Saturday, January 14, 2012

Garlic Mustard -- Winter Weeds and Good Deeds

Gardening sometimes seems like a solo sport, good for distraction, great for contemplation.

Garlic Mustard
Even in the winter the gardener is always looking forward, evaluating the past growing cycle yet planning for the next.  The best tool in a gardener's apron is flexibility, followed by durability.  Winter conditions have nearly as much impact on the summer yard as the spring rains.  Global temperature changes, however slight, have a huge effect on the overwintering of marginal plants, especially weeds.

Where trillium bloomed Garlic Mustard prevails
Weeds, poison ivy and other invasive plants scramble to survive, thus when the temperate scales tip upwards towards the next USDA Zone, they are first to "welcome" change.

Purple poison ivy vines
Before snow blankets the yard, after warm weather perennials have retreated to root status, take a tour with spade in hand and note the bright green weeds which may have hidden behind the skirts of the hosta, or in the shadow of bright coneflowers.  Ahead of the freeze, take a few moments to pry those sneaky scoundrels out of the soil, saving time and effort for later in the year.  Point, pop and pull.

Insert a narrow spade a few inches from the central base of the weed, press downward on an angle and pop the miscreant right out of business.  Tap rooted weeds require full removal to prevent a reappearance.

A great tool for this quick task is a telescoping spade which pulls out up to three feet, then twists and locks into place.  Perfect for sensitive backs or knees.  The bright orange handle makes it easy to spot when left behind.

Garlic mustard, an invasive and agressive weed which allegedly made its way to Zone Five and a Half from Europe, is nakedly visible in early winter.  Left unchecked it'll take over the yard and any vacant patch of soil.   It will also smother native woodland plants like trillium and trout lilies. Best to remove this pest when its bright green leaves outshine all else.

Every good deed in nature, whether pulling an invasive weed or planting a tree, pays it forward.  One blooming weed can spawn a hundred seedlings, smothering out native growth.  Five minutes in the garden can make a difference in aesthetics as well as environmental impact.

Point that spade, pop and pull. 

Not bad for the waistline, either.

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