Learn With Us, week of March 5

Weeds – Friend or Foe?
Sun 3/5 3pm – 4pm
Durham Public Library, South Regional Branch, 4505 South Alston Avenue, Durham, NC

Presented by Nan Len, Durham County Extension Master Gardener volunteer,
A weed is a plant that has adopted to thrive and multiply and become difficult to remove in places disturbed by people and animals. Once a gardener sticks a shovel into the earth, a weed will follow. But can a weed be helpful? Come to this presentation to learn a bit more about the intriguing world of weeds.
Free/ Registration required.
Register on line at the Durham County website durhamcountylibrary.org Click on ‘Events’ to find the full calendar of events. Go to the date of the class and sign up. You can also call the Information Desk at South Regional Library to register. 919-560-7410

Winter’s Least Wanted – Broadleaf Annual Weeds

Winter annual and biennial weeds – plants that germinated in fall and were dormant through winter’s cold weather – are in bloom now. These weeds will die off as temperatures warm up, but not before producing the seeds that will become next year’s crop. Ridding my garden of these pesky weeds is at the top of my to-do list right now.

If you have a small amount of weeds or an afternoon free from other obligations, pulling or digging the plants is an environmentally friendly and cost effective way to control them. Our soil is moist right now, which makes it easier to pull the roots out of Durham’s clay. In landscape beds, covering the soil with a layer of mulch keeps light from reaching weed seeds, which greatly reduces germination of new weeds. In lawns, weeds can be reduced by following recommendations that promote thick and healthy lawns and mowing at the recommended height. If you have a large number of winter annuals in your lawn, you may wish to consider applying a pre-emergent herbicide in the early fall. Spot treating with an herbicide before weeds set seed will also reduce spread.

Here are some common winter annuals found in our area:

Hairy bittercress
DSC_0242Photo, Ann Barnes

Hairy bittercress forms a rosette of small leaves. White flowers bloom on long stems and its seeds develop in long, thin capsules. Beware when pulling this weed – the seeds will burst explosively from the capsules when mature. I’ve had more than one hit me in the eye. Pull soon or “you’ll shoot your eye out”.

Common chickweed
DSC_0245Photo, Ann Barnes

Chickweed can spread rapidly to form a thick mat. Roots are shallow, so it is fairly easy to pull by hand. Flowers are small, white, and have five deeply notched petals – notches are deep enough that flowers may appear to have 10 petals rather than 5.







Photo, Ann Barnes


Like its relatives the mints, henbit has square stems. These stems will root where they touch the ground. Leaves are rounded, and the reddish purple flowers are attractive to bees. It can be difficult to control once established.

Henbit is often confused with another weed blooming at this time, purple deadnettle. Purple deadnettle leaves are more triangular in shape, and its leaves often have a red or purple tinge. For a side-by-side comparison of the two, see http://www.uky.edu/Ag/ukturf/5-5-14.html

-Ann Barnes

Wet Enough?

We all know that it has been a wet July. Have you wondered how this month’s rainfall compares with previous years? Master Gardener Volunteer Ellen Herron collects rainfall data for COCORAHS (www.cocorahs.org) at her Durham home. This morning, she reported “We’re now over the 30 year average for July … at least at this station. We’ve received 5.07 inches.  The 30 year average is 4.5 inches.”

You can probably stop doing rain dances for a while.

Here are a few yard and garden chores you might want to add to you to-do list because of all the rain.

  • Mosquitoes breed in standing water. Empty buckets, pot saucers, or other items in your yard that collect water during rains so there are fewer places for them to breed.
  • Slugs and snails like moist conditions as well. They like to hide in dark, damp places – under a board or a brick, for example. Eliminate their hiding places and remove any slugs you find.
  • Warm, moist conditions are favorable for the development of many diseases caused by fungi and bacteria. In many cases, the infected plants should be removed. Please contact the Master Gardener office with any questions.
  • Pull those weeds. It is easier to remove the roots of tough weeds when soil is moist.
  • Take note of particularly wet areas in your yard. Do you have a spot that puddles during heavy rains? You may want to correct the drainage or consider a rain garden.
  • Turn your compost pile, particularly if it is uncovered. A soggy pile can become anaerobic and stinky.