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MSU Extension Service

Home Grown is an educational, entertaining, question-answer column seen weekly in "News from the Genesee MSUE Office," a weekly newsletter for Genesee County Master Gardeners. Special thanks to the Genesee, Oakland and Livingston county MSU Extension offices for providing this service.

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This week's HomeGrown

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The last couple of years, I have had a terrible problem with some kind of a weed coming up in my groundcover and all over my perennial bed. Iím so frustrated that I have stopped pulling them up. I was in a store recently and saw a product called ďWeed Be Gone.Ē I bought it. When can I spray my weeds and kill them?

I hope never. This isnít technically a weed problem. Itís a word definition problem. But itís word problem that can lead to having no garden at all. You appear to be dividing the plants in he garden into two categories: good plants that you like and pesky weeds that must die. unfortunately, this isnít the same definition as the herbicide manufacturer is using. Theirs is based on science. They are dividing plants into grasses and broad-leafed plants. To go even more scientific, the grasses are monocots and the broad-leafed plants are dicots. They have completely different internal plumbing systems. Thatís the key to how herbicides work. They bump off either monocots or dicots. This could be purchased as either a grass killer or a broad-leafed plant killer. The third possibility is an herbicide that is nonselective. That means it kills both grasses and broad-leafed plants at the same time. Your problem is that all your perennials and groundcover are broad-leafed. So are those naughty weeds. The herbicide canít tell the difference. If you spray, youíll have ďGarden Be Gone.Ē Every time that your weeds flowered and produced seeds, itís added more potential weeds to the garden. The bad new is that there isnít going to be any quick or easy control over your invaders. You might use one of the non-selective herbicides and a foam paintbrush. Dip the brush in the herbicide and gently ďpaintĒ you weeds. Take care to avoid your keepers. After your pests are dead, try to mulch around the perennials with several inches of wood chips. This will cover the leftover seeds so they canít sprout. Youíll just have to be persistent with the weeds in the ground cover and keep painting them as they appear. Sadly, by letting them seed, you have potentially years worth of weeds in waiting to execute.

I just moved to Michigan and have a simple gardening question. Why do people keep telling me that I have to plant my vegetable garden on Memorial Day? 

Itís just your luck; the people that you talked to are the old garden traditionalists. These guys figure that it will now be warm enough for garden vegetables to grow. But notice that I called them traditionalists and not educated or informed. Your veggie garden will have crops divided into two groups. Some are cool season plants and some are warm season. Cool season crops can go in several weeks before the warm season crops and they will do well. They can handle cold and light frosts. Hereís a brief list of cool season vegetables: broccoli, cabbage, kohlrabi, parsley, peas, spinach, radish and onion. Half-hardy vegetables are not quite as cold resistant as the cool season guys. They can go in a week or more after that first list. They are: beet, carrot, chard, lettuce, potato and Chinese cabbage. The warm season ones need to go in when the soil has warmed. If you are putting in transplants, all danger of frost should have passed. The soil temperature should be above 60 degrees so that the seeds wonít rot and the plants will grow. Warm season vegetables include: tomato, peppers and hot peppers, eggplant, beans, cucumber, squash, melons, sweet corn and sweet potatoes. If you are putting in transplants, listen to the nightly weather forecast carefully. If the temperature is going into the low forties or lower, cover the kids up with several layers of newspaper. Remember to uncover them in the morning. So go to the local parade. Most of your garden should already be planted.

Gretchen Voyle, MSU Extension-Livingston County Horticulture
Agent 517/546-3950


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