June 17, 2013

Points East: Noxious weeds are obnoxious

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — Ever since moving here to 249 Charlie Brown Road, I have waged an ongoing battle with dock and thistles.  I would also take up fighting dandelions but I am so discouraged by my failure with the other two that it seems pointless.  I’ve similarly given up on ever ridding the place of honeysuckle vine.

Besides that, if I was able to kill off all the dandelions, our yard would look basically like the surface of the moon.  Lots of pits and craters, but not much sign of life. At least the humming birds seem grateful for the honeysuckle vines that are beyond my control. And I wonder what the moon would look like now if the landing gear of that first lunar craft had been accidently stuck in a honeysuckle vine before it left the earth.   

Actually, the thistles are pretty easy to deal with.  One little squirt of name-your-favorite-weed-killer and they die off in a day or two.  However, my house is surrounded by hundreds of acres of graze land and it would be more than a full-time job to keep down all the thistles that spring up in fence rows, alongside ponds,  inside brush piles, etc.  

And only one or two plants need to survive the growing season because the flower heads on these things contain hundreds of thousands of seeds that can travel for miles anytime the wind blows.  Not only that, but there are at least four different, and very distinct, varieties here in Lowell Valley and the biggest things they have in common is that they sting like yellow jackets if you get too close to them and they spread like wildfire.

I’ve already gone through four gallons of weed killer aimed specifically at thistles this spring and I figure I’ll need at least four more just to make it safe to walk barefoot through the dandelions.  You may get foot cancer from all the chemicals in my lawn, but you’re not apt to cripple yourself by stepping on a thistle.

Dock, on the other hand, is a much tougher customer.   Dock puts down a taproot as much as two feet deep.  The leaves and stems will wrinkle up into ugly contortions and you can tell the plant is suffering mightily when you triple dose it with RoundUP.  It’ll turn yellow and brown for a few days and the original leaves may even fall off but as soon as the next rain comes along, it comes right back with a vengeance.

If anything, weed killer just makes it tougher.  I don’t use weed killer in my vegetable garden so what I’ve done is dig it up by the roots by the five gallon buckets full.  On three occasions this year, I actually used post hole diggers, which is why I know for a fact the tap roots will go down two feet deep.  

Once I’ve finished digging out all the roots I can see,  I flood the hole with a couple gallons of boiling water to cook anything that might be left.  I’ve learned the hard way if I leave one little sliver of dock root in the ground, it’ll sprout right back in a few days and the next plant will be far more determined than the first.  A good scalding seems to be the one thing dock can’t survive.     

Of course, once you dig the roots out, you need to boil them too, otherwise they’ll just sprout right back and take over wherever you discard them.    

Last weekend Loretta and I were in Lowe’s and I swear to you they had dock roots for sale at $5.99 each!!    It was all I could to keep from piling them up in the middle of the garden center and setting them on fire.  

Believe it or not, there are many seed companies that will sell you thistle seed so you can get a start of the stuff.  Honeysuckle vines start at $5 and go up at any number of nurseries and I’m tell you the owners of these businesses need to be imprisoned. You can even buy dandelion seed!

If you are reading through seed and nursery catalogues, you will find on almost every page one variety or another of something that says “sorry but we can’t ship to California, Washington, Arizona and a couple of other states.”   In other words, it’s against the law to ship honeysuckle, dock, thistle and several other noxious weeds, and that is in fact what we’re talking about here, to states where the residents have a little common sense.

And if you live at least 10 miles from me and you really can’t live without honeysuckle, dock, thistle and dandelions, please come on over to 249 Charlie Brown Road and help yourself.   If you live any closer than that, don’t bother because we’re trying to eradicate this stuff in the southern end of Garrard County.

Of course, when all this stuff spreads to your neighbors’  lawns and gardens they may shoot you.  And as far as I’m concerned, they’d be well within their rights.


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Now that school is out, what are your family’s summer vacation plans?

A. No major plans. We will probably hang out around Laurel County.
B. Going to the beach!
C. Kentucky has a lot of wonderful state parks, and we plan to visit a few and enjoy quality family time.
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