Category Archives: Weeds

Garden Alert! Summer To-Do List

Rudbeckia 'Herbstonne'

Rudbeckia ‘Herbstonne’

It’s July in Birmingham, time for weekends at the lake and trips to the beach or mountains (and aren’t we lucky to be so close to both?)  So I promise not to make you work too hard in the garden… but remember, a little work now will mean less later – and a prettier garden too!

So, here are a few things to be thinking about – and you don’t even  have to do them all at once! Simply walk through your garden at least every week and try to do at least a couple of the following tasks each time:

Pull weeds that may be coming up and dispose of them. Never put weeds on your compost pile unless you want more! Pulling weeds a bit at a time is so much easier than ignoring them and doing a marathon weed pull later. Trust me on this; I’ve been there. Did you see the post on mulberry weed? It’s one you need to keep out of your garden!

 'Becky' daisies

‘Becky’ daisies

Deadhead (cut off dead “heads” of blooms) any flowers that have passed their prime.


Along the same vein as deadheading is cutting back. Planters benefit greatly from being cut back when they are geting “out of control” in size  (usually around this time of year if you planted them in the early spring).  It’s a difficult thing to do for folks, but try it. Cut back those weedy looking zinnias. That coleus that’s gotten enormous? Cut it back! Those trailing plants that are looking a little worse for wear? Cut them back by at least half.

There, you did it! Now give those plants a bit of fertilizer, keep them watered, and then  stand back while they flush back out. You can thank me later!

Deadheading a phlox bloom...

Deadheading a phlox bloom…


Perennials in your garden will also appreciate a little attention here and there. When your phlox has pretty much bloomed out, trim the spent flower head off.  It will usually rebloom a second time. Once they’re completely done blooming, cut them back by half to neaten things up a bit. Rudbeckias, daisies and coneflowers will also continue to bloom longer if you pay attention and deadhead them just as you do your annuals.


Deadhead individual blooms on balloon flower

Deadhead individual blooms on balloon flower


Balloon flower is one perennial that you should never cut back while it’s blooming or you’ll lose out on a lot of flowers. Simply pinch off old blooms – this is best done daily. Confused about annuals and perennials? Refresh yourself by reading this post on them.



Do you see yellowing leaves on perennials or annuals? It only takes a few minute to “groom” a plant  – simply remove the yellow leaves; after all, they’re not going to turn green again! Daylilys definitely look better if you pay attention to this after you’ve cut back the faded bloom stem. You can even cut their  foliage back by half to neaten the plant up after it’s bloom period is completely over.

midsummer...perennials and annual share this bed.

midsummer…perennials and annual share this bed.

Some late blooming perennials should be getting taller…inserting wide border supports keep them in line (They are one of my favorite support systems.).  Take a look HERE  if you missed the post on late blooming perennials and what to do with them early in the season. The Rudbeckia ‘Herbstonne’ shown in the picture at the beginning of this post  is an example of a perennial I cut back in the spring to control it’s height and bloom time. They are in full bloom around town now.

See the mulch?

See the mulch?







If you need to refresh mulch in beds, now is a good time to get this necessary task done. Not the most fun job, but it keeps the soil temperatures at the root zone of plants at an even temperature – especially important in our hot climate! Mulch conserves moisture, smothers weeds, and eventually will break down, contributing  to the health of the soil too. Pretty good stuff all the way around.

Okay, that wasn’t so bad was it? Now you can pour yourself a glass of wine, pat yourself on the back and enjoy your beautiful, cared for landscape!

By Kris Blevons

It’s Blooming! The ‘Better Late Than Never’ Pollinator Garden

Kris - Better Late Than Never Garden Summer Prep 2016

Preparing the beds…

The pretty but very shy bright yellow goldfinches that have found the ‘Better Late Than Never’ Pollinator Garden across from the shop were still coming to the last of the bachelor buttons, larkspur, and some sunflowers that had seeded from last year’s plants when Bert and I began prepping the four beds for a new season mid-June.Better Late Than Never Garden - Early Summer Prep

So, rather than pull every bachelor button and larkspur out to make way for new, I left what had been the prettiest colors of both, including a lovely lavender larkspur. Who knows, maybe some seeds of it will return in next year’s spring garden…Kris - Better Late Than Never Garden Summer Prep 2016

The beds needed some additional organic matter, and we added bag after bag of topsoil, soil conditioner, and PlantTone to each.

