Helen Chesnut’s Garden Notes: Pulling horsetail weeds encourages new growth

Dear Helen: I’ve been pulling up horsetail plants on my property and putting them on the compost. When I mentioned this to gardening friends, I was told that, because the plants extract heavy metals from the soil, they are harmful additions to a compost heap. Is this true?


It is true that horsetail has been used to help remediate soils polluted by heavy metals. The plants’ extensive and incredibly deep roots are efficient at drawing metals from the soil. The amount of heavy metal in the plants will depend on how much is in the soil. The highest levels are found in areas where the metals have been mined.

I doubt that the soil in most home gardens will be heavily laden with dangerous metals, but if this is a concern the history of the land could be looked into. In benign soils, the plants extract and hold minerals that are useful additions to a compost.

Personally, because this is such an aggressive weed, I would treat the stems before composting them. Either soak them in bins of water for a week or lay them out in the sun on plastic sheeting to dry thoroughly.

Your email indicates that you don’t mind the horsetail on your property. Most gardeners regard the plants as pernicious weeds, almost impossible to control. Should you wish at some point to begin curtailing their spread, refrain from pulling the plants up or digging them. These actions prompt underground nodes of growth to sprout new plants.

A preferred control is to keep cutting the stems to the ground, beginning with the leafless, spore-bearing spring stems. Cut them before they can form and spread spores, which can germinate in moist soils. Then cut down the leafy stems that follow. Continued cutting will gradually weaken the roots.

If it suits the situation, an early summer cutting could be followed by covering the area with thick black plastic for a year. If you don’t like using plastic, another option is to cover a horsetail-denuded area with cardboard thick enough to hold together well for at least a year. Top it up with layers of newspaper if you wish. Then cover with a thick mulching material.

Dear Helen: In the last few years an Italian prune plum tree in my yard has produced only around 20 plums each year. The tree is an old one, dating back to the 1960s I think. I would be sad to lose the tree, but I fear it is in decline. What can I do?


Fruit trees, like most living things, have a finite life span. For prune plum trees, the average is 15 to 20 years, with 30 years being exceptional. Our damp coastal climate renders plum and other soft tree fruits susceptible to a number of diseases that can weaken a tree and further limit its productive lifetime.

My 40-year old prune plum tree still yields good crops of delicious plums, but parts of the tree are beginning to die

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County to request noxious weeds assistance from Trump’s secretary of interior | News

Grant County Court voted Aug. 26 to write a letter to President Donald Trump’s Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt to request assistance to mitigate invasive plant species and noxious weeds.

Grant County Judge Scott Myers said the noxious weeds, mainly medusa head, grow back after wildfires and have to be removed manually.

“You can’t burn it away,” he said. “It comes back, eventually.”

Myers said, if the county continues to receive Secure Rural Schools Act funding, money the federal government sets aside for schools, roads, and other municipal services, then the ranchers can address the noxious weeds problem through that program. Especially through Title II funding, that money is set aside for projects on federal lands.

“Title II projects would be just perfect for that,” he said.

In other county news:

• Grant County Planning Commissioner Shannon Springer updated the court on the planning commission’s proposed flood ordinance. She said the proposed amendments are not changes in intent related to requirements, but instead changes to the wording.

She said the county must ensure that its flood management practices comply with federal guidelines in the national flood insurance program.

She said the bulk of the wording was changed to mirror the federal government. Springer said the planning commission reviewed the ordinance and recommended approval.

She said the Federal Emergency Management Agency is slated to complete its remapping of the Silvies watershed by the end of September. It would make more sense, Springer said, to approve the flood ordinance in October. The court approved Springer’s request to push out voting on the ordinance.

• The court moved to update Safety and Risk Manager Ryan Palmer’s job description. According to Myers, the update would work out to a $3 per hour raise.

• The court approved Grant County Regional Airport Manager Haley Walker’s request of $4,478 in rent that the airport was owed by the Emergency Operations Center.

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Tips On Avoiding Weeds In Your Mobile Home Garden

Your mobile home is an investment and as such you want to make sure it is kept in the best condition possible. That doesn't just mean the inside … your exterior matters, too. Many people don't even consider their yard when they first buy their mobile home. But chances are you have started to consider what to do with that space now, or you already started and are running into the usual problems people have when they plant a garden.

Weeds are an infuriating and frustrating part of managing a garden. They seem to pop up out of nowhere and where there is one, there are a dozen set to follow. You could go from having a single stubborn little weed to suddenly having your garden overcome with the buggers, sucking up nutrients your plants need to grow and creating an eyesore in the process.

How do you tackle this green menace? Here are some tips on avoiding weeds in the garden and taking care of them when they do manage to creep into your mobile home's garden.

Removing Weeds From Your Mobile Home's Garden

The first step to managing a weed problem is taking care of the one that is already there. Pulling them is the most effective way of getting them out because it yanks out the root that, if left, would allow them to grow back. Weed wackers can pull some of them, but others will only get cut at the soil level. The problem will only keep recurring.

Wait until you have either watered your garden, or there has been a significant rain and the soil is damp and soft. If the soil is too hard you will break them off without the root when you pull them off. If you have harder soil that isn't softening, use a hand shovel or other gardening tool to break through around the root of the weed. Be sure to wear thick gardening gloves, as many weed types can be hard on the skin and even cause rashes or cuts when you pull them.

What do you do with the weeds when they are pulled out? You can just toss them, sure, but then what good have they ever done? You can actually make weeds work for you by adding them to compost. They will break down and nourish your garden just like any other plant matter.

One other (high maintenance) option is to use livestock to eat the weeds. Many many will buy chickens or goats in order to have them eat the weeds in their gardens. However, this means also caring for the animals correctly, feeding them, etc. There are benefits like fresh eggs or goats milk, not to mention the aspect of having them as pets. But make sure you are ready for the responsibility before you go this route.

You also need more space. Mobile homes come in all different shapes and sizes and are placed on all different sizes of land. So if you …

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