Buttonweed is tough to control

Q: Our lawn service has been trying to kill buttonweed in our lawn for two years. It has taken over our fescue yard. What can we do? Lynn Green, Cherokee County

A: Virginia buttonweed is extremely tough to control. This perennial weed is deeply rooted, produces belowground and aboveground flowers, and spreads by rhizomes (underground stems), as well as by stem pieces. If left uncontrolled, this mat-forming weed can smother turfgrass. If you are committed to controlling it, you have to start the previous year. Be sure you are mowing at the right height, that you are fertilizing correctly and that your lawn is not stressed from drought. Purple leaves during its late spring to early summer emergence are a distinguishing characteristic of buttonweed. Although pulling the weed can produce a satisfying mound of stems and leaves, the root pieces left behind will quickly sprout and make your efforts moot. Homeowners can get reasonable, if not total, control by regularly spraying with combination products containing 2,4-D, triclopyr, dicamba, quinclorac or sulfentrazone. Read the product label carefully to make sure it can be used on your particular turfgrass.

Q: I live in North Georgia and have a 2-year-old Fat Albert blue spruce tree. In the last two months, it started looking sad and it has dropped almost all of its needles. Is there anything I can do to save it? Jacqueline Rannow, Waleska

A: Very few blue spruce trees live more than 10 years in the Atlanta area. Summer heat during the day and especially at night eventually overcomes the tree’s ability to grow fresh needles. High humidity exacerbates needle diseases. Poor drainage around the roots leads to root rot. I never recommend planting blue spruce in any form or fashion, but if you are really sold on having one, you must prepare an exquisite planting spot. Excavate ALL of the soil in an area 8 feet in diameter and 12 inches deep. Discard two-thirds of the soil. Thoroughly mix the remaining soil with bagged composted pine bark, gritty paver leveling sand and a few bags of pea gravel. You should aim for a 1:1:1 ratio between the soil, the bark and the inert materials. The planting spot should not be in a low spot that holds water after a rain. If all goes well, your spruce will last for several years. If not, the wood adds a nice scent to your fireplace. Consider planting instead an Arizona cypress, Cupressus arizonica. It grows just fine here.

Email Walter at georgiagardener@yahoo.com. Listen to his occasional garden comments on “Green and Growing with Ashley Frasca” Saturday mornings on 95.5 WSB. Visit his website, www.walterreeves.com, or join his Facebook Page at bit.ly/georgiagardener, for his latest tips.