Category Archives: Problems

Bindweed #2: Digging it out

Several days ago I mentioned the bindweed question I’d gotten from someone by e-mail, and started this long, involved answer. This is the second installment.

So far I’ve gotten one response, from Mr. McGregor’s Daughter, detailing a novel way of handling bindweed: she snips the stem and dabs the cut end with a cotton swab dipped in Roundup. Read all about it on her blog.

When I look at the number of shoots coming up in Laura’s garden, I quail at the thought of dabbing each one with a bit of anything. Of course, once you see what I’m recommending below, you may think I’ve got my priorities seriously skewed. I prefer to drastically reduce the number of sprouts and then kill off those that remain with a method like the cotton swab favored by Mr. McG’s Daughter.

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Bindweed, garden enemy #1

This is the first of several posts on bindweed, scourge of the gardener’s life. I’m hoping to hear from plenty of people about methods and tactics. After all, it all started when a woman in the north-east corner of Montana sent me these pictures of her garden:


Those are bind-weed sprouts there against the bare ground and bindweed climbing the tomatoes. (I think those are tomatoes.) Now take a look at this one:

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Run! Run for your life! Kudzu is coming– (revised)

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.

 KOkudzu, experiments kudzu on the march– photo from the Coalition.

Research spin-off

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.

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What’s for lunch? Dandelion Salad

I admit it; I share the usual North-American prejudice against dandelions. But both the weather and I are so seriously behind this year that I’ve started adding dandelion leaves from my weeding excursions to the few spinach, lettuce, mustard, and chard leaves big enough to cull.

After all, the things are chock full of good stuff: vitamins A and C, plus iron (more than in spinach), phosphorus, and calcium.

I wasn’t at all sure that the various sons and husbands on the premises would tolerate this addition, but there have been no complaints, and the salad has been disappearing at quite a clip. Today I took the next step: I added the flowers to my salad. They, too, have vitamins A and C. Here’s the result:


Several years ago I noticed there seemed to be two different sorts of dandelion around, one with its familiar, deeply lobed leaves, Dandelion_2_kinds_3 and one with much shallower indentations. The second seemed far more palatable–lighter, less bitter, more tender– than leaves of the one, the true, the original dandelion. I prefer the interloper for both texture and flavor.

But I began to wonder if I was poisoning my family (heavy metals yesterday, toxic greens today–as son #2 says, That’s how we roll–) so this afternoon before lunch I spent some time on the Web, with the result that I am now thoroughly confused. In summary: there are two different plants–false dandelion (Hypochoeris radicata), and fall dandelion (Leontodon autumnalis)–that might be mistaken for the common dandelion, but sources disagree about which has shiny leaves and which hairy, and almost no source covers both.

I can’t say, then, what precisely I’m eating, which is not good. However, a number of sources did state that none of the close look-alikes are poisonous, and that’s good. So I went ahead and ate my salad.

Which was delicious.

While the gardener’s away, the cats will play

Pasqual_flr_2 This poor bedraggled thing is a pasque flower, and the culprit in its uprooting is this cat. (Does he look contrite to you? Me neither.)

Quark_pasqual_flr_culprit_3 I was already sad about this flower before it got uprooted, and now I’m devastated. Downright distraught.

Pasqueflower_2 Pasque flowers are the most lovely of wild flowers here in Montana, and I cannot seem to grow them! I’ve had one in a flower border for years; it sprouts each spring, but never flowers. Last fall I bought two more, one of which I put into the lovely earth in the new raised bed which stayed covered all winter. Pasqual_flr_1By the time I opened it in late April, the thing had already bloomed and gone to seed, and was well on its way to dying of thirst.

And then the cat dug it up. Perhaps I am, as Shakespeare said, Kate the cursed, at least as regards pasque flowers.

Has anyone else figured out how to keep cats out of newly prepared beds? I’m pulling row covers over mine, after finding cat poop in one. Grrr.