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bindweed and quackgrass holding me back  RSS feed

 
Posts: 299
Location: Portland, Oregon Maritime, temperate, zone 7-8.
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Many Thanks, Lisa.

I will ask him and let you and this thread on the forum know what he says.

It would be mindbogglingly cool to be able to so productively use the bindweed that is growing so profusely in my back yard!!!

It is quite synchronous that I was just about to do it in when you made your post.

Happiness, Health, Peace and Abundance for All!

Many Thanks and Many Blessings,
Pamela Melcher
 
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I have smaller problem but same persistance here in NM.
I've been getting a bit ahead on eradication by spraying areas with supe concentrated vinegar.
The plants take it in - we are so dry- might not be as 'easy' if you get rain often.
Anyway seems to knock out much but is still year 4 of trials year 2 post spray- but much better than trying to pull all. which of course is not any fun.
One little notch left behind and it becomes an undrground monster in 2 seasons!
Anyway I went to Cedarcide and bought the super concentrated vinegar for this and for some
cleaning- not too toxic or at all when diluted by rain or rinse.
 
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Goats eat bindweed and ivy!
 
Posts: 1947
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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Wow, I've come a long way and so has my garden. Today I was tying back some of the very tall plants using bindweed and I was looking around for another piece. I said to myself that I needed to find some bindweed. For me this is improvement! I don't have to resent this plant or even wish it gone completely.

It's an ok plant tie. Not super strong but better than nothing
 
Pamela Melcher
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Location: Portland, Oregon Maritime, temperate, zone 7-8.
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Happy to hear that, Matu!

I was thinking about you the other day as I was eliminating bindweed, so it is nice to have an update.

I found a great way to cut way back on it that works well after a rain. The roots mostly run about 1-3 inches below the surface. I put my hand down in the soil and follow the root, burrowing a little tunnel with my hand, following the root until I am up to my elbow, at which time I burrow to the surface and pull the root up through the hole and start there with another tunnel. In places it branches. I follow the branches. I follow the roots until the end of the underground growing tip, and pull them out through the little tunnel. It is a lot easier than digging them up, and it teaches me amazing things about what it likes, as that is where the roots are fattest. The roots can run 5 feet underground and still not have emerged from the ground. They go right for the most fertile, moist places. You could never get so much root out by pulling it, as it would break down in the ground. That way you get all of the root and do not leave segments behind, or at least WAY less of them. It is interesting to see how it grows toward blackberry plants and dandelions, proving the value of polycultures. It chooses to be near those plants, right at the base where those plants emerge from the ground. In its favorite spots, it branches and many roots criss cross. I untangle the whole web. Just when I am about to go insane with all the tangled roots, I get the upper hand and eliminate all the roots. It is a lot less disruptive to the soil than digging them out. Digging them out would also cut the roots and might leave segments behind.

Best of luck!

Pamela Melcher
 
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Surprisingly, this year I found out that some people here do indeed eat bindweed. Not in huge amounts, but yes they do. I had heard a few of my rural teenaged students over the years claim that their families collected it among other wild edibles in spring, but since they were teenagers in a changing society I didn't really believe them. But this summer I was weeding a garden with a lady in her 30s who has farmed here all her life, and she assured me that indeed they do collect and eat it in the early spring. I'm sure of the Convolvulus arvensis identification because it is common here and we were pulling up flowering specimens while I asked her all about the different weeds.

Other wild edibles are tastier, and some are well worth collecting extra and drying for winter: caper shoots (not a weed but a wild desert plant here), nettles from the mountains, buckwheat leaves as a field weed, wild chives. Others that are eaten happily in spring include lambsquarters, some kind of common amaranth, perennial pepperweed, wild leeks (? id not sure), sedum from the mountains, baby alfalfa, ... So this lady said yes, for sure, they collect and eat bindweed. She stripped the leaves off the string to show me.

But when I started pulling it in earnest last year I tried to hand feed it to our cows and they turned up their noses.

 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1947
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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That's interesting that people eat it. It's supposed to be poisonous, but so is poke and lots of people eat that.

My rabbits turned up their noses at it too. I suspect they might eat it if there was nothing better. They get lots of apple tree prunings, rosa multiflora and juicy garden weeds so they can afford to be picky.

