As long as it isn’t prolonged or especially severe, they will usually be fine overall, especially if you mulched as part of your final fall cleanup.

You might have a little more to worry about if they have already put forth their buds or blossoms, since these are more easily damaged. You could add some mulch as part of your spring garden prep. In a pinch, you could make a shelter out of household items like milk jugs (cut off the bottom) or sheets. For the latter, only use them when it’s currently cold and remove during the day if it warms up past the 40s (Fahrenheit).  Nurseries and garden centers also sell protective devices like row covers.

I hope that your spring flowers emerge soon if they haven’t yet. They seem so hopeful after a long dreary winter, don’t they?

What kinds of bulbs did you plant? Are they up yet?

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