July 9, 2009 at 8:31 a.m.
The definition of a weed is any plant that is growing out of place, and I have plenty of them growing out of place. The garden has a different type of weed than does the asparagus or berry patch, or the fence line. Quackgrass is found almost everywhere and there are many words to describe it, some I can't put in this paper. Also known as couchgrass, it is a cool-season perennial that easily survives any kind of winter or weather. It spreads by seeds and rhizones (underground roots). These rhizones produce buds that sprout underground into new plants. If you don't get the roots it's like cutting the grass on your lawn. The white rhizomes are usually found in the top four inches of the soil and can travel many feet, even under many kinds and inches of mulch.
Digging out and pulling up quackgrass is always the best way to get rid of it. Tilling may make the garden look nice, but it's just what the quack loves. The tiller breaks up the roots helping them to spread throughout the garden. Mulching is good, but only after you have removed all the quackgrass.
Just about the time you think you have quackgrass under control here comes the crabgrass. It comes along about the first of July and is often killed by the first frost, however in between it can become a real problem. If you can pull it while young it is quite easy to control, but like most weeds can be a problem if it gets away from you. Unlike the rhizones of quackgrass, crabgrass spreads above the ground like strawberry plants. If you can pull the runners before they get established you will save lots of work later on.
Another weed that thrives well in July and August is the common purslane. This weed is easily recognized by its small fleshy leaves which are green on top and violet covered beneath. This plant looks like a houseplant that rarely gets over two inches off the ground. Purslane is very drought resistant and when the roots are exposed to the sun it may take days for them to die. The tiller is a great friend of the purslane as the more they are chopped up the more they spread.
Purslane was introduced from southern Europe and northern Africa as a garden plant. It came to the U.S. in the late seventeenth century and has been used as a garden salad in some countries. If this is true I have enough salad to supply a third world country. The only way I can control it is with heavy layers of newspaper with straw or grass on top.
A menace to gardeners is barnyard grass. Also known as: cockspur grass, Japanese millet, cocksfoot panicum, barn-grass, water-grass, summer grass, and billion dollar grass. This grass is ranked third among the world's worst weeds. One reason is because barnyard grass may consume 60 to 80 percent of available soil nitrogen in a single growing season. It can be recognized easily because it grows in clumps of up to fifteen stems called tillers. The only way I know to control this weed is to dig the clumps up and remove them from the garden. The clumps left in the garden can survive several days in the sun. When it rains, they are in business again.
I have written about four garden weeds that can be easily identified without pictures. However, the internet or a good weed book that concentrates on local weeds could give you more information.
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