I've been doing a similar thing with following the roots where possible. They are so fat and juicy I wish they were sweet potatos! Where the mulch is thick it is easy to gently tease them out. What it comes down to here at the moment is that with vigilance, mulch, and no soil disturbance the bindweed can be gotten down to a manageable level. I don't have the time to be vigilant by myself so if I want my farm to be productive of crops in the short term I need help. I've been stingy stingy stingy with accepting wwoofers lately because I really don't need another person to train and feed, but there are some smart driven folks out there and if I can find them they can help. We had three of the best wwoofers ever this year, but one was only here for a week and the other two were here for two.
 
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[quote=Rebecca Norman
But when I started pulling it in earnest last year I tried to hand feed it to our cows and they turned up their noses.



I am really suprised by this. My cows too. When I related this to them this morning, they spit out the grass they were eating, completely aghast with diselief! For my cows, the only thing they *might* prefer to fresh bindweed, would be apples and pears. Really, they like bindweed that much. Maybe something different in your soil composition leads to different compounds in the bindweed? As they say, it all depends...
 
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I had a lot of success this year crowding out bindweed with perennial strawberry and mint ground cover. You have to weed it until the new plants establish but once they are there only the occasional bindweed pops back up. Trade one invasive for a better, more productive one....
 
Pamela Melcher
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Location: Portland, Oregon Maritime, temperate, zone 7-8.
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Excellent. Very helpful to know, about the strawberries and mint.

I had been thinking that might work, and appreciate that I do not have to risk failure, but can go ahead and implement that. I have a lot of both mint and strawberries to plant, and will put them where the bindweed needs a competitor.
 
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Hello all,

Interesting discussion – many farmers and gardeners have faced the same issue all over the world.

I have four raised beds that were constructed 5 or 6 years ago, they were to totally overtaken this summer by quackgrass – They are good size beds (6 meters in length) , and I was not in a mood to dig all the way to china, or to bring heavy machinery to excavate them and then take out by hand each and every piece of root.

I watered the beds really well, and pushed down the “weeds” with a rake to flatten them as much as possible, then I broadcast on top of this layer (15 -20 cm layer), black-eyed beans regular climbing beans, mung beans and some buckwheat. They were then covered with a thin layer of straw, 5 cm +/-. Everything was watered well, and I watered everyday there after – its hot here in Greece well into late September.

The result is that the beans did really well – they sprouted and dropped roots down to the soil and are doing well providing us with a good supply of green beans and green leaves – the young leaves of cow peas are delicious.

90% of the quackgrass is covered and not visible underneath the lush beans – at a portion one of the beds either I did not seed properly or the seeds choose not to sprout (most likely the first).

I hope that the quackgrass will compost and provide food for the next crop. I plan on working with these beds without spending my energy to remove the weeds. I need to figure out what my next crop will be there.

The criteria are the same – just broadcast, water and harvest – no weeding – no manure – no digging - no pesticides. The principles of Natural Farming as outlined by Masanobu Fukuoka. The buckwheat did not do well in these beds – maybe it was not able to develop the long roots.


I hope this helps.

Kostas
 
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Thank you, Matu, for initiating this great discussion. I am a Permaculture neophyte who is slowly incorporating Perma concepts into my repertoire. I've been fighting quackgrass on my tiny farm in the Puget Sound area for years. Pulling it from two beds was doable but as my veggie area grew this quickly became an exercise in futility. Sheet mulching worked to keep the leaves at bay but I found that what I was really doing was providing a perfect environment for the roots to travel vast distances to previously cleared areas.

My current and very successful solution, which I've been implementing for three years, entails a moderate initial investment in time but has really payed off in the long run. It is clearly not a Permaculture process but it has allowed me to create a quarter acre area that is quackgrass-free as long as I am vigilant and pull any sneaky culprits that seeded or evaded my initial eradication process.

When I was first starting my garden eight years ago and weeding the quackgrass by hand I found that I could do a good job but within weeks it was encroaching from all sides again. Since I live on essentially two acres of quackgrass I realized controlling encroachment would be key.

Here's my strange and unorthodox method: I found a local roofer who saves 1 foot wide by at least 4 foot long metal roofing scraps for me. (I always leave some home-canned jam, etc. with him when I pick up the material.) I dig a 10" - 12" deep trench around the area I want to clear of quackgrass and place the roofing, edge down obviously, into the trench, overlapping the ends about 4" and screwing them together. I then cover the area inside with black plastic (I've since read that clear works better) and leave that in place for at least three sunny months, sometimes a full year. I know solarizing that long really wrecks the soil but I have found quackgrass roots to be amazingly, stunningly resilient - kind of the cockroach of the flora world! If it's a smallish area I avoid the plastic and do a very thorough hand weeding. As my garden area increases in size I add more roofing accordingly, reusing redundant sections but always leaving it in place around the outer perimeter. (My wife calls it "The gulag").

