Monday, September 26, 2011

Johnson Grass War, Round 2

One of the "gifts" left to us by the previous owners of the house is a mess of Johnson grass where the old lagoon used to be. I can only suppose that it came in with a load or two of "topsoil" when the lagoon was filled in...about a year before we bought the house.

Greg's been spraying the Johnson grass regularly with Round-up over the last 4 years, but it hasn't seemed to have much effect. This year he didn't get around to spraying it at all...but it's the one area where the drought and the grasshoppers actually helped us a bit: the drought kept the Johnson grass from growing wildly, and the grasshoppers seemed to love the newly developing flower/seed heads.

After 4 years, there's still about the same square footage covered by the Johnson grass as when we moved in, but the overall area it's in has spread outwards. The grass is no longer a solid mass; it's more scattered about. New clumps are developing out in the prairie grasses nearby, and I am bound and determined to halt the spread of this obnoxious invader before it moves any further.

So, with nicer weather, I've decided to try a different tack. A lower tech, lower cost, higher personal investment sort of way, compared to Round-Up. Yesterday I took a large black plastic bag, a pair of gloves and a pair of clippers, and I started to attack the mess using good, old fashioned methods: by deadheading (and throwing away the seedheads) to remove as many seeds as possible, followed by pulling out or cutting off as much of the biomass as possible.

A couple hours sufficed to let me deadhead all but about 2 dozen plants near the center of the old lagoon. (We've made a burn pile there, so some of the seed heads are currently inaccessible without clambering up on top of a tottering pile of branches and dried weeds.) It took almost 2 full bags to hold all of the seed heads. At least those puppies won't be starting new infestations next spring!

Today I started pulling out some of the plants. I've filled a wheelbarrow with stalks and as much of their root system as I could get...but I've only managed to pull out an estimated 5% of the Johnson grass so far. Every little bit I can get rid of gets me a little bit closer to my goal of eradicating this junk from our yard. I know that I'm not getting all of the root system, and therefore I know that the Johnson grass will return. However, I'm hoping that I'm weakening it overall and it will return with less vigor. At which point I'll attack it again. I strongly suspect that I'll be reporting about this battle for several years to come!


Melanie said...

I feel your pain. .there was a patch of it in our garden plot when we moved. An old farm lady once told me that the only way to get rid of it was to dig it up, getting all of the little pointed root ends out. I have stopped tilling the area, leaving it mulched with newspaper and straw. .hopefully THAT will stop it's spread. .I have dug and dug and dug, and the area is smaller. .you are right. .the round up doesn't seem to help that much! Grrr. .nasty vegetation for SURE!! Good luck!

Gaia Gardener: said...

Thanks, Melanie. It sounds like you know EXACTLY how much of an issue this is. Good luck on your patch, too!

~Gardener on Sherlock Street said...

I don't have this battle. Mine is bindweed. May you have many beautiful days to enjoy being outside while you go after it. I like Melanie's mulching approach. I've had good luck smothering many areas of Bermuda grass. For this though, you may need to use whole bales instead of just a layer of straw. Good luck!

Gaia Gardener: said...

Wow. We've tried smothering Bermuda grass (another ongoing battle for us), but it seems to come up through just about anything that we've put down. Round-Up actually works reasonably well on that, especially combined with digging it out. For garden beds, when I have time, I prefer to just dig it out.

Good luck with the bindweed. Yet another battle we have to fight, too! In the past, we had great (if unintentional) luck letting ragweed grow up with the bindweed. The allelopathy (chemical inhibitors) in the ragweed seemed to suppress the bindweed; the following year we had some ragweed and no bindweed. Eventually the prairie grasses that we'd planted took over.

We've also got multiflora rose and honeysuckle that I'd like to get rid of, but I can only fight so many battles at once!

~Gardener on Sherlock Street said...

I use Roundup on the Bermuda some too. But, when we were killing out large areas while removing the lawn, I scalped it, covered it in wet newspaper and then put straw or cedar mulch on top. It seems to help "feed" the soil and get those earth worms going to make the area a new planting bed easier (not faster, as I let it set for at least a year). I still have to do some spot treatment on the Bermuda but there's less and less each year! Still have the front lawn to remove one of these years.

Kitt said...

That's some hard work! I'm not familiar with Johnson grass, but bindweed I know. Here's hoping your efforts pay off.

Gaia Gardener: said...

Thanks for your good wishes, Kitt. We're going to need them!