There’s A War Going On

Asparagus Bed

I kept passing by the asparagus bed last week. Each time I frowned because this is what I saw. This may not look bad to you, but this patch normally produces more asparagus than my family can eat. Do you see those spindly spears? At first, I thought it just needed manure. Asparagus is a heavy feeder, eating almost as much as my roses. The day I saw this I didn’t have time to spread manure, so I walked on by.

Bermuda GrassA few days later, I decided to weed the bed before I amended the soil. We have lots of chicken manure, but, at present, no chickens. Our girls are all clucking in the great, green meadow in the sky. I almost bought new chicks this spring, but we want to travel some with the red dirt kids. Traveling and chickens don’t mix.

I took my angle weeder and began attacking the weeds. Suddenly, I knew why my asparagus was dwindling. Like soldiers left out too long on patrol and quickly running out of ammunition, the asparagus crowns bravely held on.

Slowly, they were being strangled by escaped Bermuda grass from the paths which run beside my back garden.

Bermuda grass is the sixth grader in school who is larger than everyone else. It carries brass knuckles and hits up other plants for their lunch money. In essence, it is the worst kind of bully, the kind that wants to meet you on the hill after school.

I hate Bermuda grass almost as much as I hate Bindweed. Are you now scratching your head and wondering why I don’t put something else in those paths? Two reasons:

  1. Cost. The garden is very large, and if I tried to fill all of the paths with something else, it would break the bank; and
  2. Heat. In the summer, everything else I’ve tried on the smaller garden increased the heat in the garden two or threefold. I’ve used pine bark nuggets (dark color) and considered pea gravel (also heat retaining and yuck.)blog-bindweed.jpg

 

After working for thirty minutes with my wonderful hand hoe, I wanted to give up. I was actually planning my acquiescence speech when I turned to my garden bucket and smiled.

The cavalry had arrived! I held my Cobrahead weeder aloft and taunted the Bermuda, “You have met your match!”

I received a Cobrahead weeder at the Garden Writers Symposium last September. I tried it a couple of times, but stuck with my angle weeder. For most of my jobs, the CH felt a little thin. However, for weeding out Bermuda, there was no comparison. The CH was sharp enough to slice through the roots when I needed it, and the hook pulled up most of the roots which resided three to twelve inches below the soil’s surface.

Unfortunately, whenever you break off a piece of Bermuda, like Bindweed, it just reestablishes itself from whatever is left. Therefore, you are simply propagating more Bermuda and Bindweed throughout your soil.

This week, I will follow the Cobrahead weeding with Grass-B-Gone on any Bermuda which shows itself. It takes two applications seven days apart to kill Bermuda with Grass-B-Gone. Also, those applications should be made on hot, sunny days in order to be most effective. These two methods keep the Bermuda in check, but it is always lurking under the surface. As to Bindweed, I have to resort to the evil Roundup. I place a piece of cardboard between the Bindweed and the plant I’m protecting. In my experience, Roundup doesn’t appear to bleed within the soil and kill surrounding plants at the root level like Brush-B-Gone sometimes does.

Although I use organic methods whenever possible, I also know when to use some very limited, chemical help. Although Grass-B-Gone is supposed to spare other plants, some are still susceptible, so I’m careful to keep the spray to the grass.

 

15 Comments

  1. Pingback: Garden Bloggers Spring Fling 2008 «
  2. Anneliese says:

    Hi Dee,

    Thanks so much for featuring your gardening experience with the CobraHead! My dad wrote a blog post recently about weeding his own asparagus bed. He figured out early on that it is absolutely essential to keep grass out of the bed, or the asparagus will be choked out. We have a problem with quack grass (the bed is right next to part of the lawn). We have found that having raised beds is really helpful in keeping the runners from getting into the beds. When they do sneak in, they are easier to find and pull out.

    Thanks, Annaliese. I love that tool.~~Dee

  3. Martha/All the Dirt on Gardening says:

    Grass B Gone sounds like my Monday purchase, Dee.

    Thanks for mentioning it.

    Sometimes only chemicals will do and my hands are worn out from pulling weeds over the past week.

