Make hay on weeds while the sun doesn’t shine
By: By JIMMY WILLIAMS Special to The Messenger
When the world as we know it ends on doomsday, it is said that cockroaches, rats and opossums will live on. It is the survival of the fittest, the fittest in this context meaning the creatures that have adapted to a survival mode despite eons of exposure to pestilence of every description.
Add weeds to the survival equation. When corn, chrysanthemums and cannas have been winnowed away by whatever disaster Mother Nature or man can create, you can bet henbit, chickweed and crabgrass will somehow make it, even if they have to be reincarnated in the netherworld.
Winter is weeding time, at least for some of those tough survivors. You will never eliminate them, but you can, by diligent attention during the next month or two, make a serious dent in them.
Chickweed and henbit are evergreen in most winters here. That works to the good for their enemies — that is, us. They stand out from the crowd, as it were, while in spring and summer they blend with all the surrounding burgeon of other green.
While other nearby plants are dormant and unresponsive to herbicides, a hard shot of non-selective product such as Roundup or one of the generic equivalents will take care of the green stuff.
It will take weeks in cold weather to notice the effect, but eventually chickweed, henbit and other evergreen weeds will gradually fade out.
A caveat is in order. It goes without saying that any evergreen desirable plant should not be sprayed. You should be careful when spraying around evergreen shrubs, whether coniferous or broadleaf, for they will be adversely affected.
We have a sizeable stand of Vinca major, or big periwinkle, groundcover on a bank toward our lower garden. This was a mistake when it was planted 20 or more years ago.
Vinca minor, a lower growing and less rambunctious plant, would have been much better. I wanted quick coverage, and I got it. I also got an unstoppable green monster that travels up to 6 feet in a wet year and requires constant edging and hacking back to keep it out of places it is not wanted.
I have in recent years been trying to permanently curb it without killing off all the desirable perennials and shrubs that grow among and through it. I hit on the answer, or at least a partial answer, a couple of years ago.
I simply spray with Roundup during winter when most other plants in the area are dormant. It takes weeks in cold weather to show up in the vinca, but eventually the leaves turn brown, then black, as they die.
It might take more than one spraying to do the trick, and there are still areas that hold other evergreen things so that I can’t spray there, but by and large I have made considerable inroads on the vinca.
The timing is important, because early daffodils and spring snowflakes begin peeping up by mid-January most years. So, I must time the spray in December or early January.
Dormant Bermuda grass lawns are often invaded by winter weeds, including grasses (i.e. bluegrass and fescue) that are green while the Bermuda is brown.
Therein lies a golden opportunity to get at the weeds. The dormant Bermuda is immune in winter to herbicides, so even a non-selective like Roundup can be used. It is a simple matter to overspray the lawn and thus kill anything that is actively growing.
The immaculate Bermuda lawns on the campus at the University of Tennessee at Martin were once managed by Guy Robbins, now retired botany professor there. He had crews routinely spray the Bermuda every winter.
Not a winter weed or blade of green grass was to be seen, and when the Bermuda greened up in spring, it became a veritible carpet of spotless grass.
From Poor Willie’s Almanack — Make hay while the sun doesn’t shine.
Editor’s note: Jimmy Williams is production superintendent at The Paris Post-Intelligencer, where he also writes this column.
Published in The Messenger 1.22.08
Jimmy Williams, The Garden Path