Havre Daily News - News you can use

By Pam Burke 

View from the North 40: PSA on grass and weed management


Vegetation management for me is almost like the old adage “it’s a blessing and a curse,” but more like both a curse and a curse.

If I apply the full weight of my efforts, I cannot get the good grasses and plants to grow, and I can’t get the bad ones to die either.

This is both a shame and a frustration, especially on my 60 acres of gravel and gumbo, with little to no topsoil and a tendency toward saline seep, 60 acres that have been used and abused over the last 100-plus years by previous owners and sometimes us.

It would be easy to blame the domestic plants dying on the fact that I sometimes forget they exist — which I blame on the plants because they don’t come clamoring for water and nutrition, like animals or a husband will. But truth is, good plants die if I neglect them, and they still die when I take care of them, but the weeds proliferate under the very same care.

I even tried studying plant care and weed killing and promptly obliterated three groves of my chokecherries — but not the ones I actually tried to kill because they had sprouted up where we didn’t want them.

I gave up, brokenhearted and hoping there isn’t a special hell for plant murderers.

Honestly, though, it was during this time of “not trying, but not being able to resist doing little things” that I developed my approach to plant, and land, care-taking.

It’s a long-term approach, working with what you have and what mother nature gives you for weather, and being happy with the little successes, but it works when you can’t just plow up the place, throw some seeds down and let nature take its course to happiville.

Know your noxious weeds and how they spread, and never let up on them. Seriously. They’re called noxious for a reason — because destructive, tenacious gang thugs was too long a name.

Sprays aren’t the only answer, or the final one. Mowing and pulling weeds can be well worth the effort, even on 60 acres. For example, curly gumweed, aka grindella squarrosa, aka that sticky crap, is practically impervious to sprays, but pulling it is almost 100 percent effective, and mowing it when it’s in flower can be up to 80 percent effective which is equal to a win.

Never, ever, ever assume you got all the weeds treated, pulled, killed, whatever, in an area — they are sneaky. And on a related note: There is never, ever, ever only one weed. Ever. Keep looking. Also, just because they aren’t noxious doesn’t mean they aren’t destructive, tenacious little wretches.

Here are my priorities:

• Bare ground is not good, but it’s better than a noxious weed and foxtail or spear grass.

• Some weeds, like kochia and cheat grass, are better than bare ground — but don’t be a party to spreading them. Just don’t.

• Even if you can’t get to killing the plant, do whatever you can to stop the seeds from maturing, by mowing or even plucking their flowering/seeding heads. You can burn them, too, but make smart choices there, people.

• That said, don’t pull noxious or obnoxious weeds that have gone to seed and take them some place else to burn; that’s a good way to spread weeds to new areas. Done that.

• Mow or spray the weeds and let the good grasses, alfalfa or clover go to seed. It looks like the yard of a crazy person to have mowed areas chopped in and winding through tall unkempt grasses, but it’s a surprisingly effective way of spreading good plants that you know will obviously grow on your property.

• Sometimes you have to sacrifice a good plant to rid yourself of the bad ones. If you do, make sure you kill the beejeepers out of the bad plant to make the sacrifice worthwhile. Some satisfaction comes from that.

• Some years, things don’t go well. A drought means sprays aren’t effective on some weeds and/or you have to mow down all your seed plants. You do something that kills a precious plant, tree or shrub. A flood brings in a crop of new weed seeds. For some reason a patch of weeds gets away from you and reseeds itself. The mower blows up. Remember there’s always next year.


This message is brought to you by the same desire that makes me only appear in public fully covered in long pants and loose shirts: I’m just trying to do my part to help keep America beautiful at pam@viewfromthenorth40.com/.


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