Dear Master Gardener:
I’m sending you a photo of a weed that overran much of my pollinator garden, parts of my lawn, and most of the ditches in my neighborhood. It disappeared over the winter, but now little seedlings of this weed are already raising their hideous heads in several areas of my ditch. What can I do to prevent them from inundating my property again this summer?
The culprit is black medick, an annual clover introduced from Asia. Like other clovers, it bears teardrop- shaped leaves in groups of three. But unlike sweet yellow clover, which sports yellow flowers on a spike, black medick bears pom-pom-like, yellow flowers on a short stem. Black medick stems are prostrate, trailing tightly to the ground, while sweet yellow clover is upright and may attain a height of five feet. Another clover you may be familiar with--white clover--exhibits pom-pom-shaped flowers too, but are large and white, not yellow.
Now is the time to eradicate your black medic, while the seedlings are small. This may be a matter of simply wetting down the area where the weed is taking a hold, gathering up its ground-hugging leaves and pulling out the shallow tap root.
One crucial fact about black medic you need to take into account is it flourishes in compacted soil. Compaction happens when soil particles are pressed tightly together, resulting in less air and water space and causing the soil to become dense. Clay soils or localities receiving lots of foot or vehicle traffic are more prone to it.
Since compacted soil is a great hindrance to the growth of roots of our desirable plants — flower gardens, vegetable gardens, and lawns — it would be profitable for you to improve the quality of your soil by loosening the particles and providing aeration, whether or not you have this weed.
For lawns, aerating the soil with either a pitchfork, tine aerator, or hollow tine aerator should do the trick. De-thatching the lawn at the beginning of the growing season and raising the height of your lawnmower blade is also beneficial. You may learn more about these aeration practices by going to: gardenseeker.com/lawn-care/repair/aeration.
Adding copious amounts of organic matter, like well-decomposed compost or manure, to other garden areas will also greatly reduce the likelihood of this weed becoming introduced or making a comeback. I recommend using the good old-fashioned shovel or pick for this job, because a power rototiller may collapse the integral structure of the soil. If necessary, you may rototill once a year, but only during times when the soil is not especially wet or dry.
Employing cover cropping and adding earthworms will also be effective, though takes longer to see the results.
Once your soil is less dense and rich with organic matter, beneficial fungi, worms, and other soil-borne critters will commence binding soil particles to form aggregates. These, in turn will form air and water pockets that are penetrable by roots of desirable plants. Additionally, soil-borne flora will continue the process of decomposition, augmenting the soil with fixed nitrogen and other nutrients.
Dear Master Gardener:
Some creature is digging half-dollar sized holes in my lawn. What to Do?
A skunk is likely digging around your property at night in search of fat, tasty grubs. You may use a live animal trap to catch and relocate it to a non-residential area. This, as I’ve learned from my own experience, may turn out to be a very smelly affair. I suggest you first try repellents: motion sensor lights; orange or lemon peels; predator urine, which may be purchased online; and ammonia-soaked rags or cotton balls. If the skunk is invading your garden, a three-foot tall fence sunk into the ground several inches should keep it out, since they cannot climb. If the animal persists, temporarily remove all trash, pet food, compost piles, and bird feeders from the area.
It’s always prudent to nip pesky problems in the bud, and dealing with invasive black medick and skunks is no exception.
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