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On Tour

Wells Branch Elementary Green Team Garden

At Wells Branch Elementary, a lot is growing on.  From kindergarten to fifth grade, students are having a blast getting dirty tending their organic vegetables and native plants for wildlife. Assisted by the Sustainable Food Center, parents, and community volunteers, they turned a courtyard into another yardstick for learning. At their Friday Farmers’ Market, they share their Green Team fresh food with the community, earning money to invest in more crops.

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Question of the Week

How do I get rid of weeds in walkway paths?

This is a bit of a pet peeve of mine:  weeds growing in cracks in the sidewalk.  How do you control them?

Weeds growing in hardscapes can be very difficult to deal with once they’ve gotten out of control. If they have, you should start by pulling out as much of the plant as you can. In very narrow spots, a dandelion weeder or a long-handled screwdriver makes it much easier.

Unfortunately, in most situations, you’ll be left with some pretty pernicious roots, and you’ll need to use an herbicide to finish off the job.

You may want to use vinegar instead of a chemical product, and vinegar does work, but only if used appropriately.  First, kitchen vinegar does not quite do the job.  You’ll need the concentrated, laboratory-grade vinegar (10% or 20%) which you can find in most local nurseries.

But what most people don’t realize about vinegar is that it only kills the top growth, not the root.  So after you’ve pulled the weed, you’ll need to wait until it regrows before you spray it with vinegar.  If the weed has a large root system it may take several treatments, but just keep at it.  Eventually the plant will use up all of the stored carbohydrates in its roots and won’t grow back.  You’ll still need to dig out as much of the dead plant material from the crack as you can, since anything left behind will serve as a nice little base for a new weed to grow.

Which leads me back to my peeve.  This whole situation can be avoided by simply making sure that dirt and organic debris, normally lawn clippings, don’t build up in those cracks.  After mowing, make sure to blow or sweep all of the stray lawn clippings out of those cracks.  Weeds don’t break through solid concrete from the ground below; they sprout from seeds that have landed on the miniscule amount of organic matter that has blown into that crack.

Obviously, if the hardscape is actually broken, plants can creep in from the exposed ground below, but I’m talking about naturally depressed areas, where blowing dirt lands and is not easily gotten out.

And this seems like the perfect opportunity to remind everyone: when blowing your lawn clippings off the driveway and sidewalk, don’t blow them out into the street, blow them back onto your lawn.  Not only will nutrients be added back to the soil as the clippings break down, you’ll also keep organic matter out of our storm water system, where it does not belong.

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Plant of the Week



Artichoke is a yummy vegetable and a lovely addition to your garden. Artichoke plants get quite large, about 3 feet tall and wide, so give them plenty of space. And they need bright sun to grow and bloom, so don't plant them in shady spots. Soil type is also important to healthy artichokes. They need good drainage and deep, fertile soils. Whether you have loose sandy soil or heavy clay, be sure to amend it with lots of good quality compost. Artichokes need a large, healthy root system in order to support healthy top-growth, and strength to hold those heavy blooms that you're looking for. Green Globe is a good variety for Central Texas. It performs well in our heat and takes about 150 days to get to harvest. But you may not want to harvest your artichokes. If those blooms are left on the plant and allowed to open, the flower is quite striking. A deep, vibrant purple, artichoke flowers are some of the beefiest around. And the foliage is a striking addition and can be used as a filler in flower arrangements. Artichoke plants are perennial, so they'll return most seasons, unless we have a harsh winter. Most will freeze if temperatures drop into the 20s. In our increasingly hot, dry Central Texas summers, the plants will struggle a bit and the blooms may suffer. Regular irrigation will help, so put your artichokes on a drip system or soaker hose and keep them watered well throughout the growing season.