Time to do a broom sweep

I recall hearing forecasters last summer calling for a wetter-than-normal winter. Uh-huh "… right. This has been one of the driest winters on record (as I write this), but I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop!

We could still end up with above-normal rainfall, but weather forecasts don't mean much to me. I'll wait until I see it falling from the sky.

Still, this isn't a bad time to get things ready for the war on weeds. If this isn't only a drier cycle but a warmer one, weeds could start popping out earlier than normal, and it's good to be ready when the time comes.

Planning ahead as to where you'll plant your garden — and knowing where you had weed problems last year — can help set the stage for an easier-than-normal spring and summer. Setting up raised beds, tilling other areas you'll plant with summer annuals or vegetables, adding soil amendments, figuring out which vegetable seeds you need to order now and start indoors can save a lot of grief later.

Statements made in June such as, "Oh, I wish I'd thought of that last February or March," can be averted by putting a little thought into it now.

Speaking of seeds, be very careful when buying those "wildflower mixes" you see in grocery stores. Read the contents and make sure you know what you're getting. Many times, these packets can be filled with all sorts of sweetly named varieties that actually are weeds.

In areas where weeds were a problem last year or where they might cause trouble in the future, problems can be averted by scattering an organic, pre-emergent weed control like Preen, a product made from corn gluten. Once weedy areas have been treated, cover them with a mulch of some sort.

This also is a great time to take care of any invasive broom plants you may have. Scotch, Spanish, French and Portuguese brooms are invasive species listed on Oregon Department of Agriculture's noxious weed list, and as such, should be done away with.

Of the four brooms known to inhabit the West Coast, I've only seen three around here, and two are the main culprits. Both Scotch and Spanish brooms are known to exist in the Rogue Valley, and I've seen and treated French broom in the Rogue River canyon.

Brooms have extensive root systems, and they bloom and generate seedpods early in the spring. Once they do, it's too late to "get ahead of the curve." Early spring is the time to cut these species back so they don't produce seed. Once that's done, you've got a little breathing room until they produce seed-bearing stems again.

If they're actively growing (which they are in order to produce flowers and seeds in April), they're still treatable with herbicides. A very effective treatment method is to scrape away some of the skin or bark and wipe on a systemic herbicide solution, which will penetrate deep into root systems.

Check with any local gardening shop, or look online, and learn as much as you can regarding products you plan to use. Always read and follow the labels (there may be changes from the last time you read one) and find out the recommended usage.

Jacksonville resident Bob Budesa oversaw the noxious weed program with Medford District Bureau of Land Management and helped start the Jackson Coordinated Weed Management Area. Reach him at 541-326-2549 or bob_budesa@yahoo.com.

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