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?

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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?

Image by Elvert Barnes under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License

Fertilize Your Lawn at the End of May

 May is a good time to fertilize your lawn

Growing season is into full swing these days. Plants everywhere are blooming and your lawn has woken up and started growing again. Now that it’s had a bit of a chance to come out of its winter slumber, you should fertilize your lawns around the end of May.

Why Should You Fertilize?

Plants are like people in that they need proper nourishment to grow. Plants are designed to pull water and nutrients from the soil. However, some areas may have become depleted over the years or had low levels from the start. Adding fertilizer is like a human taking a vitamin to ensure that they are getting everything that is needed to stay healthy.

What Kind of Fertilizer?

It is always a good idea to get a soil test every new growing season so that you can make sure that you are adding the proper nutrients. The laboratory will tell you what is in short supply. The three main nutrients that are on a fertilizer package are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. The three numbers on front (written like 5-5-5) let you know the percentage of each nutrient that is included, in that order. Grass is always hungry for nitrogen, so your best choice of lawn fertilizer will include that.

How Much Do I Need?

The amount will vary depending on the product that you are using and the results if you had a soil test performed. You will need to have the square footage of your lawn handy as this will be involved in figuring out the amount to apply. The label will tell you how much to add for every 1000 square feet or similar measurement.

Need help in getting your lawn fertilized this year? We can help!

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Consider Adding a Rain Sensor to Your Irrigation System

Rain sensors can conserve water in your landscapeOne of my personal pet peeves is hearing or seeing sprinklers go off during a rainstorm. It seems like such a waste both environmentally and financially. It is also potentially harmful to the plants since the extra water can lead to root suffocation or fungal problems. If you don’t want to run outside to manually turn off the sprinklers each time it rains, a rain sensor may work very well for you.

A rain sensor is mounted somewhere on or near your house (such as a fence or gutter) and can be either hard wired or wireless depending on the type and how much your budget allows. Many use a part called a hygroscopic disc to collect any rain that happens to fall during the day. These discs are designed to expand when water hits them. When they reach a certain size, they flip a switch. The system sends a message that overrides the sprinkler system and causes it to stop watering or not turn on at its normally scheduled time.

You do not need to worry about resetting your sprinkler system after the rain sensor is triggered. They are designed to dry out once the moisture stops and then your regularly scheduled sessions will continue as normal unless rainfall is again detected.

An additional feature found on some of these rain sensors is the ability to stop the system if freezing weather sets in before you have winterized your system for the year. If the pipes are full of water when the weather gets too cold, they can burst. Installing one of these types of sensors can stop this from happening.

If you are interested in adding a rain sensor to your current irrigation system, give us a call. We would be happy to help you choose the right one for your landscape.

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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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Get Your Irrigation System Ready for the Growing Season

Tune up your sprinkler system this springSpring is here in all its glory. Plants are coming alive again and the temperatures are creeping up. There are still days here and there that are colder, but it’s definitely on the upswing. For much of spring, rain is enough to take care of all of your landscape’s watering needs. However, you should work on getting your landscape ready now for the rest of the growing season.

Can You Turn It On Yet?

Even if the air temperatures are above freezing, the ground can still be frozen for a little while more. Find a spot where you can easily try to dig down and see if the soil has thawed yet. You want to be able to reach at least one foot down.

Get Your Irrigation System Back Up to Speed

You properly winterized your sprinklers last fall and shut them down, so they should be ready to go, right? The freezing temperatures in winter can be harsh, possibly dealing damage to your watering lines. There could also have been damage from snow plows or other garden equipment. Sprinkler parts also fall apart over time from normal wear and tear.

Before you turn it on, walk around your yard and physically inspect sprinkler heads, valves and other parts of your system to see if they show signs of problems. Make sure that the water pressure is not too high. According to Rainbird, a sprinklers manufacturer, this range should be within 40-65 PSI (pounds per square inch). We can help you measure this if needed and otherwise check over your system.

Turn It On Carefully

As Hunter Industries mentions, you should start turning things back on slowly. If you switch the valves on full blast, the surges can damage the pipes and cause problems. Make sure the timer settings are appropriate for the time of year; you need less water in spring than in summer, so start out lower. Once you have turned everything on, walk around again and see how the various sprinkler heads are doing. Note if there are areas that are especially wet, since this can be a sign of a leak.

Has your ground thawed out? Give us a call if you want to get your irrigation system ready to go.

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Drainage Problems in Lawns

Sometimes lawns have drainage problemsYou may notice spots in your lawn that are especially wet after the sprinklers have gone off or a rainstorm passed through. This can be normal at first since it takes time for water to travel down into the soil. If it seems to take especially long, though, it could be a problem with how your lawn drains.

Why Should You Worry About Poorly Draining Lawns?

Did you know that too much water can drown roots? It seems strange since they are built to take up liquids. However, they also need to have access to air. If there is constantly water present, the roots won’t be able to process the air and die.

Too much water can also cause the roots and other parts to catch fungal disease or rot, since both are more likely to occur in wet situations.

It is also a safety issue since someone could slip and fall when they are walking across your yard.

What Causes Drainage Problems in Lawns and How Can They Be Fixed?

There are several reasons why water is having a hard time draining into the soil. Investigate around your landscape to see if you can find signs of the following:

  • A common problem is thatch since the thick layer can make it hard for liquids to move down. Aerate your lawn to help alleviate this problem.
  • You could have clay soil. The particles in this type are closer together and it is notorious for not letting water through in a reasonable timeframe. Add organic matter like lawn clippings over time and the soil composition will change.
  • One of your sprinkler pipes may be broken. You can test out the system to see if that is the case and work on repairs.
  • The ground may have sunk down and created a depression. Depending on how deep it is, you can either add a top dressing or use a shovel to dig up the sunken area, fill, and add the grass back on top.

There are other problems that would be harder to alleviate, like if the natural level of the groundwater is high or your yard is underneath a slope. 

We would be happy to come out and assess why you have drainage problems in your yard, so give us a call.

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