Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN


April 30, 2012

PLATEAU GARDENING: Maintenance for perennials

CROSSVILLE — There is a mistaken notion that perennial plants are maintenance free. That is not true. Certain yard and garden tasks must be done whether you grow annuals, biennials or perennials. Garden sanitation is one example. Cleaner beds grow healthier plants. Every season has appropriate garden cleanup tasks. Weeding is another equal opportunity landscape chore. Although, I find weed removal is sometimes tougher with perennials. It can be harder to work around permanently placed plantings than to eliminate weeds in beds that are tilled then freshly planted each spring. Weeds compete with "good" landscape plants for sunlight, soil moisture and nutrients. Getting rid of weeds not only makes your yard look good, it eliminates habitat where insect pests and plant diseases flourish as well as makes elements ornamentals need to thrive more readily available.

Broadleaf weeds like dandelions growing in your lawn can be sprayed with an herbicide that does not damage turf grass. There are also sprays formulated to kill grasses that invade garden plots without harming desirable ornamentals. Many broad spectrum weed killers such as Roundup, contain the chemical glyphosate. Glyphosate is a systemic that kills both grasses and broadleaf species. Applying any herbicide in planted areas where undesirable plants are mixed in with desirable ones of a similar classification (broadleaf /dicot and grass /monocot) is not an easy task. The risk that some of the "good" plants will be wiped out along with the "bad" ones is high. Pulling weeds is a slower but a better option in garden beds.

My perennial bed out by the mailbox is a good example of a space where weeding is especially difficult. This area is planned to have various perennials bloom in succession so there are some blossoms at every point during the growing season. When I took photos for this story, only clumps of distinctive leaves marked the bearded iris and daylilies in that bed. Homestead Purple verbena (Verbena canadensis "Homestead"), Lunaria biennis (actually a biennial that freely reseeds, commonly known as money plant or honesty), and May Night blue salvia (Salvia X sylvestris "May Night") are displaying purple or bluish-purple flowers. At the front of that bed a clump of dwarf coreopsis (Coreopsis auriculata "Nana") has daisy-like blossoms with deep yellow-gold petals on a plant that grows only four to five inches high.

At first glance, the bed appears lush with greenery. Closer examination reveals many of the leaves and stems belong to the predominate weed, Crown vetch (Coronilla varia). There are a few weedy grasses and tiny oak tree seedlings (probably from acorns squirrels buried last fall) that need to be removed from that bed, as well. Vetch is a persistently invasive weed with underground stems (rhizomes) that creep around and under desirable plants. If left in place, these weeds can out-grow and climb over everything in their way, making enough shade to kill any desirable plants they overrun, even shrubs. Crown vetch is not as fast growing as kudzu, but almost. Vetch has pretty pink flowers later in the season. I recognize the plant’s multi-part leaves which have between 15 and 25 little oval-shaped green leaflets lining either side of the central leaf rib because crown vetch is a garden enemy I’ve been battling for years. It takes care to get all underground traces of weeds without damaging roots of the desirable plants. Bits of vetch left in the soil can be the start of a fresh round of weeds in a week or so. After weeding, mulching around the good plants keeps seeds from germinating but does not seem to stop new vetch plants initiated by rhizomes left underground.


Plateau Gardening is written by Master Gardeners for gardeners in Tennessee’s Upper Cumberland Region.  UT Extension Cumberland County at P.O. Box 483, Crossville, TN 38557 (931-484-6743) has answers horticulture questions, free publications and details on how to become a Master Gardener. Send email comments or yard & garden inquiries to Master Gardener Rae, 

Text Only
  • 20140412_110402.jpg Kids get creative at Youth Expo

    Cumberland Artisans for Creative Expression (CACE) held its annual Youth Expo Saturday, providing young people an opportunity to try their hand at a variety of artistic endeavors, from music and writing to painting and traditional crafts of weaving and spinning.

    April 17, 2014 4 Photos

  • AROUND THE TOWN: The Easter egg hunt that never was

    The Easter Bunny should be able to deliver his baskets in pretty nice weather this weekend. The Good Friday and Easter holiday weekend should feature much warmer temperatures than we had earlier this week when snow showers fell on Cumberland County. Cumberland County students were released Tuesday for spring break, but their last day of school for the week found snow and ice falling from the sky and temperatures in the 20s. Students will return to class on Monday.

    April 17, 2014

  • 127 Seniors.jpg Jay Fox performs for seniors after receiving new prosthesis

    On Friday, April 11, the members of the 127 Senior Center had another good time playing bingo and dominos. Bingo was called by Arlene Simmons and Helen Lord, and the bingo gifts were provided by Bob Folger of State Farm Insurance.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Marriage licenses

    Publised April 16, 2014.

    April 15, 2014

  • pleasant hill ramblings.jpg PLEASANT HILL RAMBLINGS: Pancake breakfast held for cancer research

    During the year various groups connected with the Pleasant Hill Elementary School provide a Saturday morning pancake breakfast to support the Relay for Life campaign.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Fair Park.jpg Final audition planned for talent show

    Last auditions for Crossville’s Got Talent will be this Saturday, April 19, at 1 p.m. at the Fair Park Senior Center. The center is at 1433 Livingston Rd. It looks like another good show, so miss this one.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • PLATEAU GARDENING: Cool-season lawn grass fertilization and soil tests

    Recently, I got an inquiry about the right timing for homeowners who want to fertilize a cool-season lawn which has bare spots that need over-seeding. An email from a new resident in the Crossville area asked how to take a soil sample and where to have it tested. Since problems with the pH or fertility of the soil beneath can result in chronically thin grass with persistent bare places up top, testing the soil then correcting pH and fertility to match plant needs can be an important first step in maintaining your lawn.

    April 14, 2014

  • IMG953498.jpg It's a great day to fly a kite!

    April 10, 2014 3 Photos

  • Season of fundraising begins

    Spring is in full swing, and this mean there are a host of not-for-profit organizations in Crossville and Cumberland County hosting events over the next few weeks. The first event will begin this weekend with a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.

    April 10, 2014

  • 4-25 N&N meeting.jpg Investigative forensic science close to home

    NCIS? CSI? Bones? All fictional! Here in East Tennessee, they have a real investigative forensic expert — Dr. Bill Bass.

    April 8, 2014 1 Photo