-- A.A. Milne
|Ground ivy (Margo D. Beller)|
Any flower that is in the wrong place is a weed. So when you see the familiar yellow dandelion flower in your lawn, and you know that soon there will be the uglier seed head, it is time to go out and eradicate it before there are more.
My main lawn problems are ground ivy, quack grass, sorrel and assorted vines, some of which can be poisonous when handled.
I have a book that identifies weeds and tells you how to pull them out, their bad qualities and how you can use some of them. That is how I learned that lamb's quarters, picked when small, can be used like its cousin, spinach.
|Knotweed and another common roadside weed I can't identify. |
(Margo D. Beller)
However, most weeds I would not want in the yard. I don't mind clover or the yellow ground cover called cow vetch or its pink cousin the crown vetch, used by many to hold dirt on a hillside, but Japanese knotweed is invasive and will grow everywhere.
Some invasive plants can be useful. Raspberries, for instance, or wild rose. Both spread widely and, at least in my yard, I am carefully pulling them out of the wrong place because they both are covered in very sharp thorns and thus have to be picked when very small. I spent an afternoon recently crouched behind my rhododendron, behind the deer netting (always fun, gardening behind deer netting), because along with the many rose of sharon seedlings and wild mint (both active spreaders) was at least one wild rose.
|Raspberries (Margo D. Beller)|
|Milkweed (Margo D. Beller)|
|Five-leaved Virginia creeper and three-leaved poison ivy|
(Margo D. Beller)
I've learned the vine I find every so often in my hedge is belladona, which has purple berries that are poisonous. The vine, if grabbed with bare hand, will make you itch so put your gloves on.
Another common visitor is the Virginia creeper. It has five leaves and will grow up trees, around yards and generally all over the place. Unlike the trumpet vine, it does not provide the lovely orange flowers that draw hummingbirds. Or at least not in my yard. The leaves will turn dark red and it will produce blue berries for the birds but I usually don't let them get that far.
Dead areas of my lawn are quick to fill with ground ivy, quack grass and other weeds I can't identify except for the three-leaved clover-like leaves of the wood sorrel, another weed (like young dandelion greens) you can use for supper if you like. There are many other weeds in many other shapes that I can't recognize. I pull them out just the same.
|Maple sapling (Margo D. Beller)|
But for me the absolute worst is poison ivy.
Thanks to all the rain this past spring, it seems to be everywhere. If left alone it will climb up trees and get so thick it will kill them. I have to be very careful when I pull it out or if I spray it. If you do get into poison ivy you have 20 minutes to wash the affected area with cold water to have any hope of avoiding itching.
However, earlier this year, despite my best efforts, a bit of rash came up on my right arm two days later and lasted for weeks. It was after that I started using weed killer, which may seem like an extreme measure, and is surely less than ecological, but it is better than my arm getting covered with an itchy rash or my lawn covered with this pest.
|Poison ivy covering tree (Margo D. Beller)|
However, when it comes to weeds I do not like, I do my best but pulling or spraying them is a losing battle. I can only hope to keep them under control enough for the plants I like to survive. I can put mulch down to smother them, dig them out by the roots or spray them but they will always come back if there is a bit of dirt, some sunlight and water to make them grow. They are survivors. They will be around long after I am no longer in this house.