A GROWING CONCERN: Beware the ‘Invasion of the Garden Snatchers’

WELL EVERYONE, NOW that we can get “out and about,” having eagerly awaited it, let me warn you about the impending “Invasion of the Garden Snatchers.”

The cool and moist weather conditions of late May coupled the nice weather of late have not put a damper on your garden activities. This will be the best season in the last decade for the successful invasion of weeds into your yard here on the North Olympic Peninsula.

The reasons why this year’s climatic conditions are perfect for these harmful invaders are numerous, so let us discuss the factors that contribute to weeds’ occupation — and destruction — of your garden and our unique biosphere.

First, this cool, damp spring we are having is ideal for germination. Seeds, any kind of seeds, need consistent moisture to germinate and rain or intermediate showers have been plentiful this year.

If the sun were out and beating down while we are nearing the summer solstice on June 20, the soil surface would be parched, severely limiting the percentage of seeds sprouting. If seedlings do develop, then these same hot, dry conditions act as a great deterrent to survival and maturity because seedlings also demand consistent moisture.

Precipitation and cloud cover act as a very nurturing influence on weeds’ ability to procreate and mature. Temperature, in our case, a lack of warm temperature, really doesn’t deter weed seed germination.

The most menacing weeds here on the Peninsula have temperature requirements below the cool weather we have been experiencing of late.

But the lower than desired temperatures, along with the cold wind and wet days keeping us away from our garden, give weeds an opportunity to thrive well into June.

By our not being out in the yard planting, mulching and cultivating, weeds and their seeds are taking the opportunity to establish a reinforced beachhead.

There are several things we can do. First, get out there and cultivate, eradicate and remove the weeds.

Weeds are born pregnant, so if you eliminate the first generation, the end result this fall, a few generations from now, will be literally tens if not thousands of times fewer weeds around. Get weeds before they flower or produce seed.

Scotch broom is blooming now. If you can’t pull them out, at least cut off their flowers — no flowers — no reproduction. Minimize bare ground and disturb soil as little as possible. Weed seed can develop only in bare ground exposed to sun and rain.

Mulch the areas well between your landscape trees and bushes; this is where weeds will thrive. Mulch is acidic, meaning it suppresses germination.

Weeds pull out easily from mulch applied at the recommended coverage of no less than 4 inches, preferably 6 or 8 inches deep.

When pulling weeds, realize that you have now just left a humongous area of freshly loosened soil for more weeds to come in and dominate. In a lawn, pull up a dandelion, then put down a handful of good topsoil mixed with grass seeds or you have more dandelions in the spot where there was one. Let your grass grow 3 inches or higher to shade out weeds as well.

In a vegetable garden, replant or re-seed an area with new vegetables or greens, or replace it with flowers. Always cover with mulch and replant or hoe continuously any bare areas or you will actually be increasing the number of weeds by your own actions.

Attack weeds on a manageable schedule that doesn’t cause you to give up or view the job as impossible. Three thousand weeds throughout your lawn can be a daunting task, but if just 100 are dealt with each day, then in one month the problem is solved.

Getting weeds while they are young is immensely easier than when they have matured because they are not well established yet. Young weeds have a small root system that makes them much easier to pull out.

Weeds like dandelions, thistle or Scotch broom do not send down that taproot for weeks after their birth. That is when one should yank them out.

Many of these types of weeds, or those with rhizomes (or roots with nodes) are like starfish, and to incompletely pull them out or just breaking off tops just pinches them. That pinch causes a Medusa head to appear which is harder to pull out because it will branch out with roots lower in the ground. Worse, that pinch will cause the plant to grow more flowers, which is far more potential weeds than before.

In wrapping up this week’s column, let us all contemplate our yard, lawn and Corona garden and our own garden techniques as they relate to weed production. I do not want your actions to cause more weeds than would naturally exist.

Take some time to exist and enjoy our beautiful Olympics here — trails, coastline, forest and mountains. It will do well for your spirit and please… Stay well all.


Andrew May is an ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email [email protected] (subject line: Andrew May).

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