I consider my method to be a compromise but it allowed me to begin learning about growing food instead of always feeling like I was at war with an enemy. And now that Permaculture has come knocking at my door I feel like I have the space, both on my land and in myself, to begin that learning process. I'm also looking forward to my future attempts rid my small orchard of quackgrass by creating guilds that bring balance back to that infested area of my property, without having to resort to my slash-and-burn gulag method.

 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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I am enclosing two photos showing one way to take advantage of the quack grass with minimum effort - maybe we should stop looking at it as a "weed"

Kostas
1.jpg
[Thumbnail for 1.jpg]
Photo 1 - Portion of the Raised beds that was not covered by the beans
2.jpg
[Thumbnail for 2.jpg]
Photo 2 - Raised bed and quack grass covered by the new plants
 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1947
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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I recently learned that the white crunchy roots (are these called stolons?) of quackgrass are edible. They don't taste like much but they're not bad.
 
Pamela Melcher
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Matu, Amazing. Many thanks for that info. They probably are extremely nutritious, probably very mineral rich, with all the chi they obviously possess. And there will NEVER, NEVER be GMO quackgras!!! lol

Pamela
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Hello Matu and Pamela,

I do not know if the roots are edible - I would be very careful and research well first.

The roots of this plant (the variety we have here in Greece - agriada) are used to make tea, and people who are bothered by small kidney stones drink it to dissolve the stones - my wife was bothered by kidney stones about 15 years ago and it worked - it beats going taking pills (she has also used nettle extract for the kidney stones).

Quackgrass a summer plant and dies back in the winter - it creates a large biomass which composts and enriches the soil - I plan on cutting back a bit the quackgrass with a knife and use the materials as a mulch on top of the bed - it has crossed my mind to "scatter" lentils on top of these beds once the beans have died back and see how they do.

I am adamant that I have better use of my time and energy than to spend it trying to destroy this plant - its here for a reason that we fail to see at this time.

Kostas
 
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Hanley Kale-Grinder wrote:I had a lot of success this year crowding out bindweed with perennial strawberry and mint ground cover. You have to weed it until the new plants establish but once they are there only the occasional bindweed pops back up. Trade one invasive for a better, more productive one....



Im with you hanley. In my garden I tilled regularly (probably too much) and planted buckwheat to smother out the weeds (primarily bindweed). Now if i could just get it out of my compost!
 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1947
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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It seems to me that the tilling that used to happen here increased the bindweed by disturbing the soil and chopping up the roots, effectively turning each root chunk into a new plant. Every place and time is different though.

We haven't tilled here for a couple of years and it seems to have helped. In the meadow (area which used to be tilled organic farm and is now wildflower/perennial grass meadow) the bindweed that used to be all over is few and far between. There is more in the kitchen garden.

Maybe tilling has its place but I'm committed to avoiding both fossil fuel engines and excessive back breaking labor, so time will tell
 
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I've almost completely eliminated bindweed from our fruit cane bed. This has been a massive problem area year after year, the bindweed climbs the canes, ties them totally together and makes the whole patch a no-go area.

I ripped up the black landscape fabric (inherited from them previous landowner) and found thick white roots sprawling everywhere beneath it. I pulled up everything visible by hand, filling barrow after barrow with the thick white roots.

I then mulched the whole area 6 inches deep in partially rotted woodchip. As per Paul's process I thoroughly handweeded the bed by sections, starting from one end. Over the summer I went back pretty much weekly and, for any new shoot that popped up I went exploring through the mulch with my hands, tracing the roots back as far as possible. The deep mulch is a huge help as it softens the soil and makes it easy to get a good section of root up with each new shoot.

Even months later I was still finding big thick, strong sections of root - they had not been substantially weakened by the top pruning, making me think that getting as much root as possible is really important.

By the end of the summer I was pretty much on top of it, and any future bindweed should be easy to manage popping up through the mulch. I'll be adding more mulch over the winter too to keep the layer nice and thick. The added benefit of all this mulch is that the canes have thrived, giving bumper crops and looking vigorous all summer.

