Worst Weed Wednesday at Hayefield

Clover closeup July 28 09

Text and photos ©Nancy J. Ondra

When I saw that Dave at The Home Garden was hosting Worst Weed Wednesday, I knew I had to take part. This has been the worst year for weeds of all kinds (or I suppose, the best year, if you are a weed), due to our unusually moist summer, I guess. Usually, I can do one thorough weeding in spring, set out my annuals, and then let all the good stuff fill in. This year, the perennials grew all right, but the annuals just sat there, letting weeds get a roothold around them. Even worse than the weeds in the gardens is the carpet of weeds in the pathways. Trying to keep my bark-mulched paths clear has been an on-going battle this summer, and I think I’m losing.

One of the front garden pathways in early June, after the usual spring weeding:

Front garden June 1 09

The same path yesterday:

Front Garden July 28 09

Sigh.

Well, it’s not all bad. Some of these weeds are actually good things. The middle path in the front garden is currently mostly ironweed (Vernonia) seedlings, which I could line out in a holding bed and grow on for the meadow. If I had any unweedy holding beds, that is.

Front garden middle path July 28 09

There are lots of other “weeds” that would be all right in moderation. Bronze fennel (Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpureum’):

Bronze fennel seedlings June 1 09

Plumed celosias (Celosia):

Celosia seedlings June 1 09

Golden lemon balm (Melissa officinalis ‘All Gold’):

Golden lemon balm seedlings June 1 09

Pink knotweed (Persicaria capitata):

Persicaria capitata seedlings June 1 09

And the variegated strawberries (Fragaria x ananassa ‘Variegata’) that crept out of their crowded bed to spread freely in the wide-open pathway, along with some larkspur and lettuce seedlings:

Variegated strawberry larkspur and lettuce June 1 09

Some “real” weeds aren’t all that horrible, within reason. Crown vetch (Coronilla varia) is a quick spreader, but at least it had the decency to mingle prettily with other pink partners:

Crown vetch in arc border July 28 09

Teasel (Dipsacus) has been around since the garden began, when I unknowingly sowed it as part of a seed blend that was described as an “English cottage garden mix.” The other plants have long since grown, bloomed, and disappeared, but I have a feeling that the teasels will always be here.

Teasel plant July 28 09

Teasel closeup July 28 09

But as you might have guessed by my lead photo, there is one clear candidate for my current “worst weed”: white clover (Trifolium repens). I know why there’s a patch out by the barn: the seed came in when I got a load of clover-laced grass hay two winters ago. The boys loved that batch of hay, but it has created my most troublesome weed problem. When I spread their manure on the garden the following year, I had to deal with solid clover everywhere I used it.

Clover by barn July 28 09

I realize that white clover can be a good soil-improving groundcover, but it really isn’t working for me here. It’s not a good look for the ornamental borders, and it’s spreading way too aggressively to be tolerated in the bark paths out back. Thank goodness the veggies are up in the raised beds, but the clover is even creeping up the sides and into those areas.

Clover in paths July 28 09

Dave asked us to share our control tips for our worst weed(s). I wish I had some. Mom bought me a flame weeder, but I’m too chicken to use it. I may break down and try an organic herbicide, but then I’d have to protect the ornamentals and veggies from the drift. I’ve already broken the blades of two hand weeders on this stuff, but for now, I think it’s my only option. Lots and lots of hand weeding. Wish me luck! And then go to Dave’s site and check out the other Worst Weed Wednesday posts at The Home Garden.

15 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Lisa at Greenbow on July 29, 2009 at 6:21 am

    Your paths are looking a lot like mine. Only I have worse weeds popping up. I agree whole heartedly that this is the worst weeed year in recent memory. Our Ash tree held its seeds all winter for some reason and when it decided to drop them this spring, all the rain….well, we could have had an instant Ash forest. Out front I have some kind of weed I have been fighting all summer. I haven’t looked it up but it is tenacious, ever growing, ever seed developing. UGH. I will head over to see if anyone else has been having this weed as a problem. It is kind of good to see that it isn’t only me having a weedy summer.

    UGH, indeed. Ash trees are such a pain! At least I don’t have many tree seedlings to deal with, not having many trees.
    -Nan

  2. It’s amazing how many of the plants we plant can start seeding to take over! I’m pretty fond of the clover her most of the year. In the summer it goes dormant. The rabbits like it which keeps them away from my plants, it gives the lawn nitrogen, and feeds the bees. But I don’t want it in the ornamental beds! Thanks for joining in Nan!

    I put the summary post up just a minute ago, needed coffee first this morning!

    I agree, Dave: white clover in a lawn is great; in a garden, not so much.

    Thanks for sponsoring this fun event!
    -Nan

  3. You definitely aren’t alone! The white clover has taken over our backyard this year. I think it is possible we now have more clover than grass. I told my husband on the upside you don’t have to mow as much. On the downside, the neighbors aren’t going to be happy when it spreads… :)

    You too, huh? It’s all over my pastures too. At first, I thought that was a good thing, but then I found out that it’s not good for alpacas. There’s not much I can do about it, unfortunately, except to make sure that the boys have plenty of good grass hay to fill up on.
    -Nan

  4. Glad you have bronze fennel as a weed because I can hardly get mine to grow in the herb garden! I like the structural look of the teasels. I am afraid I only have very ugly weeds that I certainly didn’t plant at some time.

