What to do this week Continue to water by following any restrictions in your municipality. Look around you and learn to recognize plants with drooping, curling or brown leaves that are begging for water, and prioritize watering those plants. As space becomes available in your garden, sow seeds of short-season vegetables that will thrive in the coming cooler weather, such as lettuce and radishes. Water the soil before weeding or removing old plant material so that the roots slide easily with minimal soil disturbance. Stop deadheading and fertilizing flowers so the bushes can prepare for dormancy.
Q. I have a large perennial bed that is full of goutweed when it’s sick, and since it borders a wooded area, it also has deer ticks. I welcome advice on how to remove goutweed (and ticks) and also want to mention that I have a spring pool nearby. We take care of our yard organically, using no herbicides and only biological pesticides. Is this situation hopeless?
A. Goutweed spreads underground quickly, and trying to weed out the white roots only breaks them, each piece growing a new plant. Most people treat goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria) when it is actively growing in the spring by mixing it with glyphosate and crushing the leaves after walking on them to expose the sap. Since you’re gardening organically, I’d recommend just cutting the top of the garden to less than an inch tall and bagging it for your city’s compost collection. Then, cover the affected soil with impervious plastic to expose the roots to the sun and deprive them of sun and water. Extend the tarp 3 feet beyond the edge of the goutweed, use rocks or mulch or even potted plants to hold it in place, and wait a year or two.
If you are determined to keep your perennials, dig them up ahead of time and transplant them into pots within three months. Check for any gutweed sprouts before replanting. However, I wouldn’t try to save overgrown perennials because their roots are likely contaminated with small pieces of goutweed roots. I would just sacrifice them. The reason it gets so easily contaminated with a small part of the root is that I try not to buy topsoil or even potted plants at community sales dug up from strangers’ gardens. It’s not worth the years of headaches that can result from a tiny stray goutweed root. I saw goutweed advertised by a big box store, so there are still people selling it!
To remove goutweed by hand, you need to dig up all the soil 18 inches deep and pass it through a sieve with half-inch holes to try to remove every little piece of root. It’s going slow! Another alternative is to dig a trench around the entire goutweed-infested area and place metal or plastic edging 8 inches or more deep to prevent underground goutweed roots from spreading further. Then regularly mow the area around the goutweed to prevent it from spreading, denying photosynthesis. You write that there is a wooded area and a spring pond nearby. Goutweed is capable of ecologically overtaking and destroying these natural areas.
As for your tick question, I spray my garden clothes with Sawyer permethrin insect repellant and tuck the pant legs into my socks to repel ticks. I don’t spray it on my skin.
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