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Tag Archive: Jessie Keith

  1. 10 Worst Garden Weeds and Their Management

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    Burdock is a very difficult weed that pops up along yard perimeters and in gardens.

    What makes a garden weed the worst? Four attributes make weeds very difficult to manage. These are 1) deep perennial roots, 2) re-sprouting roots, 3) lots of fast-to-germinate seeds, and 4) fast robust growth. Then you have the added bonus of weed nasties that are toxic and prickly. These are the weeds that take a productive garden bed and turn it into an impossible mess fast. If you have any of these in your garden, weekly weeding will be a necessity until they’re eradicated.

    Noxious garden weeds vary based on where you live nationally, so those covered are ubiquitous across the whole of the US, though some are more regionally problematic.

    Field Bindweed

    Field bindweed is a twining vine that can cover gardens and shrubs in no time.

    If you have a field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) infestation, you are in trouble. This fast-growing vine is one of the most aggressive, difficult perennial weeds to remove, and its little white morning-glory-like flowers produce lots of seeds. The main problem is with its white-rooted runners that spread deep and wide, making it very difficult to dig out. Leave just a piece, and it will resprout. These roots then become mixed up with shrub and perennial roots and are hard to reach. Moreover, weed killers won’t touch it. Managing the weed in a three-step process is the only way to get rid of it.

    1. Methodically dig out the white underground runners. Gently loosen the soil around each with a trowel, following them until the growing points are reached and the roots are fully removed. If you keep even a small piece in the ground, it will regrow.
    2. If the runners are intertwined with perennial roots, dig up the perennials, and remove the bindweed roots in full. (Before replanting, amend the soil with Fafard Premium Natural & Organic Compost for faster re-establishment.)
    3. To keep underground roots from returning in really infested areas, cover the area with mulch cloth and mulch it over. After a season, all parts should be smothered, and you can pull up the mulch cloth and resume gardening as usual.

    Burdock

    Great burdock flowers look much like thistle blooms.

    Burdock (Arctium spp.) is a huge, pesky weed of landscape and garden that has the added annoyance of developing giant burrs that attach to pet fur and are hard to get out. If you let a burdock plant go, it will develop a giant clump of huge leaves supported by a giant taproot that reaches deep into the ground. The flower heads look like little thistles and develop into large barbed burrs. The only way to remove a mature plant is with a long, sharp spade. Be sure to dig the root out in full.

    Burdock seed heads are huge burrs that attach to pet fur and are difficult to remove.

    Ground Ivy

    Ground ivy is a fast spreader that invades lawns and gardens. (Image by Jessie Keith)

    Ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea) aggressive member of the mint family is a low grower with creeping stems that form a weedy mat over your garden in no time. It also thrives in lawns, so you will need to rely on a broadleaf herbicide for the lawn if you want to truly get rid of it. (Corn gluten is an organic broadleaf herbicide option.)

    Thankfully, this weed is very easy to pull, but it seeds in fast, and if you leave even the tiniest piece in the ground it will root and regrow. The best way to manage it is to remove it from garden beds first thing every spring and then apply a good layer of mulch. If some little pieces try to break through, pull them out quickly.

    Canada Thistle

    Canada thistle in bloom.

    Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense) is another of the most notoriously difficult garden weeds. The painfully prickly plants produce copious puffy seeds that get caught in the wind and spread everywhere. Once they become established, a single plant will create a dense colony connected by deep, rooting rhizomes that are impossible to dig out entirely. If you leave just one piece, it will form a whole new plant. Plus, it is resistant to herbicides.

    Canada thistle in seed.

    To remove Canada thistle, the best method is smothering plants with weed cloth and mulch until they are gone. This one will also creep into the grass, so try to keep lawn specimens under control with broadleaf herbicide. You also don’t want to let this one go to seed anywhere near your yard or garden.

