Archive for Weeds and Insects

Mid-Summer Check-In

So very hot! Almost 100 outside-

So very hot! Almost 100° outside! Stay hydrated…

It’s summer, all right! With temperatures approaching 100° here, there is no more comfortable place to be than in my basement at the computer, blogging without feeling guilty that I should be out working the garden. We have just passed the 4th of July, and now we move on to the “3H” time of summer: Hazy, Hot and Humid. No matter how long you live in the D.C. area, you never really get used to it. Water of all kinds is your friend — whether it’s the beach, pool, sprinkler or hose! And, please make sure to drink your eight glasses a day; it’s not fun to get dehydrated.


When it gets this hot it helps to keep the moisture in by stirring  up and adding some additional mulch in thin spots. Also boost the curb appeal!

When it gets this hot, it helps to keep the weeds down and moisture in by stirring up and adding some additional mulch in thin spots. Your flowers and veggies will love it, and also boosts the curb appeal!





With the exception of a couple of weeks in early June, this has been a very rainy season for us, and that has caused not only extreme growth on established bushes and trees, but also annuals and vegetables to rot because of heat and moisture. I had to replace all of mine, but they are looking fantastic now.

I have coleus in the planters this year. I love the bright splash of color-

I have coleus in the planters this year. I love the bright splash of color, and they are very hardy in the heat-






After losing the first set of annuals at the front door due to too much rain, I put in coleus. Sometimes I see plants in the nursery that seem to be doing so much better than others, so that’s what I bought. I love the huge colorful leaves! I have more of it growing on the back deck and in the window box — love it there, too.


Please remember to set out some water in the shade for 4 footed friends- it's greatly appreciated!

Stomper would like me to request that everyone set out some water in the shade for four-pawed friends — it’s greatly appreciated!


I  want to put out a reminder in this heat to please keep your bird baths filled with fresh water and a dish or two of water ideally in a shady spot for the wildlife. It’s sometimes hard to find clean water this time of the year for them, and it’s much appreciated!

I find myself just trying to keep up with the weeds when it gets hot like this even though I use a weed preventer in the garden beds. I’ve been adding some extra mulch here and there where it’s become thin and stirred it with a rake in other spots for good airflow to soil. This is a good practice to get into this time of year, and it boosts the curb appeal, too!

Look what I found while weeding and edging!

Look what I found while weeding and edging!








And while I was edging the other day, I found this wonderful heart shaped rock, nature’s gift!

I have a new lawn mystery to solve. Brown spots! I think these have been caused by lawn grubs.

I have a new lawn mystery to solve. Brown spots! I think these have been caused by lawn grubs. More on this soon.





I’m noticing about 100 brown spots in the grassy areas. They can be caused by so many things: fungus from too much rain, or a dull mower blade, pet spots or grubs like fire flies. I’m not sure what is causing mine, but I’m leaning towards the grubs idea. I’ll report more on this soon, and have a remedy for you, too, when I do.




Until then, try to stay cool — Happy Summer!

Summer Garden Spruce-up Tips!

Welcome Readers – Happy Summer!


Hi readers! I’m devoting this segment to some questions that I think a lot of us can relate to and some terrific garden tips I have received.

Let’s get rid of the mushrooms for good…..

First up: Getting rid of those nagging little (and sometimes BIG) mushrooms that crop up in the yard after a rain. Wearing gloves (because some of them can be poisonous!), remove the mushroom cap and discard. Then, with a pointy trowel or weeder, dig out the little stump and roots completely. Lastly, sprinkle some powdered or granulated lime where the mushrooms appear. This will help to make the soil more alkaline and banish the mushrooms for good. This has always worked well for me.

Renewing your Ivy is easy as a few well placed snips!

Next up: I had a friend with a patch of Ivy which had lost all of its leaves and was just a patch of bare stems and not so pretty anymore. This can happen for lots of reasons — someone walking on the ground cover, doggies doing their business, or like in my friend’s case, a tree had fallen on it.

There is a really easy fix for this! Simply take your snippers and cut the stems here and there in the bare areas. That’s it – the Ivy will sprout new leaves quickly and will fill back out in a week or two with lots of fresh new leaves. This works on most of the other “sprawling” types of ground cover, like periwinkle and pachysandra too.

Be sure to give it good watering if you know it to be a (ahem!) “doggie spot” to neutralize the remains. ‘Nuff said on that, but this brings me to a related tip. If you are a dog owner and have those bright green patches in your grass, I have a tasty way of making sure those spots don’t happen anymore. Give your dog a few ounces of tomato juice a couple of times a week (most dogs LOVE it!), it will change the acidity of their urine so as not to create a spot. So easy!

To get rid of ugly stumps- drill holes and fill them with epsom salts!

As you might remember from a previous blog, I have had several trees that were destroyed in recent storms, leaving unsightly stumps in the front lawn. A couple of weeks ago a friend sent me an email that had a stump rotting remedy which I am going to try (Yay!- and thank you so much!). Drill holes in the stump then fill them with epsom salt. In about a month it rots the stump making removal easy. I will report back on the success of this tip, but several people have said it works well.

This brings me to my last little tip for this segment. A friend just posted a terrific way to keep the bugs away from patios/decks, and said it worked great. Take limes or tangerines, and poke some holes in them with an icepick, and fill the holes with cloves. (Similar to the pomanders many of us make at Christmastime!) Place them in a bowl on your outdoor table, and enjoy your bug free patio. Lasts for a couple of weeks at least!

Don’t forget to refresh your topiaries, and other potted plants with some fresh soil and slow release fertilizer.

