Friday, March 18, 2011

Kill Those Flowers!


What flowers are blooming in your garden today—crocuses and hairy bittercress?

We usually grab our Canons and fire away at our crocuses—and ignore our hairy bittercress.

But to ignore hairy bittercress is a big mistake!

Hairy bittercress
Hairy bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta) is one of several winter weeds that are blooming right now. Even though the soil was just a tad too damp from the previous rain, I got out my hoe yesterday and started uprooting, decapitating, and otherwise killing the blooming winter weeds in our veggie and flower gardens. To kill them now means eliminating another year’s crop of winter weed seeds that will sprout this fall, winter over, and grow on any late-winter, sunny day.

A week ago I noticed small hairy bittercress plants starting to put up flower stalks. When I attacked them yesterday afternoon with my hoe, they were at least double in height and width and covered with white flowers. Within days they would have begun going to seed. The seeds would have dried in their coiled seed casings ready for me, my hoe, or a passing animal to touch them. The capsules then would “explode,” showering seeds up to nine feet, effectively sowing seeds for the next generation of the weed.

Mouseear chickweed
So I hoed hairy bittercress and other winter weeds, such as mouseear chickweed, trying to knock the still sticky soil off their roots so they would dry and die. It may shower on Saturday, so with hoe in hand I'll have to check in about a week to see if any have tried to re-root.

When it comes to winter weeds, I’d rather spend an hour and a half hoeing them as young plants in mid-March than spending three or four hours hoeing, digging, pulling, and carrying them away as mature plants in April or May.

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