How to control creeping Charlie after it invades your lawn
Don Kinzler also answers questions about pear trees that can produce fruit in the region and when to dig up onions.
Q: Can you identify this weed in our lawn, and how to control or kill it? — Kevin E.
A: The weed invading your lawn is creeping Charlie, which is among the weeds considered difficult to kill. It's a perennial that returns each year from a winter-hardy root system, and it spreads outward by runners, easily creeping throughout lawns or landscapes.
To control creeping Charlie, look for a lawn weed herbicide containing the active ingredient triclopyr, which is readily available in a number of products at garden centers. It will be listed in fine print on the label in the "active ingredient" section. It won't harm the lawngrass.
Weeds are tough to kill in August, as they’ve become hardened against heat. Instead, wait to apply the herbicide around mid-to-late September. Weeds become more tender in the cooler temperatures, and control is more effective as the weeds carry the herbicide internally and into the weed’s root system.
Difficult-to-kill weeds are rarely eliminated with one application of herbicide. Apply now in the fall, and again next May to any regrowth, which is almost certain. Follow this spring and fall application for a year, sometimes two, and creeping Charlie can be eliminated.
Q: Can I grow a pear tree that will produce fruit in our region? — Bob S.
A: Homegrown pears are great for fresh eating and canning. There are six pear cultivars recommended for the region that will be winter-hardy in zones 3 and 4. The hardiest, designated zone 3, are Early Gold, Ure and Golden Spice. In addition, zone 4 can include Summercrisp, Parker and Luscious.
Pears commonly require at least seven years before they begin bearing, and two different cultivars are required for good yields. The bright white flowers of pears are spectacular in early spring, but they’re sensitive to frost, which eliminates the crop when frost occurs during bloom time.
Each of the mentioned cultivars have slightly different qualities, and some cultivars work better together for best pollination. An online search for “The Best Pear Cultivars for North Dakota” provides descriptions of each type and additional information.
Q: Some of my onion tops are falling over. This is my first year growing onions. When are they supposed to be dug for storing? — Brent S.
A: A standard recommendation is to harvest onions when most of the tops have not only fallen over, but started to dry as well. Check the “neck” of a few onions, where the leaves meet the bulb. When most of the necks are withered and dried, the bulbs are ready for harvest.
Harvesting is easiest with a spading fork or a four-tined cultivator to lift the onions from the soil. Onions can be left on the ground for several days if the weather will be warm and dry, or they can be brought indoors to cure.
Curing is essential for long-term storage. Spread the onions in shallow trays in a warm 75-to-85 degree, well-ventilated area for two to four weeks until the outer bulb scales are dry and the neck is tight. Poor curing results in decay during storage. When properly dry, onions can be braided or the dry tops cut off.
Store onions for the winter in a cool, dry area at around 40 degrees. If stored much above that threshold, onions will sprout. Winter storage length depends greatly on the onion cultivar.
If you have a gardening or lawn care question, email Don Kinzler, NDSU Extension-Cass County, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions with broad appeal may be published, so please include your name, city and state for appropriate advice.