Stop stiltgrass in its tracks before it goes to seed

Garden Q&A

  • Plant of the week: Cardoon Cynara cardunculus.
Plant of the week: Cardoon Cynara cardunculus. (Bob Orazi )
April 26, 2013|By Ellen Nibali, For The Baltimore Sun

Stiltgrass has taken over a 20-by-10-foot area of my woods and now it's getting into my lawn. I will use crabgrass pre-emergent for it on the lawn, but should I rake away the leaves and apply it in the woods?

Invasive stiltgrass spreads like lightning by tiny seeds. The seeds stay alive in soil for many years able to germinate. Kill it before it makes seeds, which it does in August. In spring and summer, it is easy to pull stiltgrass — it has very little root. (Once it has formed seeds, pulled stiltgrass must be sealed in a plastic bag.) Yes, crabgrass pre-emergent can be used in a woods, but don't remove the leaf litter first. All invasive plants love bare/disturbed soil and will quickly move in. The pre-emergent granules will sift down through the leaves as you walk through, or help it along by tamping the area with the back of a rake. You may need to do some supplemental hand-pulling later.

How do I convert my lawn into a vegetable garden?

You have three options: smothering the grass, slicing off the turf layer, or digging and turning. All are explained on the UMD Home and Garden Information Center's website under our "Grow It Eat It" section titled Food Gardening 101. It presents a five-step plan. Go to Step 3: "Prepare your soil." Smothering grass takes the least amount of labor but requires about four to eight weeks and is usually started in the fall.

University of Maryland Extension's Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information. Call 800-342-2507 or send a question to the website at

Plant of the week


Cynara cardunculus

Some cooks describe cardoon as celery with armor. The edible portion of this artichoke family member is the leaf stalk rather than the flower bud. The bright, silver-grey leaf stalks taste like artichokes and are popular in Mediterranean recipes for soups, pastas or bagna cauda (a warm sauce for dipping). The plants are even so attractive they can be used in floral decoration. Plant transplants at least 2 feet apart in full sun and moist but well-drained soil with sufficient organic matter. Cardoon is grown as an annual, though it is perennial in zones 6-10. For optimum flavor, prevent blooming. Never let the thistlelike seed invade gardens. When preparing cardoon, prevent browning by immersing the peeled cut stems in a lemon bath, then parboil for 30 minutes. — Bob Orazi

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