Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Garden Nemeses: The Weeds
Here are some pictures of the plants that make gardening life difficult for us. We consider them weeds, but we realize that what is and isn't a weed is in the eye of the beholder.
The Morning Glory
This is the most invasive weed we have in the community garden. The seeds are spread so thoroughly that we will never eradicate it fully. It grows around our plants, choking them off like a boa constrictor and worst of all, it takes over the deer fence if unchecked. Once we went on vacation for two weeks in July and when we came back our entire plot was a tangle of vines and purple flowers. To make matters worse my husband and I are both allergic to it. Needless to say, the thought that anyone ever grows this on purpose horrifies me.
Here is a morning glory seedling (the heart shaped one in the center):
This is what greeted us when we got back from vacation in 2010. Keep in mind we were gone 2 weeks and the plot was semi-weeded before we left. but we hadn't dealt with the morning glories. As you can see they launched their assault from the fence. Needless to say we no longer go on vacation during garden season.
This is another gem that we inherited in our plot. The main problem with the horseradish is that it is so persistent. You have to dig down at least a foot to get rid of it because it is a parsnip shaped root; just ripping off the greenery doesn't kill it. Somehow it seems to know this and the errant seeds that do the best grow in the inaccessible area between our fence and our neighbors, in the empty spaces in the pallet that makes up the walls of our compost bin, and in the corners of our beds--all of which are extremely difficult to dig out. I have dug the one below out at least 3 times in the last 3 years. But if even one tiny root piece remains, it grows back. It is also frost resistant. At least this one we could eat if we wanted.
We are in a bit of a detente with the mint at the moment. When we got our plot, this was growing along each fence line and since it spreads through rhizome, it is basically unkillable. (Yet if I try and dig up some to put in a pot at home it dies...oh irony). This year we noticed our largest patch of mint decided to move away from the fence and colonize our sun box and this is where it stayed the whole season until it finally got completely cooked in the August sun. We never opened up the window since we weren't really trying to help it out so I'm sure there were days it was 110+ degrees in the box. Luckily we realized we didn't really need the sun box for growing since we have our low tunnels now and we are fine to use this as our mint containment system from now on. Of all of our weeds this one bothers me the least. It smells beautiful when we rip it up, it doesn't bother the other plants, and we do use it for tea.
This is the most insidious of our weeds because if causes the same types of blisters and rash as poison ivy if you are allergic to poison ivy (which of course we both are). It grows everywhere in norther Virginia including on fences, houses, trees and it turns a lovely red in the fall which is why people like it and treat it as an ornamental. It is coming from outside the trees outside our plot, snaking its way in the space between ours and our neighbor's makeshift fence and growing along the back of the sun box. I tried to kill it last year and am still scarred for my efforts so this time we are waiting til winter to try to eradicate it. I am no fan of round-up and we never use it in the garden but we may trot it out to finally end this.
I'm hesitant to say this, but I think we may have conquered our initial nemesis: fennel herb. Just like Florence fennel but without the bulb part, the top part looks like dill with feathery fronds. It grows a root underground that can be as long as your forearm and weigh up to 5 lbs, and it has to be fully dug out to eradicate it.
Our ENTIRE plot was covered in them (all the stick looking things in the picture). Before we could do anything in our plot we had to dig out every last one. As you can see from the picture below of what our plot looked like when we first got it, the previous owner had tried to smother it with weed block. This had no effect whatsoever. Long after we dug it all out little fennel sprouts would pop up everywhere each year. They look like little carrot tops when they are seedlings. This is the first year that we haven't had more than one or two pop up in our beds so maybe we finally won. Maybe.