    Johnsongrass

    Johnsongrass is a tall, tough weed grass. (Image by Harry Rose)

    The pattern with these perennial weeds is that most have underground stems and roots that spread and resprout if one piece is left in the ground, and they all produce tons of seed that gets quickly spread hither and yon. Johnsongrass (Sorghum halepense) does this, too. This tall, tough grass requires a spade to remove, and gardeners must follow the trailing stems to capture all underground parts. The tip of each root is sharp, so beware.

    Thankfully, most of its underground runners stay close to the soil surface, so they are easier to remove. You also want to get rid of specimens before they bloom and set seed in summer.

    Mugwort

    Mugwort was brought to North America as a garden medicinal and has since become a terrible weed.

    Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) is another massively aggressive spreader. And, sadly, this plant was brought to the states as a medicinal herb and flavorant for ale. It has since spread across the eastern United States and the whole of Canada.

    The plant has a strong, resinous smell and spreads by the most aggressive lateral underground runners ever. Like Johnsongrass, these mostly remain near the soil surface, but they are so numerous that one has to dig extensively to remove the whole underground plant. I suggest a sharp spade and trowel and lots of elbow grease. Manage it as you would field bindweed.

    Nutsedge

    Nutsedge produces lots of seed and underground tubers. (Image by Jessie Keith)

    There isn’t a gardener that has not had the “pleasure” of weeding out nutsedge (Cyperus esculentus). This aggressive sedge establishes itself in the garden via copious seeds and fine, spreading roots that develop small, brown nutlet tubers. Leave just one of these tubers in the ground, and they will sprout into a whole new plant. (One side note is that the nutlets can be harvested and eaten.)

    This sedge is not herbicide resistant, but its tubers are resistant. For this reason, dig out the plants rather than just pulling or spraying them. In the process, be sure to get all of the tubers. Then mulch the area over and diligently pull any small sedge sprouts as you see them.

    Poison Ivy

    “Leaves of three let it be”…unless poison ivy is growing in your yard or garden.

    Safety and knowledge are needed when removing this toxic, much-feared weed. First, it is important to realize that you can get a poison ivy rash from any “dead” portion of the plant, from stem to root, and dry plant pieces will remain toxic for years. This is because its toxic oil (urushiol) is very chemically stable and remains potent for ages. That’s why you need more than a bottle of herbicide to remove it. Careful removal by hand is surprisingly the safest method, but you have to prepare well and do it carefully.

    There are several things you will need to remove poison ivy without putting yourself in danger. Body Coverings: long thick pants, a long thick shirt that covers your wrists and body, long rubber gloves, and closed-hole shoes (rubber gardening boots are perfect). Tools: a sharp spade or trowel, pruners or loppers, and hole-free plastic bags large enough to contain all plant parts.

    All plant parts must be removed. For smaller plants, fully dig them up and cover them with a plastic bag. Grab them with bag and enclose them without touching them. For large vines, cut the base with pruners or loppers, and remove as much of the upper part of the vine as you can. Do not pull it for fear it may fall on you. Once again, cover and grab the plant pieces with a plastic bag to reduce contact. Then dig out the roots with a spade and bag the pieces, too. T=Secure and trash all of the bags when finished.

    Cleaning Up After Poison Ivy

    During the removal process, watch everything that may have come in contact with the plant (tools, clothing, gloves, trashcan lid handle, door handles, etc.) You will need to clean everything properly.

    Clean up: Toss the gloves and wash all possibly contaminated tools and surfaces with a coarse cloth and soap. Degreasing spray can be very effective. Remove all contaminated clothes and washcloths and wash them in a hot water cycle with the maximum amount of a strong detergent. (If you are really worried, you can prewash them in a bucket of hot water and detergent.) Lastly, wash and shower up completely using strong soap, a textured washcloth, and lots of friction. (Friction and good, strong soap should remove all the oil from your skin. If you are really sensitive, wash twice.) Technu soap is made to remove poison ivy oil and is a good choice. [Read here for further information from the USDA about rash prevention.]

    Two more essential poison ivy warnings: Poison ivy will contaminate compost, so never add it to your pile. And, if burned the toxic oils of poison ivy become airborne, causing an extra dangerous rash on the skin and in the lungs.