Better Late Than Never Garden

Front beds, early July

Bert and I took turns with my heavy pick axe, each strike of the tool working the amendments in without turning the soil, since that would only turn up buried weed seeds to the light where they’d happily germinate and grow. Then I took a garden fork and loosened it even more.Better Late Than Never Garden

Any good garden begins with this all important work. Remember this in your own and always add more  to your soil before replanting for the new season. We usually have bags of soil conditioner and topsoil in stock, and the PlantTone is a great organic amendment that adds nutrients too.

Tall Marigolds and Zinnias - 'Better Late Than Never' Pollinator Garden

Finally the beds were ready for planting. After raking the beds smooth, it was time to sow the zinnia seeds in the two front beds. I also added lots of plants.

Malabar Spinach Vine - 'Better Late Than Never' Pollinator Garden

Malabar Spinach…

'Better Late Than Never' Pollinator Garden Summer 2016Tall cutting marigolds from a small grower north of Birmingham, tall purple and red gomphrena, a beautiful deep purple salvia and peach porterweed for the hummingbirds, angelonia, pentas, purslane, ornamental okra just for fun, pink mandevilla and malabar spinach vines on the two arbors, as well as seeds of moonvine and hyacinth bean to climb them too.

A few weeks later the last of the bachelor buttons and larkspur were pulled out, and the back two beds were planted with lots of sunflowers and tithonia, the orange flower the monarchs loved last year.   I noticed that a yellow lantana and perennial butterflyweed  had come back from last year also.Annual Milkweed - 'Better Late Than Never' Pollinator Garden

Cleome and Zinnias 'Better Late Than Never' Pollinator GardenOf course the old fashioned Cleome, or spiderflowerhad reseeded, but I also added another, shorter variety and a few more perennials this year, including coneflowers and caryopteris on each corner of the two back beds.






'Better Late Than Never' Pollinator Garden - Looking Through The Arbor





Just as plantings change and evolve with the years, so do structures in the garden. Pinkie painted the back fencing white this year, and we added a trellis piece painted a beautiful blue. I think we should try to grow sweet peas on it this fall, though I’ll have to tie string onto it for them to climb on.

The days have passed. It’s now August and the true heat has settled in; the zinnias love it and are in a riot of bloom: California Giants, Cactus, Peppermint Stripe, Northern Lights – beauties every one.Zinnia Collage

Watering, pulling stray weeds, and deadheading are the important chores on hot summer days, but sometimes I have to stop and simply watch. I see tiny skipper butterflies, bees, and even a garden spider weaving its web near the arbor and bench.

Garden Spider - 'Better Late Than Never' Pollinator GardenThe sunflowers and tithonia will be blooming soon. They were planted a few weeks after the zinnias. I look forward to these towering bee and goldfinch magnets, in every color from pale yellow to deep red, and the brilliant orange flowers of the tithonia too. And, just the other day I threw out some seed of tall yellow cosmos, another butterfly flower.image








Sunflowers and Zinnias - 'Better Late Than Never' Pollinator GardenThe garden will reach its exuberant crescendo in the coming month before beginning a slow descent into fall. The zinnias will most certainly get mildewed leaves, and the heavy sunflower seed heads will droop on sturdy stems. But for now, it’s summer, and the garden is glorious.

By Kris Blevons

Privet – Pull Seedlings Now!

Privet Seedling

They’re easy to pull at this size…

Every time I take a walk through my garden in February I’m on the lookout for tiny Chinese  privet seedlings that appear in my natural areas. More than likely these invasive shrubs are in your neighborhood and can easily muscle out more desirable plantings if you’re not careful.

