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Landscape Cleanup Continues

Posted by Richard Hentschel -

We have had some good weather to begin our fall clean efforts in the home landscape and days where it has been too cold and rainy to get out in the yard as we have wanted. Those days have allowed us to see what else will need to be done before the "snow flies" Client calls to the Master Gardeners has been the that gardeners have seen an abundance of weeds in their beds as they have begun the annual clean up. Most of those weeds got a start back several weeks ago while we were still struggling to keep our garden plants, trees, shrubs and evergreens alive. Those weed seeds just needed a little encouragement, mainly water and we sure were and some open space to take over which we had as our desirable plants were shrinking in size or at least not developing fully. Gardeners are finding dandelions and thistles among the annual grasses. More recently the winter annuals have begun to sprout. The most common one is chickweed. Chickweed really likes cool moist soils and will even continue to grow underneath snow cover in protected locations.

The challenge is to remove those weeds during our cleanup efforts and not create a seed bank for future years. Weeds that are bi-annuals will have only grown the rosette of foliage for this year and pose no threat if dug up and put into the compost bins. Perennials like the dandelion are still flowering and setting seed. If you are digging those up, do not include any flowers if you are composting. It only takes a few days for those yellow blooms to have viable seed. Annual grasses with seed heads pose another risk of being spread around. The plants themselves are fine, cut off and dispose of seed heads. Foxtails are the most commonly found grasses in the beds. They seem to like growing up through the center of iris and daylilies where they remain camouflaged among the flower foliage until we begin to see the seed heads. If you are hoeing or pulling weeds with seed heads, be careful to get them out of the garden beds and dispose of them. Since most gardeners do what is called "cold composting" the weed seeds are not destroyed if put into the compost bin.

As the cleanup continues and you are adding to the compost with green parts of our perennials along with the brown spend seed heads and flower stems, the more we can cut those up into smaller pieces and mix them together the better the compost pile will work. You need both the green and browns to get the compost pile really working. If you are pulling weeds, do not worry about the soil attached to the roots. That soil has the decay organisms that are needed by the compost pile. If you find yourself adding a lot of foliage, then add a shovel full of soil every so often.

Given our weather, garden cleanup will take us into November, so dress warmly, have several pairs of gloves so our hands do not get wet and cold and use something on the ground to cushion your knees and keep them dry too.

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