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Over the Garden Fence

Where gardeners come to find out what's happening out in the yard.
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Planting Struggles


The weather is at least providing gardeners with consistently warming temperatures (mostly) that are in turn warming our garden soil. Of course, what is not so welcoming is the rain seems to continue and not just light spring showers either. Gardeners and farmers alike cannot find a drying pattern long enough before the rain moves in again to get things planted.

Questions to the Master Gardener Help Desk have begun to reveal the frustration of dealing with the weather.

Q: Is there a way to plant my flower and vegetable seeds and transplants in my muddy soil?

A: Small seeded flowers and vegetable seeds have a bit of an advantage over larger seeds. When we do have a drying day or two, the very top of the garden soil dries enough to sow those tiny seeds. There will be plenty of soil moisture to start the seed germination process. Lay down some kind of support over the soil so you do not compact the overly wet soil while you work. For larger seeds that will certainly end up in muddy ground, you can cover the seed with drier soil or finished compost from your bin or pile that is drier as well. Where you literally have to dig a hole for your tomato or pepper transplants, you cannot help but make a mess. The soil you dug out of the hole will not be any good to use to plant with; it will be just too wet. Use some of your compost again or perhaps purchase a good quality bagged topsoil just for planting purposes.

Q: Because it is so wet and I cannot work the ground in my landscape beds, I am seeing a lot of small broadleaved weeds already in flower, what are they?

A: These are very likely winter annuals. Chickweed and speedwell are the culprits. As a winter annual, they germinate late in the season growing large enough to survive the winter, yet remain small to go undetected. They get started about the time most gardeners are "done for the season." By spring, their growth matures and begin to flower. Chickweed has very small white flowers, and speedwell flowers are blue and white striped. Both hug the ground, chickweed more so that speedwell. To prevent them, a fall pre-emergence treatment would need to be used. Neither one responds well to a post-emergence treatment, as they are mature weeds by now and within a few weeks they will naturally die, leaving lots of seed behind to start again late summer. Your normal spring-cleaning of the beds takes out the mature chickweed and speedwell. With the delay in cleaning, future weed seed pressure will be greater this fall and more weeds will be back next spring.

To get help with your lawn and garden questions, contact your local Master Gardener Help Desk. To find hours and details for DuPage, Kane and Kendall counties, visit https://go.illinois.edu/MasterGardenerHelpdkk



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