Look HERE at a comprehensive post from Mississippi State on controlling this noxious invasive and resolve to keep it out of your landscape!

Unfortunately, privet is just one of the invasive plants  that lurk just beyond my property line. We’ve learned to spot the tiny seedlings in the late winter and early spring, before they get large, and pull them then to keep it in check since we can’t completely get rid of them from the surrounding areas.  Birds eat the seeds and drop them indiscriminately, so it’s a never ending battle.

Running bamboo, kudzu  (That scourge of the south!),  and Chinese wisteria, Wisteria sinensis,  are also all along the edge of my property, and we monitor them religiously since they’ll take advantage of any little opening. I can tell you from long experience that running bamboo’s worst month here in Birmingham is May, when shoots appear daily, and are cut down just as quickly.

Of course,  knowledge is power. You know now not to let privet gain a foothold; so monitor your landscape like I do mine, and let all your beautiful and desirable plantings take center stage instead!

By Kris Blevons

Chickweed – Don’t Let It Smother Your Spring Garden!

Chickweed - Stellaria mediaChickweed, Stellaria media, is one of those weeds that isn’t there until, seemingly overnight, it’s everywhere in garden beds and lawns. A winter weed, cooler weather is conducive to its rapid growth. Where I find it most annoying is its rapid spread in flower beds of pansies and other cool season annuals. Fortunately, because it’s a winter weed, it’s usually gone by June with the onset of summer’s heat.

Chickweed has tiny, white, starburst shaped flowers that open on sunny days. Each plant produces thousands of seeds that can sprout immediately in warm weather and can remain viable in soil up to ten years.

If seeds are too deep in  the soil they won’t germinate, but, when they’re close to the soil surface, they will germinate readily and grow very quickly in cool, wet conditions. Applying a pre-emerge weed killer to lawn areas in September will help keep this out of your grass. But if you still spot it’s light green leaves in your winter tan lawn,  mowing before it goes to seed will help control it.

I hand weed it out of my flower beds, taking care to throw everything I pull into a garbage bag since any stray piece left in the bed will root, causing more work…

Chickweed - Stellaria media

Chickweed’s common name is appropriate because it’s a favorite food of chicks that eat the leaves and seeds. This could be a good reason to get some chickens! It’s also edible if any of you are so inclined, or you can leave it for the birds and rabbits, who also like it. Now that I think about it, next time I’m weeding it out of my flower beds, maybe I should save some to  try in a salad!

For even more details on chickweed, take a look HERE at a Penn State weed management post.



Late February and March To-Dos

See the green growth at the base of this snapdragon?

See the green growth at the base of this snapdragon?

February is usually the month the temperatures begin to rise, though there is always the possibility of cold weather still through March. This year it’s definitely been colder than usual, and the pretty pansies, snapdragons, and other cool season annuals we all planted last fall have definitely taken a hit.



These pansies need to be deadheaded - they have cold damaged blooms and buds...

These pansies need to be deadheaded – they have cold damaged blooms and buds…

Normally in February, regular deadheading (pinching off faded blooms) should  be done to keep pansies and violas blooming well. Many of the snapdragons you planted will still be green at the bottom, but have dead growth that needs to be clipped off. With temperatures moderating and even rising, they will begin to grow again. In fact, they may be prettier than ever late spring into early summer; think of the cold damage as a rejuvenating pinching back!

Mondo grass, prior to being cut back with a string trimmer...

Mondo grass, prior to being cut back with a string trimmer…


Mid-February is the traditional time to cut back mondo grass, liriope, and acorus  in your landscape before spring growth begins. A string trimmer makes quick work of this job. Don’t wait too long to take care of this necessary grooming maintenance or you’ll risk damaging new growth.

This big clump of miscanthus needs to be cut down to make way for fresh growth...

This big clump of miscanthus needs to be cut down to make way for fresh growth…






Do you have tall perennial grasses in your landscape? They should also be cut back now. The easiest way to address large clumps of grasses is to bundle them up with strong twine or a bungee cord, then, if it’s a small clump, cut it back with your hand pruners. Or, if the clump is large, use a power hedge trimmer and simply cut the entire clump to the ground.  Again, don’t wait too long to tackle this chore or the new spring growth will already be up. Be very careful with these large perennial grasses; wear long sleaves to protect your arms and glasses to protect your eyes from the sharp grass blades.

