• The story of California native gardens is the story of weeds

    by  • March 29, 2011 • Spring • 12 Comments

    Another post on weeds…

    Torilis arvensis, Spreading Hedgeparsley

    Torilis arvensis, Spreading Hedgeparsley Arrrrrgh!

    Judith Larner in ‘Gardening with a Wild Heart’ says “Somewhere in all this activity (of discovering CA native gardening), the gardener notices that most of the work involved is weeding. The story of gardening in California, and indeed the whole world, is the story of weeds.”

     

    Do not let weeds go to seed….   One year of seeds brings seven years of weeds!

     

    • Much of the pleasure of gardening depends on having the right tool for the job.
    • Cut the weeds off at the soil surface thereby eliminating the weed’s ability to feed its roots.
    • Cut weeds off with this tool you can simply leave them on the soil surface to dry and decompose over the course of a week or two
    • Cultivate just deeply enough to cut the weeds off below the soil surface. Do not over cultivate.
    • Less soil is disturbed, which brings fewer new weeds to the surface

    The indignity of it!-
    With everything blooming above me,
    Lilies, pale-pink cyclamen, roses,
    Whole fields lovely and inviolate,-
    Me down in the fetor of weeds,
    Crawling on all fours,
    Alive, in a slippery grave.”
    –   Theodore Roethke, Weed Puller, 1948

     

    Every way I know to control weeds

    Hand pull
    This is the actual pulling of weeds by hand.  Simple.  Primitive.  Zen.

    Sweeping
    In the Southern US, garden paths are sometimes swept clean of leaves and loose dirt. This keeps weeds from sprouting. I have tried this and it works well.

    Cultivating
    Scratching the surface to kill weeds with tools, hoes cut off roots at surface. Hoe weeds before they go to seed! This tip was given me at a garden workshop at Roger’s Gardens.

    Hoeing
    Clear an area, water it and let the weeds sprout. Hoe them away and repeat. Takes a long time, if you have it.

    Organic Mulch
    Lay down a thick layer of mulch without weed seeds in it such as straw. Mulch can be put around plants a few inches away from the stems

    Plastic mulch
    Lay down plastic and plant in cut out holes. Some problems are that plastic breaks down quickly, looks messy and blocks water.  I have seen a lot of ugly plastic.

    Plant a cover crop
    Plant a cover crop that outgrows the weeds. Unless it’s a native seed, I would never do this for fear of runaway weeds in unintended areas. Sounds expensive??

    Weed whacking
    Weed string trimmers do the job along driveways, fence lines and edges. We use it to trim dry brush and grass low enough for fire safety. Do this before the weeds go to seed. (See first quote, above)

    Flame weeding
    Uses a propane torch to kill the weeds.  We have a flamer, but I have never used it, Has anyone had a good experience with this?  My mother would pour boiling water over weeds in concrete cracks.

    Spraying with glysophate*
    Broad-spectrum systemic herbicide
    Use carefully in certain cases. I use this,…carefully, on our mile of paths.

    Drip irrigation
    For areas with long dry seasons bury your drip tape and irrigate only where needed.  Death by drought.

    Use animals
    Deer are decorative and weed out non-natives like roses.
    Sheep will eat everything they can reach.
    Goats will eat everything they can reach including Poison oak.

    Make a salad                      (Thanks to Brent of  Breathing Treatment )
    Purslane,
    Dandelions,
    Lamb’s quarters, all edible and (probably) nice with a homemade vinaigrette.

    If you have a weed that you don’t see here would you make a comment about it and I will add it to this gallery?  Thanks!  Also share if any of these methods work for you.  Everyone has a strategy, even if it is to look the other way. I once built a low fence around my veggie garden, so I wouldn’t have to see the weeds from my kitchen window.  Worked!

    Weed identification Sources

    Oregon State University
    North Willamette Research & Extension Center Main Weed page
    Oregon SU Weed Identification Guide Lots of photos, easy to ID weeds.

    University of California-Davis Main Integrated Pest Management page
    UC Davis Identification: Weed Photo Gallery includes many, but not all, weed species commonly found in California farms and landscapes.
    UC Davis  Weed identification tool—a technical key to identifying weeds, from the UC Weed Research and Information Center.

     

    *We also use glysophate responsibly on poison oak. Some don’t agree with this, but we have 7 acres to keep safe for small people and dogs…just can’t have it and the systemic action means it gets killed through the roots so we know it’s gone for good.

    About

    Sue Langley, a passionate gardener and photographer lives and gardens with her husband and Corgi, Maggie on 7 acres just south of Yosemite, Zone 7 at 3000 feet. She also manages the Flea Market Gardening Facebook page and website.

    12 Responses to The story of California native gardens is the story of weeds

    1. March 29, 2011 at 12:11 pm

      You forgot the “make a salad” approach to weeding. I was pulling purslane from my driveway one day and the neighbor commented that back in his country he’d eat it. The same can be done with dandelions and lambs quarters. Don’t know about the others.

      • March 29, 2011 at 12:49 pm

        Added, Brett! Great idea and thanks! There’s a healthy, leafy dandelion near the garage I might try tonight for dinner. Wonder if Tractor Man will notice?

        Tractor Man says: I will now!

