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More Ways to Sound Like an Plant Expert E-mail
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Tuesday, 19 June 2007
More Ways to Sound Like an Plant Expert


The Topeka Capital-Journal

By Phil Sell

A couple of weeks ago, I shared some tongue-in-cheek examples of how an effort to appear articulate can just create confusion. Here are a few other descriptive phrases, and a simple translation, that I didn't have room for then.

The absence of appreciable precipitation means it hasn't rained very much.

Deprived of adequate carbohydrate reserves is the same as being "starved."

Cessation of vertical elongation. (Stopped growing).

Leaf damage due to acute phytotoxicity. (Chemical burn).

Irreversible mechanical damage. (Broken branches).

Compromised stand integrity. (Thinned out).

Arbitrary, indiscriminate pruning. (Shearing, topping).

Bud blasting. (Spontaneous opening).

As the springtime sequence begins. (As growth resumes).

I'm always looking for new ways to confuse people when visiting about their plants, so, if you have a good example, pass it along (you can send me an e-mail at This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it ).

Clumpy weeds -Three plants are an early season problem in lawns.

Wild garlic is a cool-weather plant that grows from under ground bulbs, producing unsightly clumps. Wild garlic and its close relative, wild onion, look much alike, but each has an odor that is characteristic of its name.

Wild garlic also has round, hollow leaves that clasp the lower several inches of the stem, whereas wild onion has solid flat leaves that originate at the base of the plant.

Star-of-Bethlehem resembles wild garlic and onion, but it lacks the characteristic pungent odor, and each leaf has a silvery-white stripe that runs up and down the length of the leaf. Don't confuse it with crocus, which also has striped leaves.

Wild garlic and onion are difficult to control. A few isolated clumps can be dug up, but more serious infestations will need to be treated with properly labeled herbicide such as combination products containing 2,4-D, dicamba and/or MCPP.

These combinations are commonly sold for controlling other broadleaved weeds in home lawns, such as dandelions.

Spray these weeds on a calm day when the air temperature is at least 50 degrees. The active ingredient carfentrazone may be added to some products to enhance effectiveness at lower temperatures.

Add a spreader-sticker to the spray unless the product label indicates that spreader sticker is already included.

Unfortunately, there isn't a good chemical control for Star-of- Bethlehem; the best choices for homeowners would be Turflon ester or products containing carfentrazone.

Night crawlers - If you have small randomly spaced mounds of granulated soil in your lawn, nightcrawlers may be the cause.

Nightcrawlers are large worms - usually 4 to 8 inches or more. They belong to a group of earthworms known as deep-burrowers that build large, vertical, tunnels extending several feet into the ground.

The bumps you see on top of the ground are called "middens" and are a mixture of plant residues and castings passed through the worm's digestive system. The worms use these middens for protection and food reserves.

The burrows can have a beneficial effect on the soil by opening up channels for water and air to penetrate. Roots also like these channels due to the ease of root penetration and nutrients found in the casting material lining the burrow.

So, while nightcrawlers help the soil, they make it difficult to mow, create unsure footing and cause the grass to thin out.

Getting rid of the middens will be difficult. In some situations, planting a ground cover or applying a mulch over the infested area may hide the earthworm activity. Rolling with a light roller can provide temporary relief. Spreading out the castings with a rake and over-seeding is another approach.

There are no chemicals labeled for eliminating earthworms, and most of the insecticides used for controlling other soil born organisms, such as white grubs have little effect on the earthworm population.

Since most people would rather tolerate the inconvenience caused by earthworm activity than eliminate the earthworms completely, it may be best to just let nature run its course.

Phil Sell is a horticulturist with K-State Research and Extension in Shawnee County.

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