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Untended porches, yards can be frightful

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Saturday, Oct. 29, 2011, at 7:32 a.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, April 3, 2012, at 1:08 p.m.

When my sister and I checked out decked-out Broadview Street one Halloween several years ago, one of her feet slipped into a narrow hole in one of the front yards, probably because a cover to some utility access had become dislodged.

It was scary in two ways – one could imagine that something was pulling on her, well in keeping with the gruesome Halloween Central displays all around, and ... she kind of got hurt.

The accident was a good reminder to me of why I need to keep my front porch cleared and cleaned on Halloween. In past years, my sycamore tree would drop enough leaves to create an ocean swirling around the shore of the porch, and the holiday would be a must-rake event.

Potential hazards in addition to steps hidden by leaves include unlit walkways, dislodged or loose bricks, stones or concrete, holes and candles that you might be tempted to add for ambience.

I love keeping a well-swept porch, but I don’t always succeed in keeping it that way. It doesn’t take long for anything exposed to the elements to become dusty and dirty. It takes vigilance to keep the cobwebs and dust bunnies at bay and to keep the porch pots tidy and looking good. But it makes the whole house feel good when the entrance is welcoming for residents, as well as visitors.

If you have a tender new lawn coming in, you probably don’t want children tromping across it. This poses an extra challenge of cordoning it off safely, visibly and effectively. Caution tape can take on a double meaning on Halloween.

There are other things in the yard that can be scary for gardeners, if not for costumed trick-or-treaters.

Broadleaf weeds such as dandelions, clover, chickweed and henbit that haunt us through the spring and summer can most effectively be dispatched in the fall.

“They’re storing up energy for winter. An herbicide applied (in the fall) will enter the plant and also travel down to the roots’ food reserves, killing the entire plant,” said Rodney St. John, turfgrass horticulturist with K-State Research and Extension.

Applications should be made in late October or early November. Traditional herbicides that control broadleaf weeds in fall include 2,4-D and a range of products that combine 2,4-D with MCPP and dicamba (e.g., Trimec, Weed-B-Gon, Weed-Out), St. John said. A newer product (e.g., Weed Free Zone, Speed Zone) combines the traditional ingredients with carfentrazone. It’s quicker than the traditional products and more effective in temperatures below 50, St. John said.

Herbicides, of course, can be scary, too. If dicamba is applied incorrectly, for example, it can hurt tree and shrub roots, St. John said. And sprays may not work if applied to grass in dry soil or, for the traditional herbicides, on a day when the temperature is below 50 degrees, he said. Follow label instructions exactly.

All of the herbicides can damage new lawns, so unless new grass plants have grown enough to be mowed two to three times, hand-digging weeds will be safer for the turf seedlings, St. John said. And for all of us little goblins as well.

Reach Annie Calovich at 316-268-6596 or acalovich@wichitaeagle.com.

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