Chickweed: Wicked or wonderful?


    Is it a wicked weed? Or a delicious, nutritious and attractive ground cover? Mike McGrath reveals what you can do when chickweed comes to play. Plus answers to all your growing questions.

    Question of the Week

    “I used corn gluten meal as a ‘weed and feed’ in the Spring, and my grass looked great. But I did use some chemicals to control chickweed in the summer. What should I do to get rid of the chickweed without chemicals?”

    Bill in Merion Station, PA

    Learn what to do about chickweed »

    Highlights from show for November 8, 2014:

    What to do when slugs are eating your tomatoes

    Paul in Broomall, PA has been noticing holes in the top half of his 7 foot tall tomato plant. Not knowing exactly what it is that is eating his precious, red tomatoes, he calls up Mike for answers. As Paul suspected, Mike confirms that slimy slugs are responsible. Mike suggests, to get rid of them, building raised beds and to buy slug bate at any big garden center or online. He explains that old slug bate from the 60’s and 70’s is very toxic, but he can buy a more modern version that contains yeast and iron. Mike explains that slugs are very attracted to yeast, but when they consume the bait the metal from iron will get in their system and kill them. Mike recommends that it should be sprinkled all over the base of the plant.

    Worm box clean out

    Teresa from Stillwater, OK has been raising red worms for 2 and a half years, and somehow larva has been invading the box where the red worms are being kept. Teresa has cleaned it out to clear the infestation, however, they keep coming back. And even more each time! Mike recommends to “get them out of the house, get them into the compost. If you heat up the compost enough they might not even survive, but harvest some of your worms, keep them in nice, clean soil for a week, and start everything over again. You know every couple of years everybody’s got a worm bin…has to clean it out and start over again for some emergency reason.”

    Are these plant antibiotics working?

    Jerry in Princeton, NJ has a large oak tree that she has been getting a yearly treatment of antibiotics. The tree had a lot of dead wood on it, and she doesn’t know whether she should continue giving the tree the antibiotic. Mike gives her some handy-dandy ideas: Stop putting chemicals in the soil, have the old wood removed in the Spring when the tree has leafed out do some selective, additional pruning to open up the canopy, let more light and air in there, and try to clear the soil at the base of the tree. This will expose the root flare, which isn’t visible. In addition, all trees need good drainage, so Jerry has to solve her issue with water pooling up in the yard.

    How to get better blooms from your hydrangeas

    Bill from Lee Summit, MO has “a couple of hydrangeas, that look beautiful…lots of green, but no blossoms.” Mike explains that hydrangeas are much more fragile than we thought. Mike proposes that winter might have had an effect on them, and took its toll on these delicate flowers. Mike advises him to leave them alone, and wait until Spring time. Check if the plant has any green growth along the stems that survived winter, if so, he should be okay. Mike suggests moving them to a more protected area. When flowers appear, that is when Bill should prune out the branches that don’t have any flowers on them. This little trick makes them appear as if he has three times more flowers than he actually does.

    Fighting fungus

    Arlene in Philadelphia, PA has a Japanese maple, about 50 years old that had fungus on some of the branches. Later on she called a certified arborist to give it a feeding that was apparently too strong for the tree, practically hurting it. Mike likens the fertilizer to a high explosive. Mike says that the green on the branches can either mean it has become too crowded and there isn’t enough air getting to the canopy or it is getting a little moldy and those branches were already dead and this is a fungal organism trying to turn them into soil while they are on the tree. However, Mike considers Arlene lucky for she’s dodged a bullet. Since this summer we had a lot of showers, the water deluded the chemicals out, preventing the tree from actually getting burned from that unbalanced fertilizer.

    Don’t bring in ants with your plants!

    Keith in Camden County, NJ has a meyer lemon tree that he’s been bringing it outside when the sun is out, and in his garage every other day. Keith is concerned about ants and other insects getting into the soil before he brings it in for good this winter. Mike suggests that Keith should take his tree out the next sunny day, set his hose nozzle to the sharpest stream possible and spray the plant thoroughly, repeat after allowing the plant to rest for an hour. “And indoors, make sure it gets bright indirect light”, Mike adds, “You want the sunniest window sill in the house, but you don’t want one that leaks cold air in.”

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