Gardening friends are pulling weeds that sprouted during our recent warm days and wishing for effective treatments. There are no quick and easy solutions to weed problems, but the longer view dictates “weeding before seeding.”
Ever optimistic, I am testing an organic pre-emergent herbicide that is based on corn gluten, a natural material that discourages the formation of roots. It’s neither cheap or 100% effective, but might be worth a try. For more information on a pelletized product, visit eartheasy.com and search for “corn gluten.” For a liquid version, go to amazon.com and search for “Green It.”
Another organic approach is the application of vinegar, which can kill really young weeds. Household vinegar (5% acidity) has some effect but horticultural vinegar (20-30% acidity) works better but dangerous to the user.
Other organic weed killers are based on clove oil will kill at least the top growth of mature weeds.
Still, the best, cheapest and most reliable way to kill weeds is pulling or digging them out by their roots.
Take a break from weeding to anticipate the coming spring and enjoy plants that are in bloom now in your garden. As I look around, I am pleased to see these early bloomers:
Big Mexican Scarlet Sage (Salvia gesneriiflora ‘Tequila’), another treasure from Mexico and Central America, produces brilliant red flowers with a striking black calyx and grows about ten feet high in California gardens. My neighbor has a stand of this plant that has grown fifty feet wide and well over fifteen feet high with support from adjacent shrubs.
Wonga Wonga Vine (Pandorea pandorana), from Australia, is a vigorous, woody vine that climbs with support from a tree or large shrub, or a trellis of some kind. Its popular varieties have differently colored blossoms: ‘Snowbells’ (white), ‘Ruby Belle’ (pinkish), ‘Ruby Heart’ (cream with ruby blotch), and ‘Golden Showers’ (yellow). My specimen grows on 2” x 2” rail attached to a fence and produces white racemes. The plant usually flowers in spring; we’re still in winter, so this is an early bloom.
Other plants now in bloom include
- Beach Sage (Salvia africana-lutea), interesting wrinkly, golden brown flowers, from South Africa.
- Winter Daphne (Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’), delicate blossoms, fine fragrance;
- Common Hyacinth (H. orientalis), one of the earliest bloomers
- Trumpet Daffodil (Narcissus ‘King Alfred’ probably), a cheerful yellow blossom
- Blue Hibiscus (Alyogyne huegelii ‘Santa Cruz’), a large, frequent blooming evergreen shrub
A plant to watch is the Chinese Ground Orchid (Bletilla striata), which is now preparing for early blossoming. This hardy orchid, native to China, Japan, Taiwan, and Vietnam, is delightfully easy to grow. It is a terrestrial orchid that requires no extraordinary care and produces rose-mauve blossoms that resemble a miniature Cattleya orchid flower. An established clump will produce dozens of flower spikes. I recently moved several plants from too-shady spots into large shallow containers, anticipating the development of clumps in a couple years. They are not particularly frost-tender, but recent frost warnings encourage moving the pots under shelter.
As always, gardening involves the exercise of patience.