What to do if your weeds are out of control
Q. We have many weeds in our garden. It has gotten out of control. My husband tries to pull them out but we cannot keep up. We do not want to use chemicals. Is there another way to clear several square feet of weeds?
A. Weeds compete for the nutrients and moisture intended for the desired plants in our gardens. Therefore, plants cannot flourish in an environment where they are struggling for food and water. While there is no such thing as organic weed killer, you can reduce the need for endless weeding by following simple weeding some simple guidelines:
• The best time to attack weeds is when they are young, tender and actively growing. Either hand-pull the weeds, or use a weeding hoe. When hand-pulling, make sure ground is moist — the weeds will pull out much easier. If the soil is hard and dry, water your garden a few hours before you weed. The soil will be looser, making the job easier.
• Pull even the tiniest weeds. These tiny ones can become monsters in a very short time.
• Provide a layer (two to three inches) of mulch around the base of plants, shrubs and trees. Mulch inhibits weeds by depriving the weed seeds of the sunlight they need to germinate. Organic mulches, such as straw, grass clippings, leaves, shredded bark, also helps nourish the soil as they decompose.
• For even better weed protection, use several sheets of newspaper. Put several pages thick into a tub of water and then spread on the garden, and cover them with a good thick layer of mulch.
• The best defense against weeds in the lawn is a healthy lawn. Wait until the grass is about 4˝ inches high before cutting back to three inches. Leave grass clippings on your lawn to decrease weeds. Spread grass seeds on thin patches in the spring or fall. Spread top-dressing on your lawn before seeding and after aeration to improve soil and reduce weeds.
Persistence is your most important long-range weapon against weeds. Mulch well, pull what you can and hoe where you have to. Do these things consistently for a few seasons will expel the invaders for good.
Q. I planted a trumpet creeper three years ago. It has lush growth, but no blooms. It is in full sun, close to the lawn, but not fertilized. What can we do to get it some blooms?
A. While the exotic looking trumpet vine (Campsis Radicans) is touted as a fast growing vine, it definitely is slow in showing off its trumpet-shaped flowers, which are attractive to hummingbirds. Since it is one of the last plants to leaf out in the spring, you may think it is dead every year. Have patience — this is one tough plant and it might take until the end of May or beginning of June to leaf out.
Unfortunately, this plant can take three to four years to establish itself before it begins producing its flamboyant flowers. As long as the trumpet vine is growing well, and is not too close to the lawn where it might be overfed with nitrogen, it will eventually flower. Also, don't forget to provide it plenty of compost.
• Provided by Mary Boldan, University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener. Send questions to Ask a Master Gardener, c/o Friendship Park Conservatory, 395 W. Algonquin Road, Des Plaines, IL 60016, or via email to email@example.com. The Friendship Park Conservatory Master Gardener Answer Desk is available 9 a.m. to noon Monday, Wednesday and Friday and noon to 3 p.m. Saturday; call (847) 298-3502.
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