I have also used the deep mulch approach through and around my main vegetable beds - I sacrificed the edging boards in exchange for ease of weeding and haven't regretted it. We don't have quack grass fortunately, but I bet you could make similar progress by hand pulling the stolons through a thick layer of loose mulch.
 
Pamela Melcher
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Thanks all for your progress reports. I am confident I can get the upper hand. Some folks love to dramatize weed problems and they make it sound so impossible. Deep mulches make so much difference in so many ways.
 
Matu Collins
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Yes, I agree, Pamela, weed problems are surmountable. When I first started this thread I had only a little hope. I had read a lot about Permaculture andthought a lot about it but was getting stuck on the "impossible" feeling. It was a carryover from working hard hard hard on organic farms beating back the weeds only to have them rise up stronger. From what I had observed, the more we tried to control the bindweed and quackgrass the more it seemed to encroach. I didn't love the helpless feeling but I felt it.
The good news is, careful thoughtful observation, mulch, leaving the soil undisturbed, all these things have given me hope.
Still, the idea of "no work" gardening is unrealistic. It takes a lot of weeding to keep the bindweed in check if I'm going to grow vegetables. Dense cover crops, maybe.
And, even in the future when I've gotten the bindweed down to just what I want, there is going to be lots of work harvesting! This year I kept it very simple and harvesting was a big job. Nice problem to have
Abundance for all, y'all
 
Pamela Melcher
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Thanks, Matu....
Yes, "careful thoughtful observation, mulch, leaving the soil undisturbed, " and staying on top of it do give us the upper hand over bindweed. There will always be work, but it need not be an endless futile battle. What we are doing here in our 1/4 acre infant permaculture food forest is taking longer than I thought, but so many of my reference points for how long something will take to do are based on the concepts of a culture of impatience. What I am seeing is a process that is just blowing my mind...of the return of fertility and life and chi to what was once a depleted dairy farm....with infertility and hard pan and all. Nature has her ways to seek to heal this. The plants I have attended to carefully are thriving far beyond my expectations. It is going in different ways from how I planned it in my head and reading books, but it is so beautiful and alive. The process of succession, the evolution from grassland to forest, and seeing the dynamic and tapping into it to go the way we want it to go. Seeing a garter snake and more birds and sensing the path. I learned a lot about the subtleties of where a plant chooses to grow as I pulled out the bindweed. It did seek to grow near the blackberries and dandelions, just as some experts say...the plants band together to draw up the water. Really clear. Really obvious....In a big patch of this, I could really see the pattern. Usually I am not messing with the roots of plants, so I did not see this. It seems almost counterintuitive...it seems in an abstract way like it would be best to place the plants far apart, but that is not really so. And then where in some places the plants we do not want are growing faster than we choose,...well ...we can use them for chop and drop and it is really only just a little more work, but I see the principles operating and feel the chi and I am loving it. Now when I see monocrop lawns and plants far apart with bark dust in between I feel physical pain. It really is crazy and it is hard to comprehend how it all got started. For sure, one has to love the process and hang with the plants and observe and detach a bit from the results one expects. Good luck and blessings, all. May we heal the planet and ourselves.
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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An update on the raised beds covered by quack grass.

In mid December an early frost killed most of the beans – they had given us an “adequate” supply of green beans and leaves for salads – no complaints – after all a there was almost no energy expanded to “plant” and care for the beans – so we can say the harvest was pure profit. If I had invested a lot of energy to weed, fertilize and kept weeding the beds, I would reasonably expect a larger harvest.

In early January, I cut down the bean plants and laid them down on top of the other weeds – pushed everything down with a rake and watered everything well – there was a 20 -25 cm layer of green materials – the stuff at the bottom is decomposing. In one of the beds I added a small layer straw 6 – 8 cm – I felt it needed additional material. So now everything is watered down well (whole layer of plant waste including quack grass is wet) and pushed down.

On three of the beds I scattered black beluga lentils and barley on top of the above described conditions. On the 4th bed I scattered chick peas and emmer wheat (Triticum turgidum) – an ancient variety of wheat.

After the seeds were scattered – the beds were watered well and then the beds were covered with a light layer of straw – again the beds were watered to wet the top straw.

For the next 3 – 5 days the beds were watered daily to make sure the seeds did not dry out.

