Monday, 16 March 2009

There comes a time...............




There comes a time in the affairs of gardeners, when a real problem has to be confronted. Sometimes it is a rampant perennial that has taken over, shouldering its lesser bed-mates into oblivion (Michaelmas daisies spring to mind), sometimes it is ground elder that seduces the gardener with its elegant, shiny leaf and its pretty pale cream flower until one day the gardener realises that it has winkled its way in and out of the rhizomes of that clump of beautiful bearded iris. In our front garden it is couch-grass, that plant of the Northern Hemisphere that the dictionary says is "sometimes regarded as a weed." (SOMETIMES???)
My father called it twitch - the dictionary says it is also called quitch from the Anglo-Saxon cwice (there's an interesting transposition for you for a start) - oh, so the Anglo-Saxon gardener had problems with it, did he - then what hope have we got? The farmer calls it wickens.
All I can say is a rose by any other name is just as much of a problem. It is a pest; you dig it up, shake it, barrow it and then see that you have left a dozen little bits of root on the ground - don't - in a month's time it will have metamorphosed into a thatch against all comers.
Yesterday was day one of our fight against this intruder. This was the schedule of events:-


1. Remove every plant from the bed.
2. Dig out the couch grass.
3. Dig over the now empty bed.
4. Remove every tiny white worm of root you left the first time.
5. Rake the bed over.
6. See you have missed about twenty bits.
7. Pick them up by hand.
8. Rake in bone meal.
9. Shut the dog in the house because she has caught the scent of the bone meal and won't keep off the garden.
10. Go in for lunch to let the ground settle.
11. Replant the herbaceous plants you have managed to salvage
12. Talk nicely to Gertrude Jekyll, your favourite rose that has just suffered the indignity of being dug up and then replanted.
13. Cross fingers, toes and anything else crossable in the hope that you have rid at least one stretch of garden of that turbulent weed.
Not for nothing have I written that as number 13 - I give it a week before the first tiny green blade emerges from the ground.
Ah well! that's about three yards of the border done - only another thirty-three to go - it's the Michaelmas daisies next Sunday.

39 comments:

Poet in Residence said...

the weed is the flower in the wrong place at the wrong time

bit like some of us really

Dave King said...

Something to be said for the wild garden, perhaps - except that my wife says you can't let wild gardens go wild! Useful post, though.

jinksy said...

You've made me feel exhausted at the thought of thirty more feet! Good luck! x

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

It's a bit too early in the season here to decide who and what needs such drastic measures.

But maybe you can answer me this—providing, of course, you agree…why is it so much more fun to dig and plant new things than dig and eliminate and replant other things? It may require identical effort, yet I look forward with pleasure to the first and dread the second like the plague.

Elizabeth said...

I hate couch grass but our most beloved vet was Mr.Wickens.......so I can't call it that.
Invasive weeds are the very devil to get rid of.......

Derrick said...

Hello Weaver,

Rather you (and the farmer!) than me. I've got my fingers crossed for you!

Woman in a Window said...

ugh, I've been avoiding seperating plants for years now. I say, next season, next season. Well, I'm afraid I might be coming to that next season. Good for you!

Cathy said...

I wish our deer would eat the weeds but they love the flowers! It will be warm towards the end of the week here and I'll be doing some of the same. Salvaging what the deer did not eat and digging out the weeds. hard work but it sure does feel good to look at the results.

Gwen Buchanan said...

Hi Weaver!! I salute you for your determination.. There are a few beds round here that need that done too.. first have to wait for the snow to melt.. good time to plan though..
by the way...your work so far looks great!

and I love the part about locking up the dog so he won't eat the bone meal... exactly..

Kyfarmlife said...

Poet in Resident summed it up so well! 33 more yards to go??? Whew lots of work! I'm turing part of my yard into a flower garden this year and hoping to complete it with a small Koi/goldfish pond...we'll see removing the invasive grass will be a chore! Good luck with yours, fingers crossed for you!

MarmaladeRose said...

Ugh! Couch grass, I know what you mean about all the little white rooty bits!
If you fancy taking a peek, the gift shop in question is Millie Moo, opposite the pet shop. I only went in for a Greengate apron for my mum, for mothers day. One thing lead to another and we got chatting, and now they have 4 of my bunnies and I making some crochet flowers for their fairy lights!
Glad to hear you gloat over fabric too! I'll have to post some pics of my fabric stash one day.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Taking that literally poet I suppose I should just put the lawn mower over it.
Not sure what to make of the last sentence!

The Weaver of Grass said...

Absolutely true Dave - of course you can't let a wild garden go wild, what are you thinkg of!

The Weaver of Grass said...

Jinksy - I have to confess I am more of an adviser than a doer now in the garden - a bit of trimming here, the odd dandelion uprooted there - and an awful lot of advice. That's me these days - the hard graft is done by the farmer.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Scribe - I wish I knew the answer to that - I totally agree with you. If I buy some new plants then I can't wait to put them in, whereas my iris sibirica dragonfly had to present me with no flowers at all last year in order for me to say it needed splitting up.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Elizabeth - sorry about the word Wickens!! Invasive weeds are put on this earth to try our patience.

The Weaver of Grass said...

