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Combating Weeds

Fri, Jun 29th, 2001
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Virginia CooperMonday, July 2, 2001

Weeding is one garden topic that we can never say enough about. Weeds are the bane of gardeners everywhere, the one thing standing between us and 'House Beautiful.'

In her book, 'My Weeds, A Gardener's Botany ', Sara Stein takes us to her home in Connecticut to describe with thoughtfulness, humor and a deep understanding of plant biology, her relationship with her weeds. She writes: 'How can I explain how horrible catbrier is? It trips the feet and rips the skin. It spreads its beautiful, glossy foliage like a blanket over shrubs, and smothers them. Its rhizomes are like steel cables. They can't be pulled up; the stem cuts the hand that pulls them. We have dug out catbrier rhizomes thicker than a pencil whose hard swellings reached the size of walnuts containing who knows how many years' supply of stored food. Some pieces have been six-footers, and yet both ends were broken from some mother rhizome I will never reach.'

Maybe the endless nettles don't seem quite so bad.... But we have other noxious weeds, including:
Yellow Parsnip

Time to talk again about Yellow Parsnip. This lovely to behold yellow umbel began gracing our roadways just a few years ago and has quickly become an invasive pest. Avoid contact with bare skin, especially on sunny days. Any contact with the plant can bring an itching, burning, blistering rash that can cause scarring and take months to heal. With this in mind take the following advice with caution.

This plant is a biennial. This means that the first year it makes some growth, the second year it flowers, makes seed and then dies. So the easiest and fastest way to slow it down is by not letting it make seed.

Because it is in flower now, if it is mowed or cut down you can reduce the number of seeds by the millions. But be very careful. Only cut or mow on cloudy days, very early in the morning or late evening. Wear protective clothing, long sleeves and rubber gloves. Wash clothes or gloves separately from other laundry. Keep in mind that it may take several years of this treatment to reduce the number of seeds already in the soil.

It is just now gaining a foothold on our roadway. My plan is to go at it with The Lopper. This tool is designed for small tree pruning and has long handles that will allow me to keep some distance from the plant, cutting flower stems quickly without expending too much effort, (or risk).

One of the many things I love about Fillmore County are the wonderfully diverse wildflowers that bloom along the roadways. Yellow Parsnip is very pretty but potentially dangerous. Left alone to breed willy nilly it will soon be the only thing blooming along the highway.

For more information on the countys' ongoing control efforts contact our local Highway Dept. or MNDOT Chuck Dale, Supervisor, Seed and Noxious Weed Unit Agronomy and Plant Protection Division PHONE (651) 296-6123 FAX (651) 297-2271

Next week: more questions from the Reader's Mailbag. Send your gardening questions via email to virgcoop@ or by letter in care of the Journal.

Virginia Cooper

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