September Already?

Seems like we hardly had a summer. The weather had been cool, somewhat, through August, with nights down in the 50's. Great sleeping weather, but not what we usually have. No heat wave in August, either. But now it's September and the warm weather has returned.  Not much rain, either, but the gardens are still producing. And the weeds are still going strong. I swear they pop up - and are huge - overnight. This is the fifth time I have weeded the bricks in my sensory garden. Fortunately, in my vegetable beds the grass clippings mulch I have added religiously throughout the summer have kept most weeds at bay. I add the clippings so they are at least 3-4" deep - any more than that and you run the risk of having it turn to a slimy mess. I sort of fluff the grass, putting it down in handfuls. As it decomposes, I add some more. By now most of the plants have grown large enough that they are covering the beds, further suppressing the weeds.

What weeds do I hate the most? The real bad ones - in my opinion - are Devil's tickseed (Bidens frondosa) and bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis).  Left uncontrolled, both of these wreak a special kind of havoc in the garden and landscape. Bindweed, in the morning glory family, is especially loathed by gardeners and commercial growers alike. It will wrap itself around anything, and can be difficult to unwind without damaging the plant it chooses to engulf. The worst thing is its persistence in the soil. The root snaps easily when it is pulled, and any little piece will be able to form other plants. So chopping it to pieces is not a very good method of eradication. I have basically eliminated it from my garden plots (mostly) but it grows merrily throughout my property, probably just waiting for an opportunity to jump in once again. This year, we dug up a piece of ground that I had planted on years ago, and I warned that the weeds would be bad there. Indeed, the bindweed has had a field day, since digging up the soil gave it a new lease on life and most likely created new plants. It is growing like crazy, and we have given up trying to control it there. Maybe next year we can gently turn over the soil and pull the roots out.

Tickseed, on the other hand, is easy to pull. And pull it you should, since as soon as it flowers, you are in danger of being stuck with its many little barbed seeds. This plant grows tall, too, up to 5 or 6 feet. If you brush up against it you will be covered with tiny seeds that stick to everything. The dog, especially, gets lots of these maddeningly sticky seeds in her fur. And they need to be pulled out, basically one by one. And I have lots of this, too, in my "wild area" and I try to pull it as it is young just so it doesn't get away from me. Alas, I have noticed the flowers are starting, so I will need to be vigilant and get those plants out soon (at least from where I could accidently brush against them).

There are plenty of weeds out there - some irritating, like nettle (Urtica dioica), but good for you. Other weeds like lamb's quarters (Chenopodium album), purslane (Portulaca oleracea) and pigweed (Amaranhtus spp.) are good to eat in the young stages. They are all easy to pull, so when they get bigger, I just grab them and throw them to the chickens, who love to check them out, tearing at pieces of the greens or scratching the roots to find any bugs. One good rule of thumb is to try and get the weeds out before they form seed heads. Left to their own devices, many weeds have thousands of seeds they can disperse, and these can lie below the surface of the soil, just waiting for the opportunity to germinate. And that is simply unacceptable.

Happy weeding,

Karen