It’s still a bit early to fertilize shrubs and trees in anticipation of spring growth – that is best left for the end of March into April.  However, if you didn’t shred your leaves this fall and work them into garden beds, resolve to do it this year. Adding any organic matter to beds helps loosen soil and provides nutrients,  contributing to the overall health of your soil and microbes that live in it.

These 4'x8' beds are just the right size for a few veggies...

These 4’x8′ beds are just the right size for a few veggies…

Have you been thinking about creating a new bed in your landscape? It’s a great time to do this as well. Perhaps you’d like to have a vegetable garden this spring. Even a small area of 4’x8′ can provide enough space to grow a couple of tomato plants or some peppers or a combination of a few different things.

The one thing to remember when making a new planting bed is you must add organic matter to our clay soil – leaf mulch, cow manure, soil conditioner, homemade compost (Do you have a compost pile? You should!).  Work as much organic matter as possible into your new bed. This will aid in drainage and soil fertility and make it easier to plant too!  If you have old newspapers, these can be laid over the top of your bed and a thick layer of mulch or leaf mold placed on top. Not only does the newspaper smother weed seeds you may have brought to the surface but it will decompose – the perfect way to recycle your newspaper!

Narcissus 'Baby Moon' foliage beginning to come up through the ipheion...

Narcissus ‘Baby Moon’ foliage beginning to come up through the ipheion…

You may have perennial bulbs appearing in your garden. As this foliage emerges, it is the time to fertilize them with a bulb fertilizer. If they seem crowded and don’t bloom well,  consider dividing into smaller clumps this spring.

Taken a bit at a time, these tasks aren’t too demanding, and the deadheading, cutting back, and fertilizing will make your landscape shine!


Mulberry Weed…Keep An Eye Out For This One!

imageMulberry weed, Fatuoua villosa, is a weed you definitely want to get rid of if you ever see it in your flower beds or any part of your landscape. Another common name is hairy crab weed – that doesn’t sound very pleasant does it? I cuss this weed out every time I see one (or more) in my garden…the main problem with this noxious weed is that it spreads by seed…and the seeds occur on very tiny plants. In my research, I keep finding that maintaining a 2″-4″ layer of mulch will help smother germinating seeds, and that pre and post emergent herbicides are very effective. Hower, because it grows so closely among desirable plants, using herbicides can be problematic, and not my favorite solution anyway.


It”s native to East Asia, with a range including Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, Tonkin, Okinawa and the Ryukyu Islands.  It was spotted in Louisiana in 1964 by J.W. Thieret, but it had been cited in New Orleans as early as 15 years before. If this is the case, it probably entered North America as early as the late 1940’s, possibly brought back by returning troops from World War II.  From there it’s suspected to have come into the Southeastern United States on nursery stock.

Since its introduction into the Southeast, it has been reported in states from Florida to Indiana, east of the Mississippi, including  Texas, north to Oklahoma, Arkansas, southern Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland and West Virginia. It has also been reported in California and Washington State out west, and in the eastern and lower Midwest in south-central Ohio and southern Michigan.

imageListed as a noxious and invasive weed, it gets it’s common name because it looks similar to mulberry tree seedlings when they’re 4″ tall…but this herbaceous weed has a taproot and can grow 3′-4′ tall. You never, ever want them to get to that point though!!!!  It has purplish green flowers with no petals, and the seeds, which appear on it when it’s not even 2″ tall, are explosively discharged up to 4′ from the original plant. Because of this, there is never just one of this weed, but more likely, colonies of it. It’s easy to pull when young, but because it develops a taproot, it becomes more difficult to pull as the plant gets larger.  Be vigilant in eradicating this weed, and dispose of any that you hand pull into a trash bag immediately – don’t ever put it in your compost pile.