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Take out some frustration -- weed!


Bedstraw produces burrs that catch on socks, pant legs and pets' fur. Get rid of this weed as soon as possible. (Photo: Debbie Arrington)

Tackle invasive plants before they take hold



Is this a weed?

I get that question every workday at the Fremont Community Garden. I often ask it of myself as I tackle my plot or my garden at home, too.

A mystery plant sprouts and grows vigorously; will it be a bonus veggie or some unknown flower? Or will it be something invasive and impossible to control?

Spring is prime weed season in Sacramento with unwanted plants seemingly growing overnight. They spring out of nowhere and can quickly crowd out seedlings and new transplants.

A scuffle hoe works well in the battle against weeds.
(Photo courtesy UC IPM/by Jack Kelly Clark)
To avoid a takeover, whack weeds while they’re young. Cut them off just below the soil line with a hoe. A sharp scuffle hoe works wonders.

One of the fastest-growing and most-annoying weeds in Sacramento right now is bedstraw ( Gallium aparine ). This weed has many other nicknames including cleavers, catchweed, sticky weed and goosegrass. (Geese love to munch on this edible weed and deposit its seeds wherever they go.)

Bedstraw is covered with sticky hairs that catch onto whatever brushes its stems. (Hence, some of those nicknames.) If allowed, this weed forms tiny burrs, which are its seedpods. Those burrs seem to gravitate onto pets and are a pain to get out of fur. They also readily attach themselves to socks and pant legs.

Interestingly, bedstraw is a relative of coffee, and those burrs contain caffeine. They’ve been used as a coffee substitute. (Note to self: Something to remember if things get really desperate.)

No matter: Don’t sleep on bedstraw eradication or it will keep you up at night.

Other common weeds right now: Bermuda buttercup and its cousin creeping woodsorrel, nutsedge, bindweed and, of course, dandelions.

Some weeds such as dandelions and purslane are edible. But do some homework before you munch; others such as common groundsel can be toxic.

Which weeds are invading your garden? Check out the great resources at the University of California’s integrated pest management website,
ipm.ucanr.edu .

The UC Master Gardeners of Sacramento County have compiled several helpful tools for gardeners including a weed gallery, identification guides and tips for weed management. Find them at http://sacmg.ucanr.edu/Managing_weeds/ .

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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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