I would like to thank Michaelanne, Terri and Laura for their questions and tips. I hope you are enjoying this Spring to Summer transition in your yard. It seems there are always things to be done around mine. I have just finished replacing my Springtime Pansies with Vinca and Geraniums for the hotter Summer days ahead.  I have repotted the Ivy topiaries with fresh soil. (I love to use them along the front walk.) A gentle reminder for those of you with Azaleas, Rhododendron, Hollies, Junipers, or other acid loving plants, that this is the time to feed them. Let me know what you are planning for your gardens this year, I always love to hear!


So long for now- next time a segment on refreshing a deck!

Update on the stump–  Epsom salts works! It is now November, and the stump had softened up to the point where it was easily chipped away. Now I will fill in with some soil and sod. Thank you Terri for the tip!

After a few months of the epsom salt treatment this stump was chipped away in about a half an hour.

After a few months of the epsom salt treatment this stump was chipped away in about a half an hour.





Spring is Here

My kwansan cherry tree in peak bloom. (For those of you who have asked, this is the tree in the blog page's background.)

Just like magic to me, spring has sprung. With such a mild winter this year the blooms are very early. The flowering trees are magnificent, and the phlox is beyond compare. All of the bulbs have finished, but the masses of foliage were much fuller and greener than usual. I think that this might be one of the more beautiful displays ever. Even the azaleas are opening, in all their glory.

These are two weeding tools I use. The one on the left is an ergo tool, and rocks the weeds out of the soil. The one on the right is a serious tool which can extract even the toughest weeds.

It seems all of the plants that I transplanted last fall had a very easy first winter in which to spread their roots and become acclimated to their new locations. I was very happy to see the first leaves sprouting on the three crepe myrtles, and am even more anxious to see them grow to fill out the side garden where once the purple maple stood. Really the only downside of this spring is dandelions, which always seem to blow in, and they are doing way too well. Thankfully, I have two terrific tools which easily uproot them. If your yard is prone to these weeds, I wholeheartedly recommend getting one. They make the process a lot quicker. They work great on all weeds, whatever size.

I am almost done with trimming back the liriope, euonymus, and junipers. Not a minute too soon either, they are already sprouting new growth. I am hoping to finish this weekend because it is now time to edge, and add some new mulch to keep the weeds down and the moisture in. Lots to do!

Here is a closeup of the pink dogwood this year. The flowers were so huge and perfect that it almost looked artificial.

A good tip to get your garden off to a good start is after you have prepared the soil with some weed preventer, and stirred in a little compost to add nutrients, give your garden a good watering prior to mulching. This will give it a boost, and ensure that all your plants have everything they need for the new growing season.

One more closeup -- these are the creeping phlox. When first planted, these were just a small plug, they are now more than three feet in diameter, and gorgeous. I would recommend them for my top awards honor this spring.

I hope everyone gets a chance to enjoy this incredible time of the year, whether it’s in your own yard, or even the park. Just a reminder — Garden Week is almost here with lots of inspiring places to visit.

Unwelcome! Weeds and Insects…

An unwelcome byproduct of all this heat is really tough weeds and some very unwelcome insects. I have some effective, yet safe, alternatives for you to try in your house and garden to get rid of these unwanted visitors.

Household vinegar is a safe and inexpensive way to kill weeds.

As far as the weeds are concerned, we are getting a huge amount of them this year. I religiously put down pre-emergent (gluten-based) granules in my yard and garden beds every year, but this year we have had so little rain that they are not leaching into the soil as they are supposed to. There isn’t even any dew in the morning, things are getting so dry. As a result, the oxalis, carpetweed, sedge and even some crabgrass are sprouting. If at all possible, try to pull them before they go to seed and multiply, if there aren’t too many.  If you have an overwhelming amount, I would suggest a spray of a selective herbicide that targets weeds only. Most of these now are available with spray containers attachable to hoses. They are quick and simple to apply.

On walkways, a simple non-toxic and inexpensive way to kill weeds is with household vinegar. I fill an old spray bottle with white vinegar and spray away on all my brick pathways, and within hours the weeds are dead! This also works to spray on cement sidewalks, in cracks, or joints where they seem impossible to remove in any other way. It is totally safe to walk on by people, pets, or wildlife.

An easy method to get rid of ants is with Borax. Simply sprinkle it onto ant hills.

For getting rid of bugs, whether it’s ants or fleas, my favorite method is with boric acid. You can buy it in the laundry section of your supermarket (I use the  Borax 40-mule team brand.) Just sprinkle it on ant hills or encircle your house with it.  A couple times through the summer months should do it, but if you are lucky enough to get drenching rain you might need to reapply. The insects walk through it, ingest it, and carry it into their nests, which gets rid of them all. You can even sprinkle it on your carpets, and furniture indoors. (Just sprinkle it on — let it sit for an hour or so — then vacuum it up.) This will get rid of all kinds of bugs that you or pets might have brought in from outdoors, but in the amount used, it will not be toxic to us or our pets.

If your bushes are being attacked by spiders, it’s because they are attracted to places that are dry and dark. This is easily remedied by opening up the bush by pruning out some of the branches, creating better air circulation and light, and then really washing the plant out with the hose (each branch!). By doing that, it will create the wrong type of climate for spiders to hide in. There are also predator insects which can help rid your plants of other insects; for instance, ladybugs will eat aphids, and praying mantis will eat spiders. Some of the predator bugs are available for purchase through garden centers and online.

I would love to hear from you with any non-toxic methods you know of regarding weeds or insects. There are so many highly dangerous products on the market, and I’d love to share any safe alternatives. We only have one Earth, so we need to protect it!

Update- I have recently heard of a great way to get rid of fire ants. Club Soda- pour it directly into the center of the ant hill, and within a couple of days it will be gone. The carbon dioxide will kill them without harming the environment. One-liter should be enough for 2-3 anthills.