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Tag Archive: weeds

Apr 13

Could April be the cruelest month?

“April is the cruelest month” – T.S. Elliott

Admit it, don’t we usually think lovely thoughts about the month of April? We don’t think of it as cruel at all. We think about the advent of spring, sunshine, flowers, the opening day of baseball season and the end of the school year finally in sight.

Yes indeed, all good thoughts about the month of April.

But not so fast, I guess I don’t think that way. Here is what I mean.

Yesterday, as I was leaving Wal-Mart with both arms loaded with jugs of weed killer, so much that I had trouble carrying them, I walked with a spring in my step. I was actually giddy at the fact that I was about to tackle April weeds and could not wait to get on with the task.

True I was excited, but it was not about the glories of April, it was about destroying, no annihilating April weeds, those cruel, remorseless, persistent, mean and nasty wild noxious things that pop up everywhere this time of year. Believe me, they can inflict pain and anguish and bring about great suffering for gardeners.

Once, I was so distressed about spring weeds that I wrote an entire column on the horrors of Creeping Jenny, thistles and trumpet vines. What can I say, I live in the country, and we know about these things.

All right, I realize I might hear from weed lovers and that there could possibly be a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Weeds out there somewhere in the world, but please don’t write me about that.

By now you may be wondering how I got started on this rant?

I was reading the April issue of Successful Farming when I saw the headline “War on Weeds” in a screaming bold all caps font. Naturally, I flipped right to the story and read with great interest every idea they put forth about killing weeds (I am always looking for a new way to whip them into submission).

Not far from that article was another one just as interesting. Cheryl Tevis, farm issues editor, wrote quite the convincing piece about how April is the cruelest month in her opinion. She explained how April weather teases us and asked her readers, “How many times have you felt the stirrings of spring, only to be yanked back into the throes of winter?”

She bemoaned the ritual of spring housecleaning that arrives in April along with the rainy, mud season that afflicts many locales. Tevis also lamented the fact that the asparagus isn’t ready yet in April, nor are strawberries or rhubarb, with which I totally agree.

So there you have it, Tevis’s reasons and mine for why April could be indeed the cruelest month of the year, although for me, the invasion of April weeds trumps them all.

When I finished writing this article, I looked out my window only to discover unhappily that I missed quite a lot of chickweed, and oh no, Creeping Charlie and a large patch of clover, both of which will choke out the grass and take over my flower garden.

Cruel April, this is war! Somehow, I don’t think I am winning.

Sep 08

Blackberries—delicious black gold or forbidden fruit

“O, blackberry tart, with berries as big as your thumb, purple and black and thick with juice…with such a taste that will make you close your eyes and wish you might live forever.” – Richard Llewellyn, Welsh novelist, 1907-1983

On a recent trip to the State of Washington, I discovered to my surprise that in some places in the Pacific Northwest blackberries are considered a “noxious” weed.

Locals there appear to have a love-hate relationship with this plump, musky tasting delicious fruit, hating blackberries for 11 months out of the year and loving them for one when the fruit is in season.

In fact, for most of the year blackberries are a ‘forbidden fruit’, designated as a ‘Class C’ offender (sounds like a felony to me) by the Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board.

Apparently, for good reason.

Blackberries in the Pacific Northwest are highly invasive and will effectively kill any vegetation in the vicinity by simply outgrowing it. Something has to be done, but I suggest just eating them all up.

I saw evidence of blackberry invasiveness in back yards, rural woods, along highways and streams and even along city streets. The politically correct folks in ‘that neck of the woods’ refer to these rambling, thorny blackberry brambles as ‘unwanted, invasive vegetation’ rather than calling them a noxious weed. I probably had better not get into that discussion, but it did cause me to laugh out loud at the terminology.

Back to the love-hate relationship with blackberries. Come late summer many folks there cannot help themselves, and who can blame them?

According to Nancy Giacolone of Westsound Home and Garden magazine, residents forage for this sweet black gold fruit that is low in calories and boasts the highest concentration of cancer-fighting antioxidants of any berry.

They cannot get enough of them she says,” Our attitudes change in an instant and we greedily gather as much as we can pick.”

There is even a Blackberry Festival in Bremerton, Washington, held every Labor Day weekend, at which blackberry everything abounds, and of course, we could not miss that.

Chefs in the area love this time of year when they can create luscious desserts, light, sweet beverages and savory entrees that all feature blackberries.

I learned to think outside the blackberry pie box, if you will, when it comes to blackberries, a versatile, pleasing fruit that can be used in more ways than I ever imagined.

