Weed Ecology

I’ve written before that weeds can indicate the health of the lawn.  But as I’ve gradually gotten my ability to weed back as my back has healed over the summer I’ve noticed an unusual thing (must have something to do with those powers of perception that I talked about on Friday).

Over the years, I will have “weed outbreaks.”  I think I even talked earlier this year, at least in a tweet, that last year’s hurricane Irene brought me a new invasive pest and a new weed and I was worried about what else I might find on the property.

While I was unemployed (and I had plenty of time on my hands–one full summer and part of a second) I made it my mission to eradicate all the garlic mustard and all the vines on my property.  Two years later, at least with respect to the vines, you wouldn’t know I’d even tried!  It’s easy to see how “nature” can take over.

But it’s more than that.  Many years ago, when I first got to the property, it was over-run with smartweed.  Again, I spent most all of one summer pulling–and I didn’t see smartweed again for well over a decade.

This summer, suddenly it’s everywhere. It’s completely over-running the lawn. What caused that change?

Last year I worked hard on getting out the copperleaf and the oxalis. It seems to have worked fairly well.

But this year, I am over-run by a weed I haven’t seen much of before called clearweed.

As I took this photo, it occurred to me that the clearweed had colonized a place that had formerly been over-run with garlic mustard.  Since this is a woodland area and not something I would ever mulch (except to let the leaves remain there naturally in the fall) I was sort of hoping that something like my woodland asters would take over.  I should have known better!

I guess what it all comes down to is that we can weed and weed but nature really abhors a vacuum.  Open ground will be covered  with something.  And if we are efficient weeders so that our weeds don’t go to seed, new ones will find ways to take the old ones places–at least until I plant more densely.

Since, again, I’ve had many discussion here about not mulching in the gardens–it just doesn’t do for my heavy, wet clay. Not if I want to see my plants return in the spring!

So it’s really a good thing I don’t mind weeding. I just have to know when to quit lest I injure myself as I did earlier this year–or aggravate an old injury.  After all, none of us is getting any younger (and if someone is, I need to know the secret.  Maybe it will help me keep up with the weeds!)

2 thoughts on “Weed Ecology

  1. Laurrie September 3, 2012 / 1:28 pm

    I just finished Richard Mabey’s “Weeds” and he explains how we are selecting the most successful weeds by eliminating the ones we can get to… ala Darwin. It is only the weeds that escape our attention that survive, and go on to reproduce, and so we create our own selected weed cultures of the “fittest”, the most aggressive and the hardest to detect! Aaargh. Happy weeding : )

    • gardendaze September 3, 2012 / 2:30 pm

      Hi Laurrie,
      I think the last time you mentioned this book to me I said it was on my “to read” list. Alas, I’ve spent the last few weeks reading the books for Hillstead’s fall book club–all women authors and some great ones at that, but nothing that helps me with my weeds, obviously!

      Clearly I need to read Mabey’s book all the more–although I’m not sure knowing what I’m doing will help make it any less painful!

      Thanks for reading!


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