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Wanted: Advice on organic weed control  RSS feed

 
                              
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I am trying to reduce the amount of creeping buttercup in a lawn. I would prefer to do this without using herbicides. Apart from my general aversion to chemical control, there is a fish bearing creek close by and I don't want stuff leaching into it. The lawn is partly in the shade (green belt with tall trees close by - another reason to avoid herbicides) and since I live in the Pacific Northwest, the ground is damp most of the time.

The lawn appeared to have not been mowed for about 3 months and I recently mowed it down to about 4 inches.

I have tried pulling out the  creeping buttercup by hand - but doesn't seem to work well. roots and stems seem to stay in the ground.

Question 1: Is there some tool that can make it easier to pull out creeping buttercup?

Question 2: What would be an organic method to control this weed? (pH modification? specific mowing practices? introduce some other plant (more desirable - like clover) that can compete with creeping buttercup?)

Thanks for any suggestions!

 
paul wheaton
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
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I have never tried to control this weed, so I'm going to start with some sweeping generalizations, see if that might work for you and if it doesn't, then start to focus on that plant.

You say the lawn went a long time without being mowed.  Are we talking about something more like a pasture than a lawn?

4 inches is a good height.  Most weeds will be wiped out by simply mowing regularly at that height.  I have seen flowers called buttercups in poorly cared for lawns, but I have never seen, nor heard of buttercup problems in a thick, healthy turf.  This makes me suspect that simple regular mowing might do the trick for you.


 
                              
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Thanks a lot for your suggestion on regular mowing. I'll try that as a first step.

It is a lawn in the backyard, not a pasture. It was being neglected by the former owner. I am not sure I would call it healthy. About half the area is solely grass, and the rest is mostly buttercup and bits of grass.

I have read at various places on the internet that creeping buttercup is a sign of one or more of the following (a) compacted soil (b) poor drainage or increased dampness (c) increased acidity. I am not sure which, if any, of these is my problem. (Compacted + acidic would also encourage moss - right? There is none of that in the lawn).

 
paul wheaton
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Posts: 21397
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
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Is the buttercup outcompeting the grass?

If there is just a little ...  I wonder if maybe another thing to work into this is more diversity in your lawn.  With enough diversity, you won't notice the buttercups.

 
Kelda Miller
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Hi! Buttercup makes me think it's probably shady and moist. I wouldn't try to fight that, or the acidity, here in the northwest. I actually tackled just this in a friends yard a couple weeks ago. I used a hori hori (STrong hand tool), popped out the buttercups, and planted mint in the shadier parts and lemon balm in the sunnier parts. They should have no problem pushing the buttercup out should it try to return. They will also turn into their own 'problem' though, that is, if I didn't like mint and lemon balm tea so much. Because I do I think the arrangement might be perfect.
You might want to wait for a few dry days though, if trying this technique. It isn't nearly as fun to grub out buttercups while the soil is muddy, and not too good for the soil either.
 
                              
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Creeping Buttercup (Ranunculus repens). An old nemesis of mine.

Eight years ago, this spring, I was watching the plants unfold out of their winter dormancy for my first time. I knew I had a bed of strawberries coming up. Half of the bed was actually strawberries. Adjacent to them grew a similar plant who's leaves were only partially out. I presumed they were also strawberries.

I was wrong. It was an infestation of Creeping Buttercup. It has a root system similar to Ajuga (aka: Bugle Weed). It does not have a woody stem but many, many stringy runners.

Fortunately for me, this was mostly in a planter bed and not my lawn. I was successful pulling it with the aid of a cultivator and small hoe. I had to sift through the cultivated soil to ensure I removed all the roots I could locate. The roots are somewhat elastic, white and about 1/32" thick. From what I observed, any part of this root left in the soil would re-populate the bed.

I managed to remove the infestation from roughly a 10' X 10' area of this bed. The first year I took out most of it and kept after the volunteers all summer. The next year I had a couple dozen plants pop up weekly and promptly removed them. I think year three I only saw a half dozen and promptly removed them.

After that they were mostly gone. Every few years I seem to fine one plant in the bed that seems to sprout out of a dormant root though the previous year there were none to be seen.

This particular infestation took place amongst several gray ferns, false hinoki cypress, wild huckleberry, rhododendron, Japanese maple, all below some tall Douglas fir trees.

I am not sure how to eradicate CB from a lawn without cutting the grass at a short height. Gradually work your way down to a shorter height if it is something you want to try.

Since the root structure is very similar to the Ajuga plant, you may want to research how that particular plant has been successfully eradicated from lawns. And when you find out, please share it with us. I have several that keep popping up in my lawn from a previous owner's plantings.

One big difference between Ajuga and CB is the stem of the leaves. Ajuga grows successfully close to the ground and CB prefers longer leaf stems pushing upwards. That is why I thought you may be able to mow it out. I am sure raking with a stiff rake would bring up many but not all surface runners too.

Silverdale Slug
 
                                
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Location: Middle Georgia
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vinegar sprayed directly on weeds kills them dead.
laying see thru plastic over them after spraying will help as well.
horticultural cornmeal helps control weeds and is great for everything as well.
 
                    
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Creeping Buttercup (rununculus repens) is plant whose admirable tenacity for survival and dominance is belied by its lovely and merry yellow blooms. Although it is termed an "invasive species of weed" a medicinal tincture can be made from the creeping buttercup with spirits of wine to cure shingle; the leaves, used bruised and infused w/ boiling water in a poultice, ease gout and rheumatism; and the juice applied to the nostrils induces sneezing (herbalremedieslk.com). This is all said to defend the plant's natural existence in wet meadows (or yards). It is a very successful and attractive plant that is also useful.

However, if you are committed to reducing its presence in your yard chickens and geese readily eat the leaves without harm (the plant raises blisters in the mouths of most other grazers). Geese might work well for you with the creek on your property. Also, an effort to reduce the moisture in the yard would reduce the buttercup's ability to flourish so readily. Opening the yard to more sunlight, adding soil to create a runoff incline toward the creek, adding sandy soil or thickening yard plantings combined with rockery to reduce standing water would all help.

Check out UK site Creeping Buttercup Management in Organic Garden Systems @ gardenorganic.com if you like.
 
MJ Solaro
Posts: 131
Location: Bellevue, WA
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I've never dealt with creeping buttercup myself.

But I have read that you need to be careful about physical removal, because the plant is remarkably good at re-establishing itself via stem fragments. If you yank it carelessly, it could make a bad problem worse.

I'm echoing the advice of some of the other posters, but here are some things you could try:

  • [li]Yank it in hot weather, to prevent recultivation. [/li]
    [li]Improve drainage in your lawn [/li]
    [li]Repeatedly cutting them make reduce their vigor [/li]
    [li]Its seeds and leaves are eaten by partridges, wood pigeons, chickens, geese and pheasants (without the toxic effect).[/li]
    [li]Last resort, plow repeatedly, then reseed...[/li]



  • Good luck!
     
                              
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    Guinea Hogs eat a lot of creeping buttercup, pulling in out by its roots and eating the entire plant, as well as just eating the leaves.  It's quite prevalent here in our low wet areas.  We are quite pleased with the hogs for this.  It's the first year that they've had access to the pastures where Ranunculus grows and so we'll see where this takes us.  I'll continue to seed with a diverse mix in hopes of establishing some competitor.  What I really want is a Kratergarten but haven't summoned the courage or permits to go through with it.  That is what the esteemed sepp holzer recommended we do... give the water a place to go.
     
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