Here at my Two Acre Paradise/Three Dog Circus there are two tasks that seem to take up an inordinate amount of my time:
1. Vacuuming dog hair
2. Pulling Mulberry weeds from garden and flower beds.
At least I am rewarded for the vacuuming dog hair by having constant, loving 4-leggers—two of who patrol our paradise.
I have yet to find ANY redeeming qualities for the mulberry weed; I can’t even put it in compost!
This annual weed was introduced from Asia many years ago, and has been steadily colonizing gardens ever since. Able to grow in sun or shade, she produces multitudes of seeds from the time of 2″ juveniles, until the old hag keels over (if left to mature) reaching 12-18” by first frost. She sends forth her evil progeny by exploding her seed capsules, resulting in invaders 3-4’ out from the original plant. If you don’t get her roots when pulling, you just make her mad; then she will instruct her spawn to grow underneath/entwined with your favorite garden plants. Most folks won’t notice her and her masses of seeds until they have dispersed.
Mulberry weed (Fatoua villosa) is so named because seedling mulberry trees look similar to the weed when it’s about 4 inches tall with five or six leaves. But mulberries have smooth stems while mulberry weed (also called hairy crabweed, for some unexplained reason) has prominent hairs on the leaves and stems. It grows stiffly upright (although in heavy shade it may be more prostrate) with alternate leaves that are toothed, indented with prominent veins, hairy and yellow-green in color. The leaves have a triangular outline with the petiole about half the length of the leaf blade. The flowers are tannish, pea-sized clusters at each node. Unfortunately, mulberry weed is in a hurry to produce seed, so flowers usually appear when plants have only three leaves on them.
Mulberry weed may be my most hated weed but is certainly not the only one. Weed control is a constant battle in the landscape, but is necessary in order for your desirable plants to perform at their best. Every square inch of your garden and flower beds contain weed seeds, but only those in the top inch or two of soil get enough light to trigger germination. Digging and cultivating brings hidden weed seeds to the surface. Dig only when you need to and immediately cover the disturbed spot with plants or mulch. Mulch benefits plants by keeping the soil cool and moist and depriving weeds of light. Organic mulches, in particular, can actually host crickets and carabid beetles, which seek out and devour thousands of weed seeds. The old saying “pull when wet; hoe when dry” is wise advice when weeding. When soil is wet (but not muddy) weeds come out much easier. When you can’t remove weeds, the next best thing is to chop off their heads. With annual weeds, deadheading buys you a few weeks of time before the weed “seed rain” begins. Cutting back the tops of perennial weeds reduces reseeding and forces them to use up food reserves and exhaust their supply of root buds, thus limiting their spread. If possible, deprive weeds of water. Placing drip or soaker hoses beneath mulch efficiently irrigates plants while leaving nearby weeds thirsty. In most climates, depriving weeds of water reduces weed-seed germination by 50 to 70 percent. Watch out, though, for the appearance of deeply rooted perennial weeds, such as bindweed and nutsedge, in areas that are kept moist. They can take off in a flash and quickly spread when given the benefits of drip irrigation.
As always happy gardening…and weeding.