Gardeners Have Questions

For all you gardeners that have applied fertilizer to your lawn this spring, I feel your pain. With all this rain, plus the fertilizer stimulating growth, I suspect many of you felt you were mowing hay fields instead of your lawns.

With warm temperatures and above normal precipitation all our other landscape plants have been in overdrive too, including weeds. A lot of gardeners are asking about a weed they are finding in their lawns that grows to about the height of the lawn with small yellow flowers.

It’s called ‘Black Medic’. This is an annual weed, meaning it sprouts from seed and completes its life cycle within the season. It’s actually a pretty easy weed to control with the same herbicide you would use on dandelions and clover in lawns. Black Medic produces abundant amount of seed so an application of a granular pre-emergent herbicide to your lawn will stop further germination of the weed.

Gardeners are also seeing an increase in mushrooms in their yard and want to know if they are poisonous. I’m no expert on edible/poisonous mushrooms, so my pat response is “just don’t eat it.”

I want you to think the mushrooms you see above ground are only the flower of a much bigger fungi organism below ground. Most of these mushrooms are there simply because there are dead tree roots below ground. They decompose the dead wood and once there is no longer a food source there the mushrooms go away.

This question I get way too frequently and it goes something like this; “I heard that you should plant (trees, shrubs, flowers) only in May, is that true?” My response to that question often goes like this: “If we could only plant in May, we would have only a fraction of the plants in the landscape. Planting later into the summer simply means plants will need more water. There is no scientific reason why you can’t plant now.”

With all this explosive new succulent growth, gardeners are seeing an explosion of insects. One of the most common insect questions has to do with aphids. Aphids are soft bodied insects that feed on plant juices. They have a mouth part similar to a mosquito, where they puncture the plant tissue and suck out the juice.

Aphids are one of those insects that can multiply from a hundred to thousands in just a few days. The good news is that aphids are easy to kill with both manmade pesticides as well as organic pesticides.

If you park your vehicle under a tree and notice it covered in a sticky, sugary substance, just know that it is aphids in the trees and the sticky, sugary substance is aphid poop called ‘honey dew’. Personally, I think all excrement should be called honey dew, it has a pleasant connotation.

Lastly, gardeners are always asking for multiple aspens in one pot as they’ve been told they need more than one aspen for them to survive. Nothing can be further from the truth. Aspen by their very nature sucker, forming colonies. If you plant one aspen, I guarantee you will be rewarded with more aspens in just a few short years.

Originally published in the Casper Star-Tribune, June 21, 2015