So you think you have weeds? Well, everybody does. It comes with the territory if you do any serious gardening. Everybody thinks their plantation is more weed prone than anybody else’s.
This year has, however, been exceptional in weed production, for whatever the reason. I blame a lot of it on the torrential rains we had in late winter and spring, which happenstance tends to move seeds thither and yon with every movement of water, washing them into crevices in our gardens, where they germinate with aplomb.
Much, if not most, of my time this year has been spent on combating weeds, leaving little occasion to do other things like getting monster logs from several downed trees from a late spring storm sawed up. They yet lie aground.
My own litany of notorious seed sprouts probably reads similar to yours, but a couple of categories are the worst in many years.
If I am queried as to the worst of the lot my answer is easy: the much despised and nefarious mulberry weed. It would gain such adjectives for the last several years. I would guess I have pulled at least 1,000 since the first warm day of spring. How we ever got cursed with it I can’t say. Up until a few years ago I had never heard of or seen any. My theory is that it came in on nursery plants. At any rate, it is obviously here to stay, so we just have to live with it.
Second place on my list for this year would be a tie between saw brier and elm seedlings. Why I can’t fathom. Other years have seen them in moderate numbers, but this year our garden is so rife with them that it is almost impossible to keep them at bay.
If an elm seedling gets a year’s hold, its root will reach to China and the only answer is herbicides. This is problematic when they are snuggled up among your pretties.
I don’t know of an elm tree within several hundred yards of our garden, but wherever the mother of all elms is, she certainly did her job this year.
There are saw briers all around us, so their seedlings aren’t rare by any means, but this time around the birds apparently got their fill of their berries and deposited them all over the place after they passed through their intestinal tracts, which, inconveniently have no ill effect on them. They are almost as rife as mulberry weeds and harder to pull out, particularly if given most of a growing season to get imbedded.
Wild privet also is gaining a foothold here and there, with some waste areas becoming almost a climax thicket of them, what with their veracity for fast growth and high percentage of germination. They are easy to pull out in their first year but, like the elms, given a year or two, they only answer to herbicides.
Jewel weed is a pretty regular visitor annually, particularly in low places. It falls easily to herbicides and, of course, by pulling, and compared to the champion offenders are fairly easily handled.
Lower down, there is goose grass, which appears, when young, like a souped up crab grass. Better get it when young, or you’ll never pull it up. More lawns are probably beset with goose grass than with many other weeds.
Which brings us to crab grass. It is easier to pull than goose grass, but in quantity can easily ruin a lawn. Pre-emergence herbicides work well on it.
Last, and as well least, is the brown form of oxalis. While green oxalis is easy to pull, brown oxalis, though the top-hamper is innocent looking, is almost impossible to pull out.
The root system must be all out of proportion to the top growth. The main problem is the propensity of brown oxalis to imbed itself in low-growing groundcovers or precious alpine-type plants where, of course, herbicides are a no-no.
I was gifted by Clint and Betty Barrett recently with a nifty little tool that works wonders on isolated weeds in lawns or beds. It has four points at the bottom of a four-foot handle. When the four points are inserted around a weed (dandelion for example) and the top handle, which is ratcheted, is turned about half around the offending weed is ejected easily. It has worked wonders with wild violets in our lawn.
JIMMY WILLIAMS is the garden writer for The Post-Intelligencer, where he can be contacted on Monday mornings at 642-1162.