The results so far have been encouraging – the lentils, barley and wheat have sprouted. The bed with the chick peas is problematic – Too many weeds were left near the surface and are growing aggressively (will wait and see).

I am hoping to have a scatter and harvest situation, while improving the soil - where the seeds were simply scattered, and that a decent harvest can obtained with minimum effort, and that the soil fertility of the beds will increase by each harvest. All plant matter will be returned to the beds – as I understand it, both lentils and chick peas are nitrogen fixers.

Time will tell whether this is a "fool’s errant" – it would be nice if it works.

Food and soil fertility "for nothing"

Kostas
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Pictures are always helpful
Bd-1.jpg
[Thumbnail for Bd-1.jpg]
Bd 1 - Shows Raised Bed 1 that has chick peas and emmer wheat (possible problem with weeds)
Bd-2.jpg
[Thumbnail for Bd-2.jpg]
Bd 2 - Shows Raised Bed 2 that has beluga lentils and barley
Bd-3.jpg
[Thumbnail for Bd-3.jpg]
Bd 2 and Bd 3 - Shows Raised Bed 3 that has beluga lentils and barley
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Pictures are always helpful
Bd-3b.jpg
[Thumbnail for Bd-3b.jpg]
Bd 3b - Shows a close up of Raised bed 3 – the barley and lentils have sprouts on the surface of the decomposing organic matter, and they are dropping roots looking for moisture and soil (20 – 25 cm further down from where they are – amazing !!!)
Bd-4.jpg
[Thumbnail for Bd-4.jpg]
Bd 4 - Shows Raised Bed 4 that has beluga lentils and barley – this is the bed that additional straw was placed
Bd-4b.jpg
[Thumbnail for Bd-4b.jpg]
Bd 4b - Shows a close up of Raised bed 4
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Pictures are always helpful

We will see what spring and summer bring.

Kostas
P-BelugaLentil.jpg
[Thumbnail for P-BelugaLentil.jpg]
P BelugaLentil - Shows a close up of the beluga plant
P-EmmerWheat-.jpg
[Thumbnail for P-EmmerWheat-.jpg]
P EmmerWheat - Shows a close up of the Emmer Wheat plant – the Emmer wheat is a much stronger plant than barley – judging from the strength of its roots – they are twice as long
 
Adam Klaus
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I attended a fascinating presentation last week on dealing with this specific situation. The presentation advocated for applying oyster mushroom mycelium to any areas that have problems with rhizome-based weeds.

Applied in the late winter, when the rhizomes are dormant, the oyster mycelium colonizes and consumes the rhizomes, greatly diminishing the weed problems by summer. The oyster mycelium is highly competitive in the cold soil conditions of early spring, and then naturally dies out come the warm and dry conditions of the gardening season.

The oyster mycelium can be applied as charged biochar, or as a diluted spray solution. I used the biochar myself last week, and plan to follow up with a spray innoculation in early spring. The fellow, John Buerger, who gave the presentation has been developing this techinique of weed control for years, and has found excellent results. Now is the optimal time for application, while the soil is cold and wet.

Sorry no pics, but I really hope John Elliot and others add to this discussion, this is a concept I am very excited about and hope to learn more from the fungi folks here.
 
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Adam Klaus wrote:
Sorry no pics, but I really hope John Elliot and others add to this discussion, this is a concept I am very excited about and hope to learn more from the fungi folks here.



Adam, I'm going to take a pass on this one, because I think our soil temperatures here in Georgia are too high for this to work. Oyster mushroom is really a cold-weather mushroom, and it just doesn't grow around here. It may work when the soil temperatures are in the low 30s, and the rhizomes are really, really dormant, but our soil temperatures rarely drop below 50, so there is enough biological process going on in the rhizome that it will respond to the attack and send out a "quit eating me!" message.

But yes, it might be applicable for people who live in the Arctic wastelands of the north.

P.S. by that I mean climate zones 6 and below.
 
Adam Klaus
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Thanks John.
 
Matu Collins
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Wow, this is really exciting! I have the perfect laboratory for trying this out. Oysters grow wild down the lane here.

I am delighted!
 
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It does sound like the person who started this thread has remedied the problem somewhat. I've also had a major bindweed problem, plus a creeping buttercup, field mint, and canary reed grass problem as well. All are difficult. Canary reed grass grows 6 feet tall, and spreads by seeds and rhizomes. Buttercup has a thick, dense root system that is impossible to pull when well established, and takes a load of dirt with it if you do manage to. It also spreads by seed and the tiniest broken-rootlets.