    Mowing and chemical sprays can cut poison ivy back, but they will not remove it, or its dangers. Take the time to carefully remove your plants, and your yard will be poison ivy free in no time.

  2. Beautiful Flowers for Rain Gardens

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    This summer rain garden shows a mix of flower favorites. (Image by David Steakly)

    Any low, wet area in the yard where rainwater runoff collects after a storm has the potential to be a spectacular, flower-filled rain garden. Maintaining these landscape reservoirs as beneficial gardens rather than stressed turf will save time and headaches and improve your yard’s looks—as long as you plant the right plants and create a design for all-season bloom.

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  3. Planning a Sustenance Vegetable Garden

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    A well-planned vegetable garden will sustain your family with a variety of fresh produce from spring to late fall. Serious gardeners will even cold-frame garden into the winter months for a steady stream of fresh greens and root vegetables. Sustenance vegetable gardens save money and ensure produce is organically grown. Careful planning and timing are essential for season-long garden-fresh produce for eating, canning, freezing, and drying.
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  4. Small Native Shrubs with Big Fall Color

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    A compact cranberry viburnum glows like embers in an autumn landscape.


    Some of the most brilliant fall shrubs come in small packages and have the added benefit of being native. This sets them apart from the many non-native, ecological troublemakers sold in most garden centers, which are seasonally beautiful but noxiously invasive. Landscape favorites like dwarf Burning bush (Euonymus alatus) and Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii), are among the worst weedy offenders.
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  5. Tall Sedums for Fall Gardens

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    Sedum ‘Autumn Fire’ mingles with a well-designed mix of textural perennials and shrubs.


    Tall sedums (Sedum spectabile hybrids) look pretty through much of the year—aside from late winter and spring, before they have broken bud. Through summer they provide mounds of lush, blue-green foliage, and in early winter their dried flower heads hold up moderately well before being flattened by snow, but late summer and fall are when they shine the most. Their sturdy stems support mounds of rosy pink blooms that glow in the late-season sun. New varieties make growing and designing with these tried-and-true perennials even more gratifying and fun.

    Bold Tall Sedums & Planting Combos

    Tall sedums have broken the mold of the old-fashioned dusky pink ‘Autumn Joy’ of your grandmother’s garden. Extra bright flowers and unique foliage colors, like bronze, purple and near-black, mark some of the newer tall sedum varieties.  Some are extra tall and others are very compact and more densely flowered.

    Sedum ‘Thunderhead’

    Sedum 'Thunderhead' has some of the deepest rose-pink flowers. (photo care of Terra Nova, Nurseries)

    Sedum ‘Thunderhead’ has some of the deepest rose-pink flowers. (photo care of Terra Nova, Nurseries)


    Take the ‘Thunderhead’ introduction by Terra Nova Nurseries; its giant, bright, rose-red flower heads stand on strong, 18” stems above bronzy green foliage. For a great planting combo, plant it in swaths alongside soft, mounding, blue-green ‘Blue Zinger’ sedge and bright-yellow flowered Helianthus ‘Low Down’, which only grows to 2-feet high.

    Sedum ‘Dark Magic’

    The deepest rose-purple blooms of ‘Dark Magic’ are emboldened by the orange-red flowers of Coreopsis ‘Ladybird’. (Image thanks to Terra Nova Nurseries)


    One for outstanding foliage as well as flowers is the 2015 introduction ‘Dark Magic’, which has deepest burgundy foliage all season and large heads of burgundy pink flowers in late-summer and fall. The compact plants only reach 12” high, making this a great plant for border edges. Its upright habit makes it the perfect complement to lower, more mounded grasses and perennials. Try evergreen, lavender-flowered germander (Teucrium chamaedrys) or tidy thyme (Thymus spp.) plants.

    Sedum ‘Crystal Pink’

    ‘Crystal Pink’ has sparkling pale pink flowers on low, mounding plants. (Image thanks to Terra Nova Nurseries)


    In contrast, the super compact ‘Crystal Pink’ becomes literally covered with palest green and pink flowers. Plants reach no more than one foot and their light flowers complement taller, darker-colored garden plants.

