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How to get rid of weeds, keep your pet tick-free and more

Q: Weeds are creeping into my garden. How do I get rid of them safely and efficiently? — Gus Hemmerling, Las Vegas

A: The W-word isn’t actually a technical plant classification — it refers to anything that grows somewhere it isn’t wanted. But that doesn’t make these invaders any less annoying. Aside from being unsightly, they compete with your plants for resources like water and light — and left to their own devices, many can take over. To contain them, think of weeding much like tidying your house: Do a little upkeep here and there, and you’ll avoid hours of backbreaking work at a stretch.

Weeding fundamentals

1. Know your enemy

Learning to identify various weeds at all stages of life will help you work quickly — and save you from yanking up a zinnia sprout because you think it’s knotgrass. To make sure you’re going after the right plants, refer to “Weeds of North America” by Richard Dickinson and France Royer (University of Chicago Press, 2014).

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2. Time it right

It’s far better to remove nuisances when they’re young and haven’t gone to seed (which happens after they flower) or developed an established root system. Most will then slide out easily after a rain, when the soil is wet.

3. Grab a tool

You can pull small, less entrenched weeds out with your hands. But for perennials with deep taproots, like dandelions, dig down and remove the entire plant — roots and all — with a hori-hori knife (try the carbon-steel version from Hida Tool & Hardware Co.; $25, hidatool.com) or a fishtail weeder (try Sneeboer’s Dandelion Digger; $32, shop.healdsburgshed.com).

4. Toss smartly

You can dispose of annuals, such as ragweed, in your compost as long as they haven’t gone to seed; just let them dry out in the sun for a day before adding. (If they do have seeds, you could end up spreading them all over your garden when you use the compost!) Throw other varieties — or any you’re uncertain about — in the regular trash.

5. Prevent future intruders

Plant your garden densely, so weeds don’t have room (or light) to grow, and mulch it well, which will keep persistent ones from popping up.

Q: What’s the difference between a crisp, a crumble, a cobbler and a buckle? — Josiah Blumenthal, Burlington, Vermont

A: Pies get most of the glory in the summer, but there are myriad combinations of crusty goodness and ripe fruit. Here’s how the lexicon breaks down:

Crisps: Fruit baked with a sugary, streusellike topping, generally containing oats or nuts. A crumble is a crisp minus the oats or nuts.

Cobblers: Same fruit base, different golden topping — in this case biscuit dough, dropped in dollops.

Buckles: A single-layer cake with berries or cut-up fruit in the batter, giving it a “buckled,” or indented, appearance.

Pets: Bugs off!

Dog (and some cat) owners are bracing for tick season, particularly in the Northeast. Options for keeping these relentless arachnids off your furry friends range from medicated collars to topical treatments and prescription pills that repel or kill them; consult your veterinarian to find the best fit for your animals and lifestyle.

Even after taking such measures, you should still inspect Scout after he’s spent time outdoors. The critters are visible to the naked eye (deer ticks, which carry Lyme disease, are especially hard to spot during nymph stage, at about the size of a poppy seed), and tend to latch on near the neck, head or feet, or inside the ears. If you spot one, put on rubber gloves and use tweezers to grasp it as close to your pet’s skin as possible; then pull it straight out. (You can also use a “key” tool, such as TickEase tweezers; $10, chewy.com.) Place the varmint in a jar of rubbing alcohol to kill it, disinfect the bite and monitor the area for swelling (a sign of an infection, which should be treated by a vet).

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