Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Goldenrod or Ragweed Causing Your Allergies


I hear people blaming Goldenrod for their allergies all the time. I used to do the same. In fact I was on a trip to Atlanta, GA in the late summer of 1998 when I had a bad reaction. We were looking for a house when we passed a beautiful field filled with Goldenrod and shortly after I had a horrible headache. When I told my allergist about it later he said it was the ragweed that was the problem not the Goldenrod.


Many people with allergies blame plants for their misery because it is so often the case, and summertime can be tough for hay fever sufferers. Hay fever is an allergic reaction that certain people have when they inhale pollen from specific plants. During late summer and fall one of the most colorful plants we see blooming in roadside ditches is goldenrod (Solidago sp.), and since hay fever symptoms seem to be worse when it is in bloom, it is often blamed for causing hay fever. the true culprit is ragweed. Both plants begin blooming in late summer, and fall and they can both be blooming in the same field but you may only notice the Goldenrod because of the showy flowers.

Goldenrod flowers

Although these plants bloom together they are very different. Goldenrod produces masses of bright golden flowers on single-stemmed plants, and has relatively large, heavy pollen grains that are intended to be carried off by bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. Ragweed bares greenish yellow flowers in small heads which produce copious amounts of pollen that is  carried by the wind rather than insects for pollination. Ragweed flowers are not showy which means these plants are often easier to recognize by their stems and leaves and why Goldenrod is often blamed for seasonal allergies. Look for branching purplish stems that are rough and hairy, and leaves which are smooth,
but deeply divided into lobed portions when identifying Ragweed.

Ragweed stems and flowers

Since about 75% of  Americans who are allergic to other pollen-producing plants are also
allergic to ragweed, it is important for homeowners to control/remove of this pest plant is important. Luckily this shallow-rooted plant  can be controlled  best by hoeing, hand-pulling, or mowing while plants are still young,  before their flowers begin to form. Select herbicides for  use on broadleaf weeds can also provide control. But should be used with caution and should not be used in right-of-ways and ditches where other wildflowers are likely present. Remember that bees and other pollinators for food!

Hopefully this will clarify the differences between Goldenrod and Ragweed and help you to identify ragweed in your yard or property as it did for me, and will allow all of us to breathe a little easier this time of year.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Fall Perennials


When asked which is your favorite season in the garden I say fall! I know it seems like it should be spring when everything comes alive and starts to bloom. But fall weather is a great time to access your garden's needs. Is there a corner or planting bed that needs some color or is there a dead spot? The time is also right for planting perennials!

Shasta Daisy

I reworked a bed 2 years ago in September, making it into a perennial bed. The weather is perfect for planting and getting perennials in the ground in the south. Planting now will give perennial roots a good start. This is also a good time to pick up bargain plants. At the end of the season you can find great discounts on plants that are past their peak. You will often find these plants reduced 50 - 75%. This is when I like to get my perennials. I check the clearance rack before looking at fresh plants! The plants are super cheap because they look so pitiful and are often at deaths door! If a plant looks like it has a hint of life left I will bring it home as long as it looks bug and disease free. I will occasionally find a plant I can't bring back to life but the price can't be beat!

Hibiscus moscheutos 

Frost is not the problem you might think it would be in Fall. Especially here in the south, where frost don't come until around Thanksgiving and the soil doesn't freeze until much later. Even if frost kills the tops of the plants it won't affect root growth. Roots will continue to grow until the soil freezes. In the spring it takes a while for the soil to warm up so the roots of plants grow very slowly. In the fall the soil is still warm allowing the roots to grow faster. Since they aren't using energy to produce flowers all that energy can go into root development. You can get your plants off to a good start by planting in good soil and keeping watered during dry spells.


To give your bargain plants a fighting chance give them a good soaking when you get them home. Set them in a tray or saucer to catch the water that runs through the pot, allowing the roots to soak up the water. Then plant as you would any healthy plant. They will need less water because of the lower temperatures and shorter days in the fall. But if rain is really scarce keep them watered until the soil freezes. Remember the roots are still growing.

Joe Pyeweed

Even if a few of your new plants don't make it, you can still come out ahead and it will give you a jump on spring gardening!

Garden Phlox

Here are a few Perennials to plant in the fall:

Balloon Flower
Bee Balm
Lamb's ears
Oriental poppies