I will wager, Derrick, that the first blade of couch is up by the end of the week - will keep you poasted.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Woman in a window - the only good thing to be said from splitting plants up is that they do reward you with a better show of flowers.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Cathy - we have the same problem with sheep if they get out.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks for visiting Gwen - snow time is a good time to plan gardens - whether it all gets done is another matter.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks for visiting Kyfarm - glad you are up beat again.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Marmalade Rose - sometime when you come into Leyburn you will have to pop in for a coffee. Let me know.

The Weaver of Grass said...

A WARNING TO ALL OF YOU AND TO GARDENERS EVERYWHERE. (this poem is taken from "Word from Wormiingford" by Ronald Blythe - don't know who the author is:-

Suckers and seeds, the weeds will win,
we'll 'ave the 'ole world for our own.
And oh how glorious will come in
the era of the great self-sown.
Happy spring gardening.

Summer Gypsy said...

Weeds are wildflowers trespassing! I loved this post and learned alot!!!
Blessings through the rain,
Marilyn

Hildred and Charles said...

Of course, - the couch grass. The only green thing showing in my garden so far, and as I cut off old stalks I hear its shout - hurrah, hurrah, - the light and room, - let's get at it boys. Look at all the lovely fresh black earth to take over.

I am also aware of all the other underground roots that silently slip along until they come to he place where the iris or daisies or peonies grow - the Chinese Lantern and the yarrow and even the lamb's ears. They immediately shoot straight up and make themselves at home......ah me! Your method is the best, but even it is not infallible.

I guess that misery loves company and I did enjoy your post.

willow said...

I have several beds that need this procedure done, but I've been putting it off.

I especially like number 12!

Rowan said...

Poor you with couch grass! All I can say is good luck....
It's probably tempting fate here but after over 30 years of handweeding my garden I don't have any really horrible weeds in my flower beds - and it's quite true that weeds are simply plants in the wrong place. Many are edible or useful as medicinal herbs and flowers like dandelions are actually lovely if only there weren't quite so may of them! The seedheads are attractive too, the dandelion clocks of childhood. My front 'lawn' is actually nicest before it gets mown in the Spring, there are violets and birds eye speedwell growing in it and it looks rather like a medieval flowery mead. It isn't going to be making the cover of The English Garden' though!

Raph G. Neckmann said...

I love the way you describe your schedule! Wouldn't it be wonderful if the couch grass didn't come back after all!

Arija said...

From one gardener to another, I have double trouble. We also have a second, and if possible, moretroublesome, imported invader. Kikuyu, a tough grass surviving any drought that burrows over a spade depth, spreads like wildfire under and through the roots of bussh and tree seeking moisture and food, starving all along the way. Some well meaning soul planted it as lawn here because of its survival ability and quick rebirth after rain.
Although when I first dug up the paddock to plant a garden I removed every scrap of both grasses, they rapidly re-invaded. Now I no loner have the strength to fight back.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Somehow, Hildred, the lambs ears and the daisies don't seem as bad.
But I do find quite a lot of herbaceous perennials like to take over if you will let them. Happy gardening.

Mistlethrush said...

Sounds like your a dedicated gardener. All I did on Sunday was trowel around the plants and chuck on some leaves that have been bagged up all winter but haven't really decomposed yet....
I admit it - I'm not the best gardener!

Heather said...

I can sympathise with you - in our previous garden we had couch grass in the rockery and had to lift the boulders to try to remove it. In this garden the offenders are a type of small allium with white flowers which just seems to increase if I dig it all up, and a houttyana (probably spelt wrong)which does the same. Like couch grass, any tiny piece of root will make another plant. There should be warning labels on these thugs! But it is lovely to be out and working on the garden again.

Robin Mac said...

Good for you - nutgrass is our biggest problem here, it sends runners out underground with nut corms on the end which come up everywhere. My brother was horrified when he first went to live in New Zealand that they were digging up beautiful fuschias to plant lantana - a gazetted noxious weed in Queensland!!!
The cyclone passed us by and did its damage in southern Queensland - 220,000 tonnes of oil spilt from a bulk carrier washing up onto pristine beaches there, very sad.

Janice Thomson said...

Horrid stuff that - over here we call it quackgrass and what a pain it is. And why I ask you is it the greenest of all plants? Oh yeah, right, it just took over the flower bed and loves that fertilizer...

BT said...

Ha ha, Weaver, that is exactly what we did with our gladioli bed last year. It was riddled with couch grass. I totally emptied it, went through it time and time again. I was SURE I'd got it all. Had I? Don't be silly, of course I hadn't! But it is less of a problem and I keep pulling out the odd bit carfully in the hope that one day it'll all be gone. Some hope!

Twisted willow said...

Like you, I'd love to know in what circumstances couch is not regarded as a weed. As BT said, we did exactly what you're doing last year and we were 99% successful ... but that 1% .... arrrggghhh

Poet in Residence said...

Weaver, Dominic, jinksy and co, see Tycho's Supernova Remnant on my Bard on the Run page if you have time; a gigantic St Patrick's day rainbow dandelion you'll never forget!

The Weaver of Grass said...

How comforting to know that couch grass is a pest to you all! Not that that makes it any easier to deal with - but we will all keep at it and eventually we will win won't we?

Red Clover said...

HA HA! That's great! I just started wrestling with some grass myself and fear I may not have the constitution to be so thorough. (Steady yourselves, men!) I am glad that you were able to really dig in and go for it. May your plants forgive you once they realize it was really for their own good!