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dreaded Johnson Grass!!!  RSS feed

 
Lauren Magnolia
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how in the world can we combat this Johnson Grass throughout our asparagus patch we've mowed it and burned it and used chemicals that really don't need to be used... HELP!!!
 
Lauren Magnolia
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research tells me i could use vinegar spray or orange oil... but there's several generations of asparagus amongst the Grass (pretty large patch, at that) Is there anything we can do, short of hand pulling, to get rid of the grass and keep the asparagus? it's a longshot i know, hoping somebody knows some sort of green thumb miracle
 
Judith Browning
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Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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We have johnson grass here also. I understand what you mean and I do hand pull where I don't want it...on the upside,I like to cut it to use for green mulch. For a different troublesome grass (bermuda) I prepared a new area and moved my echinacea rather than try to keep up with weeding. That gave me the opportunity to dig and sift out the bermuda roots and all from the 'weedy' bed and eventually plant it again and cover with a good mulch. I don't know how well older asparagus transplants but maybe that could be an option if you have the space.
For me, and those practicing permaculture, toxic chemicals are off the table. Some do use vinegar but in your case that might damage the asparagus roots...some use a torch and burn the unwanted plants but since johnson grass is a perinnial I am not sure that would help.
I am hoping someone pops up with your 'miracle cure' too.
 
John Elliott
pollinator
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Definitely a threat to permaculture, because it threatens to become a permanent part of where it has settled in. I see stands of it by the side of the road, where it gets razed to the ground by road maintenance crews, and after a few weeks, it's back stronger than ever.

I would say this is one of the few instances where rototilling the soil might be an advisable thing to do. You need to yank it out by the roots, wait to see what seeds have sprouted and have at it again. Unfortunately, this would be fatal on the asparagus too, so before you start chopping it out, lift the asparagus roots and move them to a different place. This would be better as a late fall job, after everything has gone dormant, but in the meanwhile, you don't want the Johnson grass dropping a lot of viable seed, which means keeping it closely mowed.

Or you could use nature's rototillers and fence off the Johnson grass with pigs inside the fence.

 
Lauren Magnolia
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the chemicals used in seasons past were the doings of an older generation... rather set in their ways my husband and i have been asked to look after the garden and we are trying some safer methods. truly appreciate your thoughts and advice... it seems to me that moving the majority of the asparagus plants, tilling the area, and spraying with vinegar (maybe again in the spring?) would be our best course of action.

still hoping for miracles every day

~Lauren
 
Adam Klaus
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gardener
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Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
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Old texts reccomended planting asparagas crowns 12-18 inches deep, so that you could mechanically cultivate the entire patch to control perennial weeds without damaging the asparagas plants. I am not a big fan of the rototiller, but I can report that the technique does work well for controlling long term perennial weeds like Johnson grass. You would till in the fall, 6 inches deep, at the end of the growing season for the asparagas ferns. The bed ends up completely clean, with the asparagas crowns unharmed deep under the soil. Just a thought.
 
wayne stephen
steward
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Location: Western Kentucky-Climate Unpredictable Zone 6b
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My suggestion is do not rototill it .We did and our garden is now occupied by Johnson grass. We will move it after 5 years of soil building and small swales and berm construction. The most rototilling has done is to destroy the grasses that compete with Johnson grass and allow it to become king of the hill. Tilling cuts up the rhizomes and each one becomes a new plant. This spring we brought in 4 round bales of old hay and covered the garden 12 to 24 inches deep. No match for the Johnson grass either. Covered in black plastic the plant sends out shoots that traveled 18 inches to poke their way out the sides . Shoots not rhizomes. I have come to the conclusion that the earth is telling me it wants to grow grass here. When out in the pasture Johnson grass is just part of the polyculture. As long as it is kept short by grazing or mowing other grasses stand a chance against it. Regionally , you all may have different experiences. Laura , I am glad you started this thread . If I had started it the topic line would have included the f word.
 
John Elliott
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Wayne, how does it stand up to pigs? Or even chickens? Most herbivores, if confined in a space, can overwhelm anything that is trying to grow. I know that pigs are recommended to take out blackberries, and those vines can be rather persistent.
 