We found a few solutions - for bindweed, chickens placed in an enclosed run over the plant problem will eliminate it. They can be rotated around, giving the ground a little time to recover. Usually, the bindweed recovers first - very convenient, so back go the chickens. Eventually, the plants nutrient stores in their roots are gone, and then they can't come back. That's a great time to reseed with something desirable. We're experimenting with short clovers.

With buttercup, bindweed, and field mint - MULTIPLE layers of cardboard with chips over to secure it have also worked. The cardboard must be laid on thickly. The bindweed will try to worm through any gaps, and then you pull it out by hand before it gets too long. Our guinea pigs and ducks like it.

With buttercup and canary reed grass (plus a little bindweed and field mint to boot!) over a large area (our entire annual food garden area) we had to go with a different route. We were given some guidance by organic herb seed farmers south of our area. They had successfully eradicated a field of buttercup by tilling, cover cropping with buckwheat and oats, then tilling a second time that year and reseeding it again. The process took us longer, because we couldn't till twice in a year due to heavy rains. So for the second cover crop we used a better overwintering combo, and we had to repeat the process for three years. We pulled the last buttercups by hand and are happily gardening away!

One other thing we tried, that worked, but we couldn't cover a really big area - we made a burn pile (don't hate on me for that - we live in the forest, and there wasn't any more room for stashing it) and that got rid of the buttercup, too. Then a bunch of annual pigweed sprouted, but that's a tasty plant, so welcome!

Hope this helps someone! It took us so long to figure out what to do about these plants! They can really keep you from getting started, in a way that's hard to fathom if you haven't experienced the (wonderful, actually) tenacity of these plants.

K
 
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Excellent innovative idea Adam. I will be very interested to see how it works out.

I know someone in my area who has bindweed really bad. I had read that "bindweed thrives in areas of low calcium". One solution might be to apply calcium directly. Another might be to apply ground up oyster shells. Your solution could then be oyster shells and oyster mushrooms. Kind of amusing.

I think that the most useful way to think about weeds is to think, "Why are those weeds thriving in my yard?" In general, most weeds thrive somewhere because they are filling a niche in the habitat. Usually. the weeds will do really well when the specific nutrient is lacking in that area. Then, once that weed has completed its succession of providing that nutrient for your yard, it gradually thrives less and lets something else dominate. It sounds like the original posters are successfully letting their work and nature take care of what was a seemingly unmanageable problem earlier. I have had a lot of dandelion and buttercup in my yard. I did a soil test last year and found that I was low in several important nutrients, calcium, boron, zinc, sulfur, manganese among them. I applied these nutrients to the soil and now I am excited to see if the weed pressure will be decreasing. I think in general having the right mix of plants that nature wants to give you will help the situation in the long run if you can wait that long. Most of these nutrients are available in organic forms, like oyster shells, wood ash, dolomitic lime, etc. I know that the Native Americans in my area traded with the Coastal Indians for shells. I wonder if some of them used shells or other natural items as fertilizers in a sustainable way. Lupine is a native plant that fixes nitrogen and adds phosphorus. Many plants can be used this way intentionally instead of unintentionally getting weeds. Attracting little birds to poop in your yard converts insects (their food) into phosphorus (their poop.) In general I ask, "How would nature solve this problem?"
John S
PDX OR
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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An update on the raised beds covered by quack grass

The beluga lentils and barley are doing exceptionally well – they have grown to about 50 cm in height and are very strong and healthy. The bed with the chick peas is a problem – weeds and the mint are overtaking this bed.

It seems safe to say that we can grow beans (the types noted above), barley and beluga lentils – its safe also to say that other types of lentils will also grow, and that other grains may also grow in a similar manner.

Its important to note that the soil was not disturbed, that the seeds were simply scattered on top of a heavy layer of mulch, including quack grass, that no weeding was performed. Simply scatter. The beans, lentils and grain sprouted on top of the mulch and dropped roots down to the soil, and grew well. The principles of Natural Farming, as outlined by Masanobu Fukuoka San were maintained. No plowing, no weeding, no pesticides no fertilizing.

The cost, time, energy, effort and outside inputs were minimal.

The interesting question is how many other plants can be grown on these raised beds. I am sure transplanting tomato, zucchini and similar transplants will not pose a problem provided that there is adequate mulch. The heavy mulch and quack grass break down and become compost – in place composting and continuously improving fertility.

