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My first daylily of the year. Photo by Kathie Rowell.

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Don’t worry if the first squash blossoms on your plants fall off. Female blossoms are the first to form, but won’t produce fruit until the male blossoms show up a little  later and pollination takes place.

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My first daylily of the year. Photo by Kathie Rowell.

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Hope you got a beautiful hanging basket for Mother’s Day. With proper care, it can last a long time. Baskets dry out quickly so check daily to see if it needs water. Dry baskets will be very light weight. Frequent watering washes away nutrients, so fertilize every few weeks with liquid fertilizer or once with time-release fertilizer. Deadhead faded flowers frequently to keep more coming.

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What’s better than a beautiful rose? A beautiful rose that smells wonderful. Photo by Kathie Rowell.

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If you have damaged or downed trees from recent storms, know your skill level before tackling their removal. If there’s any doubt about your ability, be safe and hire a service to do the job for you.

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The paint brush method.

Do you really want to take weed-killing tips from someone who massacred a treasured plant by not doing it right? Well, yes, since you won’t have to learn the hard way like I did.

Just remember: Drift is your enemy.

Drift is the term for the airborne movement of pesticide droplets and vapor away from the plant you want to kill and, if you believe in Murphy’s law, onto the plant you least want to die. In my case, that was a rose I rooted after taking a cutting from a bush in a family cemetery while out on a Sunday drive with my mother. How’s that for a double dose of Southern sentimentality? I was absolutely heartsick when it died — I was so careful! — but God looks out for foolish gardeners. After pruning the rose earlier that spring, I had stuck more cuttings and two of them rooted, so while the original plant was gone, her babies were growing.

After that experience, I decided to research ways to apply weed killer to plants like poison ivy without spraying it into the air where even a tiny puff of wind could result in catastrophe. Here’s what I came up with:

The paint brush method

If the plant you want to kill is in a flower bed, but isolated enough so no desirable plant parts are underneath or touching it, a foam paint brush does the trick. Put a little herbicide into a disposable cup and use the brush to paint it onto the leaves.  Be careful not to let the liquid drip onto your valuable plants.

The milk jug method

The milk jug method.

If the paint brush method seems too tedious, try using a milk jug to isolate the plant.  Cut a hole in the top of the jug and the bottom off. Place the jug over the plant you want to die and spray the herbicide into the jug. Leave it in place until the spray has a chance to dry so you don’t accidentally get it on other plants when you remove the jug.

The stem method

The stem method.

Sometimes, especially in the case of vines, the plant you want to kill is wrapped all through your flowers or growing up a tree. In that case, cut the stem a couple of inches from the ground and use your brush to paint full-strength herbicide on the freshly cut stump. Brush killer will be more effective that weed killer. Tip: If you have lots of stems to treat, add red food coloring to the herbicide so you can tell which ones you’ve painted.

The bucket method

This is another trick for dealing with vines. Pull a long length out of your flower bed or off a tree and coil it in a bucket containing herbicide diluted according to product directions. Obviously, this isn’t a good option if you have small children or pets.

One treatment using any of these methods will probably be enough to kill young plants, but mature ones are likely to resprout and need another round or two.

And even if you get them all this year, be assured you will have more next year. All it takes is one bird with a taste for berries to leave a deposit in your yard and they’re back in business.

How do you get rid of tough plants in your flower beds?

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Daylily Lava Flow — great name! Photo submitted by Judy McCarthy.

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“Where flowers bloom, so does hope.” – Lady Bird Johnson

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Weeds are easier to remove when the soil is moist. Given all the rain we’ve had lately, they should slip right out!

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