Grilled salmon or roast duck with a blackberry glaze or sauce, greens with blackberries and nuts, blackberry tarts and cobblers, poached pears with blackberries, huckleberry ice cream with blackberries, blackberry-cinnamon or blackberry chocolate-chip ice cream, blackberry limeade, blackberry soda, blackberry wine and blackberry jams and jellies. The list goes on and on.

Guilt-ridden though they may be, folks there do indeed seem to be in love with blackberries.

How can something so right be so wrong asks City Arts magazine writer Angela Garbes who wonders about ‘blackberry guilt’?

She writes, “The blackberry, insidious as it might be, provides city and country dwellers with tons of free, fresh fruit every year. When you’re elbow deep in the blackberry brambles…a little drunk on the heady smell of ripe berries…it’s hard to hold anything against the plant.”

Meanwhile back in Missouri, our blackberry season is mostly past. There are no overtaking blackberry bushes to fight since they don’t like August or September here much anyway. We don’t think of blackberries as noxious weeds and about the only way we use them is in pies and jelly. I am not bothered at all by sticking my hand illegally into the thorny branches that will likely draw some blood and popping a fat cluster of luscious blackberries right into my mouth.

Ah, there’s something rather nice about not having blackberry guilt.

Sep 03

A weed by any other name is still a weed

Beware the weeds of life, especially one named Charlie.  A word of warning–

He is a creep.

Guess I had better explain.

Most of us aging Boomers recall that in the 60’s, and 70’s, we knew college kids and “flower children” that were acquainted with “Killer Weed.”

Today, however, we are far more likely to be concerned with “weed killer.”

That’s right; killing weeds ranks right near the top of our favorite things, along with afternoon or evening naps on the sofa.

Why is that you ask?

Because there is a weed out there named Creeping Charlie. He and his cousins (dandelions and other broadleaf fiends) are worse than a toothache. Some of us are sick to death of fighting him and his cousins in our lawns.

You are no doubt well aware of the broadleaf culprits of whom I speak, whether you know their given names or not: moneywort (Creeping Charlie), common plantain, buckhorn, thistle, wild carrot, and wild onion

Some folks have been known to carry a spray bottle of Roundup with them, stopping in neighbors’ yards in the late evening or early morning hours when they can’t be seen, to spray weeds such as Charlie.  He and his cousins multiply, you know.

Others of us have been seen relentlessly pulling dandelions night after night, only to find a fresh crop in our lawns when the sun comes out next day.

Don’t be mistaken. This observation is not about obsessive compulsive behavior.

No sirree.

It is about Missouri noxious weeds!

No doubt, other states have them, too, but I wonder because it has recently come to my attention that Colorado rarely has flies.

So what’s the deal here in Missouri?

I was determined to find out and moved to research what I could about noxious weeds.

First, you should know that these intruders are extremely aggressive and have a high reproductive potential with one of the worst of the batch being known as Creeping Charlie. Such weeds have no useful value to humans.

I think I have known a few Creeping Charlies in my day!

Once I heard a speaker at an FFA dinner go on and on about Creeping Jenny. Now, I find out that Jenny and Charlie are not just related, they are one in the same.

A weed by any other name is still a weed!

Be warned.

Still researching, I found brochures from a variety of agencies that explain the good qualities of weeds, followed by disclaimers. See how they romanticize this plant.

“This is a good carpeting plant for shady places under trees, but it must be admitted that it spreads rapidly and may become a weed,” so says a brochure explaining Charlie.

Ah ha!  “It may become a weed, indeed!”

They admit it.

Take heed, though, Creeping Charlie has other names: moneywort, loosestrife, and gooseneck, and there are many varieties of these.

Still, the brochure goes on calling Charlie by its scientific name, Lysimachia, and touting one variety’s wonderful properties, such as showy yellow flowers and the asset that it does not require any care.

No kidding, that’s because it is a weed!

The description reads, “The Loosestrife (Charlie) is useful for cutting for it lasts well and for growing in a border, wild garden, or along lakes…There is hardly any plant which surpasses the Moneywort (Charlie) for covering banks, rustic urns, vases, old stumps, or to grow in hanging baskets.”

Fine, but deliver me from Charlie, or whatever his name is!

Wish that was the end of my story but it is not, I have recently been introduced to possibly the nastiest weed known to man, nutmeg grass.
Once nutmeg grass starts to sprout, nothing stops it. One can even replace the dirt in the flower bed, and it comes back!

There is no known antidote.

Don’t let anyone call it by a different name.

You have been warned.