    2. March 29, 2011 at 6:04 pm

      Seems the more ground is exposed the more something wants to fill that gap up. Unavoidably we have some bare ground eg the driveway. And where those vandals called builders dug up far to much. I’m getting that covered up as soon as possible.
      The tree plantations have been left untilled and unmown because it is all just a light competition. Fire is a possibility but not a common risk here.
      We still end up with some weeding because the imports can be very vigourous even through other planting. But the more we keep other growth there – the fewer weeds.

    3. March 29, 2011 at 6:36 pm

      Good points, Kerry, the driveways, especially gravel ones are a weed problem yearly,which remind me that I forgot another method…weed whacking. I’ve added it. I think you’re also bringing up planting close together, with possibly low growing plants, so that weeds have no bare ground to attack.

    4. March 29, 2011 at 8:16 pm

      I would never pull red maids – I’ve been buying seeds of them, and I can’t get a single one to sprout!

      I have tons of weeds not on your list, but here are just the very worst ones: Cynodon dactylon (bermuda grass), Poa annua (annual bluegrass), Polycarpon tetraphyllum (fourleaf allseed), Medicago orbicularis (button clover), Oxalis pes-caprae (Bermuda buttercup), Lactuca serriola (prickly lettuce), Cirsium vulgare (bull thistle), Erodium moschatum (whitestem filaree), Hordeum murinum (hare barley), Senecio vulgaris (common groundsel), Polygonum arenastrum (common knotweed), and Amaranthus deflexus (low amaranth).

      • March 30, 2011 at 12:12 pm

        Oops, Gayle! I hadn’t realized that red maids are CA natives! I’ll let them stay from now on and I’m glad you commented. I wish you would come get some… there’s enough for us both. I will look up all the ones you name and if I recognize ’em, I’ll photograph and add them. I know I have poa.

        Desiree, I love mulch and have been able to use mountains of it. i really see a difference in how much you have to weed from year to year and the ones that do pop through are easier to pull. Groundcover, low growers are a good preventative…found a nice one Prostrate Germander, Teucrium chamaedrys…it has a lovely texture, barely letting anything grow through.

    5. March 30, 2011 at 4:24 am

      Hi Sue!

      With my birthday this week, I really have fallen behind with my reading, but, here I am now! Thanks for visiting me today and for your lovely comment 🙂

      As always, you’ve presented such an interesting and informative post and had me literally hanging on every thread. I’m not able to comment on the weeds native to your region, of course, but I can attest to the incredible power of mulch, in whatever form you fancy. Here, in my garden, we use bark mulch extensively, but years back, when we were still developing the garden, I used to take great delight in using thick layers of compost as mulch. I realise of course that your garden is massive by comparison, and so your weed problem will be a lot harder to eradicate. I can, however, honestly say I seldom need to weed anywhere anymore as, in addition to the thick layer of mulch, I’ve allowed ground covers to spread almost as and where they elect. If they get out of hand, I just pull them out and something else fills in the space. But, being an ordinary townsized garden, it’s obviously a whole lot different from what you’re confronted with!

      I do love the idea of using all the edible weeds in salads 🙂 And you do of course know that cute little saying, “A weed is just a flower in the wrong place.”

      Hugs,

      Des xoxo

    6. March 30, 2011 at 4:24 am

      Hi Sue!

      With my birthday this week, I really have fallen behind with my reading, but, here I am now! Thanks for visiting me today and for your lovely comment 🙂

      As always, you’ve presented such an interesting and informative post and had me literally hanging on every thread. I’m not able to comment on the weeds native to your region, of course, but I can attest to the incredible power of mulch, in whatever form you fancy. Here, in my garden, we use bark mulch extensively, but years back, when we were still developing the garden, I used to take great delight in using thick layers of compost as mulch. I realise of course that your garden is massive by comparison, and so your weed problem will be a lot harder to eradicate. I can, however, honestly say I seldom need to weed anywhere anymore as, in addition to the thick layer of mulch, I’ve allowed ground covers to spread almost as and where they elect. If they get out of hand, I just pull them out and something else fills in the space. But, being an ordinary townsized garden, it’s obviously a whole lot different from what you’re confronted with!

      I do love the idea of using all the edible weeds in salads 🙂 And you do of course know that cute little saying, “A weed is just a flower in the wrong place.”

      Hugs,

      Des xoxo

    7. May 21, 2011 at 3:45 pm

      Re. Website: Click on “Wildflowers” collection then choose what you want.

      My neighbors at Yosemite Lakes Park mow their property as soon as the grasses start to grow. I let mine go, bloom, and go to seed before I mow them down for fire protection.
      Those neighbors call what I have weeds, I call them wildflowers and enjoy discovering and identifying new flowers. To day I photographed “Spreading Hedgeparsley” for the first time. After I placed it in my file I entered “California foothill sticker weeds” and your post was the first site. And the picture of blue jeans with those hairy sticking seeds was the first picture. After horse riding or walking in the hills I have spent much time removing them one by one.
      I will return to your blog with pleasant anticipation.

      • May 21, 2011 at 3:58 pm

        Thanks so much, Gary, for your kind comment. It’s nice to be able to contact someone in my *own* area. When I decided to start this blog and wanted to mainly record the garden happenings, my attempts at ID-ing native plants, and relating how we moved from the city to the country for anyone else so inspired. I’m glad you found me, too and welcome any thoughts you may have! We have throw socks out with stickers thickly imbedded in them and wear Vans slipons to mow! No shoelaces!

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