Posted in Oh noes!, Plants

Burdock never takes a hint

One of the lesser favored plants we “inherited” with the property was burdock.  We spot it–along with other non-native invasives–all over when we amble about the neighborhood.  I took the image below on May 9, 2017 when I was starting to document what plants we had inherited along with the house.  Some I thought I knew, some I had no idea.  The caption is exactly what I labeled it then.

I had no idea back then the trouble before me...
Driveway Mystery Plant Or Weed

We were so overwhelmed the first year, we didn’t get to a lot of things we really thought was realistic to get done then.  This was way before we started to find underlying issues everywhere, which we continue to find more of each year.  For instance, I just picked up a half dozen broken bits of plastic in the yard as I was clearing detrius.  Some had been missed in two of the beds we used last year, but frost heave uncovered them.  (I really do not want to have to start screening every square inch of soil here, but…going on four years running now.)

Although someone on an old house site I haunt told me back then the plant in the image was likely burdock and thus not a friend to leave be, I didn’t really jot any further notes down if I did look it up then (I can’t remember if I even bookmarked what I have then or later) to get an idea of what we were dealing with at that point.  It was just one of dozens I was trying to ID because the original owners were definitely gardeners who took pride in their efforts, despite how things had deteriorated after they passed on, and then it was rented out by the inheriting family.

At any rate, had I jotted down notes then, I would have maybe known or remembered that burdock is a biennial.  That matters because I foolishly assumed we’d gotten the bulk of it out our first year here with one exception. The exception in question (below) came back in all its glory, so perhaps that distracted me from looking for others that were barely leafing above ground.  Here’s what it looked like on May 5, 2018:

Hullo, Burdock, My Old Fren(emy)...
And when you let it be, it just comes back bigger and bolder than before.

More came back the next year in places besides along the driveway, so we were back to hacking and pulling, and so on.  I assumed I missed some berries (the burrs) in time on the one we’d left the first year as I was trying to make sure it was definitely burdock and not rhubarb.  (There’s a neighbor around the corner that grows rhubarb, so I thought there was a chance even of a volunteer instead of one of our inherited plants.)  The burrs, by the by, were the inspiration for the hook and loop fastener many know by the brand name Velcro.

Again, as before, the stalks never developed to the pinkish red that rhubarb is known for, and that’s when I could no longer hold out hope for inherited rhubarb, and accepted the burdock for what it was.  We yanked it all out, even the one we’d left the last two years.

Welp, this year we’ve had a resurgence that I have not been pleased with by far.  The strip between the neighbor’s fence and our driveway is littered with it where we’d been trying to encourage the inherited strawberry plants we were so thrilled to find forming berries.  (We still have not managed to actually eat any of them yet—we’re still not quite at the “needs net or anything protective from critters” note on the To Do list yet which is awesome to behold yet again this year.)

I've got to dig you out again.
And this isn’t all of it just along the driveway (now on both sides).

What didn’t make sense to me was how much there was because last year we thought we’d done a pretty good job of getting the last of it out of there—HA!  That caused me to look it up (again or not), and reading about the biennial aspect. Given how much else of it was now littered along both sides of that driveway strip except for where I did the deep clear nearest the street for the day lily transfers, they just hadn’t matured enough for us to see them last year.  *sigh*

They are also abundant in what once was our compost pile, then pumpkin patch last year.  I know for certain that’s our fault because we were in a rush once weeding, and I realized too late we had thrown some directly into the compost and not our weed baking bag where we put things were we do not want the seeds to survive at all.  Still, neither of us was of the mind to dig out what went in.  I haven’t started on that yet, but I suspect digging out the actual new plants will be easier. [Narrator: Of course, this is just wishful thinking, as she’ll soon see.]

I have been using the “baking” method because I do not yet have time to experiment with hot composting.  Some day I may write about that, but not today.  Getting back to the bag…initially, the baking bag was a contractor garbage bag left in a full sun area, which was ideal on a budget because it attracts the sun to deliver hot death to whatever’s inside the bag (this doesn’t work for some of the worst weed seeds which *fingers crossed* we have not yet dealt with).  The downside?  Plastic.  We later bought a standard galvanized metal “ash” can with a lid and put the bag inside.  (As long as the bag doesn’t get punctured, it keeps any plant liquids from starting rust.  Bonus: you can dilute any liquid in it and use it as a form of compost tea.)  Once what’s inside has been declared “deader than dead” (we try to leave them a full year, but most do not wait that long), the remaining plant bits go in the compost unless there are woody bits that go in the wood bin to give it more time to break down.  I’m still looking into a few methods to seal the can instead of using plastic.  Since it’s galvanized, the can should last a while, so I may just take the plunge this year and stop using what’s already a pretty battered bag from the last three years’ worth of use.  We want to get another galvanized can this year because we did end up needing more bags last year due to the last of the oriental bittersweet as well as the (thankfully) small patch of Japanese Knotweed.  Even without those, I’m sure other unwanted plants (invasive or no) will fill more than the one we have.

If you want to try this with your weeds, remember that any woody bits or thorns–depending on what you’re trying to eradicate–can tear even through some contractor bags.  That lets bits escape, and depending on the menace in question, the tiniest tear is all it needs to have FREEDOMMMM.

Getting back to burdock…we’re going to do our level best this year to get it out of the ground as completely as possible and as soon as possible.  I know the plant can be used for medicinals and even some eat them (root, young stalk, stalk).  Yet given what a nuisance it’s been for years running now, it’s not worth keeping around since we have other options.  Especially since we know at any time critters could bring it back anyway one way or another.

My biggest concern right now is the strawberries.  I’ve not yet seen any sign of them.  That’s another reason the ousting needs to happen soon.

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