Garden Reclamation: Trying to Get Rid of Aggressive Invasives

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

We've been battling a number of rather aggressive plants since we moved into our house last summer. I think there should be a special place reserved in Hell for whoever planted all the Japanese Barberry bushes and Japanese variegated silver grass all around the house... (no offense to the Japanese - I'm sure they're not responsible for bringing them here and they definitely didn't plant them all around my house.)

Japanese Barberry by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014

I've never liked Japanese barberry -- why would you choose to plant a big prickerbush in your yard??? -- but now that I know that barberries serve as nurseries for the black legged a.k.a. "deer" tick - one of the main vectors for Lyme disease, babesiosis and granulocytic anaplasmosis - I like them even less... Worse still, they spread like wildfire - not only do we have them in our yard where some idiot actually planted them, we now have them all throughout our woods...

The Japanese silvergrass is a little less offensive -- it's pretty, it has no thorns and no known link to Lyme disease. And I have a grudging respect for its ability to grow and thrive in the crappiest of soils. Pure clay with some rocks mixed in? No problem! And where its roots go, the earthworms follow. I should know, I've pulled enough of them out...

Japanese silvergrass by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014

But man, does it take over! There is a sea of it in all the garden beds and it is nigh unto impossible to get rid of as it will sprout again from the tiniest piece left in the soil. It is truly the Terminator of ornamental grasses. And it's also spread to several parts of the woods, undoubtedly where it was unwittingly dropped by previous gardeners after attempting to weed it.

Last summer, I managed to remove most of the Japanese silvergrass from the rocky planting area in our backyard. I'll never get it all since its rhizomes grow right under some of these massive rocks and there is just no lifting them. I'm resigned to simply pulling out the shoots wherever they appear - for the rest of my life...

Japanese silvergrass poking up by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014
Leaving a shoot of Japanese silvergrass to die (hopefully) by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014

The garden beds in the front yard are an even bigger challenge. At first, I just kind of wanted to give up, overwhelmed by the enormity of the weeding task ahead of me. I mean, look at this! And this is just a little portion of it...

Garden bed overgrown with silvergrass by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014

And it's not just silvergrass, there's also quite a bit of lemon balm (another big taker over - but one that I at least like since it smells nice and you can eat it) and some unidentified but very spiky weed mixed into the mess. Here's some lemon balm with a little silvergrass.

Lemon balm by Eve Fox, Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2013

But then I started to weed it in sections. I found that it was a little easier to pull out than I'd expected since the soil was richer than in the backyard where it was all clay and rocks. And, of course, it was immensely satisfying. Once I'd dug out everything I could get, I covered what I'd weeded with cardboard to deprive whatever was left of sunlight and moved on.

Weeded beds covered with cardboard by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014

Meanwhile, I read up on rhizomatous grasses. The most common ones people love to hate are Bermuda grass, crab grass, and quackgrass. And, as with the silvergrass, they are basically impossible to get rid of. But then I happened on a thread where someone talked about planting sweet potatoes as a way of trying to outcompete Bermuda grass. It seems that sweet potatoes have these pretty vines that will pretty much take over whatever space they're allotted and squeeze out the weeds.

So I decided it was worth a shot. We're at the early stages of the great Sweet Potato Experiment right now but I figured I'd write about it in case it ends up working and you want to follow along. I'll be posting more about it soon.

Cutting the sweet potatoes in half by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Garden Reclamation: Trying to Get Rid of Aggressive Invasives

We've been battling a number of rather aggressive plants since we moved into our house last summer. I think there should be a special place reserved in Hell for whoever planted all the Japanese Barberry bushes and Japanese variegated silver grass all around the house... (no offense to the Japanese - I'm sure they're not responsible for bringing them here and they definitely didn't plant them all around my house.)

Japanese Barberry by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014

I've never liked Japanese barberry -- why would you choose to plant a big prickerbush in your yard??? -- but now that I know that barberries serve as nurseries for the black legged a.k.a. "deer" tick - one of the main vectors for Lyme disease, babesiosis and granulocytic anaplasmosis - I like them even less... Worse still, they spread like wildfire - not only do we have them in our yard where some idiot actually planted them, we now have them all throughout our woods...

The Japanese silvergrass is a little less offensive -- it's pretty, it has no thorns and no known link to Lyme disease. And I have a grudging respect for its ability to grow and thrive in the crappiest of soils. Pure clay with some rocks mixed in? No problem! And where its roots go, the earthworms follow. I should know, I've pulled enough of them out...

Japanese silvergrass by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014

But man, does it take over! There is a sea of it in all the garden beds and it is nigh unto impossible to get rid of as it will sprout again from the tiniest piece left in the soil. It is truly the Terminator of ornamental grasses. And it's also spread to several parts of the woods, undoubtedly where it was unwittingly dropped by previous gardeners after attempting to weed it.

Last summer, I managed to remove most of the Japanese silvergrass from the rocky planting area in our backyard. I'll never get it all since its rhizomes grow right under some of these massive rocks and there is just no lifting them. I'm resigned to simply pulling out the shoots wherever they appear - for the rest of my life...

Japanese silvergrass poking up by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014
Leaving a shoot of Japanese silvergrass to die (hopefully) by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014

The garden beds in the front yard are an even bigger challenge. At first, I just kind of wanted to give up, overwhelmed by the enormity of the weeding task ahead of me. I mean, look at this! And this is just a little portion of it...

Garden bed overgrown with silvergrass by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014

And it's not just silvergrass, there's also quite a bit of lemon balm (another big taker over - but one that I at least like since it smells nice and you can eat it) and some unidentified but very spiky weed mixed into the mess. Here's some lemon balm with a little silvergrass.

Lemon balm by Eve Fox, Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2013

But then I started to weed it in sections. I found that it was a little easier to pull out than I'd expected since the soil was richer than in the backyard where it was all clay and rocks. And, of course, it was immensely satisfying. Once I'd dug out everything I could get, I covered what I'd weeded with cardboard to deprive whatever was left of sunlight and moved on.

Weeded beds covered with cardboard by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014

Meanwhile, I read up on rhizomatous grasses. The most common ones people love to hate are Bermuda grass, crab grass, and quackgrass. And, as with the silvergrass, they are basically impossible to get rid of. But then I happened on a thread where someone talked about planting sweet potatoes as a way of trying to outcompete Bermuda grass. It seems that sweet potatoes have these pretty vines that will pretty much take over whatever space they're allotted and squeeze out the weeds.

So I decided it was worth a shot. We're at the early stages of the great Sweet Potato Experiment right now but I figured I'd write about it in case it ends up working and you want to follow along. I'll be posting more about it soon.

Cutting the sweet potatoes in half by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014

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