Four different kinds of weeds show up in lawns and gardens this time of year: dandelion, chickweed, henbit and wild garlic (or wild onion). If you have them, it's a good idea to try to get rid of them before they can produce a lot of seeds.
Dandelion is a widespread, persistent weed. On the other hand its roots furnish a useful drug, its leaves are used as greens, and its flowers make an acceptable wine. It's even listed in the Burpee Seed catalog.
The dandelion has long, fleshy tap roots and will start new growth if even a tiny piece of the root is left when it is dug out. It produces yellow flowers almost the year 'round but mostly in May and June.
Spraying with 2,4-D or Dicamba can be effective against dandelions. Directions on the label should be followed closely.
Chickweed is a winter annual, comes up from seed in the fall, grows during fall, winter and spring and blooms a little during fall and mild winter weather. It produces lots of flowers and seeds in spring and dies in hot weather. The tiny flowers are starry-white and are most attractive during the winter when nothing else is in bloom. It has a fibrous, shallow root system and is rather easy to pull or rake out.
A single chickweed plant can produce thousands of seeds. Birds love them and have spread them throughout North America and other land sections of the world. Lots of people use the leaves for food, in salads, soups and stews. Spraying with 2,4-D or Dicamba can provide good control of chickweed.
Henbit is a winter annual, growing erect to about two feet, and bearing purple flowers in early spring. About the only thing in bloom at the time, there's little mistake in identifying it. It has an extensive but shallow root system and a small infestation can best be taken care of by pulling it out. Dicama and 1,4-D are effective.
Wild garlic and wild onion are perennials. The above-ground parts produce aerial bulblets and seed; the underground parts produce central bulbs, soft-effect bulbs and hardshell bulbs.
Dicamba will destroy the tops but not the underground parts. Practically the only way to get rid of them entirely is to keep the tops from growing and producing food for the underground parts which eventually will starve to death.
Before using weed-killing chemicals, read the label, and follow all directions closely. Q: Can you suggest any flowers for poor soil? A: Try some of the hardy daylily varities. They will grow in full sun or partial shade but must have good drainage. They're listed in the Burpee seed catalog, which will be sent free on request, from Burpee Seeds, Warminster, Pa. Q: Our daffodils have lots of fine green foilage but no flowers. Do you have any idea of what may be wrong? A: They probably need to be divided; this should be done every three or four years after the foliage dies down in late spring. Q: Can butterfly bushes be grown from cuttings? A: Butterfly bush (Buddleia-Summer Lilac) can be grown from side shoots taken in July or August. Take cuttings of new growth four to five inches long. Q: I was given a pocketbook plant for Easter. It is beautiful. Can you tell me how to take care of it? A: Pocketbook plant (Calceolaria) is a fine gift plant. The flowers will stay attractive for quite a while if the plant is kept in a cool, shady place, but the plant does not survive in most homes for long. In fact, it's a problem even in a greenhouse. Q: Our dwarf red maple is red and beautiful in the spring but turns green in early summer and stays that way. Is there anything we can do to make it stay red? A: Most red maples, including the Japanese red maples, start out in the spring with red leaves which turn green in early summer, and there's nothing that can be done about it. The variety Atropurpureum has dark red leaves which stay red throughout the growing season and the variety Sanguineum has light red leaves which stay that way throughout the season. But seedlings of these two may have leaves which turn green when hot weather comes along. Q: Last year my lima beans were ruined by beetles. If they show up again this year, what can I do about them? A: Mexican bean beetles may cause heavy damage one year and be hard to find the next year. They pass the winter in the adult stage, in trash and leaves near where beans were grown. If they show up, pick them off and destroy them. Spraying or dusting with Sevin may provide control. Q: How can I keep ants from getting on my strawberries without using chemicals? A: There's no good way to control ants without using chemicals. On the other hand, ants usually do no damage to strawberries. Chances are they are feeding on aphids that live on strawberry roots. Q: My azaleas are too tall, I need to cut them back. When's the best time to do it? A: It can be done in early spring or after they finish blooming. If they're to be pruned heavily it may be better to spread the pruning over a period of years instead of doing it all at once. Cut one-third of the stems back to 8" to 12" this year, another third the following year and finish the job the year after that. Q: One of my rose bushes has a stem growing from the ground which has small leaves on it. Should I do anything about it? A: Modern roses are mostly propagated by budding onto stems of a hardy, vigorous wild rose, Rosa multiflora. Occasionally shoots grow from the wild roots. They can be distinguished because of the difference in foliage. They should be removed. Q: We have crocus growing in our lawn. We don't want to do anything that will spoil them. Should they be fertilized when they stop blooming? A: Fertilizing them lightly will be good for them, but the big problem is, when the grass is cut the first few times, their foliage may be cut also, and that may spoil them for next year.