Everybody knows 2019 is the Year of the Weed

    The Port Washington Backyard Garden Association, consisting of one member — me — mocks the Perennial Plant Association for naming Stachys hummelo the 2019 Plant of the Year. In the name of all of us who labor in our own little Edens, I declare 2019 to be what we all know it really is — The Year of the Weed.
    Weeds have their place in our yard — filling up our pseudo-lawn with something green. But in my garden I expect perennials to reign supreme, and this year that is not the case. Instead, weeds rule. The dreadful winter and cool spring delayed the development of a lot of perennials, and weeds rushed to fill their spaces. Then, abundant rains sent the weeds into overdrive. All I do is weed, over and over again. I’m not making much progress, and the parts of the garden I haven’t gotten to yet are beginning to look a lot like jungle.
    Every local gardener I’ve spoken to seems to have a different list of offenders. Here are the top five in our garden:
    Helleborine orchid, after more than a decade out of sight, comes in at No. 5. This is a Eur-Asian pest that an Eastern garden club introduced in the early 1900s, and it’s naturalized. The plant sends up a stiff stem up to 2 feet tall with whorled leaves. If left to set its small flowers, it will rapidly spread. It has a deep root, so it takes some effort to dig out.
    Next on the list — tree seedlings. We have a lot of pagoda dogwood and buckthorn seedlings thanks to the birds, but this year has to be one of the best in years for maples. We have thousands of them. They sprout everywhere they land — in the pond, the fountains, the garden mulch. They only rank this far down the list because they’re so easy to remove if I get to them before they produce a second set of leaves.
    No. 3 is wild veronica. This low, spreading weed has tiny lavender flowers and has infested our gravel paths. It needs to go before it flowers and seeds itself right back where I took it from. I’ve resorted to putting pre-emergent herbicide granules on the paths, and it’s helped.
    Yellow wood sorrel, or oxalis, is next. I have never seen so much of it. It’s another weed that has to be removed before it sets seed. When the seed capsules ripen, they explode and the seed can land almost 10 feet from the mother plant. This year I have a lot of it among groundcover sedum, and I just ripped the sedum out along with the sorrel.
    Top on my weed list is chickweed, which just arrived in our garden two years ago. It popped up everywhere this spring, and after I pulled the first plants, more seedlings replaced them. I finally weeded and immediately put down horticultural paper before mulching to gain some control. That’s taken care of most of it, although I can see some creeping back between the stems of the snakeroot under our oak.
    Now that these five weeds are under control, old favorites like spotted surge and purslane are returning. Other gardeners I know are battling thistles and garlic mustard. This is the Year of the Weed, and every local gardener knows it despite what the Perennial Plant Association thinks.

 

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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