Take care of weeds in June

June 12, 2007 lawanda Newspaper Columns

The recent rains have been like a mega-dose of multi-vitamins for flower and vegetable gardens.  Unfortunately, the weeds have taken the vitamins also and are proliferating.  The good news is that weeds pull easily from rain-soaked soil.  Spend the time in June to keep ahead of the weeds and you can relax in July and August, but wait for the plants to dry off before weeding or you may inadvertently spread diseases among your good plants.

      Just like flowers, weeds can be annuals, perennial or biennials.  Annual weeds generally have a fibrous root system which spreads just beneath the soil surface, unlike the fleshy tap roots of the perennial types.  No matter the type of weed, it is important to remove them before they go to seed.  Most annual weeds can be easily pulled or sliced off just below the soil surface with a hoe.  Do not chop at the soil with your hoe or you will bring more weed seeds to the surface that will germinate. 

      Perennial weeds spread by means of underground stems and root parts and also by seed.  Hoeing or tilling them only makes the problem worse because new weeds can sprout from each chopped up piece of root.  They are best pulled with the aid of a dandelion digger or asparagus fork to ease the roots out of the soil.  Weeds that have not yet gone to seed can be composted or just left to dry out on top of the soil.

      One of the most-asked questions is how to eliminate the lawn weed creeping charlie, also known as ground ivy.  Dissolve ½ cup 20 Mule Team Borax, found in the laundry detergent aisle, in one gallon of warm water.  This translates to 1¼ cups borax for the average 2½ gallon sprinkling can, which is enough for 1,000 square feet of lawn.  You can also use a sprayer which gives a finer, more even coverage.  Don’t use a sprayer that you have used previously to apply any type of herbicide or you may kill your grass along with the creeping charlie.  Before you start, measure out 1,000 square feet so you have an idea of the area you should cover.  Applying the solution too thickly will result in burnt grass.  Check the weather forecast and apply the borax solution when there is no rain predicted for at least 48 hours. 

      You may have noticed something that looks like foam or soap on many plants and weeds this month.  That is from the aptly-named spittle bug, but the foam is actually the bug’s excrement.  The bug, which looks like a little light yellow seed, is hiding inside the spittle and sucking the juices from the plants.  They are easily controlled by washing the foam and insect off with water from the hose.  I used to be diligent about this, going out daily and spraying spittle bugs from all my plants, but I got tired of doing so last year and just left them alone.  I noticed very little damage to the plants and was relieved to give up the task and devote my time to weeding instead.

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