SPRING GARDENING TIPS:
How to deal with weeds, fire ants, more
April 19, 2015
By Donna Roberts/Victoria County Master Gardener
Edited by Charla Borchers Leon/Victoria County Master Gardener
PHOTO BY DONNA ROBERTS/VICTORIA COUNTY MASTER GARDENER
Recent rain encourages the growth of weeds like shown in this lawn. Along with hand pulling the weeds where possible and applying treatment to help control them, mowing regularly is good practice to insure a healthy dense lawn and prevent weeds from seeding and growing.
PHOTO BY DONNA ROBERTS/VICTORIA COUNTY MASTER GARDENER
Fire ants currently exist in mounds in various types of soil in the local area. Even with recent rains somewhat slowing down their activity, they can easily be disturbed (with movement of the soil) and then swarm the grassy area and/or tools and feet that disturb them. Be careful to avoid being stung as it can be intense with reaction to their bite being severe.
PHOTO BY CHARLA BORCHERS LEON/VICTORIA COUNTY MASTER GARDENER
Various products are currently available in local garden centers to treat fire ants. These include baits to be broadcast over the treatment area for worker ants to carry product down into the mound to kill the queen ant, products to specifically treat a mound that poses immediate danger to humans or pets, and those for season-long control.
Spring has finally sprung in the Crossroads. We've had much-needed rain in our area, and hopefully, we are off to a great start in dealing with our drought levels. Alas, along with our much-needed rainfall, we also have to contend with weeds, weeds and more weeds, and pesky fire ants.
I am listing a few hints to hopefully help you get through the spring season.
If you did not use any pre-emergent weed control for your lawns and planting beds earlier, you probably are going to have to do extra old-fashioned weed pulling and/or hoeing.
Hand pulling remains a sure way to successfully eliminate the weeds. It takes a lot of elbow grease, patience and persistence, but just look at the exercise you will be getting. Hoeing is perhaps a little less stressful on your back and knees and also does a great job of eliminating the unwanted weeds in your planting beds.
Along with hand pulling and hoeing, mowing regularly is the best strategy for lawns. Fertilizing your lawns now and being on a regular mowing schedule will give your lawn strength to keep the weeds in check. There are very few weeds that can compete with a healthy, dense lawn.
Fire ant management
To borrow a line from Doug Welsh, former professor and Extension horticulturist at Texas A&M University, "fire ants will never be eradicated in Texas." Dr. Welsh is referring to the red imported fire ants that are not native to Texas and are aggressive.
However, entomologists at Texas A&M University have developed the "Texas two-step method" for fire ant management. Our local Texas AgriLife Extension office has the literature outlining this method and the booklet is free, so be sure and pick one up if you are not familiar with the application. Briefly, the two-step method uses baits to be broadcast evenly over the treatment area and treatment of individual mounds that pose an immediate danger to humans or pets.
Texas AgriLife Extension does not endorse one product over another but does provide educational information on products/product names that are successful in treating horticulture problems and symptoms.
Some common fire ant baits are Amdro, Extinguish, Green Light Fire Ant Killer and Ortho Fire Ant Killer. Common mound treatments are Bayer Advanced Lawn & Garden Multi-Insect Killer, Bengal UltraDust, Terro Fire Ant Killer and Ortho Fire Ant Granules.
There are numerous others that can be found on the shelves of local nurseries and garden centers - and most are effective. I prefer the powdered applications for single mounds as I have small lawn areas and usually two to three mounds at the most.
In the last few years, products have become available on the market that are designed to be broadcast one time over the entire landscape for season-long control of fire ants. According to research, their effectiveness has been validated. I have also seen these products available locally.
The products are distributed under the name of Garden Tech's Over 'n Out! and Spectracide's Once & Done! Fire Ant Killer. If you choose this latter method, please adhere strictly to the label directions as they may not be suitable for you if you have domestic animals and children in the home.
Herbicides for garden/orchard
Don't be hasty to run out and use herbicides in your garden, orchard or lawn. Be sure to check all herbicide products to make sure you can use them on edible fruits and vegetables.
There are several types of herbicides, and they are all categorized based on the time of application and the mode of application. Your preferred local nursery can guide you in your choice of product - or you can pick up information at our local Texas AgriLife Extension office, 528 Waco Circle at Victoria Regional Airport.
Other spring gardening tips
Here are some additional timely tips to be routinely done in April and May:
Whatever you choose to do in your garden, enjoy our lovely spring weather.
The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or firstname.lastname@example.org
• Applicant from Victoria or adjacent county must have at least
• 60 hours of college credit, with a major in horticulture, agriculture or related field.
• For more information and application form, go to:
• Deadline: June 1
• Prune dead blooms off plants.
• Prune flowering shrubs after they have bloomed.
• Plant warm weather veggies and herbs.
• Apply cornmeal for control of fungus in lawns and on plants.
• Watch for snails and slugs in the garden and treat accordingly.