This is a revised (shortened) version of the original post, which included a long section from the lawn-care article mentioned below. For that article in its original context, click here for the weed page and scroll down for kudzu.
kudzu on the march– photo from the Coalition.
The endless lawn article (Hey—how’d that work as a movie title? The Endless Lawn Article. You know, as a sequel to The Endless Story? No?) included a section on weeds, of course, and it occurred to me to wonder if the most famous weed of all, kudzu, was a problem in lawns. So I started googling away, and found things that made it hard to sleep at night.
I swear, kudzu is the stuff of nightmares and really bad science fiction movies, but it’s real. It’s a leguminous vine—yes, it’s cousin to your beans and peas, and brother to soy beans—but unlike any of those, it can grow several feet per week, enveloping entire trees, which it kills by depriving them of light and water. It looks most spectacular when draped over a thirty-foot-tall tree, but left unchecked, it will take over whatever is in its way, including, yes, your lawn.
I had to wonder, what on earth could people do to control it organically? The very idea sounds ludicrous. Surely anything short of napalm would be useless. But I did the requisite search, almost expecting the computer to combust on the spot, sort of the way some computer does in some old science fiction movie where someone (yes, I’m full of useful details today) asks it the question “Why?”
One of the first sites I found swiftly became my favorite. This was maintained by The Coalition To Control Kudzu Without Chemicals, a grass-roots group based in Spartanburg, South Carolina, whose kudzu-control efforts apparently started when they discovered cherry trees disappearing under vines several springs back.
The site isn't perfect–there's no forewarning about which menu items are PDF files and which are page links, and I just itch to get my busy-body editorial fingers on some of the writing–but there's an enormous amount of information in there, along with that invaluable item, a sense of humor. This bunch of volunteers has pioneered a number of control methods, which they test and document at their experimental site, and they’re out there every day in summer armed with various implements of destruction, battling it out with these behemoths.
Their site has terrific and sometimes quite funny photographs that bring you face to face with the enormity of this task—and of these vines. Check it out.