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Garden Checklist: Stop water theft – cut down weeds now

Yellow bedstraw (galium verum) flowers are among the weeds to watch.
Yellow bedstraw (galium verum) flowers are among the weeds to watch. Bigstock

There are leafy green thieves trying to take over your garden, but you can stop them at their roots – preferably with a sharp hoe.

Weeds steal water and nutrients from other plants. These invaders also try to block the sun from competitors – often the seedlings you want to grow. Get to work and get weeds out before they grow any bigger or – worse yet – go to seed.

▪  Know the enemy. According to master gardeners, the most common weeds in Sacramento County in late March include filaree, wild geranium, bedstraw and such annual grasses as foxtail, barley, wild oats and bluegrass.

▪  Instead of resorting to herbicides to fight weeds, use a hoe and keep it sharp. This method also is more effective (and easier) than physically pulling out weeds. With a hoe, cut the weeds off just under the root crown; aim for about a half-inch below soil level. Using a hoe disturbs soil less than pulling weeds and keeps new weed seeds from migrating to the surface where they can sprout.

▪ What about weeds growing in pavement cracks? Pour boiling water directly on the weeds. Within hours, the leaves will wither and yellow. By the next day, they’ll be dry and crumbly remains. Another effective method: Spray white vinegar directly on the leaves. The acidity will kill them.

▪ Get your garden beds in planting shape. Dig manure and compost into vegetable beds and let it mellow for two weeks before planting.

▪ In the vegetable garden, plant seeds for beets, carrots, celery, Swiss chard, endive, fennel, jicama, leaf lettuce, mustard, radishes and turnips.

▪  In the flower garden, plant aster, celosia, cosmos, larkspur, nasturtium, nicotiana, portulaca, salvia, snapdragon, verbena and zinnia.

▪  Protect early, warm-weather transplants such as tomatoes and peppers with plastic 2-liter soda bottles or 1-gallon jugs. Cut off the bottom and leave the top open so the young plant can breathe.