The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

The Garden Guide

March 29, 2012

A splash of late winter color

TARBORO — Most folks recognize that spring is the time for tulips and daffodils, but have you noticed that splash of purple across your turf or throughout your landscape beds?  The glowing lavender flowers of henbit, along with the white flowers of hairy bittercress will soon yield seed, resulting in an entirely new crop of problems starting next fall.  Henbit and hairy bittercress are two of our common winter annual weeds in the Coastal Plains of North Carolina.

Weeds can be classified according to one of four categories: summer annual, winter annual, biennial or perennial.  In the interest of space, we will focus on winter annuals for this discussion.  As one might guess, the weeds thriving in the cool weather of late winter and early spring are those categorized as winter annuals.  Often dismissed by home gardeners, the seeds of these garden invaders germinate in late summer and early fall, but then overwinter as small dormant plants.  As air and soil temperatures increase and the days lengthen, tiny green plants burst forth in growth producing abundant flowers that complete the life cycle.

As mentioned earlier, henbit (Lamium amplexicaule) often goes unnoticed until the lavender flowers begin to open.  The curious flowers develop in whorls with purple petals fused into a two-lipped structure.  Another classic trademark, the distinctive square stems, places this plant in the mint family.  Although the plant often dies as temperatures increase in late spring and early summer, they leave behind plenty of seed waiting to germinate the following fall.  At this point, the best cultural control is to hoe and remove as many of the clumps as possible before the seeds ripen.  The vegetation should be collected and removed from the beds to reduce the chance of further seed development.  A number of post-emergent herbicides are also available for spot treatment control, but be aware that not all products are safe to use in centipedegrass.

The other common weed of the season is hairy bittercress (Cardamine hirsute).  Recognized by its low cluster of kidney-shaped leaves and small white flowers, this plant also awakes from it dormancy when temperatures increase in late winter and early spring.  The delicate white flowers extending 3-9 inches above the foliage give way to small, cigar-shaped capsules loaded with seeds.  Once these curious fruit mature, the plant uses an explosive technique to disperse them.  For this garden invader, time is of the essence as the seed pods are maturing quickly.  Gently pull these weeds and discard them into an enclosed container.  There are several post-emergent herbicides that provide effective control; however, developing seed pods can sometimes release seed before the chemical takes effect.  As with all weeds, the more that you can contain the weed seed produced now, the easier your job will be next fall.

The North Carolina Cooperative Extension offers a number of valuable resources for identifying your lawn and garden weeds, as well as providing management options.  Check out NCSU’s Turffiles at  http://www.turffiles.ncsu.edu/ or find horticultural leaflet 644, Weed Management in Annual Color Beds at http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/hil/hil-644.html for more information.

(Bob Filbrun is the Agriculture Extension Agent for horticulture, forestry and beekeeping for Edgecombe County. He may be contacted by calling 641-7815.)

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The Garden Guide
  • pink-nerine.jpg Ask A Master Gardener

    Edgecombe’s Extension Master Gardener Volunteers are holding their Spring-Planting Bulb Event tomorrow (March 23) at Marrow-Pitt Ace Home Center in the garden department from 10 a.m. until 1 pm. The volunteers will be giving demonstrations on basic bulb planting as well as container planting (bring your own or purchase one from stock).  A variety of pre-packaged summer and fall-blooming bulbs will be sold including: ginger lilies, rain lilies, galtonia, agapanthus, tuberosa, liatris, tigridia, cannas, nerines and many more.  Proceeds from the bulb sales will fund the Extension Master Gardener Volunteers’ spring/summer projects, including those sanctioned by this year’s America in Bloom competition committee. Ace is located at 1713 N. Main St.

    March 22, 2013 2 Photos

  • Master-Gardener.jpg "Ask A Master Gardener"

    Buddy H. (Tarboro) asks: I discovered this unusual substance wrapping the stems on all of my compacta holly when I was pruning them last week.

