Q: I have found an ad in one of the seed catalogs for ground almonds that are supposed to attract wild turkeys and deer to areas. I have tried to find out specifically what this plant is. I have talked to various hunters and no one has heard of it. Maybe you know.
S. P. of Collinsville
A: Ground almond is an old name for a common noxious weed, yellow nut sedge (Cyperus esculentus) that grows all over in our wet areas. This plant looks like a grass, but has a triangular stem, which helps identify this plant as a sedge.
This plant has two methods of reproduction: by seed that forms in summer and by an underground a small nutlike tuber which is bright yellow. Some animals try to dig up these “nuts.” Any small leftover morsel can grow into another plant. Many gardeners have made the mistake of trying to rototill the nutlets thinking they have destroyed these reproductive parts but instead are multiplying them. Some gardeners and farmers have found this plant to be troublesome and hard to control.
Yellow sedge is advertised for food plots for these animals, but most hunters have never heard of it or they would be using this sedge. (Editor’s note: The San Diego State University website says yellow nutsedge is closely related to chufa (Cyperus esculentus variety sativus); some taxonomists treat them as the same species. “In the United States, the primary use of chufa as a crop is to attract and feed game, particularly wild turkeys.”)
Q: I had my garden soil tested and the pH is in the range of 7.5. Yes, this is high and I need to add sulfur. I dispose of my maple leaves on my garden, picking them up with a grass catcher on the lawn mower. How will this affect the pH of my garden soil?
J. D. of Caseyville
A: Adding maple leaves to the garden will help build up minerals in the soil. Believe it or not, leaves as compost will add almost double the minerals to the soil for the same weight of adding animal manure. Maple leaves as well as leaves from most trees do not have any effect on the soil pH. But oak leaves could add to the acidity and make your pH problem worse just as pine needles do. If you have oak leaves or pine needles, use them around rhododendrons, azaleas, and hollies as they prefer a lower soil pH.
It’s good that you shred the leaves with a lawn mower as the leaves are broken down into smaller pieces and decay much faster.
Q: When is the best time to prune trees? Is it spring, summer, or fall?
D.L. of Belleville
A: Any time is the best time to prune a tree that has broken branches, has experienced a severe disease attack or is a safety hazard. As a general rule, the best time to prune a tree is in the middle of summer or the middle of winter. Spring pruning can lead to bleeding of sap as the temperatures rise. Also, in fall the trees can get more tree diseases as the sap begins to pull back to the root zone and pulls small disease spores into the cut tree tissue.
Winter is a better time to inspect the tree for pruning because crossing branches or diseased limbs and broken branches can be seen easily. You can also see other damaged spots that do not show up once leaves appear.
Charles Giedeman is a local contributing writer. Send your gardening questions to Lifestyle Editor Patrick Kuhl, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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