Archive for the ‘weeds’ Tag

Orange Oil Cleaner As Weed Killer   4 comments

One of the things that happens when you accidentally buy a case of 32-oz bottles of orange oil cleaner, is that you have A LOT of orange oil cleaner to get rid of. Even shipping a few bottles to interested friends and family hardly seems to make a dent in the volume. We typically use probably 1-oz in a year since most of our cleaning is done with just castile soap, vinegar, or baking soda (none of which are sensitizers like d-limonene, a sensitizer makes your body more susceptible to allergens and toxic chemicals). So a few weeks ago I read somewhere about using vinegar or orange oil cleaner to kill the weeds growing in the cracks and spacers in concrete, and I immediately thought it would be a great way to make some progress on our stash of orange oil cleaner!

Do you know what? It works.  It doesn’t actually take that much, but we have lots of concrete, lots of cracks/spacers, and therefore lots of weeds. Some of the weeds in the concrete are too large to pull out and repeated weed whacking just seems to make them tougher. But a dose of orange oil immediately shriveled them up and within days they were completely dead. It mostly worked on bermuda grass as well, although not all of the runners got killed. Since d-limonene is not a toxic chemical I don’t have a problem using it as an herbicide, and since it is extracted from orange peels I’m guessing that it is biodegradable so that there’s not a problem with harmful residues remaining on the concrete or contaminating storm water runoff.

Now there are two followup experiments: vinegar and time. Vinegar is cheaper, so if it works as well then it would be a better choice for anyone who didn’t accidentally buy a case of orange oil cleaner. And I’d also like to know how permanent of a solution it is. My guess is that any of it that soaks into the soil in the crack and stays will just help keep more weeds from growing for a while.

Posted October 24, 2011 by mayakey in environment, gardening, resource use

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Meditation While Weeding?   Leave a comment

I’ve heard people say that they find doing housework to be somewhat meditative. I’ve never really believed them. Sure, sometimes my mind wanders in la-la land while doing chores and thus gets a nice relaxing moment while my body is laboring, but I wouldn’t consider that meditation. If I try to really focus on the task at hand my stress level goes up, which I would not consider an indication of a meditative state. Besides, most of the time I’m trying for quality and speed together, so it’s the analytical mind that takes over. And that is definitely not a form of meditation.

So it was a pleasant surprise this past weekend when I settled down to work on the really annoying weed patches in the lawn, and found myself so engrossed in the task that my mind went blank for long stretches of time. (Then I would become aware that I needed to move to a new plot of grass.) My eyes and fingers didn’t really need an active brain to dictate what to pull since I’m pulling piles and piles of one specific plant (filaree, which is really easy to spot). And being out in nature, feeling dirt between my fingers and the sun on my back, and smelling the sent of damp turf also encouraged meditation. I can almost understand why my dad kept his “digging grass” project going for as long as I can remember. I personally do not want this to turn into a long term project, but at least now I can maybe understand what previously baffled me.

Or I started to understand until I realized that my mouth and throat were dry (especially bad on the morning of a 4-hour singing event), and tried to stand up. I had been weeding for an hour and a half, and my body HURT! So my recommendation to my self and anyone who plans to do some gardening/yardwork meditation: bring a timer or make sure that your spouse hears you ask them to call you in at a specific time.

Posted April 25, 2011 by mayakey in gardening, spiritual practices

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Lawn Weeds   Leave a comment

For someone who is not a big fan of lawns, I sure have been spending a lot of time lately maintaining ours. Specifically, as a person who likes meadows and strongly dislikes grass monoculture lawns, it seems almost incongruous how much time has been devoted lately to removing non-grass plants. First it was the catchweed bedstraw, which had me kneeling in one corner of the lawn for a few minutes every day pulling the plants out from the turf; now it is redstem filaree. It is interesting to look at my weed vs. not-a-weed decision matrix.

