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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 March 26:

Sacramento can expect another inch of rain from this latest storm. Leave the sprinklers off at least another week. Temps will dip down into the low 30s early in the week, so avoid planting tender seedlings (such as tomatoes). Concentrate on these tasks before or after this week’s rain:

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

* Knock off aphids with a strong blast of water or some bug soap as soon as they appear.

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

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to help corral blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees, which are now in bloom and setting fruit.

To prevent sunburn and borer problems on young trees, paint the exposed portion of the trunk with diluted white latex (water-based) interior paint. Dilute the paint with an equal amount of cold water before application.

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

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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