Efficient and effective weeding is an art.

To be effective, it is important to know their habits and life cycles. After all they are smarter than we are as they have had centuries to adapt to our environment.

A prime example is “smartweed” (Persicana marculosa). It goes by several names, but mostly Lady’s Thumb for the purple smudge on the leaves that looks like a thumb print. Delicate pink flowers appear on a 3” to 3’ long stems that look as though they should be in a lady’s nosegay.

It is not all bad. With the exception of its roots, all parts of the plant are edible, high in nutrients and some have likened the leaves’ flavor to spinach. It is edible from spring to autumn frost, but best mid-spring as it gets bitter with age. Caution: it contains toxins including tannins that cause photosensitivity in some people. It has long been used for many home remedies including decreasing poison ivy irritation. That’s where its charming assets end.

As with all invasives, this Eurasian plant has adapted to all soils, moisture conditions, sun to partial shade and grows readily in zones 5-10.

Lady’s Thumb is in bloom now before it sets seed. Control by pulling or chemically. The ground cover’s stems are wiry but thin and will readily detach from the plant. To successfully pull, grasp at the base and give it a slight twist while gently pulling. If soil is clay, water the soil the day before to soften the soil making weeding easier to dig or send and pull standing up. This makes getting the tap roots easier. If all is not pulled or dug out, it will return in the spring, but at least you have reduce its spread by stopping going to seed. Chemical control includes a non-selective herbicide or systemic herbicide. The best chemical controls contain dicamba, 2,4-D or glyphosate.

THINGS TO DO

“Life is short, plant more flowers.” Break Dutch Bulbs. Fall bulb planting begins in late September and continues until the ground is frozen.

Garden — Plant hellebores and arum for winter interest. Plant perennials on an overcast day or late afternoon. Water in well. Remove old annual flower stalks and fertilize one last boost before winter. Hollyhocks(hibiscus family) may be an annual, biennial or perennial. Remove the stalks seeds have formed and matured. Allow some to fall to the ground to self-seed. Keep hydrangeas damp. Do not divide baptisia, bleeding heart, monkshood, peonies, and poppys. Gently tug or cut daylily stalks and foliage to 6-8” or wait until all foliage has died, pull and compost the foliage.

Society garlic, allium family member, readily seeds, germinates and quickly takes over the garden.

Cut the stems before flowers produce seed.

Pull or dig young poison ivy. Place a plastic bag over the plant and pull holding bagged plant at the source, and as you pull allow the bag to cover the plant, making sure the entire plant is in the plastic bag, tie handles and put into the trash.

Houseplants — Order amaryllis and paperwhite daffodils ‘Ziva’ to force for the holidays. Fertilize spider plant once or twice a month. To start new plants, pin the ‘pups’ (plantlets) on potting soil, sever from parent plant when rooted. New plants started in water but will not grow as large.

Vegetables — To stop grasshoppers from eating their favorite foods, dust with flour or diatomaceous earth. Foods include beans, carrots, corn, lettuce, raspberries, and flowers. Or, spray with hot pepper or garlic and water mix.

September 4-6 Labor Day Weekend — 44th Annual Japanese Festival — Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Blvd., St. Louis, Saturday and Sunday 9a.m.-8p.m., Monday 9a.m-5p.m. For tickets: events.missouribotanicalgarden.org or 314-577-5100

Contact Carolyn Roof, the Sun’s gardening columnist at, carolynroof02@gmail.com

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