The weeds have won. One weed in particular is taxing all of my energy - my nemisis and the bane of my existence, Hairy Galinsoga. If you are a regular follower of this column, you have read this lament before.
Some people claim wild mustard is the worst thing to happen in their gardens. Some curse the edible and fairly friendly purslane and still others complain when a bit of ground ivy makes its way across the trench and into the border. But nothing, absolutely nothing can compare with the devastation an infestation that Hairy Galinsoga can inflict on a vegetable garden.
You wouldn't think it should be that difficult. Its roots are shallow and can be pulled out quite easily. It is an annual that is easily killed by frost. At least that particular plant won't be back. What this sneaky weed does is leave behind all of its offspring to continue the species. The problem is there are millions - no, that's not correct - there are trillions of seeds producing gazillions of seedlings that grow into adult plants with gazillions more seeds bursting out of the nasty little daisy-like flowers.
I don't think there is a number large enough to count how many Galinsoga plants have been tossed out of my garden over the years. Not to mention how many tiny seedlings have been chopped at their base by winged-weeders, garden weasels and even once a homemade weeder made out of the inner workings of a paint roller on a broom handle. (Don't ask).
I've even, and I shudder to remember it, used chemicals in the garden, something I never do on plants that I plan to use for food. The husband obliterated a growing infestation one early spring with a healthy dose of glyphosate (Roundup). More seeds germinated.
A few seasons later, we sprinkled a brand name weed preventer that is supposed to work by not allowing weed seeds to germinate. Not only did the seeds germinate anyway, they seemed to feed off the product as though we had injected each individual stem with a growth hormone. By the way, if you go to the brand name website, there is a list of plants the product is supposed to eliminate. Galinsoga ciliata is not on that list.
We've covered our garden with black plastic, only allowing a small X-shaped slit for our precious plants. The weed grew up through the slit, alongside the plant as if they were BFFs and when pulling out the weed, the plant came with it.
This year we tried something new. I've often advised using layers of newspapers and mulch in the perennial beds to keep out weeds, but I've never used them in the vegetable garden. So this season, we put down several layers of newspaper, carefully going around each plant and seedrow. This is ideal, we told ourselves. The papers and straw will decompose over winter and create a natural soil amendment. At least one of the bales wasn't seed free, but we didn't mind the tall oats growing between our planting rows. They would make a great natural fertilizer when they are tilled under next spring.
It worked, sort of. There wasn't a huge infestation of Galinsoga this year, but like the plastic, the weeds still grew up among the plants in whatever space was available.
The ideal method of control is to get the plant out of the garden before it has a chance to flower. No flowers, no seeds. Unfortunately, we are surrounded by fields and Galinsoga seeds can travel up to 10 miles. Even as we try to eliminate it from our garden, it will find its way there from somewhere else.
Every year we say we won't do it again. We threaten to take down the fence and mow it into lawn. This year, I vowed to turn every inch of vegetable garden into a cutting garden for flowers so thick the galinsoga seedlings won't have a chance to see the light of day.
I know this won't happen. I still want that first ripe tomato of the season and those large, deep green peppers. I can't forgo mountains of zucchini piled on the patio table or cursing the wilted cucumber vines when the borers show up. In February, I'll be digging out the grow light to start the onions.