October 14, 2009

We put clean straw between our garden rows, to keep down weeds, aid moisture retention, and make it easier for Judy to pull weeds in the rows, and harvest the vegetables and flowers she has planted – after I have done the mentally challenging job of fall tilling.  First, I remove the current year’s straw, and spread it over our asparagus bed.  This does a good job of preventing light from reaching the weed seeds in that soil from germinating.  I do not believe in salting the asparagus bed, which might prevent germination of weed seeds, but since I have never seen asparagus growing in salt, I don’t think it benefits the asparagus!

We do use certain chemical weed killers and weed germination preventers, but asparagus is a member of the grass family, grass competes with asparagus in most asparagus plantings, and we do not want to kill our asparagus bed, which is finally so good we have to give away several cuttings, since we love fresh asparagus, and don’t enjoy canned, frozen, or purchased asparagus.  We just wish its season lasted longer.  We wait until the tops turn brown, before mowing it off, and hauling the dead six foot tops off to our burning area, so we can move the above mentioned straw in.

Application of proper chemical weed killers in the fall is very effective, especially against lawn and pasture broad-leaved weeds.  A particular broad-leaved weed seems very active in our lawns again this year, and it is called ground ivy, creeping Jenny, creeping Charlie, or certain curse words I am not allowed to quote.  Wild violets also fall in this same group, but we like the violets, and hope some survive.  These weeds are very difficult to eradicate, and repeated applications may be necessary, after reading the directions before applying. 

This weed was first imported by rich people who traveled afar and thought it an attractive lawn adornment, and dug some (or had some dug up) and brought it home to America – and it spread eventually to our – and maybe – your lawns!

The most effective chemistries in my opinion include in order: Triclopyr (Spotlight), and 2,4-D Carfentrazone-Tricloptyr (Turflon), Fluroxpyr (Spotlight), and 2,4-D.  If applications are made in September or early November at temps of 55 or higher, followed by six hours of sun, research on ground ivy here and at Iowa, shows a second application in three to four weeks should improve control.  We have heard of almost 100% eradication of ground ivy by the following June.

Populations of ground ivy exist that have different susceptibility to herbicides.  One population may not be sensitive to 2,4-D or even TriMec, while a neighbor’s population is extremely susceptible to either.   Therefore, it is important to alternate herbicides when attempting control of ground ivy and maybe violets.  Since ground ivy spreads by stolons (an aboveground horizontal stem that lies along the ground – then grows roots), and rhizomes (underground roots that grow roots at nodes), both these roots are hard to control with a single or a double – or triple year (I can vouch for that!) of cultural practices and herbicide applications.  Multiple years of a comprehensive control may be needed (or maybe into perpetuity!!)           

As lawns start to thin from summer heat, ground ivy and violets often begin to over turf, especially in shaded areas.  If, like me, your lawn or pasture suffers from these vile weeds, these are my recommendations for maximizing control:

1. Mow  at three inches or  higher.  2. Remove as much shade as possible (with your family’s advance approval!). 3.  Increase fertilizer up to four pounds. N/1000 Sq/Ft /yr, applied in the fall!  These products can harm fine fescue, often planted in shady areas. 

2. If you can’t find these chemicals at your favorite garden center, call your nearest farm centers, they probably have it in stock for their customers, and would happily sell it to you at their regular farm price!  . . .  good gardening; and as my Republican Father, and National Geographic member, would say, “Go Obama,” for winning the Nobel! 

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