    Sedum ‘Frosty Morn’ and ‘Autumn Delight’

    Frosty Morn

    Variegated leaves add to the visual appeal of ‘Frosty Morn’


    Another bright sedum is the cool ‘Frosty Morn’. This variegated counterpart to ‘Autumn Joy’ is surprisingly vigorous. Its bright mounds of foliage complement darker-leaved plants and are best planted in clumps of five to seven plants to show off the silvery effect of the ivory-edged leaves. Late in the season, they become topped with subtle, dusty pink flowers. The darker flowered ‘Autumn Delight’ is a bolder variegated form with deeper variegated leaves and bright rose flowers.

    The deep rose flowers of ‘Autumn Delight’ look lovely against its variegated leaves.

    Sedum ‘Autumn Fire’

    Gardeners looking for classic tall sedum looks but more exciting flowers might consider ‘Autumn Fire’. Tall plants produce large, flattened clusters of rose-pink flowers that are to a darker, richer hue. The plants themselves have significant presence in the landscape with their dense stems that reach 2 to 3 feet high.

    Growing Tall Sedums

    Bees and butterflies are attracted to tall sedum flowers.


    Like all sedums, these plants prefer drier feet, but they aren’t as drought tolerant as some of the short, spreading Sedum species able to withstand really high heat and drought. Plant tall sedums in porous, mineral-rich soil with added organic matter. Raised bed spaces can be amended with Fafard Premium Natural & Organic Compost for perfect rooting.
    All sedums attract bees and butterflies,  making them perfect for pollinator gardens. After fall flowering, the seedheads should be left until they are no longer ornamental. Cut them back on a dry midwinter’s day, and wait until the soils warm in spring and their rosettes of fleshy leaves begin to grow again.

  6. Top 10 Tough Fast-Growing Shade Trees

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    Red maples are very fast growing and spectacular in fall.


    What makes a fast-growing shade tree exceptional? First, it must be strong-wooded and long lived. Second, it must be attractive, providing desirable seasonal characteristics to make your yard look great. Those that are native, disease resistant, and well-adapted to a given region are also optimal. Finally, they should have minimal messy fruits to reduce the hassle of seasonal clean up. (more…)

  7. Rose Rosette Disease Solutions

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    Rose rosette symptoms on an old-fashioned climbing rose.


    Few rose diseases are more dreaded than rose rosette disease. This disfiguring, deadly pathogen can take a perfectly lovely rose from glory to ruin in just a season or two. It’s very easy to identify, but trickier to manage. Thankfully, there are solutions for ardent rose growers.
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  8. The Prettiest Garden Lavenders

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    Sweeps of hedge lavender add color and fragrance to a patio garden.


    Wands of fragrant purple blooms dance in the wind, feeding bees, and shining cheerfully on even the hottest summer days. These are the flowers of lavender, a plant beloved for its aroma and ability to grow well in tough Mediterranean climates. This aromatic evergreen perennial has been used in perfumes, poultices and potpourris for centuries, giving it high value in the herb garden. And, many diverse varieties exist, so there’s lavender to satisfy almost every gardener.
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  9. Grow a Mexican Herb Garden

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    The delicate white flowers of cilantro develop into coriander seeds. (Image by Jessie Keith)


    Several key herbs and peppers create the foundation of Mexican cuisine. Everyone knows and loves cilantro and chile peppers, but have you ever tried epazote, Mexican oregano, or Mexican mint marigold? Add some authenticity and good flavor to your Mexican dishes this season with these herbs and spices!
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  10. Favorite Garden Poppies

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    Poppies are some of the most beautiful garden flowers! (Image by Jessie Keith)


    Nothing is prettier than a field of red, windblown poppies. The delicate blooms rise from slender stems, and their colorful petals resemble crushed tissue paper—giving these classic garden flowers lasting appeal. Poppies are diverse, and can be grown in practically any garden. Some are long-lived perennials while others are fleeting annuals the bloom spectacularly for a short time before setting seed. (more…)

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