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John Fulton

John Fulton
Former County Extension Director

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In The Backyard

Horticulture columns and tips done on a timely basis
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Chickweed, Henbit, and a To Do List

Posted by John Fulton -


This time of year we are getting quite a few questions about certain lawn weeds. The questions are generally related to identification, and then what to use to get rid of the stuff.

Henbit is the number one weed of the week, and chickweed is a very close second. Chickweed and henbit are weeds that get going very early in the spring. We even call them winter annuals. Right now chickweed stands out in yards, since it is quite abundant and has a lighter green color than grass and most other weeds. I can't begin to tell you how to identify it, it gets even harder when there is a common chickweed and mouse-ear chickweed. Henbit is easier to identify since it has purple flowers and smells like mint. As for control, that gets a bit easier.

The straight 2,4-D that is used on dandelions seems to act like a fertilizer for chickweed and other problem weeds. Combinations that contain 2,4-D, MCPP, and dicamba are rated very effective on chickweed, henbit, red sorrel, purslane, white clover, and others. These combinations are sold under several different trade names. You can find these at most hardware, discount, and lawn and garden stores. Just check the label under active ingredients and check for two long chemical names and dicamba. You can also check to see that it says it will control chickweed and henbit. This group of chemicals is effective in the 50 degree range and up. As with any chemical control, read and follow label instructions very carefully. There will be some cautions on these product labels concerning injury to sensitive plants that you should be aware of. This is because dicamba can drift as a vapor for a few weeks after you apply it if the weather gets hot and sunny. If you put down new grass seed, don't use the chemical control at this time. The rule of thumb is to mow new grass three times before you apply anything (rough translation of three months after seeding).

Current Topics

Here are some of the current items of note:

· Grass seedings: Remember to finish up new seedings this week. Of course, you may have luck with later seedings depending on temperature and moisture conditions. Frequently later seedings start well, and gradually disappear in the heat of the summer. Remember no herbicide treatments of any type during the spring growing season.

· Crabgrass control: It's about time for the preventative applications to control crabgrass and other annual weeds. Soil temperatures above 55 for about a week are the trigger for germination. Another indicator is forsythia in bloom.

· Nuisance pests: With some warm days, we have seen the return of nuisance pests. Boxelder bugs, Asian lady beetles, millipedes, and more have started moving. These are nuisance pests because they really don't do any harm. The best control in a house is to suck them up with a vacuum. Foundation sprays of permethrin or bifenthrin can help reduce the number getting into the house, but they won't eliminate them.

· Start tender transplants: Remember to start tender plants about six weeks ahead of wanting to set them out. This would include your annual flowers, tomatoes, peppers, etc. Wait a week or two on the melons, squash, and eggplant. Many growers start seeds to get a jump on the season for these warm-loving plants.

· Put the Master Gardener Plant Sale on your calendar for April 28, 2007, if you are interested in picking up some quality plants at a reasonable price. More information will be coming out on the plant sale.

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