I thought we had ’em beat.
We’ve used all the weapons and control techniques we have available in a continuing fight to keep things under control. Suddenly, it’s all gotten out of hand. Vengeance reigns.
No, this isn’t about the tragic Middle East dilemma. Trying to deal with and solve that situation is for bigger, smarter minds than mine. Our vengeance situation is much closer to home — actually, all around us.
Throughout the growing season, as always, we strive to keep under control all the unwanted greenery, i.e., weeds. From the wide-armed field sprayer to a tiny hand-held spray bottle I use to pinpoint hard-to-control garden invaders, keeping weeds under control is a season-long challenge.
We’ve often heard repeated the wisdom that “nature abhors a vacuum” and will fill any “blank spot” with new growth. But really, “blank spots” aren’t even necessary, because the most determined leafy invaders will manage to push their way up through even the thickest foliage.
The Farmer spent hours in mid-summer spot-spraying persistent poke weeds that took root in fields right around the farmstead. I’ve lost use of my Gator most of the summer, since it was tapped as a temporary piece of field equipment to do up-close battle with the pokeweed. The hours of one-on-one pokeweed skirmishes seemed to have made a significant impact on the durable enemy, and the undesirable pokeweed clumps have vanished.
Well, they’ve vanished at least for now. We can only hope it’s a long-term solution.
With several weeks of borderline drought and storms that repeatedly slid by our area, the unwanted greenery — which annually takes up much of Farmer’s time, attention and investment — had slowed somewhat in growth. Mowing, weed-whacking, bush-hogging, hand-pulling, spraying and heavily mulching assisted in keeping the inevitable weedy army under reasonable control.
But now the weeds have recouped. Reinforced by more recent rainstorms, relentless high humidity and the spa-like environment in which we’ve existed lately, unwanted greenery has reasserted itself with a vengeance. As daylight shortens and night lengthens, each plant, unwanted weeds included, is fighting a battle to reproduce, set seed and assure a next generation — or generations — of its kind.
It’s a weedy jungle, created by the battle of long-term survival each species fights with a vengeance.
The meadow, fencerows, road banks and every tiny, un-cropped corner is thick with thriving, healthy, not-necessarily-wanted plant cover. If I chop down ragweed with stems thick as my thumbs, a couple more seem to pop up in replacement. Pokeweed persists in scattered garden spots, its youngsters sprouting up in the porch boxes. Lamb’s quarters sport tops so thick with seeds that they lean under the weight of heavy dew. Smartweed, red root, Chinese bittersweet, pigweed and a host of other weedy characters too numerous to mention are happily living the good life in nooks and crannies all around the farmstead.
Fluffy heads of foxtail rub elbows with marestail, nutgrass, wild sweet potato vines, chicory (somewhat tolerable for it’s pretty sky-blue blooms) and the likes of those really undesirable invaders we collectively despise: poison ivy and poison hemlock.
Wild morning glory vines weave through garden and flower-border plantings like overachieving spiders, entangling every stem, stalk and leaf within reaching distance, and curtaining the edges of neighborhood corn fields. And, kudzu, the “vine that ate the South” and isn’t supposed to survive in the cold north, is doing just fine hereabouts, thank you very much, clambering high up tree trunks and climbing through fencerows.
Some of the late-season greenery vigor is welcomed. I boil jewelweed down into a natural, anti-itching extract, and purple-blooming meadow mints keep a host of pollinators happy. Milkweed, frequently sprayed or mown down as unwanted, gets a pass here in scruffy corners in support of the threatened, beautiful monarch butterflies.
Knowing their time is limited, the less troublesome invaders are tolerated as the crunch of fall harvest is about to begin. Eventually, most of the green assault will fall by the wayside, laid low by the sweeping advance of battalions of cold mornings and crystals of frost. The battlefields of weed wars will lie brown and silent, littered with the corpses of dead foliage, dried seed heads and hard, crackly stems.
Meanwhile the seed reserves lie in wait, biding their time, gathering strength. They’ll be back, with a vengeance.
They always are.