Question: This regards the weed that looks just like miniature strawberry - same type of leaves with little red berries. It is invasive and has taken over sections of my yard, growing in big patches. It does not seem to respond to regular weed killer. I don't want to do Roundup and reseed the grass.
- William Howard
Answer: Mock strawberry, botanically known as Duchesnea indica, is ever annoying. It is native to India, and you can always tells that it is not a real strawberry by making the mistake of eating one of the fruits - a former neighbor described the flavor and texture as sawdust - or (for less ick factor) by noticing that the flowers are yellow. True strawberries have white flowers (and, recently, pink, but you won't find those costly ornamentals in your weed patch).
Mock strawberry spreads in two ways. Birds eat the fruit and poop the seeds all over or the fruit simply falls and seedlings arise near the parent plant. But the plant's menacing tactic is its runners, which perform rather like real strawberries, only more aggressively.
A robust healthy lawn is the first defense. Mock strawberry favors less fertile soil, especially bare spots, and a strong patch of grass can simply outcompete it and inhibit its spread.
The best way to get rid of it, frankly, is to pull it by hand.
The reason you have poor results with weed killer is that mock strawberry foliage has tiny hairs that prevent the herbicide from easily adhering. There are two things you can try to make broadleaf herbicide more effective. First is to add a little mild dish soap to the liquid; a quarter teaspoon per gallon of spray should be adequate. This will help it adhere to foliage. (The Internet produces all sorts of home-remedy formulas, should you wish to explore.)
The other is to spray the undersides of the leaves. I know, that sounds preposterous. You just need an assistant and a rake. As one person rakes the infested area of lawn, turning the mock strawberry leaves over in the process, the other person operates the sprayer. It may take some practice to get the coordination right (the leaves have no inclination to stay upside down waiting for your death spritz).
Q: I have an inside palm tree. There is one long branch, and I want to cut this and root it. Any suggestions?
- Nick Panaccio
A: You cannot root a palm from a branch. Palms are actually more closely related to grasses than to trees.
Palms are grown from seed or, in a few instances, propagated from suckers, which are basically baby palms emerging at the base of the parent plant. If there is a sucker, wait till spring. The whole plant must be removed from the pot. Gently remove the soil from around the sucker, to see if it has developed roots of its own. If so, use a sharp knife to cut it from the parent plant, cutting close to the parent to give the sucker as many roots as possible. Pot in a porous mix, enclose in clear plastic, keep 70 degrees for a month or longer until you see active growth. Then treat as a young palm.
If you obtain palm seeds, they are reputedly relatively easy to grow. A well-drained porous medium (commercial potting medium mixed with sand), moistness and warmth are the basic requirements. The Thompson & Morgan seed catalog (www.tmseeds.com) offers several varieties, and an Internet search will turn up sellers in Thailand and such. Or ask a friend in Florida to gather some seeds and mail them to you.
- Michael Martin Mills