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Downside of a mild winter: Weeds already

Get them out now for an easier spring

Bedstraw against a wall
Bedstraw, a prickly weed hated by pet owners, already has grown quite a bit against a west-facing wall. But not for long. (Photos: Kathy Morrison)

The popular comic Pearls Before Swine last May had a strip that still decorates my refrigerator. In the first panel, Rat (the snarky character) asks Goat (the sensible one) what he's doing. Here's how the rest of it plays out:

Goat: Pulling the weeds in my garden.

Rat: We haven't had to do that at all in our garden this year.

Goat: Oh, yeah? What are you growing?

Rat: Weeds.

The last panel shows Rat talking to another friend, Pig. "No one appreciates my gardening tips," he says.

So ... unless you're like Rat and plan to have a garden of weeds this year, here's my gardening tip: Get them out while they're small.

Our weather has been just nice enough that weed seeds, fed by December's rains, are now sprouting all over. It can be hard to identify weeds without their flowers, but now is when it's easiest to get rid of them.

several types of weeds
A sampler of the types of weeds you may already see in the
garden, including little bittercress (lower left and a small one
top center) and grasses. The carrot-looking plant top left
also is a weed.
Yes, they pop up quickly. Yes, they're a pain, sprouting between rocks and along the fence and through thin spots in the mulch. But let those weeds grow too large and they present a host of problems:

-- They hog water and nutrients that could be going to wanted plants.

-- They harbor pests (insects and rodents) and pathogens that can sneak up on seedlings and transplants.

-- The roots only grow stronger and tougher to eradicate.

-- Allowed to grow and flower, some weeds then spread by underground runners, tubers or rhizomes, or burrs that attach to pets' fur. Others produce allergens.

The UC Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) filmed a great talk on weeds last year with John Roncoroni, a retired UCCE weed science farm adviser. He discusses ways to identify weeds, but also covers the why of controlling weeds, and priorities for tackling them. Here's the link to the YouTube video . (It's about 39 minutes.)

So whether you prefer using a sharp hoe, or a trowel or specialized weeding tool, tackle the weeds now -- before you need a shovel.

Or give up, like Rat, and just grow weeds.


Here are links to some of our previous posts on weeds:

Is this the worst weed in Sacramento? (nutsedge)

Eeek! It's weed season already (5 problem plants to get rid of now)


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Taste Winter! E-cookbook

Lemon coconut pancakes

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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 3:

* Celebrate the city flower! Catch the 100th Sacramento Camellia Show 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 2, and 10 a.m to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 3, at the Scottish Rite Center, 6151 H St., Sacramento. Admission is free.

* Between showers, pick up fallen camellia blooms; that helps cut down on the spread of blossom blight that prematurely browns petals.

* Feed camellias after they bloom with fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants.

* Camellias need little pruning. Remove dead wood and shape, if necessary.

* Tread lightly or not at all on wet ground; it compacts soil.

* Avoid digging in wet soil, too; wait until it clumps in your hand but doesn’t feel squishy.

* Note spots in your garden that stay wet after storms; improve drainage with the addition of organic matter such as compost.

* Keep an eye out for leaning trunks or ground disturbances around a tree’s base, a sign of shifting roots in the wet soil.

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* If aphids are attracted to new growth, knock them off with a strong spray of water or insecticidal soap. To make your own “bug soap,” use two tablespoons liquid soap – not detergent – to one quart water in a spray bottle. Shake it up before use. Among the liquid soaps that seem most effective are Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soaps; try the peppermint scent.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Make plans for your summer garden. Once the soil is ready, start adding amendments such as compost.

* Indoors, start seeds for summer favorites such as tomatoes, peppers and squash as well as summer flowers.

Taste Spring! E-cookbook


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