Don't let chickweed invaders get comfortable in your beds


April 04, 1999

Q. I am overrun with chickweed. It's in all my beds. I really don't want to use any weed killers. What's the best strategy for getting rid of it?

A. Common chickweed is a winter annual that has a small root system and can either be pulled out or chopped up and incorporated into the soil. Be sure to remove it before it makes seeds in late spring.

Q. There are swarms of flying black insects in my back yard close to my house. How can I tell if they are termites?

A. Termite swarmers are black with pale wings, have straight antennae, front and hind wings of the same size and a straight waist. Ant swarmers are dark in color, have elbowed antennae, longer front wings than hind wings and a pinched waist. Contact a reputable pest control company if you identify termite swarmers that seem to be entering the soil near your house foundation.

Q. I built two large raised beds last month, filled them with topsoil and compost and planted them in spinach, lettuce and other greens. Most of the plants came up but they look terrible. They're small and pale and weak-looking. Where did I go wrong?

A. Young plants with small root systems cannot easily pick up the necessary nutrients from cool spring soil. Apply a balanced liquid plant food around your plants to get them off to a good start, and then fertilize every two to three weeks based on label directions. Have your soil tested by the University of Maryland to see if your soil pH is in the proper range. Finally, the compost in your bed may not be fully broken down, causing a shortfall of available nitrogen that might account for the peaked appearance of your vegetables.


1. Plant seed potato pieces with one or two eyes that are certified disease-free. Space them 12 inches apart in the row. Be patient -- it sometimes takes one to two weeks before shoots emerge.

2. Prune rose bushes back to healthy wood. Spread a little white glue on pruning cuts to prevent entry by cane borers.

3. Apply a pre-emergent herbicide for crab grass if you had a serious problem last year and are not planning to reseed this spring.

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