As I head out into my yard for the dreaded chore of pulling weeds, I offer you weed advice from Snoqualmie Valley’s best of the best when it comes to gardening – The Master Gardeners Association. In this month’s guest post they offer weed advice (too bad they won’t do my weeding) and also some of their favorite plants, too. Question for the pros… why won’t the deer eat my weeds? Life would be so much easier!
Weeds, weeds, go away …
The Snoqualmie Valley woos weeds! First the rain, then the sun, then rain again; this weather keeps weeds happy, healthy and multiplying like crazy. To paraphrase Sun Tzu (The Art of War), “know your enemy.” The more you know about how weeds grow, the better prepared you are to conquer them.
Weeds come in three categories: annual, perennial, or woody.
• Annual weeds: These familiar weeds grow in perennial beds, around trees and shrubs, and where water and nutrients are limited, including cracks on paving edges. Annual weeds grow from seed set in the area in previous years (and may persist in the soil for many years) or get blown in opportunistically. Annual weeds often seen by Valley gardeners are: chickweed, common purslane, common mallow, annual sow thistle, and shotweed. They grow rapidly, flower, and produce seed for later generations. Controlling annual weeds. Best practices are to pull them up by hand, avoid turning the soil exposing more weed seeds to light, and to add mulch to suppress future weeds. Mowing can reduce bigger plants and chemicals may be used in conjunction with the above controls.
• Perennial weeds: Perennial weeds are generally characterized by a thick, fleshy root system that stores food reserves such as dandelion, horsetail, clover, plantain, morning glory and buttercup. These weeds propagate by seeds (dandelion), runners (buttercup), and rooting canes (blackberries). Some die back during the winter while others continue to grow all year-long. Controlling perennial weeds. Morning glory, blackberry, and horsetail can be managed but not totally eliminated by repeated cutting back. Clover can be cut short to remove blossoms and dandelions should be kept mowed to they don’t set seed. If chemical control is needed, spot treat individual weeds.
• Woody weeds: Woody weeds are perennials with root systems that store food reserves. Common ones that are especially difficult to handle are Himalayan blackberries, Scot’s broom, poison oak, and seedling trees like alder and big leaf maple. Woody weeds generally sprout in the spring and grow vigorously until cold weather. Controlling woody weeds: The longer these weeds inhabit a landscape, growing a better root system, the more difficult they are to control. Look for seedlings in early spring as they may crowd out and kill desirable plants in the landscape. Treat them the same as perennial weeds.
Now is the time to deter the Weed Mission, which we all know is to take over every square inch of exposed soil. Pull them, mow and cut them down. If you use chemicals, be sure it’s specific for the weed you’re trying to eradicate and read the label for application instructions.
Further resources: Northwest Weeds by Ronald Taylor (Mountain Press Publishing Co.); Weeds of the West by Larry Burrill et al (University of Wyoming) Editor: Tom Whitson; Plants of the Northwest by Jim Pojar and Andy MacKinnon (Lone Pine Publishing)
Plants We Love: Rhododendron
There’s a reason the Pacific rhododendron is Washington’s state flower – it likes it here. We have acidic soil, for the most part, in which plants such as rhododendrons, azaleas, foxglove, heathers and blueberries thrive. While most of us don’t have the wild, native rhododendron in our yards, the cultivated varieties offer a wide range of size, texture and color as well as disease resistance.
Besides offering colorful blooms in late spring, rhododendrons provide leathery, evergreen foliage year-round and only require filtered sun and regular watering. Fertilize with an organic fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants just before buds swell and then after the flowers have finished. You may carefully pinch off the spent blooms for aesthetic purposes, but it’s not necessary. And the best reason to have rhodies in your yard?: deer don’t eat them.
Garden Idea: Plant Sales
You can buy plants at nurseries year-round, however, spring plant sales offer such a variety of plants at incredible prices that they’re hard to pass up. Here are just a few of the best coming up in the next few weeks:
- Arboretum Foundation FlorAbundance Spring Plant Sale, April 27-28, 2300 Arboretum Dr E, Seattle, www.arboretumfoundation.org
- King County Master Gardener Plant Sale, May 3-5, 3501 NE 41st Street, Seattle, www.mgfkc.org/events/plant-sale
- Sno-Valley 18th Annual Plant Sale, May 3-4, 32610 NE 32nd St, Carnation, www.snovalleysenior.org
- Seattle Tilth’s May Edible Plant Sale, May 3-5, 4649 Sunnyside Ave N, Seattle, www.seattletilth.org/special_events
Additional gardening information can be found on our website at www.svmastergardeners.com. Bring your gardening questions to the Snoqualmie Valley Master Gardeners at the Nursery at Mt. Si on most Saturday mornings through mid-June.
[The authors, Dottie Kelly and Ann Acton are master gardeners in the WSU Extension Master Gardener Program. Extension programs and employment are available to all without discrimination. Evidence of noncompliance may be reported through your local Extension office.]