    March 15, 2013 1 Photo

  • Weeds.jpg Ask A Master Gardener

    "As the promise of spring begins to beckon the attention of "dormant" gardeners this time of year, so it is with those dormant weeds that will appear soon enough, making for a lot of catch up work to get our lawns ready for show time," says local Master Gardener Trainee, Bernice Pitt who has just completed certification in an NC State University course in Turf Management.  Pitt is manager of the lawn and garden center at Marrow-Pitt Ace Home Center in Tarboro and is ready to help you with solutions in
    maintaining your lawn.  "I have found that the best source for answers to questions regarding turf grasses is the site:
    www.turffiles.ncsu.edu and another,
    www.turfweedmanagement.ncsu./weedmanagement.aspx," Pitt added. "It's where we found answers to this week's questions."

    March 8, 2013 1 Photo

  • Master Gardener.jpg "Ask A Master Gardener"

    "Ask A Master Gardener" is a weekly column providing our readers solutions to common problems concerning horticulture, gardening, and pest management. Trained Extension Master Gardener Volunteers have access to the research that provides answers.
    Submit your questions by email to  askemgv@gmail.com, call the local Extension Center at 641-7815 and tell them you have a question for a master gardener; a volunteer will return your call with a solution to your problem, or write to "Ask A Master Gardener", c/o The Daily Southerner, P.O. Box 1199, Tarboro, 27886.

    February 22, 2013 1 Photo

  • N1204P66020C.jpg “Ask A Master Gardener”

    Ronnie E. (Conetoe) asks: What is the best temperature and method to store fresh pecans?

    February 8, 2013 1 Photo

  • Filbrun 2.jpg Sanitation: An Important Garden Chore

    So, what will tomorrow bring?  At this time of year, we are riding the roller coaster up and down as winter and spring duke it out.  While it is still too early to start most seeded varieties of annual flower and vegetable varieties, it is not too early to prepare for the upcoming gardening season.

    February 6, 2013 1 Photo

  • "Ask A Master Gardener"

    John W. (Tarboro) Asks: A neighbor posed this question to pass along. They did nothing to winterize their yard and, as a result, have all of the winter-type weeds that survive everything. They wanted to know if there is anything they can do now to kill off the weeds and what and when do they start to try and green up their yard and kill back weeds as we head out of winter.

    February 4, 2013

  • image002-resized.jpg Ask A Master Gardener

    This week, we have two questions coming from visitors to the Blount-Bridgers House Garden.  The garden committee works regularly each week to maintain this lovely garden oasis in Tarboro’s Historic District. Garden manager, Jeni Filbrun invites you to join the volunteers, “the weekly weeders,” each Wednesday morning at 10 for an hour of garden tending.

    January 28, 2013 3 Photos

  • Master gardener.jpg Ask A Master Gardener

    “Ask A Master Gardener” is a weekly column providing our readers solutions to common problems concerning horticulture, gardening, and pest management.  Trained Extension Master Gardener Volunteers have access to the research that provide answers.  
    Submit your questions by email to askemgv@gmail.com.  Or call the local Extension Center at 252-641-7815 and tell them you have a question for a master gardener; a volunteer will return your call with a solution to your problem, or write to “Ask A Master Gardener”, c/o The Daily Southerner, P.O. Box 1199, Tarboro, NC 27886.

    January 11, 2013 1 Photo

  • paperwhite bulbs-3.jpg Ask A Master Gardener

    “Ask A Master Gardener” is a weekly column providing our readers solutions to common problems concerning horticulture, gardening, and pest management.  Trained Extension Master Gardener Volunteers have access to the research that provide answers.  
    Submit your questions by email to askemgv@gmail.com.  Or call the local Extension Center at 252-641-7815 and tell them you have a question for a master gardener; a volunteer will return your call with a solution to your problem, or write to “Ask A Master Gardener”, c/o The Daily Southerner, P.O. Box 1199, Tarboro, NC 27886.

    January 4, 2013 1 Photo

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