There are other solutions to weeds beside poison and mowing

A morning's work in my tenant's sideyard, already withering in the heat of the morning sun.

A morning’s work in my tenant’s side yard, already withering in the heat of the morning sun.

This weather is perfect for growing stuff, especially weeds. Just over the past few days the weeds in our yard and at our rentals have gone to head, bolted! Grown like a foot over night, with stickers all over them. They’re green now, and the ground is still somewhat soft from that last rain, so wherever my husband can’t get with the lawnmower or the weed whacker, I glove up and pull ’em out by the roots.

Yeah, they come back, but if I get on it at the right time, and do a good job, I won’t have to look at them until next Spring.

This area is much improved since I weeded it good and brought in some chips a few years ago. The weeds don't grow in as thick and they're easier to pull out.

This area is much improved since I weeded it good and brought in some chips a few years ago. The weeds don’t grow in as thick and they’re easier to pull out.

Foxtails and other grass stickers are bad for your pets, especially if they get into an animals nose, ears or mouth. They are built to burrow in, whether to the soil or an animals flesh, they’ll grow just fine. Every sticker head has about a gazillion seeds, and it seems like every damn one of them sprouts and will grow into a full size plant.

You know this plant - commonly called "Wild Parsley" - at least by association. You've picked the stickers out of your socks, your kids' socks, or your pets' fur every time you've taken a walk in Bidwell Park.

You know this plant – commonly called “Wild Parsley” – at least by association. You’ve picked the stickers out of your socks, your kids’ socks, or your pets’ fur every time you’ve taken a walk in Bidwell Park.

“Wild Parsley” is an innocent, almost pretty plant, with it’s lacy leaves, and graceful, Queen Anne’s Lace-like flowers. Don’t let it run wild in your yard – every little teeny flower head grows into one of those dam-ned stickers, those tiny little velcro-like balls that get into socks and pets’ fur.  One burrowed into my cat’s coat and was making a little ulcer in his skin by the time I dug it out.

Once these areas are cleaned of weeds they'll be pet and people friendly all Summer.

Once these areas are cleaned of weeds they’ll be pet and people friendly all Summer.

It’s nice to do something to keep the weeds out – that usually means, plant lawn or other plants to push them out. Lawn is the easiest, cheapest way to get rid of weeds, but now, with the drought hanging over us, lawns have got a bad rap. I’ll say, it’s hard to keep them at all over a Northern California summer, especially with water cut backs.  I keep lawns where it’s shady, and have just let them die in sunny parts of the yard. But weeds don’t need a lot of water to grow a couple of feet high, die, and turn into an ugly brown fire hazard full of stickers.

You see a lot of “xeroscape” or “drought tolerant” gardens going in around town – these are heavy maintenance, and take more water than people believe. Most of my neighbors who went this route have found out how much work it takes to maintain these “xeroscapes” and have let theirs go by the wayside, sprinkler heads failing after a couple of summers in the hot sun, domestic plants dying, weed patches moving in.

I think it’s the wrong approach to go with nursery plants. At my house I’ve found a lot of native plants that are non-offensive to people and easy to maintain. Once you remove the competition of the weeds, these plants flourish and multiply, and pretty soon you have some helpers in your war for civilization.

Here's one of my latest experiments - I put some dandelion seeds in a container of dirt, sprouted them, and now I've laid them into a clean section of dirt. I put out about half dozen little clumps, we'll see if they set in.

Here’s one of my latest experiments – I put some dandelion seeds in a container of dirt, sprouted them, and now I’ve laid them into a clean section of dirt. I put out about half dozen little clumps, we’ll see if they set in.

I love dandelions – Tampopo!  The flowers are beautiful, the seeds heads are magical, and the roasted roots make an excellent diuretic tea, good for women’s health. I encourage them around my yard, and lately I’ve propagated some seeds to get them into parts of the yard where they haven’t made their own way yet. After I pulled some weeds under a big oak tree, I popped the seedlings out of the six-pack I had them in and planted them in the ground in little plugs.

This is one of my favorite native plants, the bigger variety of Mullein. This plant is about twice the size of a dinner plate in circumference, and will grow as high as 14 feet tall. The entire stalk is lined with tiny yellow flowers, which are used as a antiseptic in herbal medicine. The leaves are so soft, people have used them in lieu of toilet paper.

This is one of my favorite native plants, the bigger variety of Mullein. This plant is about twice the size of a dinner plate in circumference, and will grow as high as 14 feet tall. The entire stalk is lined with tiny yellow flowers, which are used as a antiseptic in herbal medicine. The leaves are so soft, people have used them in lieu of toilet paper.

All over our yard mullein flowers grow, the big ones reaching as tall as 14 feet. They make a nice liner along fences. They are very invasive, but easy to pull out by the roots. The best thing is, they have a very wide base, and smother out other, pesky weeds.

My favorite natural ground cover are California poppies.

A "volunteer" poppy, shown here with some of this pretty blue ground cover plant Whipple gave me. I don't know what it's called, but it keeps the crab grass out, and it's amazingly drought resistant.

A “volunteer” poppy, shown here with some of this pretty blue ground cover plant Whipple gave me. I don’t know what it’s called, but it keeps the crab grass out, and it’s amazingly drought resistant.  I love the way it climbs over the rock wall.

 

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