Rudbeckia triloba is a small-flowered Rudbeckia and a native wildflower. It can grow as tall as 6 feet or more (often shorter) and flowers from June through October. The flowers are great for a number of pollinators and several species of birds feed on the seeds. Self-seeding, it needs to be managed but is not at all invasive. ANDREW MESSINGER
One of the two common plantains found in most lawns. This is this year's seedling, which will have a small root and is easy to remove with a weeding tool. If left in the lawn it will flower next spring and drop hundreds of seeds.
One of the most common lawn weeds is the dandelion. This is actually a seedling, which will bloom next spring providing hundreds of new possibilities to invade your lawn. A broad-leaf perennial weed, dandelions are easily addressed in the fall so they don’t become an issue next year. ANDREW MESSINGER
Creepiing Jenny, or moneywort, in a landscape bed. The crown is at the coin with seven stems reaching out and rooting at the leaf nodes. Easy to remove by pulling all the stems and foliage needs to be removed. Flowers are tiny and yellow. ANDREW MESSINGER
An entire creeping Jenny extricated from the garden. This single plant had multiple shoots or runners, and if you look at the right-most runner you can see where each leaf node had tiny white roots that attached to the soil. Just leave one of these rooted nodes behind and the weed has the beginnings of next year's wanderlust. This plant from last summer was about 2 feet long with over 10 tendrils. ANDREW MESSINGER
This is a short 12-inch run of ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea) which is one of the most difficult lawn weeds to control and manage. The scalloped leaves make it easy to identify if you have creeping Jenny, which has smaller and rounded leaves. Control can take two years or more, is best done by a pro and pulling it out is nearly impossible. Fall and spring are the best times for control measures. Flowers are a violet blue. ANDREW MESSINGER
It was just a year ago that we were in the midst of a very serious drought.
Lawns that weren’t irrigated were brown, and with some areas on water restrictions, even irrigated lawns were in pretty bad shape. Older trees that were under stress were dying and even into the spring of 2023 we could still see the results of the drought in our landscapes. It was a totally new experience for many gardeners, and many had to rethink their landscapes as water districts warned of shortages, price increases and dark but rainless clouds looming for our groundwater supplies.
Here we are a year later with a total and complete reversal in our precipitation predicament. Last year, not nearly enough. This year, constant downpours of an inch or two every week as our landscapes have become lush, our lawns in a state of constant need to be mowed along with the other down sides of a constantly wet soil and the consequences. Such is life and with little we can do instantly about climate change there are new considerations.
What are the ramifications of too much rain when it comes to our landscapes? For me it’s been personal and too close to home. My lawn was lush and green for most of the growing season, and it’s only been in the last few weeks that I’ve been able to go from mowing twice a week back to once. When I took the time to measure, I found the lawn (no fertilizer since late last May and only a tiny bit) was growing a quarter to a half inch a day. More time mowing, more clippings to deal with, more wear on the tractor and more pollution from the engine.
Then I heard a piece on public radio where the city forester of Springfield, Massachusetts, was interviewed. Springfield had lots of rain also. Their city trees put on inches of new growth, maybe twice as much as usual and there were issues as a result. The lush growth there, and here, has resulted in older trees that were on the precipice, dropping limbs due to the excess weight. Wet ground has resulted in high winds being able to uproot abnormally top-heavy trees with existing root problems to topple. Springfield’s city arborist has his hands full.
This should be a note of caution for those of you with trees that you’ve been worried about or with large shade trees that overhang you home, your pool, your tennis court, your garage, etc. Time to have the tree guys come in and take a look?
You’ll probably be able to get a “consulting” arborist — one with a certificate that he or she has completed some type of certification program — to come over and price things up for you. You’ll be amazed at what they come up with. Remember that many of these consulting arborists make money by selling you tree work. Get a defined list of what is being recommended and have each itemized item priced separately. Resist the recommendation for fertilizers, and always have two different companies bid on the same work.
Better yet, find a small local company where the owner or person who visits you is a degreed arborist who’s been through a four-year arboriculture or urban arboriculture program. Great if they are certified as well, and always, always make sure that they carry insurance. Don’t expect them to return the next day to begin the work. Most will be backed up for months.
