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Hortiscope: Broadleaf control may not help strawberry crop

Q: My son and I are growing some purple wood sorrel. Somehow a pink variegated plant popped up. I was wondering if you had ever seen this variety.

A: That is hard to say because this species has so many different cultivars that are deliberately or naturally produced, so it is hard to keep track of them all. All I can say is enjoy the plant. The plant probably is a mutant (periclinal or sectoral chimera). If you think it is something new, then see if you can perpetuate it and try marketing it. However, the color variation probably has occurred before and some sharp nursery operator has been marketing it for quite some time.

Q: I know it is early for a garden question, but I want to be on top of things by spring. My question concerns strawberries. I have two rows of strawberries. The plants are 3 years old and bearing very well. I control the grass that grows with Poast. However, broadleaf weeds are taking hold and are beyond pulling. Most are of the weeds are thistles and dandelions. I looked everywhere this past summer for a herbicide that is safe to use on strawberries but couldn't find one. I seem to remember your column dealing with this problem at one time. What do commercial growers use?

A: Unfortunately, there isn't a heck of a lot to choose from for broadleaf control. The University of Massachusetts has a publication out that recommends the use of different products. One of the products is glyphosate that is used while the strawberry plants are dormant. You can review the publication by going to www.umass.

edu/fruitadvisor/nesfpmg/ 052-054.pdf. My wife and I find that our strawberries start to decline in productivity after about three years. This also is just about when the weeds start to be troublesome. We dig everything up, clean out the bed completely, refresh it with peat moss and a shot of phosphorus. Replant using a new cultivar.

Q: I have two bulbs planted for spring in window boxes. I am wondering if I can leave the bulbs in the boxes after they finish their season and plant other flowers above them for summer and fall use. I would put fresh planting soil in the boxes in late fall after the plants are removed.

A: This is commonly done, so go for it!

To contact Ron Smith for answers to your questions, write to Ron Smith, NDSU Department of Plant Sciences, Dept. 7670, Box 6050, Fargo, ND 58108-6050 or e-mail