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Weed control, is there any?

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I’ve recently had questions about how people can get rid of weeds in their lawn now and what kind of weed and feed should they do.  First up – do NOT fertilize your lawn in hot weather.  Yes, I know it’s recently been cool but we also had some very hot days and will likely have more.  The best times to fertilize are later in August and mid-October.

stressed lawn

Fall is the best time to control perennial broadleaf weeds. At this time of year (mid-September through mid-October), these plants are storing carbohydrates for winter, actively growing and will readily take up the herbicide. Often, a one-time, relatively low rate of application of an appropriate herbicide will be effective. Since much of the other landscape plant material is either going dormant for the winter or has been removed from the garden and flower beds, there is less chance for off-target plant injury.  There are a number of broadleaf weed herbicides (weed     killers) available for use on lawns. Only apply to actively growing weeds.  Choices found in garden centers typically include 2,4-D (the most commonly used).  It was reevaluated by the EPA in 2005.  MCPP (2-(2-methyl-4-chlorophenoxy) propionic acid); or dicamba (3,6-dichloro-o-anisic acid); with two and three-way combinations available.

Could this be your lawn?  clover?  dandelions?  Oh, it’s definitely mine!



This is an extensive article by University of Minnesota Extension “Control options for Minnesota lawn and landscape weeds”

The use of corn gluten meal as a herbicide was discovered during turfgrass disease research conducted at Iowa State University. CGM was observed to prevent grass seeds from sprouting. Further research has shown that it also effectively prevents other seeds from sprouting, including seeds from many weeds such as crabgrass, chickweed, and even dandelions.  Corn gluten meal [University of Minnesota extension] is effective only against seeds, not existing plants. Annual weeds that are already up and growing will not be killed by products made of corn gluten meal. They’ll die on their own, though, by the end of autumn. But most of the seeds they produce later in the season shouldn’t sprout – provided you’ve applied the CGM properly and at the correct time. Crabgrass, foxtail, purslane, and prostrate pigweed are examples of annual weeds found in lawns.  CAVEAT: The jury is still out with some folks on how effective CGM is and with it’s timing issues and the current price of corn, many are opting out of this option. 

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Is your garden bugged?

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Mine has seen a few.  This year doesn’t appear quite as bad as previous but still, there are some insects that are doing a little munching.

Earwigs, namely.  They don’t necessarily do a lot of damage but they are frightful looking!


It’s the pincers that do me in!  I found a product that’s safe to use even in your vegetable garden.  It’s called Sluggo Plus.  It’s a blend of iron phosphate, a natural soil element, and spinosad, which is derived from a naturally occurring soil dwelling bacteria.  Sluggo Plus is compressed into easy-to-use bait pellets. You scatter the product on the soil around or near plants the plants you want protected.  You can also toss it around your garden perimeter to reduce migration from moist and shady areas where pests take daytime refuge.   Not only does this stuff kill earwigs but it also puts the bite on  cutworms, sowbugs aka pillbugs, slugs & snails.  btw, plain Sluggo does NOT work on earwigs.  Another caveat I learned from research is to use the granular form, not the liquid.


Sowbugs aka pillbugs

Slugs and snails

Sluggo Plus

Here’s another completely organic way to deal with earwigs, roll up some wetted newspaper and when the offending bugs are taking themselves to shade during the day inside the newspaper, you scoop it up and toss in the trash.

There still seems to be some debate on the toxicity of spinosad, however, I found an article from the University of Connecticut that basically says, “don’t worry”.    Spinosad is also said to take out cabbage looper and other vegetable garden nemeses.

You could also try Monterey Garden Insect Spray.  This also contains spinosad.  They claim it kills broadleaf weeds too.  Check your local garden center and also peruse the web.  You may find the product cheaper online, depending on how much shipping you have to pay.

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Yellowing tomato leaves

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My tomato plants are really looking “mostly” good.  I’ve even harvested a few ‘Mighty Sweet’ cherry tomatoes.  However, the leaves on one of my plants are yellowing.  I admit, not all my plants remain glorious throughout the growing season!  I did some checking as I hadn’t had that issue before. This is the second season of growing vegetables at my new home. The yellowed leaves are all at the bottom.

yellowed tomato leaves

As I’ve said before, diagnostics can be a difficult thing.  At the time of this writing, the leaves had only yellowed.  There was no sign of brown spots or rotting fruit.  I thought perhaps it was not enough nitrogen in the soil.  I haven’t fertilized them since planting.  However, in less than a week, the bottoms of some of the fruit have rotted and I’ve seen some brown spots.  Could be blight.  I’ll add that only 2 of my plants have this and they are both heirloom tomato hybrids from Burpee.  Check out this link from the Colorado State University extension on Recognizing Tomato Problems.

This video is from a show I did last year called ‘Dig In Minnesota’ and features Tom McKusick the Publisher of my favorite magazine “Northern Gardener”.  Tom grows up to 80 varieties of heirloom tomatoes!  He KNOWS what he’s talking about!

