Thursday, May 13, 2010

Weeds Weeds Native Weeds

Sometimes I just don't know quite what to do, and wish I could turn to a book called Restoration Gardening for Conscientious Stewards of the Land. One day, if there is not such a book, I'm going to write it: a practical guide for wild land restoration gardeners based on my experiences and on research and interviews etc.

For example, OK, the fire department gives us these guidelines for Defensible Zone - 30 feet, 100 feet etc. So I do the thinning sort of. I can't sacrifice manzanita; I'd rather burn I guess. But where a year ago there were chamise shrubs, Adenostoma fasciculatum, the most flammable and prevalent of the chaparral shrubs here, now there are --- these:

I'm not sure but I think they might be Conyza canadensis, whose common names include Canadian horsetail. They are native to here. They are native to there. They are native to just about every damn where. They are a weedy plant of disturbed places. They can take various forms it seems, but always have that upright habit - they grow to about 3-5 feet tall - and they blossom in a gazillion tiny flowers each of which launches a gazillion tiny seeds.

I've had them elsewhere from earlier clearings, and I yanked them all, and I think it did do the trick. I mean they went away pretty much. But is that the right thing to do? - Or are they like Mother Nature's Scab, not to be picked?

What is supposed to happen where I cleared? What am I supposed to do next? It's a slope and I don't want to put mulch everywhere, though I do have mulch. It would end up in the road below this slope.

There are also other weeds also taking over, smaller and nastier and harder to remove. But my hands are itching to pull every one of these [adjectival interjection] plants.

They are butt ugly, I have to say - though a restoration gardener maybe shouldn't be so concerned about aesthetics. It's a process, after all - yet one we hope that leads to nature expressing herself in ever greater gushes of beauty. That may be a Wordsworthian fallacy - "sweet is the lore that nature brings." It is an artificial sort of restoration that denies the ugly and cosmopolitan natives their role, perhaps. But then it is a garden. Ah the conundra of life.

So - on my one day off this week, should I walk through the chaparral and yank all of these?

8 comments:

Emily said...

i vote that you treat them a a scab and see what happens.

Curbstone Valley Farm said...

That's a tough one, and I'm going through the same here in the orchard. This is the first spring in about 20 years since that slope was cleared. I have weeds I never knew I had, and our thistles this year are taller than me! Although, I've also found Spergulana, and Collomia, native clovers, and Calochortus too. I've been weeding for weeks, mostly targeting non-native thistles and brome grasses, but I'm with you...now what? Ideally I can't plant native wildflower seeds until fall...and those carry their own fire-danger risks, but there's also the erosion factor to consider too.

Anonymous said...

Maybe an email or call to Larner's or the Theodore Payne Foundation would help clear things up?

Country Mouse said...

I do think I will call Central Coast Wilds who have botanists on staff for restoration work, or Suzanne Schettler - well-known local expert.

Erosion is a concern though it got through last winter ok.

Elephant's Eye said...

Well - you can't leave it bare. Something is going to grow there. Weed the nasties, invasive aliens. And leave the native weeds as a cover crop for ... whatever?

Town Mouse said...

I'd get a weed wacker. Not much is gained by yanking them and disturbing the ground even more. And if they are annuals, you can probably kill them by cutting them to the ground, adding a nice layer of green mulch.

Of course, if they are perennials, I don't know what makes sense.

lostlandscape (James) said...

I confess. I have a real soft spot for this "weed." I love its assertive verticality against the lax schlubs of the other weed species. Image a curved path through a shoulder-height monoculture of these. It'd be a cool modern effect. But I'm usually not so brave. I mostly pull them up, roots and all.

Christine said...

Half and half as an experiment? I think I'm with Town Mouse on the weed-whacker tip, too.