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Weeds, Weed Dragons, Weedpocalypse Now

Spent an hour in the garden this morning before it got hot—the first serious gardening I’ve done in a month or so. Made a pretty good dent in some of the weeds, need (naturally) more mulch so I can just smother a chunk of the rest. The stiltgrass is still thugging.

The Weed Dragon flamethrower was amazingly effective on stiltgrass, though—the strip down the middle of the gravel drive, which was solid green, is now dead as a doornail. Only the plaintains resprouted from their roots. It’s been a week and some change and while there’s some regrowth, it’s barely a fraction of what it was, and more importantly, it’s not stiltgrass. Very pleased with it.

In the back, over the fence, where I cannot use a flamethrower for fear of setting the woods on fire, I have more or less screamed “THIS. IS. GAAAAAARDENNNNN!” and started throwing all the smartweed I pull up over the fence, on top of the stiltgrass. It roots instantly—you can’t keep a smartweed down—and is smothering out the stiltgrass. And it’s native, so I will endure it.

As much as I grumble about the weeds, I have to step back and say “Yeah, but it could be so much worse.” I have had spectacular luck with groundcovers in the back—the native St. John’s wort is an imperfect mat, but the green-and-gold “Eco-Lacquered Spider” has formed a wall-to-wall mat over the shadier area that keeps down the sheep sorrel (which is running rampant where there is no green-and-gold.) Eco-Lacquered Spider (and what a cultivar name, eh?) makes me nervous every spring with its rampaging stems, but it settles down in summer and becomes a well-behaved dark green carpet and I remember why I loved it in the first place. There is a whole stretch of garden where I don’t weed except occasionally and around the edges, and it looks fine. (Well, fine for my garden. Unruly and a bit ragged with weird-as-hell plant placements. I am still not sure how that Joe Pye Weed got under the oakleaf hydrangeas…)

And there has never been such a year for Tiger Swallowtails. I count over a dozen in the yard every day—most of them probably resident, but presumably there’s a few being changed out here and there. They are particularly fond of the starry rosinweed, a somewhat obscure member of the Silphium genus that produces masses of yellow daisy-like flowers…six feet off the ground. Not that you can see them, since they’re always covered in swallowtails.

I also finally got a Spicebush Swallowtail in the garden that I am reasonably certain grew up here, on one of the spicebushes. He is much too clean and perfect and new-looking to have been a long-distance wanderer. I am absurdly proud.

Our fledgling count is up to ten, with the addition of a young tufted titmouse. And one of the most spectacular developments—and one that apparently I can take some partial credit for—is a massive explosion of dragonflies. I have never seen so many blue dashers, and there are sundry other species as well. I assumed that they are here because the weeks of rain led to standing water led to more mosquitoes than anyone can deal with, led to a predator population explosion. And while that may be part of it—there are several dragonfly nymphs patrolling my rain barrels as we speak—according to some of my bug guide peeps, some of these species can take up to three years to mature.

And I think back three years ago, to a woman with a shovel grimly determined to dig that pond or die in the attempt, and the dragonfly mating flights around the pond that summer, and I think “Huh. I wonder…”

At the moment, the pond is home to many perching dragonflies, to a stand of Louisiana irises and dwarf horsetail, to many bronze frogs and hopefully still a single newt.

And someday I will finish the patio…though the swallowtails are puddling on the sand, and I will feel guilty about displacing them.

And for now, more mulch.

Originally published at Squash's Garden. You can comment here or there.


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Yay, dragonflies! Having just returned from Florida, I cannot sufficiently express enough love for anything that keeps the mosquito population in check...

Also, dude... your garden attracted a lobster. That's still so cool.

So have you noticed any less mosquitos due to the huge influx of dragonflies? Or is it just that in addition to the mosquitoes you have lovely dragonflies?

Anyhow, hooray gardening!

I'm so screaming "THIS. IS. GAAAARRRDDDEENNN!!!" next time I have to deal with the bloody bindweed...
there might be napalm involved too... or at least a salt/vinegar/bleach mix.

It'll probably take the napalm.

It did the last time I did battle with the foul weed... and it came back again. If I could figure out how to build a plasma beam, I'd use that. I swear, you could drop a nuke on it and the damned stuff would be growing back up through the glass lining of the crater within the week.

Edited at 2013-07-24 10:38 pm (UTC)

Do you have a Buddleia? They are also fantastic for attracting butterflies. And of course you must grow parsley, for the tiger swallowtails to lay their eggs on.

Buddelia can get hella invasive down here, unfortunately--plant one, get fifty of the damn things, and of course you can't kill one once it's got the roots down. I saw what they were doing to a neighbor's rock garden and now I give 'em a wide berth!

Huh. We never had that problem with our Butterfly Bush (B. davidii) when I was growing up in Maryland. Maybe it was a different species.

They're considered noxious weeds and illegal to plant here in the Pacific Northwest.

Nope, it's B. davidii. It's all on where you're at---same way lantana is hella invasive in the Southwest but won't overwinter here.

They've put a lot of effort into developing a sterile Buddelia because people do love 'em, and announced one not long ago---think it's called "Blue Chip"---but I'm waiting for long-term results, since there was that awful mess with the supposedly sterile purple loosestrife....

As an aside, I had heard there was some success with biological control of purple loosestrife, and wikipedia seems to confirm that.

"Infestations of either of the Galerucella species is extremely effective in wiping out a stand of purple loosestrife, defoliating up to 100% of the plants in an area."

That would be awesome! It's not a big deal in my area---not compared to kudzu or stiltgrass---but I know it's a scourge in a lot of places...

My big success this season has been watermelon. Didn't know if it was going to survive for a month or so after transplanting my seedlings but it finally decided it was going to do its damned best to take over the yard. I'm considering just mowing around it and letting it have the lawn. I've got 20 melons of various sizes so far!

[tries to picture a six foot tall Joe Pye weed under what's probably a four foot hydrangea and fails miserably]

The hydrangea is only about a foot tall at the moment. Um...parts of it are "under"?

[pictures a six-foot-tall Joe Pye weed towering over the foot-tall hydrangea it started out under much more successfully [g]]

Where I grew up, native vegetation ran to things like poison ivy, wild garlic ("The smell of new-mown hay" brings back some interesting memories for me...), itchweed, etc.

I love dragonflies and they are wonderful to watch. Oh the flame thrower works to some extent but is helpless against the dandelion who flourishes again like a phoenix from the ashes.

I have an ancient weed burner that used to belong to my grandfather--it's just the front part, and rusty enough that I simply use it as decor rather than attempting to actually hook it up to anything flammable. I've looked at the modern weed burners with interest, but wasn't sure if they were worthwhile. Good to have a (relatively) local review. I may have to go ahead and order one. For now I'm going with Nigerian Dwarf goats for weed eradication--they thrive on kudzu, honeysuckle, and blackberry, all of which are a plague in my yard.

Do you own the goats, or rent the goats? I am intriged!

The goats haven't moved in yet (they're still being bottle-fed, and I can't really take them to work), but I own them. I live out in the country and have a small homestead set-up.

I just have cabbage butterflies, but that's all right, since I've also got bumblers and honeybees!

Otoh, if there's a backyard beekeeper around, they're going to have lots of tomato and tomatillo flavored honey, and I have no idea if that's any good at all...

My yard has butterflies and bees, and that makes me happy. My garden, on the other hand, is a miserable failure.

A question for you: Do you have jewelweed where you live? Was just wondering, as I was telling a friend about using it for a poison-ivy rash the other day.

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