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Gypsy Moths

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It’s been all over the news but what is it?  The gypsy moth is an invasive forest pest from Europe that is one of the most damaging tree defoliators currently in the U.S. Aspen and oak top the list of over 500 preferred host species.

Gypsy Moths female on the left male on the right

Gypsy Moths
female on the left male on the right

Gypsy moth caterpillars feed on leaves of deciduous trees and are present in early to mid-summer.  The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is starting an aerial assault this week over 50,000 acres in northeastern Minnesota.  2013 trapping results showed a significant number of the pest yet small enough to be treated.

gypsy moth caterpillars 2

They are voracious eaters and can completely defoliate a tree in short order.  Repeated defoliation can kill a tree and change the mix of tree species which affects wildlife.  Outdoor recreation areas are then affected due to bare trees and the caterpillars and their waste fall from the trees.   ICK!

Gypsy Moth egg mass

Gypsy Moth egg mass

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is starting an aerial assault this week over 50,000 acres in northeastern Minnesota.  2013 trapping results showed a significant number of the pest yet small enough to be treated.  The males only live a couple of days so their only job once they emerge is to mate.

According to the MDA the treatment will disrupt their mating but is not harmful to anything else.  Areas to be treated include all of Duluth, Hermantown, Proctor and an area near Ely.  This pest is on the DNR’s invasive list.

Because the Gypsy Moth is a non-native, it has no natural predators allowing it to reproduce much more easily.  So, what can YOU do?  Don’t transport firewood.  That may sound like no big deal but it makes a difference.


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Dog Vomit Slime Mold – yes, that’s it’s name

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Dog Vomit Slime Mold – yes, that’s it’s name

Ugh, sounds awful!  It’s actually pretty amazing fungi!  Dog Vomit Slime Mold, aka DVSM,  loves decaying wood mulch.

It doesn’t take long to move across your mulch.  In fact, if you stand there long enough, you may see it move!  Check out Strange Things in my Yard.

More pics of DVSM:

Dog Vomit Slime Mold yellow

Another fascinating fungi is the “Fairy Parasol” aka Japanese Umbrella Inky Cap.  This fragile fungi is really quite pretty and loves to attach itself to dying trees.  I found this one growing on an old Cottonwood tree.

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Chiming in on mini hostas

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Sitting on my porch there’s a gentle breeze .  I can hear chimes in the background  It’s a beautiful low meditative sound that’s got me thinking about a fairy garden.  Hmmm…. well, these are gnomes but it was a start back in the day…

gnome garden

Add some fairies and some mini hosta, along with a few more fun plants and you’ve got yourself a Fairy Garden.  Of course, then you can add all kinds of fun things for your fairies.

The first mini-hosta I spotted was called “Cameo”.  An adorable little 6 inch tall variegated beauty that’s zone 3 hardy.  It has small round green leaves with creamy edges.

Hosta 'cameo'

Hosta ‘cameo’

It’s the opposite of ‘Pandora’s Box’, a mini hosta that’s hardy to zone 4.

Hosta - Pandoras Box

Hosta – Pandoras Box

One of the mini-hostas that is a must for a fairy garden is called ‘Blue Mouse Ears’ – an 8 inch little fella with thick blue/grey leaves that are adorable.

Hosta - Mouse Ears

Hosta – Mouse Ears

For a bright burst this little 8 inch hosta brings sunrise in.  It’s called ‘Rainforest Sunrise’, the leaves emerge a solid light green changing to a dark green edge filled in with radiant gold! The leaves are thick and glossy which helps deter slugs.  The thicker the leaf, the more textured the leaf, the less interested slugs are in munching on them.

Hosta - Rainforest sunrise

Hosta – Rainforest sunrise

Speaking of textured leaves, ‘Little Sunspot’ is just at the edge of a mini-hosta by growing to 10 inches but it’s gorgeous leaves are another bright spot in the Fairy Garden.

Hosta - Little sunspot

Hosta – Little sunspot

Certainly mini hosta don’t have to be used in a Fairy Garden.  They’d look great in a rock garden too.

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Muscle (organic) mulch

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I believe I made myself clear yesterday about my feelings on rock mulch!  So what would I use?

I prefer wood chips.  The above are colored red to add contrast.  (Some people don’t like colored mulch as they think it’s takes away from the plants, as always, it’s your choice) I did this back in 2007 and laid down landscape fabric.  If I had to do it again, I would just cultivate and lay down the wood chips right on the ground.  The weeds find a way no matter what.  The landscape fabric ends up becoming a problem later anyway.  The below pics are more recent, I pulled weeds, incorporated compost and laid down newspaper, then mulch.

Rejuvenation of perennial garden

more perennial elements


The above is a gentle reminder to create a “donut” of mulch NOT a “volcano”!  ;-)  By the way, that’s a ‘Parker Pear’ tree that has delivered pears for a few years.  It’s at least 4 times the size now.  It’s planted next to a ‘Summer Crisp’ for pollination.  Very tasty!