    Great blog, Martha

    Hope you bought two bottles, Martha. You’ll need them. I am tired too from weeding and mulching and planting.~~Dee

  4. I don’t know if I have Bermuda grass or crabgrass in my garden. I will have to look them up. It’s a pain, for sure.
    But worst of all is the arum, as I’ve said. It does the same thing you say bindweed does. I have bindweed on a big patch of my backyard. Last year I pulled it up (like that does any good). Year before I tried solarizing that whole area, which probably would have worked had I known you have to solarize for a YEAR. I only did it for six mos. so everything came back. Live and learn. This year I’m thinking seriously of filling in that whole area with wildflowers to co-exist with the bindweed. Would that be a mistake?? And I will order that tool today. Thanks!
    Oh, for that woman who has grass in the sidewalk cracks? Try vinegar.

    Kathryn, I’ve never done vinegar. I will try it.~~Dee

  5. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I too feel your pain. I hate that Bermuda grass. It is too bad it is so invasive. It looks nice when it is mowed. It feels good to walk on. It is such a thug in the garden. UGH…

    Lisa, you’ve hit the nail on the heat. Unfortunately, it’s the only grass which will grow consistently here, native grasses excluded.~~Dee

  6. Okie Sister says:

    I enjoy reading about your gardening adventures. You sound very dedicated.

    Thank you, Okie Sister. It’s more like I’m obsessed.~~Dee

  7. Brenda Kula says:

    I remember my Okie days with the good old Bermuda grass. I would go with the pea gravel. That’s what I did here, and I’m very pleased with both the aesthetic value and the common sense factor of not having upkeep. Just have to add a little more from time to time, since the dogs like to dig it. Love it crunching underneath my shoes. And no mowing.
    Brenda

    Good morning, Brenda. Pea gravel would break the bank, although I agree about the nice crunch.~~Dee

  8. CurtissAnn says:

    I love reading your lessons in gardening. I smile and feel just like I’ve gardened, when all I’ve done is sit here and read about it. Maybe I am like a garden plot and being prepared.

    Hugs,
    CurtissAnn

    Rosebud, I think you are being prepped for AL.~~Dee

  9. Cinj says:

    Poor Dee! I had that problem in my other garden, but with nasty crab grass. My asparagus seemed to recover from the trauma of the battle. Mmm, I could go for some fresh asparagus about now!

    Would it be a bad idea to transplant a 7 year old asparagus plant? Probably, I suppose….

    Cinj, go ahead and transplant it. I think it will be fine. Asparagus is a tough cookie.~~Dee

  10. I’ve dealt with Bindweed. You say Burmuda grass is worse – I can’t even imagine it. Sometimes there is no option but to resort to the chemicals for the truly vicious, pernicious weeds, such as these two nasties. Take no prisoners!

    Both are terrible as is Nutgrass. I have it too.~~Dee

  11. Someone asked if the Cobrahead works on Bermuda grass – thanks to you, Dee, they’ll hear the answer is ‘Yes!’

    There’s some Bermuda in the expansion joints of the drive and between house wall and sidewalk, but the space is hardly bigger than a crayon line so I can’t use the Cobrahead there. It’s aggravating how that darn Bermuda squeezes itself in!

    Good luck with the asparagus rescue. We grew it about 4 houses ago and made the mistake of not removing any plants that developed berries – thought they were pretty and didn’t realize it weakened the bed.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

    Well, Annie, you educated me. I don’t always remove the berry producing plants, but I will in the future.~~Dee

  12. Pam/Digging says:

    To battle! I’ve had several wars with Bermuda grass myself and won, but only by using Round Up. I have not yet won the battle against nut grass, but I keep it at bay. And I’m using my own CobraHead to battle an invasive root-spreading tree that pops up from my neighbor’s yard. But like the Bermuda, if you don’t get every bit of the root (and you never can), it just pops up again. And even Round Up only knocks it back but won’t destroy it. Aargh.

    Pam, you are so right. You never win the war even with chemical warfare. Maybe that’s an analogy for the human condition too. So much of gardening is.~~Dee

  13. deb says:

    My cobrahead tool is my absolute favorite. Our mg group sells them as a fund raiser.

    They are great!~~Dee

  14. I feel your pain! The only thing worse for me than bermuda grass in the beds is nut grass (sedge)! Just when I think I have it under control, here it comes again. I don’t have a cobra but will be getting one soon!

    When you have a chance, stop my my blog. I’ve left an award for you there.

    Mary Beth, thanks for the award. It makes my heart happy. I have nut grass too.~~Dee

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