April finally passed us by but not before hitting us with some severe weather and dumping torrential rains. These storms have created some problems for farmers getting crops planted, as well as saturating garden soil and beating down garden plants. Thankfully, we are having warm sunny days with a breeze which is drying out the ground, allowing for planting and germination of seeds that were planted prior to the rain.
Weed Control in the Garden and Landscape
This time of year we experience a huge flush of weeds in our landscape and garden. This is because the soil is warming up and there is adequate soil moisture present to wake up those dormant weed seeds. I have mentioned pre-emergent products in past articles which are a great tool to combat this. But another tool available for preventing weeds is to use a mulch. Mulching is beneficial for several reasons. Not only does it prevent weeds, but it also regulates soil temperature and moisture as well as adding organic matter as it breaks down. Pine straw, leaves, and a number of other organic mulches are available and work very well. I recommend using what you have available around your house if possible. Personally, I have lots of pine straw available. Pine straw forms a thick mat, blocking the sun’s light. No matter which mulch you choose to use, make sure you add a thick layer 2-4 inches thick. Mulching can save you a lot of labor, and when used with a pre-emergent herbicide, provides excellent control of the majority of your weed problems. Unfortunately, nutsedges always seem to still be able to get through, but can be easily pulled .
SEE PHOTO: Squash mulched with pine straw. The row middle (left) was treated only with pre-emerge, the row of squash was treated with pre-emerge and mulched. Note the weed growth on the edge of the garden (right) where no pre-emerge or mulch was used.
We have reached prime gardening season at last! Most of our garden plants thrive this time of year. Tomatoes, cucurbits, peas and beans, and corn all can be planted or are already growing right now. It should be noted that if you want to have tomatoes in the heat of the summer you should consider a heat set variety. These varieties can tolerate the summer heat and continue to set fruit. These varieties are usually named something that sounds hot such as “solar set”, “sunmaster” and others. Make sure to side dress at flowering.
Squash vine borers are a problem on squash. The adult moth lays its eggs just above the soil line. The larvae bore inside the plant, hollowing out stems. Once you realize you have them, it is often too late. One way of preventing them is to wrap aluminum foil around the stem of you squash plants, blocking the moth from laying the eggs. Additionally, you can heap moist soil over the leaf stems to promote additional rooting. This is beneficial because if you do get squash borers in your plant, the additional roots can help keep the plant nourished.
SEE PHOTO: Squash vine with aluminum foil wrapped around base of vine for protection against borers.
With the warm weather and rain, our lawns need mowing almost weekly now. However, cutting your lawn on the lowest deck setting is not a good idea. The goal is to only take off 1/3 of the plant height with each mowing. The reason for this is to keep a thick lush lawn. By keeping the lawn thick, you help prevent weed intrusion. Each turf grass has an appropriate height. St. Augustine needs to be maintained at 3 inches, centipede and zoysia at 1 – 1.5 inches, and bermudagrass at 1-2 inches.
For more information contact Randall Mallette, County Agent, at the local LSU AgCenter Extension Office 318-357-2224.