The third week of May is an important time to get control of the weeds in your garden. The wet spring has made millions of shot weed explode into generations of weeds.
Mulching right on top of short, annual weeds such as shot weed can control this white flowering weed without having to hand pull or spray every weed. Dig out the dandelions, but cut horsetail, bindweed and morning glory right at ground level.
When you cut weeds to the ground, they will resprout. You will need to cut them several times before a lack of foliage starves out the roots. Edge the lawn and install a border to keep the grass from spreading into flowerbeds. Outlining the lawn with a border gives it a tidy look so the eye can more easily ignore a few lawn weeds . Strive for a “good enough” lawn rather than a perfect patch of grass that is moss- and totally weed-free. Nature abhors monoculture, so trying to have a perfect lawn is fighting Mother Nature.
Q. Are there any vegetable crops that don’t need much weeding? I enjoy growing and planting veggies but am too busy in the summer for lots of weeding. — R., Email
A. In general crops that are fast growers such as corn and pole beans and plants with big leaves that shade the soil such as zucchini and pumpkins can compete with weeds. A mulch of wood chips around crops is best applied after the soil warms up in June. Organic mulches block out and smother weeds but will also shade the soil and keep it from heating up in late May. This is fine for trees and shrubs but heat-loving vegetables need warm soil to grow quickly.
Q. When does one prune wisteria? Love mine but it is growing wild. —J.J., Tacoma
A. Pruning after blooming is the general rule of green thumb. If you prune wisteria immediately after it blooms this will encourage a second flush of flowers and keep your wisteria in bloom most of the summer. Cut back long wisteria tendrils to a main branch and snip off the dangling flower clusters where they meet their source.
Q. My lilac bush has very few blooms. Is the cold weather to blame? — W.T., Kenmore
A. Lilacs like full sun and an open, exposed site, so don’t blame the cold; blame lack of sunshine instead. Pamper your lilac by removing the few spent blooms as soon as the flowers fade and sprinkle a slow-release plant food around the base of the shrub to encourage new growth. If any flowering shrub refuses to flower after extra attention, then move it or lose it. Transplanting a lilac to a windy site away from the house can sometimes encourage more flowers. You can also find improved lilac varieties including dwarf lilacs at local nurseries. Plants are not like children and you do not owe them a lifetime commitment. Threatening a lackluster plant with the shovel solution sometimes does the trick.
Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of several books. Reach her through her website at binettigarden.com.