Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

More than crabby Stilt Grass & Thistle

Microstegium vimineum / Japanese Stilt Grass, Garden Dilemmas Ask Mary Stone

Hello fellow readers,

Last week we spoke about annoying crabgrass and how to keep it at bay. There’s more to be crabby about writes Carol from Blairstown who sent a picture of what looks like mini-bamboo which she’s trying to wipe out to allow her pachysandra to spread.  Microstegium vimineum / Japanese Stilt Grass (also known as Mary’s Grass although I take no ownership!) is an invasive annual which thrives in a wide variety of habitats forming dense stands. It’s thought to have come over from China in 1919 in packing material.  Unfortunately, deer don’t browse Stilt Grass; they choose native plants over it reducing competition for the unwanted grass whose seed remains viable for five years with high germination rates. The stuff seems to have taken over our roadsides and is in its full glory this time of year!

Carol shared a second unwelcome volunteer that stumped me. Thankfully a friend who is expert on weeds identified it as Canada Thistle/ Cirsium arvense. ‘Although it has the Canada name it is really from the Mediterranean and while great for butterflies it will take over an area,’ writes Dennis also of Blairstown.  Maybe that’s why it’s also known as Creeping Thistle or Field Thistle. It’s true their purple puffball flowers are striking in a field with a display of butterflies dancing above; ironic how good-looking plants can be so devastating. The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) identifies both an invasive species that crowds out native plants and reduces crop and forage yields for farm animals.

Canada Thistle/ Cirsium arvense, Garden Dilemmas Ask Mary Stone

Canada Thistle/ Cirsium arvense

Hand pulling before they go to seed is the best bet for both of these invaders but what a chore! You can also use a contact-killer on the weeds themselves but keep it away from your pachysandra Carol.  I suggest an organic product called Burn Out by St. Gabriel Organics which is an alternative to Round Up commonly used. A stronger version called Poison Ivy Defoliant is better for stubborn weeds such as thistle.  Go back to where you came from intruders!

Garden dilemmas? AskMaryStone@gmail.com

Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary

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