Will corn grow if its not in contact with the soil ? Will it drop down roots and grow like the beans, lentils and barley?
Will zucchini from seed grow?
Will Taraxacum, lettuce, carrots, parsley, celery and other small seeds grow?

How will small seeds behave in such deep mulch? How can we prevent the small seeds from getting smothered and disappearing in the mulch?

Does anyone have any suggestions.

I have started to cut down the three raised beds that have the barley and lentils and will use the biomass as mulch – I will leave a small portion of one of the beds (1 meter long) to see it to the end (harvest) – next time I will seed the lentils and barley in separate beds. The bed with the chick peas I will leave alone – to see how it progresses.

The weeds and grass growing in between the beds is being cut down and placed on top of the beds. We again have 20 – 25 cm of mulch (maybe more) – I will let dry out for a week before trying to seed the corn first. In two of the beds I have added an “organic” fertilizer” which I now regret. I will not use it in the 3rd bed. The fertilizer is dried blood and chicken manure pellets. In retrospect, I suspect that these animals were not raised naturally so their wastes and blood most likely contain what they were fed – so how is it organic and safe?

In any case I will be able to compare the three beds and see how they progress.

Is anyone else doing this and what's your experience?

By the way, the quack grass underneath the mulch is alive and well – I pulled a strand that was close to a meter long and it looked strong and healthy. If the beds are not continuously covered, this grass will rise to the top.

Kostas
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Pictures are always helpful
A1.jpg
[Thumbnail for A1.jpg]
A1 - Shows the barley and lentils
A2.jpg
[Thumbnail for A2.jpg]
A2 - Shows they sprouted 10 cm above the soil surface – when they were scattered it was close to 20 – 25 cm (the mulch is breaking down)
A3.jpg
[Thumbnail for A3.jpg]
A3 - Shows the chick peas growing in weeds and mint
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Pictures are always helpful
A4.jpg
[Thumbnail for A4.jpg]
A4 - The lentils and barley were cut down to the surface of the mulch
A5.jpg
[Thumbnail for A5.jpg]
A5 - The bed was watered well
A6.jpg
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A6 - The bed is covered well – we will let the mulch dry out for a week prior to seeding.
 
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I am thrilled to report that my week old goslings accepted bindweed as a desirable food and are seeking it out on their own after being offered shredded leaves just one time. We are now a couple days into training, they get 1/2 bindweed and 1/2 new alfalfa leaves first thing in the morning. When we go on our afternoon outing, they are voluntarily finding and eating the bindweed. It's hilarious to see them swallowing down a 4" tendril.

My Nigerian Dwarf goats stripped it off the panels enclosing their pen in a matter of days last fall, so I'm hopeful that between the two teams, we can get ahead. It seems to me that bindweed does best in areas of low fertility. If I can get the critters to improve the fertility while eating the bindweed, there is hope.

Another observation from last year was that I saw rampant growth but few flowers on the margins where the bindweed did get more water. I kept chopping it back and tried to be grateful for the free organic material. I'm no saint-I'll be even more grateful this year if it is free feed that gets turned into organic matter by my goats and geese.
 
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I made a mildly interesting observation about bindweed today....

I've had two lawns in two different homes with bindweed problems. Both of these problems were minor when i moved in and progressively became worse. I don't water or mow nearly as much as i should to keep the grass looking good and don't weed much either. So the bindweed took over; granted the previous caretakers may have used weed and feed...

I created a new garden area this spring by tilling under some grass with a small bindweed problem. Of course, with the tilling, the bindweed completely took over. It is now planted with corn and potatoes, which fortunately seem to be doing well, I didn't have enough mulch to smother the weeds, so i mostly just left them alone. I've got to say, the bindweed seems to make a pretty effective green mulch. There's some mallow, dandelion and purslane in there too, but mostly bindweed. It is over a foot deep in the most-heavily watered places... It even managed to solidly establish itself in a brand new raised bed (filled with 6+ inches of brand-new potting soil) . It is profuse in a park area nearby, (though nowhere near as bad as it is in the garden) but mainly only in high-traffic areas where the grass seems to be seriously struggling. That park gets watered regularly, but is also scalped with a mower once a week.

