Quackgrass: one troublesome weed

The one never ending task a gardener has is weeding. Weeds not only look unsightly in the garden, but they compete for nutrients and water, causing poor growth of your flowers and vegetables. Of all of the weeds that I fight in my garden, the one weed that is the most invasive, and annoying, is quackgrass.

Quackgrass (Agropyron repens) is a perennial and a troublesome weed. The Latin name means a 'sudden field of fire' which attests to its ability to take over lawns, fields and gardens. The plant is hardy to zone 3 and is actually native to Europe. It has been growing in the U.S. for over 200 years.

Quackgrass is has thin, flat, green leaf blades that are wider than the average blade of turf grass. The plant does reproduce by seed, but is invasive due to its ability to spread through rhizonmes.

Rhizomes (underground stems) are yellow to white, 1/8 inches in diameter, with distinct joints about every inch. Each joint is capable of a new blade of grass. The creeping rhizomes are so tough they can grow through a potato tuber, or push up through asphalt pavement! If left to grow, they will form a dense mat 4 inches thick in the upper part of the soil since one plant can produce 300 feet of rhizomes each year.

A rototiller should never be used in an area with quackgrass as each chopped up bit of rhizome is capable of producing a new plant. Mulch should be used as much as possible to smother plants, but you can be assured that the rhizomes will creep along until there is an area in which it can send up a shoot.

Rhizomes have to be hand dug as much as possible without breaking them off in the soil, then dried and disposed of. The main thing is to repeatedly eliminate the blades by slicing them off. Without photosynthesis the plant will not be able to store food reserves in the rhizomes and will eventually die. Never add newly dug plants to your compost pile or you will have a quackgrass infestation there!

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