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chicago dyke's picture

no, silly. not that kind, at least, not in this post. :-)

So Lambert has been asking questions in the CHRR series like these about weeds in the garden. I think he and I have different weed issues, so I'll post mine here and if you have any links or thoughts, go for it in the comments. One of the more frustrating things for me as a gardener is just when I get one under control, it seems like a new species discovers my space. Sigh.

My garlic is blooming, isn't it cute? But the point here is that raised beds work, if you can afford them and have the time to put them in. This one sits surrounded by a sea of grass and weeds (because I don't mind weeds in the lawn, they just get mowed down) but a simple layer of two year old leaf mulch on top of the bed means no worries or work.

My ideal and best raised bed is 5 4x6s high and I refill it with compost twice a year to keep the level of the dirt that high off the ground.

The Enemy. I'm not sure what the "official" name is, to be honest. It was here when I got here, here when I was but a twinkle in my father's eye, here when Jeebus rode the first Dinosaur with Eve... Anyway, I've heard it called "crabgrass," "quackgrass" and a mess of other names, as I have heard of most grass weeds called many names depending on where one lives. Unlike Lb's problem grass, this one spreads by seed, which you can see, sort of:


It's like wheat and other grasses... but. The root systems are also killer. I was shocked in the very worst way to discover how deep, how quick and how far they spread. Getting rid of the root systems is probably nigh impossible here. And while they don't seem to move the invader along as widely as the seeds, they surely don't help.


Purselane is edible. So I tolerate it. However, it's insanely aggressive and is one of the top plants that require very heavy mulching in the veggie beds, as well as contant vigilance. It's really tasty as a salad green, tho. In the Hard Times, I can see people eating a great deal of this stuff, it requires nothing but a little organic matter to grow and is very vitamin rich. Purselane is a staple in other parts of the world as a food source.


I don't know exactly what this is, but it seems to act as a nitrogen fixer, so sometimes I'll let it come up. It makes a very attractive bloom if you let it get big, as well as a sizable plant that is very hardy. It's a bitch to rip out and weed by hand, otoh.


Good gravy I hate this crap. Really aggressive in early spring, and a fast mover. The bloom can be cute, but not enough to tolerate. This is one of those plants that gets big and annoying, rather than makes lots of babies and spreads via root and seed.


Sorry this shot isn't what I meant; I got caught in some rain and had to hurry. The point of this pic is to warn folks about their borders: wild weed grasses can get sooooo tall. And it only takes one. That is, even if you regularly keep the weeds along your borders clipped and low, there's always that one "over there, where no one can see it, so who cares?" Just don't do it, my Friends. Rip up tall grasses and keep the rest mowed, short, mulched or dead.

Success! A neighbor loaned me some (just barely by my organic standards) "natural" weed killer to try on a border. Obviously, it worked. One application and this is what I get. However, I found the cost prohibitive and won't be using it except sparingly, if at all.


"Wild garlic" is totally invasive here, and believe me it puts the "i" in invade. My sister tells me all sorts of bad things about this and other similar invasive non-natives taking over our 5b as Global Climate Change makes that rating less relevant. It will get very, very big if you let it.


"Wild Ivy" and a little "quackgrass" pushing thru. Two weeds that are very difficult to manage here, as the former will grow over rocks, landscaping cloth, leaves, etc, and root and the latter will grow up thru the most densely planted anything. Be very careful composting the wild ivy, it's not afraid of any harsh conditions and only needs one living leaf to establish.


You wouldn't know by looking, but this is a patch of weeds in my lawn, where the grass is very old and very established. Again, I don't know what this one is but I swear, if we had it last year we had way, way less. I'm disturbed that where the lawn faltered a bit, it came in as a replacement with a vengeance. It's everywhere, too: sun, shade, veggie and cultivar beds. Luckily, it doesn't tend to come up very thick unless left untended for a while.


Clover: The Good Weed. This is a nitrogen fixer I ordered two years ago from Territorial Seeds. It is the softest, most wonderful thing your feet have ever felt. I had to use it on a very problematic area, but it's a champ and only failed in one small spot. Over time, this will replace all grass of all kinds here, and fill in the walkways and border areas around my beds. I think the trick is to 1) clear an area where you want to replace the grass, whatever and 2) start a small clump of clover and as it spreads outward over time 3) "pull back" or de-sod increasingly large circles around where you want the clover to grow. Not all clover is the same, I am no expert but this stuff is way different than the 'common' variety currently in the yard. And like I said, so pretty, and heaven to walk upon. Slow moving, so far, but that may be a water issue as where I have the big patch it's pretty hot and dry.


The failure of landscaping cloth in the face of my Evil grass-weed. Yes, that's a grassy weed and yes, it's coming up among rocks set atop double rolled cloth and discouraged in the spring with some organic neutralizers. And it laughs in the face of all that. If I let it go, by the end of the month (this month, even) you'd have a hard time finding the rocks.


I suppose this is why Americans became addicted to the decorative grass lawn and chemical cycle. You can see the decorative grass, and the Evil weed-grass, and probably tell who is winning that competition. Again, I'd rather have a densely planted bed of variously tall blooming cultivars than fight this war, and in time, I will. But I weed enough as it is, I'll be damned if I'm going to weed the grass part of my lawn as well.