Today I realized something, though. The bindweed in the park and the bindweed in my lawn both have been flowering for over a month now. The foot-deep stuff in my garden doesn't have a bloom in sight. So... I would infer from that, that the stuff competing with the grass is seriously stressed and only surviving where the grass doesn't... I haven't been around long enough to know, but aside from making gardens and yards look horribly neglected, and perhaps smothering a small sun-loving plant or two, does bindweed really do much damage? My corn and potatoes seem to mostly be doing fine. The potatoes have a small bug problem, but it doesn't seem to be related to the bindweed at all. Actually the bugs seem to be the most active where there is the least bindweed. My observations make me think bindweed is just an opportunist that can be out-competed, with tolerable ease...
 
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Why has nobody suggested card board mulch. Do you have access to lots of card board? Even if you cant get enough to cover the entire field, you could mulch around new tree saplings so they have a chance to grow up above the quack grass.
 
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One of the many problems with quackgrass is that even if you finally get it out of a certain area, if there's any outside that boundary, it will work it's way towards the quack-free zone. Here's what we did in a field of quackgrass we wanted to plant an orchard in. First we did something I no longer like doing... we rototilled the area and YES I know that chops up the roots and makes more quackgrass -- but we immediately planted buckwheat. The buckwheat grew so fast it choked out the quackgrass trying to re-establish itself. We planted the fruit trees then let a large flock of chickens and ducks live in the orchard which kept the orchard floor relatively free of quackgrass as long as there were enough birds in it. When we had less poultry a few years later, they couldn't keep up and the quackgrass returned.  Another farmer who removed quackgrass for a garden area in a similar way built a wire-covered chicken run all around his garden area to keep the quackgrass from enroaching back into the garden from the outside. The quackgrass couldn't survive the path of the chickens' run to get back into the garden.  Even with buckwheat, a bit of quackgrass survived and had to be pulled by hand. Some people even do the buckwheat procedure more than once, one right after the other.
 
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Ah, beautiful white flowering convulvulous! Bindweed. YUCK!

It has long, heavy carbohydrate roots and plants can regrow from the tiniest pieces, making the work of pulling it all up frustrating.

Why not starve out the root?  

I have an odd situation. The last home owner, who owned this property 30 years before we came here had the place "landscaped" and a full sun street corner was covered in black plastic and rounded beach stones and then poke planted with shrubs. We started trying to remove the literally hundreds of pounds of quartz stones (many the size of cherries) and it just got ridiculous, so I simply pulled out the degraded plastic and heaped leaves and mulch over them. After 20 years I have a huge raspberry patch growing on top of them with tree seedlings planted by nature that we move if they look promising or simply clip and drop (anyone need a free white oak or red oak or dogwood?)

Anyway, I have bindweed popping up in this area along with poison ivy. For the ivy, I wait for a big rain and then, using those long rubber gloves that go up to your shoulders that they use in dairy cow obstetrics (sorry TMI!) I grab a root and pull it out, following all the trails and folding the leaves over into a plastic bag.  Poison ivy is easy to eradicate this way, but it must be done carefully and only when the ground is WET.

Bindweed, I simply get down low in the garden and look for the shoots coming up in early spring. Like a garden assassin I simply clip them to the ground. DO not pull them because this breaks up the root and new shoots grow quicker.  Every couple of days, I take a lazy few minutes and clip the shoots. Sometimes I find one hiding up a raspberry cane, but I get the bugger. I find it fun. LOL. I drop the shoots and clippings for mulch and move on. Yes, it takes a little time, but eventually, because the plant is unable to photosynthesize, the roots thin out and the entire plant dies.

Years ago, I have to confess, I tried the technique where you take a bunch of the vines, twist them together and then, using a big ziplock bag filled with roundup (YIKES!!!) you push the vines into the bag and seal it off, laying it in a black garden pot. The plants soak up the poison through their stoma and are supposed to die.  They didn't. Came back strong and I had a bag of poison I didn't know what to do with.

I have been doing this technique when I remember for a couple of weeks and the shoots are already thinning out and coming up in hiding places, so I will see how it goes. Either way, will let you know.

The rule of pioneer plants, aka weeds is they colonize disturbed or poor soil and then transition as the soil life improves or the mulch layer gets thicker. Mulch those "edges" well in the garden or plant ground cover and the weeds should decrease. I use all weeds, including Artemis vulgaris, aka mugwort as biomass so I don't mind the weeds--I am also a wild forage enthusiast, so it is amazing how many edibles I am happy to see that other folks call weeds.

Alex
 
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