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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, .

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 .


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Dec. 3:

Make the most of gaps between raindrops. This is a busy month!

* Windy conditions brought down a lot of leaves. Make sure to rake them away from storm drains.

* Use those leaves as mulch around frost-tender shrubs and new transplants.

* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.

* Just because it rained doesn't mean every plant got watered. Give a drink to plants that the rain didn't reach, such as under eves or under evergreen trees. Also, well-watered plants hold up better to frost than thirsty plants.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while they're dormant.

* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.

* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.

* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they'll bloom again next December.

* Plant one last round of spring bulbs including daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths, anemones and scillas. Get those tulips out of the refrigerator and into the ground.

* This is also a good time to seed wildflowers such as California poppies.

* Plant such spring bloomers as sweet pea, sweet alyssum and bachelor buttons.

* Late fall is the best time to plant most trees and shrubs. This gives them plenty of time for root development before spring growth. They also benefit from fall and winter rains.

* Lettuce, cabbage and broccoli also can be planted now.

* Plant garlic and onions.

* Bare-root season begins. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb. Beware of soggy soil. It can rot bare-root plants.

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