Grooming for the season

Sunday, November 1, 2015


A late rainy season has caused some untidiness in the garden. More accurately, there has been rampant growth of plants we love as well as weeds. Since seasonal parties often migrate to the out of doors, it’s time for a discussion of garden grooming.

Weeding: By hand is preferable. Yes, backs will ache, but that’s understood. Zoysia grass is especially adept at overwhelming planting beds and plants when you’re not looking. Pull zoysia in the direction from which it came and you will get long runners with each pull.

Horticultural vinegar has become a hot topic among Internet gardeners. Regular salad vinegar is 5 percent acetic acid; horticultural vinegar is 20 percent acetic acid.  A University of Florida publication called Alternatives to Synthetic Herbicides for Weed Management in Container Nurseries says: “Vinegar … is more effective as a non-synthetic herbicide when concentrated to levels of 15% and 30% acetic acid by distillation and freeze evaporation, respectively. Acid solutions are believed to cause changes in plant cell pH that result in loss of cell membrane integrity and eventual death.”

Horticultural vinegar must be handled with extreme care as it can cause burns and even corneal damage is it gets into eyes. Wear rubber gloves, eye protection, long sleeves and heavy-duty pants and shoes. A 10 percent solution will work effectively, according to people in garden forums who have used it.

 A propane weed torch is just the thing for killing weeds that appear between bricks in driveways or pathways, in gravel driveways, on the pool deck. DO NOT use the torch to kill weeds in mulch for fear of frying the entire planting.

Yellow leaves: Remove them.

Mulch: Without it, weeds are sure to appear. With it, weeds are at least discouraged, moisture is retained and mulch gradually it breaks down to improve the so-called soil we all deal with in South Florida. Oak-leaf mulch helps lower the pH of the soil, leading to better growing conditions for plants. When you apply leaves or wood mulch, be sure to knock it off plants around which you are mulching. Keep it away from the trunks of trees and palms to avoid fungus. Part two coming up.

A mulched bed improves soil and garden's appearance