Adam Klaus
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Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
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wayne stephen wrote:My suggestion is do not rototill it . The most rototilling has done is to destroy the grasses that compete with Johnson grass and allow it to become king of the hill. Tilling cuts up the rhizomes and each one becomes a new plant. As long as it is kept short by grazing or mowing other grasses stand a chance against it. Regionally , you all may have different experiences.


very good point Wayne. I find the same thing with bindweed, which is our regionally hellish weed. Using a wheel hoe, with a stirrup hoe attachment is much more effective for me than a rototiller. It is hard physical work, but it slices off the plants just under the soil surface, rather than chopping them into a million pieces. Pigs, IME, act much like rototillers and really help to simultaneously spread, fertilize, and aerate the problem weed rhizomes. Bindweed likes pigs way more than pigs like bindweed. No easy solution.
 
wayne stephen
steward
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Location: Western Kentucky-Climate Unpredictable Zone 6b
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Chickens are absolutely no match for it . Pigs I am sure could put a dent in it . I have not tried it in my garden plot yet . My experience with this grass tells me that it would eventually come back . All it requires is a small piece of rhizome left behind . Even the bottom 12 inches or more of stalk will reroot if in contact with soil. It also requires constant vigilance in the garden to pull it or at least keep it short . It will me 6 ft tall before you know it . For annual gardens a freind of mine uses pigs and moves his plot every year . To keep the Johnson grass at bay in one location you would have to put the pigs back on site making perennial plantings problematic.
 
Marsha Richardson
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For many people who may need a pig to assist in weed removal, waste recycling, or whatever that do not eat pork, or pigs or any meat -- many times on Craigslist I have seen free, neutered, pot belly pigs. They are not too large, are super intelligent and can be moved around in "pig tractors" made out of cattle panels or contained in electric fence (I highly recommend the woven electric fence). Being neutered, there is no worry for breeding them and they will need shade and water and some supplemental feed but they do a great job. I know when I finally move full time to my place in the country, they are on my list of must have items. Until then, it is pull and pull and pull for the johnson grass and bind weed. I have a tub of water that I dump it into, let it ferment in the sun with a couple of shovels of fresh chicken manure (which will kill almost anything anyway) until I am sure it is 100% dead, then pour it back onto the garden or onto various kugels and berms around the place. Don't give up! We have honeysuckle here as well that is so strong it pulls trees down. But I know it can be defeated! My dad cleared an acre and 1/2 of it by rigorously pulling every bit he saw. It took him 5 years but that property is still clear of honeysuckle 20 years later.
 
Dee Ann Reed
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NEVER till Johnson Grass! I was baptized into Johnson Grass 12 years ago this coming December. I had never dealt with it when I lived in California. I moved to OK, and I was like a babe drawn to the slaughter. Previously, Burmuda, had been my most hated enemy in the garden, but Johnson Grass is Burmuda's big hairy ape of a brother, and now I fight them both! I just had the most disasterous garden ever, after growing an entire plot in turnips for two years, and the fallowing same plot for two more. Thought I had got rid of Mr. Johnson Grass, but No, he was trying to get rid of me. I planted an 80x80 Patch of everything from Tomatoes to goji berries, but it was hopeless. The only thing that did well against the Johnson Grass was its nicer, and infinitely more useful cousin milo! I broadcast the milo, and not a Johnson Grass Plant grew there. Seriously considering growing milo on the whole plot next year! Oh and did I mention I made the mistake of Tilling this year!

So lessons I've learned in my fight: 1) NO TILLING EVER 2) If you have clay soil like mine, forget digging it out! 3) Burning it off helps 4) Add calcium to soil. Johnson Grass tends to grow in low calcium soils. 5) Mega mulching works best! The best is sheet mulching like Back To Eden. Heavy cardboard down in Fall, try two inches thick at least. Massive amounts of wood mulch on top, top dressed with lots of manure, grass clippings, hay, straw, leaves and whatever else you can find! More added in Spring, particularly manure. 6)I got a decent squash crop by clipping Johnson Grass shoots with a hand clipper, everytime I saw one. Finally gave up when heat and squash bugs beat me back!!! 7) Early spring plantings are the mainstay! Cool weather crops beat Johnson Grass by being harvested before it gets a foothold. Crops like Fava beans, peas, and the brassicas are fantastically successful! Consider drip watered containers for tomatoes. They just don't fight the chemicals in Johnson Grass roots well!

Little Bit Farm
 
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