There are plenty of other organic options for mulch:

  • non-chemically treated grass clippings
  • shredded leaves
  • pine needles
  • pecan shells
  • cocoa bean – some people think that this is toxic to dogs, I think they’d have to eat quite a bit of it
  • aged corncobs (I tried to find a picture for you but no such luck)

Iowa State University has a good article on Organic Mulches.

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Superstar (inorganic) mulch

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I think it’s time for the mulch talk.  We know it’s a good idea but what KIND of mulch should you get.  Organic vs Inorganic.  The first question to ask yourself is what do I want my mulch to do?  Do I want it to just sit and look pretty or do I want it to work for the money I put into it?   There are good reasons for both options.  Today we’ll focus on inorganic mulch or Superstar mulch as I call it.

Rock Mulch, okay, I have a bias against this stuff.  It’s a pain the b….ack.  Side.  If you’re using it as a weed suppressant than expect to have to use chemicals to kill the weeds that eventually come up through it because moving it is HARD work.

However, there are people who still want it, so if that’s you, then go ahead.  But first, take a sample home.  Most places will allow you to take a sample and see if it’s really the color you want.  Also, I would limit where you put it.

rock mulch stonescape

This isn’t a bad place to use rock, however, you’ll still be cleaning this out from blown leaves and weeds will show up.  LIFE wants to grow!  ;-)

rock mulch display

As you can see there are certainly plenty of choices.

Recycled Rubber Mulch is another inorganic choice.  It’s an idea for the childrens playground or in an area you have no plans to plant.  Rubber mulch doesn’t breathe.  No weeds will come up but getting water, nutrients and air to the plants you want to thrive, will be a problem.  There are some studies suggesting it gives off toxins and gets too hot for plants.  There are 2 schools of thought on the subject and I think it’s one you have to decide for yourself.

Recycled rubber mulch

Recycled rubber mulch

Here’s something I don’t recommend:

Rubber mulch tree ring

Rubber mulch tree ring

They claim that air, water and nutrients can get through, if that’s true, then so can weeds.  And then you’ve got the weeds coming up through rubber.  Tough to pull!  Also, rocks and rubber heat up.  That’s not a good thing for most plants, they don’t need the extra hot soil.

Here’s some information from Nature’s Way Resources.  Of course they do not recommend rubber mulch but you might want the information they offer.

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Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Grassology

I was talking with a friend last week who told me about a friend of hers that just planted low maintenance grass and I was intrigued!  Who doesn’t like low maintenance grass!!  This stuff is called Grassology.


The claim is that the roots of this grass grows 4 times longer than “normal” grass seed, is a dwarf variety that needs little mowing and is even insect and disease resistant.  I searched for reviews and found plenty that seemed to have a connection to the company itself.  Not really a good sign.

No where on the website did I find what types of grass seed are in the mix.  However, I did find a University of Arkansas Extension review and they posted the label:

grassology seed mixThese are cool season grasses, that’s good for us, but not for Arkansas, where it was purchased from.  I found a video review from EpicReviewGuys:

Grassology seed mix epic review

I have no idea what “Go & Grow coating” is but there’s nearly 50% in THIS mix.  This review was done in Texas.  If you read the reviews on the Youtube sight.  There are more this guy did.  But you’ll see that while it turned green, it sure looked like a lot of weeds to me.  ALSO, it’s a lot more expensive.

The website also claims that it’s “scientific”.  I found no evidence of that on their website or anywhere else.  I DID find how they suggest to seed.  The exact same way you would with any other seed mixture.  Make sure the weeds are gone, there’s good seed to soil contact and water every day for about 30 days and then baby it while it grows roots.  BTW, the best time to seed your lawn in Minnesota is about August 20th or so into the middle of September.  Here’s a link to the University of Minnesota Extension about seeding lawns.  This includes the type of seed mix for sun/shade conditions and how to do it.  Buying your seed from your local nursery and talking with their professionals makes a lot more sense to me.

Honestly, if it sounds too good to be true…  well, you know how that goes!

Below is a picture of a patch of lawn that was done at my previous home with grass seed from a local nursery:

lawn prep

lawn prep

repaired lawn

repaired lawn

This area was kept moist every day for a few weeks until it started to sprout and then it was kept watered periodically.  It still looks this nice after a few years.

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Deer resistant plants

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While I admire the brown-eyed beauty of the white tail deer, I do NOT admire their munching on my plants!

These 2 delightful deer were on their way to my Hosta Cafe.  There are deer “resistant” plants.  Notice I said “resistant” not “proof”!

Well, short of not feeding them, there are some plants that deer don’t particularly care for.  They include:

  • Columbine
  • Coneflower
  • Sage
  • Yarrow
  • Lily of the Valley
  • Lenten Rose
  • Bleeding Heart
  • Foxglove
  • Heliopsis
  • Beebalm aka Monarda
  • Boxwood
  • Barberry
  • Juniper
  • Mint

Think plants that are hairy, thorny, prickly, sticky, poisonous.  Really the things that bother us, bother them.  They don’t care for the intense scent of mint.  Personally, I love it but it IS invasive.

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