In The Garden – Weed Control

by Tina Sottolano-Cain

Weeds, weeds weeds, popping up in the most obscure places: garden, lawn, the cracks of pavements, and inbetween pavers on our patios.

As we watch them take over our world during the summer months, we ponder. Where do they come from? Why are there so many? What type of weeds are they and how do we get rid of the them?

By definition a weed is a plant that grows in places you don’t want it to grow. They reproduce by seed and can be spread far and wide in a variety of ways, like wind and birds. They can even hitch a ride on shoes and pets. Weed seeds can catch onto your pets fur and carried throughout the garden.

Weeds can also be warning signs in the lawn or garden that you should not ignore. Soil infertility can be a big concern. The right soil pH is essential to grow a healthy lawn and plants. If you have a wide range of weeds in the lawn or just one pesky weed you may want to test your soil. Common lawn weeds like white clover are nitrogen fixers can indicate that the soil is low in nitrogen. Some commonly found weeds that indicate low fertility in the garden are thistle, Mullein, crabgrass, ragweed and dandelions. In poor drainage areas you may see moss, Creeping Charlie (ground ivy), or Wild Violas. Overly dry areas, especially raised beds usually have an abundance of mustard and flick weed. Poison ivy on the other hand is usually found in brush or fields and show up in the garden when you least expect it.

Removal of these weeds can be tedious, especially without chemicals and herbicides, but not impossible. You can remove weeds and their roots from the garden manually. Make sure you mulch immediately following. I recommend adding compost, then the mulch. By adding compost you are increasing the nutrients in the soil. Helping to smother any seeds left dormant in the soil. You can also use a vinegar and epsom salts as an organic method. This works well on patios and areas away from other plants you don’t want to spray. Household vinegar works but you may need to spray multiple times for total removal. Spray in full sun for optimum effect and in 24 hours the tops should completely die back. It also leaves no residuals in the soil. For tough weeds like Canadian Thistle you need to cut the tips off then spray directing in the tubular stem. Again this process needs to be repeated until area clears up.

I recommend using a commercial herbicide for the best results on the toughest weeds, especially Poison Ivy. Be sure to read all labels and follow directions recommended before using any product in the garden. Another practice you may want to consider is plant more annuals and perennials.


In the Garden: Garden Projects for Kids

by Tina Sottolano-Cain

Kids have a natural attraction to nature, but introducing gardening to children of all ages can be a challenge in a world dominated by personal digital devices and video games. Creating an environment that can stimulate the senses is an important part of getting kids interested in the garden. It is a way to grow respect and appreciation for nature and the environment as well as learning about plants and where their food comes from.

Kids are drawn to bright colors, fragrance and of course, bugs. Insects and worms are always a big hit with boys and girls alike. Explain the importance of beneficial insects, like lady bugs, bees and worms and the role they play in the eco system. Get started by planning out your garden with your child. Ask them what kind of garden do they want to grow, flowers or vegetables. Once you decide between the two pick a theme for the garden.

Butterfly and humming bird gardens are a great idea. Children of all ages will enjoy watching native butterflies and humming birds flying around the flowers they have grown. Begin with a small space in the garden and choose a few varieties of plants to grow. Select starter plants and seeds appropriate for the location you choose, sun or shade.

Themed vegetable gardens are always fun. Recreate a mini WWII Victory Garden and learn how families during the war planted vegetable gardens as an additional food source. Include easy to grow veggies like carrots, radishes, corn, pumpkins, zucchini, just to name a few. Plant pole beans on bamboo poles to create a teepee. The littlest gardeners will love sitting in their new hide out that they grew themselves. Sunflowers are another popular choice with kids of all ages and make a nice addition to any garden.

Pizza gardens are another idea, all kids love pizza. It can be planted in the garden or in a container. Plant your favorite cherry tomatoes and peppers with basil and oregano. You can add other vegetable you like to eat on your pizza as well. Companion planting is another way for kids to learn how attracting good bugs to the garden can help reduce the bad bugs. Calandula, marigolds and borage are companion plants easy to grow from seed.

When you are ready to plant be sure to give the little ones tips on planting, watering and care along with their own set of tools. Kid friendly watering cans, pruners, shovels and cultivators designed with little hands in mind, will help them handle gardening jobs with ease. Don’t forget to add a compost pile to the garden area. Once the season is over teach your kids the importance of recycling. Encourage kids to help out by tossing kitchen scraps, yard waste, and shredded paper into the compost bin to make rich organic soil to use in next years garden.


In the Garden: New Tools for the Older Gardener

by Tina Sottolano-Cain

As we get older gardening for aging adults can become more challenging. As Americans age they don’t want to give up their daily activities, especially gardening.

Gardening is an easy and enjoyable way for the elderly to spend their leisure time. It promotes a more active way of life where seniors can increase and maintain their flexibility and mobility. It not only helps to improve endurance and strength but it also helps reduce stress and promote a more relaxed lifestyle.

With so many product ideas available to help seniors in the garden they don’t have to give up their beloved past time.

Tools are an important part of gardening but may not be easy to handle if you have arthritis or joint pain. Ergonomic tools are designed to reduce stress on joints and increase productivity. Digging tools like hand trowels and cultivators with curved and angular handles help reduce wrist pain. Long handled hoe and shovel help to minimize the risk of injury to your back. Pruning shears, like ratchet pruners, have a rotating handle making it easier on the joints when squeezing tough branches. Also telescoping-handled pruning shears are for hard to reach branches making it easier on the joints, especially if you have chronic shoulder pain. Brands Like Fishers, Radius and Corona all have ergonomic lines featuring tools designed with the senior gardener in mind.

Raised bed and containers are perfect for seniors that have downsized their living space. Ideal for small space gardening, raised beds are elevated gardens built to limit bending and kneeling. Many freestanding beds are table height and wheelchair accessible, available at your local garden center. Wooden rectangular boxes are freestanding, usually 7 to 8 feet long by 3.5 to 4 feet wide. The width is important because you want to make sure you can reach front to back with the length of your arm. This will reduce stress on shoulder joints keeping movement to a minimum. Easy to use raised containers are perfect for growing everything from vegetables, herbs and flowers. Vertical gardening is another great way to garden without bending or kneeling. Wood vertical planters usually 3.5 to 4 feet tall and wide allow you to grow a variety of herbs on the deck or patio.

If you refuse to give up your garden beds around your home but need improved mobility there are helpful tools available get around the garden easier.

Garden kneelers that convert into stools and garden seats with wheels that double as a tool caddy allow you to move around garden beds with ease. Garden gloves are also an important accessory. Synthetic rubber coated gloves give you flexible movement and provide padding around the fingers to protect against blisters.

With so many easy to use tools and accessories keeping your hands in the soil will be easy for years to come.