March 10, 2011

2011 Goals: Choosing My Battles, Part 1

One of my 2011 goals is,

  • win the battle against the invasive wiregrass (Bermuda) that is trying to take over my strawberries and comfrey

I first planted my strawberry plants in February of last year.

February 2010

This spot had been my 2009 vegetable garden, so the soil was somewhat improved. The comfrey was planted later, in April. It all started out well, but soon an invasive grass started to pop up.

May 2010

At first I simply weeded it. If the soil was moist, it came out pretty easily. If the soil was dry, it was almost impossible. It's so tough that it can actually cut your hands, which is why my neighbor calls it "wire grass." Hoeing and pulling it couldn't get the entire root however, so it was free to start growing again. And it did.

I spent hours days weeding and mulching. It was a frustrating use of my time because the stuff kept coming back. Finally I decided to try landscape cloth.

June 2010

This was what I'd call a desperate measure for me. I'm a great fan of cardboard mulch, but I didn't have enough to cover the entire area. The problem with landscape cloth is that it doesn't contribute to the soil. Products like these don't decompose, they deteriorate. In addition, it acts as a barrier for anything that might be applied on top, which means that decomposing mulch can't feed the soil. That bothered me, but so did losing my strawberries and comfrey. I figured I could eventually remove it, after I won the battle.

This project took many more days of my time, long hours rolling it out, cutting, pinning, and mulching. Success was short lived however.

September 2010

Soon it managed to poke up, right on through the landscape cloth, even with a 4 or 5 inch layer of wood chip mulch. Talk about disgusted!

I thought about contacting the manufacturer and giving them a review of their product. But then, I didn't apply the 6 inches of rubber mulch as the directions instructed. If I don't follow the directions, I can't expect it to work properly, can I? (Being facetious here.) In addition I used a cheaper grade, but then if they'd told me it would only work for a week or two, I wouldn't have bought it in the first place.

If I was going to save this year's strawberries, I knew I had to do something. I knew I had to win the battle against this nasty grass somehow. What I ended up doing, is continued in


Anonymous said...

This is a huge battle - strawberries are important! looking forward to what you did.

Sharon said...

Don't leave us in suspense!

We have saved all the cardboard we had from our move and our new appliances. Does cardboard work well for veggie beds?

Seeking Serenity said...

I have found that you have to use something that doesn't let the sun in-(that fabric does)
and its free-
I had the best luck with news paper held down with stones-It lasted all season & the weeds choked underneath.I could place it right up to the plants and it kept vines from rotting.

(Black plastic works also but not my cuppa tea)

Woolly Bits said...

I have a similar problem with my strawbs here - with ground elder and couch grass:(( the latter is so hard that it managed to "grow" a hole into the plastic of my polytunnel! it seems to grow like a drill under ground until it finds a suitable spot (and with that fleece it poked out of the strawberry hole and skewered my plants:(( please let me know your idea:))

Leigh said...

Evelyn, especially when strawberry jam is on the husband's favorite list!

Sharon, cardboard works everywhere. And very well. The trick is to make sure the ground is well soaked before laying it down, and then wetting it well afterward. Dan says it looks ugly (which it does) but I cover it with a light layer of leaf mulch. Keeps weeds down and moisture in longer than leave or shredded tree mulch alone.

Peaceful, I hear you about the plastic. I did try multiple layers of newspaper prior to the landscape cloth, but they only worked for so long before the grass pushed through the paper. I find cardboard works better than that, but I don't have enough for that large area. Seems my problem is that I have more places to mulch than mulch to do it in.

Bettina, I see you share my frustration! My solution though, may not work for you as it requires more ground!

Bootzey said...

I hate landscape fabric. Not only can things grow through it, i now some evil prickly vine growing that I didn't have before using it. And I removed it in the backyard where I had it and now the ground stinks. SMH

Jane @ Hard Work Homestead said...

What you do to solve this problem is start eating the grass. If you really like the grass, of course it wont grow anymore. It is the basic rule of gardening. The thing you like the most, will grow the poorest. And the thing you hate will flourish. ;)

Mr. H. said...

We have the exact same problem in our strawberry bed so I am looking forward to reading about your solution. So far ours has simply been to weed, and weed, and weed some more.:)

DebbieB said...

Argh - a cliffhanger!!!

Mama Pea said...

Arrrgh! Starting out with a new plot of ground is ALWAYS a challenge. But hang in there as the longer you work with it and add good stuff to the soil, the weeds WILL eventually go away. I find that with any weed, digging them out ( getting the roots is very important) is the best way to go. Sometimes you think there is no end to it (the roots of a lot of weeds travel parallel to the surface), but each year it will get better. But I do understand your need to save your berries and comfrey in the meantime. Eager to hear what you did.

Michelle said...

Keeping secrets is NOT nice... ;-)

Tami said...

Good Grief!!! Don't keep me in suspense any longer! I NEED to know what you did!'re killing me, Leigh!

(I'm eyeballing the EXACT same problem here. Only mine is bermuda grass. It came right up through the landscape cloth and pine bark mulch I'd thrown down last year.)

Considering I'm doing that "double dig" patch, (And will therefore have the same problem) I'm awfully excited about this post.

Talk about a "cliff-hanger".

Renee Nefe said...

we have a huge problem with weeds in my garden too (not grass though...getting grass to grow here is nearly impossible!) But I'm gonna try your cardboard trick cuz I have a ton of Girl Scout cookie boxes this year! :D

Megan said...

How incredibly frustrating!! Looking forward to seeing your solution!

Leigh said...

SMH, I do too. It was a desperate measure for me, which only confirmed why I dislike it so much. What a waste!

Jane, LOL that really seems to be the way it is. I could tether the goats there but of course, they'd eat everything but!

Mike, I don't know how much of a solution it turned out to be, but I'm tired of weeding!

Debbie, aw, I just hope it's worth waiting for, LOL.

Mama Pea, that is so true. This stuff amazes me as it is so prolific. I'm pulling out as much as I can though, in hopes of making some progress.

Michelle, but hopefully, it's better than extra long posts. :)

Tami, the double dig method would help I think, though I'm amazed at how deeply the roots/rhizomes seem to go.

Renee, yes to the cardboard! It's great to have such a good source. :)

Megan, you said it! Not sure if my solution is a one size fits all, but at least I'm hoping it will work for me.

bspinner said...

We had the same problem with landscape cloth. What a mess until we finally got it all out. We're now down to just plain old mulching. Good luck!!!!

Sharon said...

I find it interesting the different battles we fight in our elements. My brother once asked me how I dealt with my aspens to keep them from popping up all over the place. I said we water them on a drip and they can only grow where there's water, so there's no popping up. They were a weed to him and a cultivar to me. We get excited when grass wants to grow here!

Leigh said...

Barb, I'm sorry about your mess but I'm kinda glad to know I'm not the only one whose had problems with the stuff. Why in the world then is it touted as such a good thing???

Oh Sharon, this is so true, LOL. Isn't the definition of a weed though, a plant that isn't wanted?

katrien said...

Flame it!

Leigh said...

Katrien, hmmm. I wonder if there is a way I could actually do that. It just might do the trick though those roots grow pretty deep. Something to think about!

katrien said...

Johnny's carries a flame weeder designed by Eliot Coleman. Not cheap though, and fossil fuel-run, of course.

Leigh said...

Never heard of it. Interesting concept though. I was thinking of how the Native Americans used to burn areas to encourage growth of certain species. Doubt I'll get one, but I'll have to take a look at that flame weeder for curiosity sake. Thanks!