Fielding Questions: Odd growth on a cyclamen, quackgrass in strawberries and controlling creeping Charlie
Q: Here is a picture of my cyclamen plant. Can you tell me what the round growth is? It's not a flower bud. — Willard Hiebert, Moorhead.
A: Thanks for the interesting photo. The round ball shape at the end of the stalk appears to be a seed pod.
Cyclamen flowers, located atop a slender stalk, usually wither and fall without forming a seedhead. In nature, cyclamens are usually pollinated by insects. Indoors, without these busy insects to transfer pollen within flowers, potted florist-type cyclamens don’t usually produce seed pods.
Occasionally, though, through plant movement or leaves rustling against flowers, some pollen gets transferred to the right locations within a flower, even in the absence of insects. Instead of petals dropping, leaving a bare stalk, the pollinated flower remains active after petals whither, with the ovary gradually enlarging. If all goes well, viable seeds will form within the pod.
Q: You responded to a recent question about quackgrass in asparagus by suggesting two brands of weed killer, which were Bonide's Grass Beater and Hi-Yield's Grass Killer. Would these work for quackgrass in strawberries also? — Debby Wagenman, Dent, Minn.
A: I checked the product labels, and both Hi-Yield Grass Killer and Bonide Grass Beater indicate they can be used for grass control in strawberries. The waiting period between the time of application and time of berry harvest is listed as seven days.
Quackgrass usually starts growing in spring long before the first berries would be harvested, so a preferred method would be to apply the herbicide in early spring to actively growing quackgrass that’s reached at least 6 inches in height. The active ingredient in both these herbicides is the same, sethoxydim, with Hi-Yield Grass Killer containing 18 percent of the active ingredient and Bonide Grass Beater listed at 13 percent. Because herbicide labels are legal documents, it's a legal requirement to use the product only on crops specifically listed, and in this case, both products may be used on strawberries.
Q: I had a creeping Charlie problem at my Minnesota lake home years ago and was advised by a hardware store salesperson to simply use borax mixed with water in a spray bottle and it eliminated the weed. The same person advised me to use Dawn dish soap mixed with water to treat the problem of box elder bugs clinging to my house in the hundreds. It stopped them in their tracks and when it rained, I had a nice clean exterior. — Duane K., Grand Forks.
A: Dish soap mixed with water is a good remedy for box elder bugs, but I'm afraid borax is no longer recommended for creeping Charlie control.
This from the University of Minnesota: "In the past, borax (boron) was a product recommended for eradicating creeping Charlie. However, research has shown that the addition of boron to soil, even in very small amounts, can create an unfavorable growing environment, and make it difficult to re-establish lawn grass. Also, this isn’t a legal application. Any product used in this fashion must be specifically labeled for the weed one is trying to control. Therefore, borax it is no longer recommended for eradication of creeping Charlie."
This is a great example of the value of research, which led to borax being found potentially more dangerous than helpful.
If you have a gardening or lawn care question, email Don Kinzler at ForumGrowingTogether@hotmail.com. All questions will be answered, and those with broad appeal may be published, so please include your name, city and state for appropriate advice.