Just because I refuse to end on a weedy note. Rudbekia is so short here this year, but prolific. Dunno why.

Let's see your successes, and failures!

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Submitted by lambert on

Yep, I've got quack (crab) grass, alright.

"Wild Ivy" too (it was worse, if possible, but responds to the ol' pull-it-up method, especially if you're not too rough with it (so fragments get left in the soil).

And Black-eyed Susans, if that is what Rudbekia is, are my favorites. I prefer them to white daisies.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

what is funny is that i have cultivar oxalis in several places, it's one of my favorites. the leaves on the cultivars are deep purple or variegated, where this one is a simple green leaf and yellow flower. thanks for the ID! here's oxalis "iron cross" for the contrast with the wild stuff:


Submitted by gob on

That oxalis weed is also edible. As kids we used to munch on it, and called it sourgrass. Purely guessing, but maybe the tart flavor is oxalic acid. Thanks for the tip on purslane, I'll have to try eating it, since I seem to be growing a lot of it!

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

ILNM: not saying this about you personally, but gosh! it would be sooo nice if in addition to description, plant sites would get with the program and at least add tags if not actual paras about plant uses in addition to name, form, bloom, etc.

not everybody is Susie Gardener, Trustifarian Environmentalist. i am making (for them, and later me) 'life and death choices' for what is allowed to grow here. if it's in the mint family, can i eat it? if not, what else can i do with it?

meh, this was an unauthorized rant by CD, longtime internet user. basically what i'm saying is that the (non professional's) plant internet community has a long, long way to go. sadly. i've been kicked off enough gardening sites to know, it's way too narrow out there and not yet addressing what growers like us, and environmentalists need. site design isn't that fucking hard, people.

/end rant + apologies for irrelevance/

a little night musing's picture
Submitted by a little night ... on

so I hear ya! Although I can't really tell from your photos whether what you have is Prunella vulgaris or not, so I gave up after awhile. (ETA: what I mean is, I was hoping to find a site that would tell how to distinguish prunella from the similar things, and also what its uses are, but if one exists I couldn't find it, and I guess that goes along with what you say.)

Submitted by Lex on

What the sites like the one alittlenightmusing linked to are good for one thing: identification.

From the picture and the link, i'd say there's a good chance that it is Prunella vulgaris...though there are other varieties of Prunella. But for useful information i generally find myself doing other searches (and too much sifting) to find out what i really want to know.

If it is P. vulgaris, you've got the #1 herbal treatment for herpes in your yard. P. vulgaris is also called "all-heal". It appears to be one of those things that's good for everything. Lot's of those out there. Common names are another problem, but i find that if i find a list of common names, searches for those sometimes turn up more on plant usefulness.

What i'd like is a really good herbal (probably old) to go along with the intertubes.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

heh. well, i guess i'll, um, gosh. continue to rip it out? or market a new tincture for sale at the popular college student booze hall down the road? choices, choice... :-)

i'm very lucky. this place is right up the road from me and i have other connections that make it easy for me to use the school's resources. the homepage at that link is very helpful. just thought i'd drop it as that is the topic here.

Submitted by Lex on

MSU has a fine hort program, and for so long as the state deems fit to fund them, i'm thankful that we have MSU extension agencies around the state. That does look like a really nice site...maybe i'll use it to identify all the various weeds in my backyard. (there's no "lawn" nor any "garden"'s just weeds. Well, except for the back strip which has been ripped out for the compost bin and four fruit trees. Raised beds are next to go in.

And here i thought you were in Chicago, but you're a Michigan resident, eh?

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

i live in okemos. but when i first started blogging, it was at an interesting time in my life. when you come out for real, it's very... exciting. and i was all about self identification, silence = death, etc. i had been political blogging since 99, but the handle i used (and i bet only about three people in the world remember that one, heh) included an intimate joke i'd shared with my (male) ex. so i wanted to 'recreate' my now officially queer self on the intertubes with a memorable name, and i was living in chicago at the time. of course, this was way back before i understood that "if it's on the Internet, it's Forever." i'm actually glad to be "chicago dyke" as it's a simple and easily remember nym, much better than "ProgDog1119" or something; people tend to recognize me when i say that is who i am to them in person. anyway, if you're anywhere in central MI or thereabouts, drop me a line, and you can come over for tea and a walkabout in the gardens.

my active nyms include (on garden blogs and other places where registration was fubar) "chidy," "CD," and "anheduanna," which reflects my area of academic specialty.

nyms are a subject worth their own post, in that silly subject posting way. so why do you hate Superman? :-)

Submitted by Lex on

Actually Lex is what most people call me in my day to day life. It's not my full name, which was given to me so that no one would ever be able to shorten it...until the day i came home from the hospital and people started calling me Lex. I don't use it everywhere, but it's what i write under at S&R so on good sites i just use it.

I hate Superman because i've spent my whole live hearing, "You mean like Lex Luther?" with an expectant look like they're the first person to have ever laid that one on me.

Your story makes perfect sense to me, both parts. And it is a memorable screen name.

Not often, but maybe someday, i'd like that. I'm a Trooper...which is a Troll who's become a in beautiful Marquette. The down (and up) side being far, far away from pretty much everything. So if you're ever on a UP vacation, let me know.