    I have ugly weeds too, Nicole. The fennels are pretty, but they’re a nightmare to try to weed out.
    -Nan

  5. It’s such a pleasure to step on the white clover carpet with your bare feet… Then, why am I pulling it? Too invasive. I have red clover, too, and that is a pure disaster! As you, I mostly do hand weeding. Good luck! BTW, your garden is beautiful! And I LOVE the picture of the purple bloom (3rd pick from the bottom), even if it’s a weed.

    Yep, that’s a closelup of a teasel flower head. Pretty cool, huh?

    Dare I admit that I actually paid money once for a variegated red clover? And I killed it (not intentionally).
    -Nan

  6. Count your blessings that Clover is your worst weed. Right now I’m battling black medic. I leave the clover in the lawn. I think it looks nice there, but I agree, you don’t want it in your paths or garden beds.

    I’m going to reserve the right to still feel sorry for myself, but I can certainly imagine how frustrating your own weed problem is too, MMD.
    -Nan

  7. Posted by Sylvia (England) on July 30, 2009 at 6:26 am

    Nan, I chucked at your comment “the annuals just sat there, letting weeds get a roothold around them” I thought that is what they are meant to do!! At least that is what they do here most years. I have two main methods of weeding, hand weeding and boiling water. For small areas on paving or gravel near the house boiling water really kills weeds roots and all. I am now trying it on bindweed around my compost bins. I tried a flame gun but it didn’t work, I tried different methods, scorching the weed and burning the whole lot. Now all I want is some dry weather and some time – I seem to have either one or the other this year!

    Hope the knees hold out! Best wishes Sylvia (England)

    I’d forgotten about the boiling water trick – thanks, Sylvia. We could sure use some dry weather too. Four inches of rain just this morning!
    -Nan

  8. Ooh, I have black medic too, like MMD, and clover like you. It does seem the extra rain is causing the otherwise clear paths, mine are gravel but the weeds grow in them as though they were rich loamy soil, to no longer be passable. I have been trying to learn to love the weeds, all except crabgrass that is. But we have to be able to traverse the paths, right? :-)
    Frances

    Right, Frances! Makes you wonder why we worry so much about preparing nice, fluffy soil when seeds seem to sprout even better in gravel.
    -Nan

  9. My DH gave me a flame weeder that I’ve been too chicken to use too!

    Do we need to start a support group to encourage all of us chickens to give our flame weeders a try? Everything is so sodden here that I probably couldn’t set anything on fire even if I tried.
    -Nan

  10. I’m fighting purslane, creeping woodsorrel and crabgrass this summer. I’ve been hand weeding since I got home from vacation. I can spot a weed at 20 paces. LOL

    Oh yeah, I have those too, and other weeds I’ve never seen here before this year. But like you, I’m making some progress against them, slowly but surely.
    -Nan

  11. Posted by Laurrie on August 2, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    I too, was chicken about the flame weeder, but it’s now my most frequently used weed tool and it really works, especially on delicate leaves like oxalis and clover. I will only use it on wet paths and gardens, and we sure have been wet in New England this year. So almost every morning I get out in the dewy gardens and flame away. Scared me silly at first, but once you get the hang of it, you fire the flame, pause over the offending weed, move on, look back to see if any smoke plumes are left, and if so, just stomp them. It’s harder to get at crabgrass in the pavers, it needs a good 10 second flame, and it’s probably easier to pull the deep root out if you can. But the clover and oxalis and fleshy-leaved purslane just wilt when they see me coming with the Propane canister and wand. It really is easy to use once you “get” it. (Oh, don’t go near any conifers especially low growers like Birds Nest Spruce. The flame singes their needles even from several inches away and you get brown edges on the borders.)

    Laurrie – this is great! I appreciate you sharing all of these detailed tips for using the flame weeder. Maybe I can actually do this, if I can get over the fear of lighting the thing.
    -Nan

  12. It is an ongoing activity that is for sure. My worst weed? There are quite a few so I will have to think about that one. Sometimes it is good to show the challenges instead of the perfection of the garden.

    The “worst” title does tend to change from week to week. But I think I’m finally gaining the upper hand. It’s nice to see my paths again!
    -Nan

  13. I love all those ‘weeds’ that are just plants in the wrong place. I’m still working on developing enough backbone to get rid of them ALL. I’ve got galinsoga. It isn’t so ugly, but the name is.

    Ugh, yeah – I have some of that too. It’s so annoying, the way it keeps breaking off unless you grab it right at the base!
    -Nan

  14. Did you say *weed*? Shall I start from A and go to Z, or work backwards? Every biennial I have ever grown is still here with me, as are baby shrubs and numerous perennial and “annual” offspring, and even half my vegetable garden (tomato or dill or angelica or fennel, anyone?).

    My worst weed is a real weed, not somebody I ever planted. It’s “garlic mustard.” Ugh.

    Oh yes, the dreaded garlic mustard. I’ve heard that it’s pretty good for pesto. But seriously, how much garlic pesto mustard can one eat? Not enough to keep this menace under control, I think!
    -Nan

  15. Just found your site through Blotanical.com and wanted to say how lovely it is. Thank you for sharing.

    Hi there, Jacqueline. I’m glad you stopped by. It’s always fun to meet a blogger from the great garden-blogging state of Texas!
    -Nan

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