Gardening With Soule: Summer Ws - weeds, wildlife and water - Tucson Local Media: News

Gardening With Soule: Summer Ws - weeds, wildlife and water

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Jacqueline Soule

Posted: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 4:00 am

Water water everywhere.   Good monsoons this summer and the good news is - with all the free water from the sky, you can reduce your use of expensive water out of pipes.  The bad news is - with all the free water from the sky, the weeds abound.

“The price of a weed-free yard is eternal vigilance.”   That’s a quote from Ima Gardener, as she was swallowed alive by a mound of weedy spurge.  She wasn’t vigilant enough, and the weeds took over.  Even if you have a yard maintenance service, it is up to you to ensure that they weed properly.  Weeds simply must be removed before they go to seed.  Once they do go to seed, you will be pulling them out of the yard for the next seven years.  Meanwhile, dust-devils will add more weed seeds to your yard, whether you want them or not.  

Two especially problematic weeds are caltrops and spurge.  Caltrops, AKA goat-thorns, are pretty plants, creeping along the ground, with yellow flowers, but the sharp seed pods can cripple goats and puncture bicycle tires.  Shaped like a child’s jack, the caltrop seed has spines pointing in every direction, ready to stab no matter which way it sits on the ground.  Spurges are pretty too, but they are filled with a milky sap that can irritate skin, eyes, or pets’ paws.  They can also mound over and crowd out landscape plants.

Not all “weeds” are truly weeds.  Many were once basic foods for Natives and settlers alike.  Lamb’s quarters, a close cousin to New Zealand spinach, is great in salads or steamed.  Amaranth, also called pig weed, tastes good when young leaves are steamed like spinach, and the seed is nutritious for humans and birds alike.  Purslane, okra-like when steamed, is a good source of potassium.

The next W, wildlife, is especially troublesome in the yard now.   All the youngsters born this spring are out on their own.  Like starving students, they eat foods their elders refuse.  This means that plants books tout as “rabbit-proof” may be gobbled to the ground by the teenage bunnies that haven’t read the books.  

Wildlife comes in the six-legged variety too.  Water and weeds means plenty of plant pests.  To rid your yard of insect pests, hire some lizards.  Where to get lizards?  Build it and they will come!  A pile of rocks with ample crevices for lizards to hide in is ideal.  Ideally, this stack of rocks will be in an area where snakes can’t move in, like a walled yard.

Don’t forget to police your yard for hidden mosquito breeding sites.  Tarps placed over equipment can trap pools of water.  Saucers under plants can harbor mosquitoes too, so let the saucers dry out between waterings or get rid of them for summer.  

I have one other “W” to offer.  Wildflowers.  Start to plan ahead because September is the time to plant the seeds for spring wildflowers.   But more on this next month.

 

(Editor’s Note: Jacqueline is an award-winning garden writer focusing on meeting the challenges of Southwestern gardening for over two decades.  More at gardeningwithsoule.com and on facebook at Gardening With Soule.)

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