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My front brick walkway,
which is flanked by two flower beds, is constantly
plagued by weeds that grow up through the cracks. What's the best
way to rid the walkway of its weeds without leeching any poison
through the soil into the adjoining flower beds? I've heard that a
super-saturated solution of salt and boiling water will do the
trick, but I'm concerned about the salt reaching the soil of the
adjoining flower beds. - L.G. -
Salt in the soil can be trouble. It's not only toxic to plants
and breaks down soil structure so that air and water don't move
freely, it can also erode brick, concrete and other materials.
Hot water kills weeds, no additives required. It works best
against seedling weeds, which die in a day or so and leave little
residue behind. The routine is simple. Each morning, pour a kettle
of boiling water onto a different section of the walk or patio.
Caution -- don't do this while barefoot!
Older, larger weeds leave unsightly stubble when they die
back, so in already-weedy areas, first weed out the established
plants, then wait a week or two for seedling weeds and remaining
bits of larger weed roots to sprout. That's when we begin using the
boiling water. Douse an area every three weeks or so to kill each
new crop of seedlings and kill back sprouts from roots of older
weeds and eventually starve them out.
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Drown the mites that
brown the spruce!
We have two Dwarf Alberta spruce trees (Picea glauca 'Conica').
Suddenly they have turned brown. We have had one bush five years
and the other bush one year. I have noticed in the area that
several other dwarf Alberta spruces seem to be affected the same
way. - M.J.D. -
Spruce spider mites thrive and proliferate in hot, dry weather.
These near-microscopic arachnids suck the foliage of spruces,
eventually killing the needles. The bad news is that they've been
hard at work through most of June and once they've fed so long that
patches are brown and dry, those needles can't be saved.
We have two bits of good news to offset that bad. One, the buds
set for next year are often not killed, so what look like dead
twigs will resprout from the tips. Two, plain old cool water is the
Mites can't abide cool, moist conditions so hose off the
troubled plants every few days, being sure to spray hard enough to
wet the interior. It's more effective and cheaper than any
store-bought miticide. Begin showering the plant now and the damage
will stop. By next spring when the new foliage unfolds it will
probably look like nothing ever happened.
We're sorry you'll have to look at bare patches as those dead
needles fall. You can avoid a repeat of this damage if you use
dousing as a preventive from now on -- Alberta spruce owners should
watch for it in early May if it's hot and dry. That's before the
needles begin to bronze but when conditions are ripe for mite
proliferation. Mark your calendar to begin bathing your plants next
For more in spruce mites, see
What's Coming Up 128.
Timely tips for July:
Take a tour!
Don't miss the chance to smell the roses, steal ideas, and glean
gardening advice from savvy souls. It'sgarden tour time.Watch local
community events calendars for garden tour notices.
bottles to nurse plants through dry times
Many fruits and vegetables can develop cracks, bad spots, and
lose flavor if soil moisture is inconsistent -- wet one day, dry
the next. To even out the water supply, fill a large, long-necked
bottle with water (wine botttles work well), invert it and push its
neck into the soil near the base of the plant. Water will drip
slowly from the jug -- a gallon of water might supply a tomato
plant for several days if the soil is moist to begin with. Works in
gardens and in large containers.
Maybe you worried about filling your garden with wine
bottles, because onlookers might label you. But look, you saw the
bottle at the top of the page and with the wave of a hand, it's
Green thumb's up
to Master Gardeners who spend days each year in class, such as
at the annual Advanced Master Gardener conference, learning the
latest on topics from attracting song birds to medicinal plants. To
keep their title, a University Extension Master Gardener donates at
least 15 hours a year to community education efforts. So ask your
neighborhood Master Gardener for tips to help your garden.
Green thumb's down
to field bindweed for hiding its nasty nature behind such
beautiful flowers. The ground-covering, fence-smothering vines are
in full bloom right now -- its white flowers blushed with pink
resemble miniature morning glories. Don't waste time admiring them
-- dig out what you can and then make a weekly commitment to pull
or apply herbicide to every piece that resprouts. Even with this
schedule it takes three years to exhaust the root.
Originally published 7/3/99