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July rains bring weeds, so get them while the soil is wet


My definition of a weed is a plant that is out of place. This means that you may pull out perennials that have grown too vigorously.

The recent rainy weather has brought on lots of weeds. A good time to weed is when the soil is moist — the roots come out more easily.

It’s very important to get weeds out before they go to seed. A small hand weeder or trowel is helpful.

Look for tree seedlings such as buckthorn, mulberry and boxelder that tend to establish themselves in hedges and in the base of shrubs. Look closely and they are easy to spot.

In areas where it is not practical to dig out the roots of these weed trees, treat the stump with glyphosate promptly after cutting to kill the root system.

Monitor the stump and keep cutting back the shoots or cover the stump with black plastic if you would rather not use an herbicide.

• Groom your borders to improve plant appearance and maximize flower production. Gently remove dried or yellowed bulb foliage since the bulbs are going dormant and have already stored nutrients for next year’s flowers. Prune off (deadhead) spent flowers on annuals and perennials to encourage them to continue flowering. Remove yellow foliage to keep the plants neat and tidy.

• Installation of plant material can continue through the summer. Try to keep plants moist before planting to minimize stress on the new plant material.



Containerized plants can sometimes be difficult to re-moisten if they are planted dry, so be sure to water them before planting.

Plants that are grown in containers have a lighter growing medium that will generally dry more quickly than your garden soil does, and thus will need more frequent watering until their roots grow out into the surrounding soil.

Newly installed balled-and-burlapped plants need about 1 inch of water a week. The amount and frequency of watering will vary depending on the soil conditions in your garden and weather conditions. Sandy, very well-drained soils will dry out more quickly than heavier clay loam soils.

An underground irrigation system may not deliver enough water to establish a newly planted garden, so regular monitoring of the new plantings is important to determine when supplemental water is needed.

• Tim Johnson is director of horticulture at Chicago Botanic Garden,



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