Perhaps I have stepped over the line when it comes to gardening. It happened recently when I slipped out the door in my old, pink bathrobe to get the newspaper. I spotted a weed growing in the garden and became immediately sidetracked, swooping to pluck it from the ground. Over an hour later I returned to my senses, knees and robe hem dirty, weed parts dangling from my fingers, wondering what on earth possessed me to spend an hour gardening in the front yard in my pajamas.
Weeds have a lot to do with this erratic behavior. They’re sprouting at an alarming rate. While I am impressed with the growth of most plants at this time, the weeds are truly coming up faster than I can keep up. Pulling weeds is a season long job and in pursuit of weed control many gardeners abandon some rudimentary connections to the world around them. One colleague of mine told the tale of her small children coming to her while she was weed pulling to ask what was for dinner. Distracted by weeds, she responded “I don’t know – what are you fixing?”
Some of the tougher weed characters in the garden may change from year to year. This year there is Western Salsify (Tragopogon dubius), a grassy-looking biennial that is sprouting in many gardens. Western Salsify’s grass-like leaves arise from a central stalk which, when damaged, oozes a milky sap. Because it has a long taproot, plucking from the soil when it is very young will give the best control.
Redroot pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus) can grow to monstrous size – often two to three feet tall with flowers that bristle with spines. The seeds of this annual weed are tiny and rapidly spread. Redroot pig weed can be recognized by it’s characteristic reddish stalk and taproot. Pulling it when it is young will give good control.
Perhaps the best-known and most hated weed in our gardens is field bindweed (Convovulus arvensis). Despite being a member of the morning glory family, there is nothing ‘glorious’ about it. It snakes through the garden. It entwines itself through branches, along trellises, and into every nook and cranny of the area. Pulling this plant results in a nightmare out of Greek myth – four hydra-like plants sprouting from the single plant pulled. Stamina is required in pulling to control this plant because it must be done repeatedly and frequently, until the energy in the root system is exhausted and the plant can no longer regenerate. Battles with bindweed are epic, and are, in my mind anyway, the true summer Olympics.
Gardeners should beware of the sinister puncturevine (Tribulus terrestris), also called ‘goat’s head’ due to the shape of the burs. This plant starts off cute, with many small leaflets forming a mat across the ground. It looks nice, but heaven help you when it becomes mature, because this plant’s small burs hurt when they grab you. The burs have a chemical on them that stays in the skin after the bur has been pulled off, leaving a really painful sting that lasts for quite a while. Any plant that is known to flatten bike tires and seriously injury livestock should be removed.
If pulling weeds to the point of obsession is not for you, mulching garden beds is a great method of weed control. In order to control weeds mulch should be applied to a depth of four inches across the surface of the garden. Weed control fabric, when laid underneath the mulch may help, but research is suggesting that this fabric may limit water and air from getting to roots.
- Start pulling now to keep weeds under control (seattletimes.nwsource.com)