Ask neighbors who they’ve used and ask at local garden centers as well. I have little to no faith in Big Tree. These are regional and national tree care companies that have great local and national advertising programs, but I see no evidence that they do better work than the smaller firms that choose quality and training over volume and cookie cutter plans out of a computer program and pricing book.
The copious moisture also seems to have led to a great crop of weeds both in landscape beds, lawns and in the gardens. I’ve been noticing dandelions, ground ivy and two varieties of plantain showing up since September in numbers larger than in any recent years. For a small lawn like mine these can be easily removed with a hand tool as long as you remember to get the foliage as well as the root. You can also use spot treatments of herbicides intended for broadleaf weeds or your landscaper (who of course is a legally certified pesticide applicator) can do these applications.
There is little to no reason to use an herbicide on your entire lawn, and far too many homeowners do this or allow it to be done. If you are just starting a weed control program, you may need a pro to get it started for a year or two but after that it should ONLY be spot treatments or you doing some pulling and digging.
Ground ivy, on the other hand, is virtually impossible for homeowners to control. It’s very important to be able to differentiate between ground ivy, wild violets and “creeping Jenny.” I’m not a wild violet hater and really make no effort to manage this weed in the lawn. Ground ivy, aka “creeping Charlie,” is Glechoma hederacea and one of the most difficult weeds to manage so know what it looks like and have it taken care of as soon as you can.
Creeping Jenny, which is also called moneywort , is a weed (an invasive) that I’ve been fighting with my gardener about. She thinks it’s cute, a nice ground cover and a pollinator. It’s not a pollinator, is considered a serious invasive on Long Island, and to call it tenacious is an understatement. It usually begins in landscaped areas where it’s fairly easy to pull out but once it gets into the lawn its management becomes much more difficult.
This weed is easy to identify. The rounded leaves are low growing, and it acts like a creeping groundcover growing only 2 to 4 inches tall with small yellow flowers. It spreads rapidly along the ground and at just about every point where a leaf node touches the ground it sends down new roots. Pull out one section and leave just a single rooted leaf node behind and in weeks it will cover another square foot from just that one rooted node.
In the Lysimachia family you can control this weed by hand but be careful to remove the entire plant, roots and all, for the entire length of its growth, which can be several feet. There are contact, translocated herbicides that will work on it, but these are tricky to nearly impossible to use in a garden so early ID and hand pulling of the entire plant in each and every location is critical. It will kill and overrun other groundcovers so if you see it once it’s a good idea to assume it’s lurking elsewhere.
I know I’ve mentioned Rudbeckia triloba a number of times in the past year but I just think this is a terrific plant to have in your garden. This is a small-flowered Rudbeckia and a native wildflower that I’ve been growing for about a decade, and it’s got some wonderful garden and ecological attributes.
For the most part this plant needs full sun, and when happy it will grow 5 to 7 feet tall with finger styled foliage as opposed to the simple leaves of Rudbeckia hirta or Rudbeckia “Goldstur.” It’s also a very prolific seeder making it a magnet for several species of birds that feed on the seed, which ripens just a few weeks after flowering. It’s also a great pollinator, attracting a variety of bees and butterflies as well as hummingbirds. Flowering well into the fall, it’s nearly a constant seed supply for birds with juncos and goldfinches feeding on them now. White-breasted nuthatches, cardinals and chickadees also feed on the seeds.
The plant is considered to be a short-lived perennial but will drop seeds and return in the same general area year after year from new plants. Seeds that germinate in the spring usually flower the same summer and into the fall. Where lots of seeds drop the seedlings need to be heavily thinned in the spring so you can control where the plants show up or do some transplanting. Seeds collected now can be overwintered as dry seed then started indoors in April or sown in situ in May.
Other fall jobs to think about now are making sure you remove dead plants, foliage and dropped fruits from the veggie garden. These and pruned or dropped rose flowers and petals can be prime sources of disease reinfection next year when left behind.
If you want goldenrods to remain on your property but not become invasive prune off the tops once the color fades, to reduce reseeding. Also be careful when digging this plant as well as native asters since leaving just a piece of root behind will result in the plant returning to the spot you’re trying to move it from.
Hold off on your garlic planting. If you’ve ordered and received mother cloves just keep them cool and out of the light. Plant in soils that are lightly fertilized with organic plant food low in nitrogen or add composted manure to the area you plant each year. Planting should be done during November but before Thanksgiving. Keep growing.
One fine body…