Some things are just plain weeds, defined as something that is invasive (non-native plant that is difficult to eradicate and disrupts the native ecology) or obnoxious. The catchweed bedstraw is obnoxious. Since the long stems and leaves are so clingy, it tends to end up in huge mats that grab onto your clothes and shoes every time you walk by it. I learned that the hard way at the old house. There was no way to prevent spreading the seeds when I removed the dead weeds this past summer, so I knew that I’d be on eradication mode this spring at the first sign of those seedlings.

Some things are most definitely not weeds to me, no matter what anyone else considers. Case in point: clover. Clover is beautiful and it is a nitrogen-fixer so it helps to provide nutrients for the other plants in the turf. I put dandelions in this category as well, actually. I’m excited this year for my spring detox to be able to walk out into my front yard and pick dandelion leaves instead of having to buy them at the grocery store.

Most other plants in the lawn have been in the lets-wait-and-see category. In the weeks after we dethatched and removed the mature weeds from the dirt/lawn area and reseeded with grass seed, the “weed seeds” outcompeted the grass seeds in some areas. I was certainly not going to pull hundreds of unidentifiable seedlings out from the dirt, so we let them grow. In most cases we really like the mix of plants, but there are a couple of areas where the non grass greatly outnumber the grass plants. That’s the case with the redstem filaree. The seedlings were these beautiful lacy plants, but in a couple of large patches they grew into a thick mat. They still looked fine, though, and we we let them be and figured that mowing would keep them from all going to seed and getting worse. Then they put out these beautiful little purple flowers, and I didn’t have the heart to mow flowers. At least until the immature seeds started popping up. So now those patches have been mowed twice in one week, and I’ve gone out with clippers a couple of times to remove the seed heads before they mature. Now that I’m seeing these plants in action I’ve decided that there’s another category of plants that can be considered weeds: anything that forms a mat. When the plants die, they leave a big hole in the ground cover, and that’s not pretty.

Posted March 25, 2011 by mayakey in environment, gardening

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IPM Disappointment   1 comment

One of my current outdoor projects right now is weeding, specifically, removing catchweed bedstraw from a patch of the front lawn, planter, and wherever else I find it. This was a project that I knew was coming since there was no way to avoid scattering the seeds as I removed the dead vegetation in the yard after we moved in. However, I forgot all about it between last summer and about a month ago when I noticed the weeds sprouting. This weed is one of the few that I am immediately inclined to eradicate, because the leaves have little hooks that catch on everything and the plant has an annoying climbing habit. I wanted to check for the best way to get rid of it before delving in because weeding the wrong way can sometimes make the problem worse, or expend great energy to make no progress at all. So I went to the University of California Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Program website (and then did an internet tour of several other state/university IPM websites) to identify the weed and then find out the particulars.

Unfortunately, the websites didn’t really answer all of my questions, and I’m really disappointed by that. I am a big believer in IPM, which is an ecosystem-based approach to managing pests. That means using strategies like varietal selection, and mechanical and biological control, before resorting to pesticides. In this particular case I was worried about the “catchy” nature of the catchweed bedstraw, since it seems like most plants that develop clinging mechanisms do so to help them spread. My big questions were “does the entire root system need to be removed” and “can this weed self-propagate from pieces of leaf left behind?”

The first question was sort of answered, but second question didn’t get answered. Every website did state that it spreads through seeds, and the UC website says “Cutting catchweed bedstraw to 2 to 3 inches usually is not effective and has been reported to actually increase biomass production up to 30% compared to uncut plants.” There was no explanation as to why cutting it results in more biomass, so I can’t rule out that it might be able to propagate from the leaves even if I think it probably just means that the plant branches out more to make up for the loss of height. I was really disappointed at how sketchy the information seemed to be on these authoritative websites, and I was really disturbed by the number that seemed to skip straight from “remove it before it seeds” to “here are the pesticides that work”. IPM is supposed to reduce pesticide use, so shouldn’t there be more extensive discussion of non-toxic control methods? Or am I being too demanding?

Maybe I’m just being too demanding. In any case, these weeds will not be going into our compost until I am assured they will not resprout, but will instead go into our green waste bin since “weeds” are specifically listed as acceptable material.

Posted March 7, 2011 by mayakey in environment, gardening

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