Sunday, September 9, 2012

War of the Weeds

No matter what time of year, no matter where you look, there will always be weeds.  If you touch the soil, you're doing something that will encourage some type of weed to grow.  It is inevitable.

But not all weeds are created equal.  And some weeds have to be eradicated or you will lose your garden, your yard, and even the foundation of your house.  These are the bad boys of weeds - and that's the lecture I went to hear today.  (I know, right?  It's hard to contain the excitement, but I'll be happy I went next spring.)

So what was our little chipmunk hanging out next to?  Garlic mustard.  This lovely little plant is edible and was brought to our fine shores by the colonists back in the day.  But it was supposed to stay in pots.  Oops!  Pull it before the flowers go to seed or mow it down.

Pretty flowers, nice ground cover.  How innocent this ground ivy looks.  It feeds the native bees, but it can kill a horse.  It spreads out like a mat and smothers everything it covers.  Pull it out and then smother the ground that it grew on with newspaper covered in mulch.  You may need to use a herbicide if it is way out of control.

This nutsedge would seem to make a nice grassy ground cover, but not really.  It keeps going and going, spreading through little nut-like rhizomes and covering a larger and larger area.  It sucks up all the water and nutrients in the soil, leaving death in its' wake.  Dig it out (4-6 inches down) and burn the rhizomes.

My DH and I thought this was really cute.  It almost looks like a patch of little fir trees, right?  But no such luck.  This is horsetail and it spreads through spores - thousands of thousands of little microscopic spores.  And if that wasn't bad enough, the roots keep going and going.  Dig it up, smother it, repeat and repeat and repeat.

Pretty little morning glory-like flower, lovely little vine.  Chokes out anything it covers, bringing it down and feeding on its' dead remains.  Bindweed - not so pretty.  The seeds can still grow after 50 years of being buried in the soil.  The roots go down 20-30 feet.  You can control this, but it will be an ongoing battle - forever.  Pull it out before it goes to seed then plant thickly on top of where it was so it doesn't have a chance to come back up.

This japanese knotweed was brought over as a lovely ornamental.  It escaped.  It has no predator, no insect waiting to munch on its' tender spring shoots.  It just grows and chokes out anything in its' path.  Dig it up, cut it down, smother it, burn it.  It's a little stubborn.

Leaves of three, leave it be.  Yes, my DH's personal nemesis - poison ivy.  Uproot this in March, when the ground it still a bit frozen and the oils are the least potent.  Get a paintbush and paint the leaves with herbicide in the early Fall when the plant is sucking up all of the nutrients it can get.  Don't touch it.  Don't burn it.  Don't chop it into little itty bitty pieces.  I like wearing one of those disposable painters suits and plastic gloves when dealing with this.  My DH is very allergic to it and although I've never (knock on wood) had the misfortune of getting that oil on me, I see the horrible rash and allergic reaction he has.  It's enough for me to use a very large amount of caution when dealing with this nasty, evil, mean vine.

Industries have been built around this guy.  Books have been written, movies made, songs sung...well, you get the point.  Crabgrass - a nation's obsession with unsuccessful eradication.  If you want to use the lawn fertilizer with the pre-emergent chemicals in it, broadcast it when the forsythia is in bloom.  Otherwise, it's an annual.  Pull it up.  Of course, the seeds can spit themselves out about 4 feet away from the original plant, so be prepared to do the same thing next year - and every year after that.

We have been battling this one for about 5 years now, but it keeps coming back.  Thousands of seeds - and tiny sharp barbs.  I always wear gloves when we pull this or I end up with a nasty rash.  The mile-a-minute vine can take down a forest.   Don't believe me?  Take a look at this.

This is from the Mad Gardener's site and it shows what used to be a hillside in Pennsylvania.  Those trees - dead.  Their roots that prevented erosion - dead.

It burns! It burns!  Wild parsnip roots were eaten by the Romans, but I can't see that harvesting it is very fun.  You get the juice on you and you think nothing of it, until the sun touches your skin where the juice was - then it burns like acid.  Phytophotodermititis - say it with me!  And not just the one time - nope, phytophotodermititis can last for a few years.  It really hurts.  A lot.  Pull it up, cut it down.  Stop the seeds from spreading.

You're going to have weeds.  They are already in the soil.  The animals bring them into your garden.  The plants you buy have weeds.  It's just another plant trying to grow.  Dandelions are weeds, but they're also salad greens and the basis for some nice homemade wine.

Pull up, cut them back every 3 weeks, burn them - burn them all!, poison them, dig them up, smother them to death.  Click on the name of the weed to go to the photo's website for some real technical information.

You're still going to have weeds.

I just want to keep them at bay and make sure that the really destructive ones don't gain a foothold.  I don't think that that is too much to hope for.

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