brains over brawn


Don’t pull that weed!  Telling a gardener keep their hands in their pocket is heresy.  It goes against the grain. I’ve learned to leave those annoying species alone, well kind of.  It seems perverse. I’ve been on this trajectory for a couple of years.  The battle over native vs. introduced species has waned.  We’ve all grown up. The 2015 New Directions in American Landscape Conference, “Evolving Strategies for Evolving Landscapes: Beyond the Garden Bed” was all about picking your battles.  In fact, that was the title of Larry Weaner’s talk.  Ecological designers are now duking it out over the best strategies for managing different kinds of landscapes from small residential properties to large conservation areas.

courtesy of Larry Weaner

courtesy of Larry Weaner

So, what’s the big news:  well, that depends.  Someone asked Bernd Blossey of Cornell what to do about Japanese Knotweed, “Dig down 6 ft. and incinerate it.”  He meant what he said.  Aside from this kind of major effort, what should the rest of us do?  Really …observing  at your landscape is at the top of the list.  Analyzing what you have, knowing what’s working and why is the key to developing any strategy for managing landscape in an ecological way. Working from best to worst:  know your weeds as well as you know your plants, maybe better.

Courtesy Nigel Dunnett

Courtesy Nigel Dunnett

My takeaway from the conference: Just like plants, weed have habitats where they thrive. Controlling any invasive species is all about knowledge.  Exploiting the lifecycle of a weed is the key.  Cutting and Mowing at the right time of year are two of the best tools for controlling weeds in a meadow situation.  If a plant cannot produce food, it will eventually die.  This takes patience and tenaciousness, both in and out of the garden.

An old pond!
A frog jumps in-
the sound of water.
Matsuo Basho

Brief Overview of Larry Weaner’s Sample Weed Profile

1. Name (common and botanical), Family
2. Pernicousness Rating (from mild to very, 1-10 make a scale)
3. Impacts (from fast growing, inhibits, ecological impacts)
4. Range (location in the world)
5. Habitat (where, woodland, etc.)
6. Regeneration (insect and self-pollinated, seed dispersal, seed germination, seed viability, seed density, seed mortality, seed life)
7.  Identification (seed emergence, first-year plants overwinter as, second year plants send up, plants die after forming)
8.  Look Alikes (resemble, fruiting structure)
9. Control Options:
Herbicide, spot, wick, broadcast application
Mechanical #1- Cutting at base (timing and any additional notes)
Mechanical #2– Physical removal by the roots (timing and any additional notes)
Biocontrol: what is known, if any


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