September 2003 - Indiana Yard and Garden - Purdue Consumer Horticulture

September 2003

Q. I have a problem weed. It is rubbery with teardrop-shaped leaves. I’ve noticed it will reroot itself when thrown on the ground. It is very hard to kill. In fact, I think it thrives on Round-Up. Can you help? — Teresa Allman, United REMC

A. The green, rubbery leaves of purslane are one-half to 1.5 inches long on thick, reddish-green stems. It sometimes bears yellow flowers, and the seeds are borne in a small pod with a top that comes off like a lid on a cookie jar.

Chemically, treat with glyphosate (sold as Round-Up or Kleen-up) but the waxy quality of the leaves and stems, plus the rounded surface area, makes it difficult for chemicals to stay on the plant, so repeat applications are necessary. Make sure you don’t allow much time to elapse between applications or the plant will regain strength. I would spray it weekly for several weeks. Use care when applying glyphosate. It kills any green plant material contacted by the spray, so spraying with this non-selective herbicide is not recommended anywhere near desired plants, like vegetables or flowers.

Alternatively, you can pull them out by hand. Since purslane roots wherever it touches the ground, any plants that are pulled or hoed must be completely removed from the garden, or they’ll root again! Instead of reducing the population, hoeing can increase it. A layer of mulch at least 3 inches thick will help reduce weed populations from garden beds. Purslane is a warm-season annual, so weed removal, mulch and a pre-emergent herbicide can prevent the same problem from reoccurring next year. If you’re directly seeding new vegetables or flowers in the garden, do NOT use a pre-emergent herbicide, as it will keep those plants from germinating.

Q. My husband wanted some silver maple trees. My daughter-in-law dug some up, and we planted them. Boy, do we ever have a problem now. We had them pulled out this spring after being in our yard for about 5 years. Since they have been pulled out, our yard is just full of little clumps of trees coming up. We have sprayed them with Roots and All, but that doesn’t seem to help at all. They just sprout up somewhere else. I am wondering what to do with this problem? We tried pulling the roots out, but I think they go forever and never stop. Any answer that you may give us in the near future will be greatly appreciated. Thank you. — Patricia Henigsmith, Walkerton, Ind.

A. Roots and All is a form of glyphosate, commonly known as Round-Up. The root system has a certain amount of energy that is being reduced by every surge it expends on the new shoots and is further set back by the herbicide applications. You’ll win this battle if you just keep it up! Removing the roots will cause extensive damage to the lawn and garden beds, and there’s no way to know if you’ve removed them all. Continue with glyphosate, making sure you spray the leaves soon after their emergence so they don’t have time to manufacture food, thereby sending more energy to the root system. Leave the shoots in place after you spray them so the chemical is translocated to the roots.

You might also try a product called Sucker Stopper made by Monteray Lawn and Garden. It contains a plant growth regulator.

Q. We had REMC “install” one of their old poles in our yard for the sole purpose of having our trumpet vine grow up it instead of being a “floppy” bush. As it is, the flowers end up being mostly on the ground, and, while I suppose the hummers find them, we just thought it would be nicer, and prettier, if we could get it to grow up the pole. The pole is half the height of poles along the road, so I don’t believe it would be safe for us to do this from a ladder. We have been able to encourage a couple vines up by tucking them around some clothesline hooks that we put in about 7 foot from the ground. I’m guessing that we need to do this as soon as they start growing in the spring — by now they are growing in every direction. We would appreciate any suggestions that you might have. I think I know now why they look so pretty on fences along farm roads. — Millie Edwards

A. Trumpet vine is a vigorous grower but not a great climber. It needs some guidance to get it to go where you want it. Trumpet vine stems grow away from the light, not toward it. The stem grows fastest on the side receiving sunlight, causing it to bend in the opposite direction. Eventually, the stems will form a skeleton that new growth can climb through and over. In the meantime, the hooks you’ve installed on the lower portion of the pole will allow the vines to find a way to get hooked. If the pole had a rougher surface, the plant could attach to it, but I suspect it’s not gaining a foothold. You might lash the vine on during the growing season with a length of twine all the way around the pole at various heights. The new growth will quickly cover the twine.

Q. Can trees be grown from the seeds of peaches? Plums? Nectarines? Apples? If they can, how is it done? — Jim Roll, Palmyra, Ind.

A. Many trees can be grown from seed collected in your yard, but you should know what you’re getting into. Plants may not grow true from seed, so the offspring may be different than you expected.

Most of our modern fruit trees must be propagated by means other than seeds to ensure that specific characteristics will endure. These plants are usually propagated by cuttings, grafting or other vegetative methods that provide clones, or exact duplicates, of the mother plants. Reproduction by seed can be variable, and while the offspring may be similar to one or both parents, some desirable characteristics may be lost.

Sprouting seeds from fruits purchased at the grocery can be particularly disappointing, since many of these fruits have come from growing areas that are very different than the Midwest. These plants may not be able to withstand our growing conditions. It usually takes many years for seedling plants to become mature enough to flower and then fruit, so it will be some time before you know if the experiment was worthwhile. Additionally, some crops, like plums and apples, are particular about their cross-pollination requirements. Pollination charts tell you which cultivars pollinate others, but with unknown seedlings, it will be impossible to know how to provide compatible pollinizers for seedling plants.

If you still want to try, realize that most woody plants grown in the Midwest bear seeds that are dormant and must go through some physiological maturation before than can germinate. The most-common type of dormancy is overcome by moist chilling or stratification. Gardeners can stratify seeds by placing the seeds in a moist medium, such as peat moss, vermiculite or sand. The refrigerator provides just about the right temperature to provide the chilling. Although the length of the chilling period varies with the plant species, most seeds are adequately stratified for 3-4 months at 35-40 F.

Then, they can be sown in pots or flats with a loose, well-drained medium, such as a mixture of peat moss and vermiculite. Maintaining high moisture and relative humidity is crucial to germinating the seeds. Germination can be as quick as a few days or as slow as several months. Once they germinate, move them to a brighter area and feed with a fertilizer for houseplants, according to label directions. As the seedlings gain strength, transplant them into larger pots and eventually into the garden.

Your home-grown seedlings may not produce store-quality fruit but can be a fun experiment for the adventurous gardener.

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