I hear so much stuff about invasive plants. “Oh you don’t want to plant that it’s invasive!” or “You better get a jug of RoundUp! That stuff will take over.” About a year or so ago I found a plant growing in the woods across the road and inquired on social media as to what it was. It turns out the only right answer that I got was from a Kansas University Plant ID Twitter account. That person told me it was the “Dreaded Autumn Olive” and I should eradicate them asap. Now, forgive my ignorance but if something produces food and I don’t have to do anything but harvest that food why in the wide wide world of sports would I want to eradicate it? Energy output for little to no energy input is a win win where I live.
Having said all of that, I have come to understand the frustration that people have with invasives for a whole new reason. Johnson Grass is a scourge that has nestled in and decided to make its home in our food forest area. See, I can deal with honey locusts, mimosas, curly doc, comfrey, autumn olives and a host of other supposed invasives but this stuff isn’t the same. According to its Wikipedia page “It is considered to be one of the ten worst weeds in the world.” and if ingested by livestock after a freeze or when wilted by a dry hot summer it contains enough cyanide to kill cattle and horses. That is not something I care to have around. Now then, I can attempt to stay on top of it with my trusty Japanese Rice Knife and that has been the option the last couple of years but it is making considerable advances into our raised bed pods that we built a couple years back. These pods are about a foot and a half deep and this stuff has no issue coming all the way up from the bottom. It also has no problem burrowing right through 1 inch thick layer of sheet mulch. It spreads by rhizome and seed and there have even been some discovered in Argentina that proved immune to glyphosphate (RoundUp). I am going to assume it got its immunity since it is a member of the Sorghum family and most likely bred with a GMO type of sorghum, but who really knows. All I know is I get this sense of imminent dread when I think of that stuff taking over my fruit trees, berry bushes and Ma’s garden beds that she worked so hard to get ready.
I have done a fair amount of research and was surprised to find a member at one permaculture forum in particular that actually claimed to use RoundUp judiciously for issues such as this. He even went so far as to state that one of the founders of Permaculture Bill Mollison, said at one point in time that it was okay to use when all else fails. I’m not so sure I buy into that and I don’t think I would use it even if he did condone herbicide use. I can not envision myself ever putting another penny of my hard earned money into Monsanto’s coffers no matter how bad my situation is. One of the other members of that same forum stated that in instances where things got really bad he/she would use large amounts of vinegar to raise the ph of the soil so that grasses were unable to grow. So what then? Come along behind that and plant it full of blueberries or strawberries or some other acid loving plant? He said that if that wasn’t quite enough to get the job done to add some salt to the vinegar and that would most certainly get the job done. Ugh, all of that sounds pretty damn detrimental to the beneficial soil organisms that we have worked so hard to promote and take care of. Yet another of the people chiming in to that forum stated to try boiling water. That would certainly be the least damaging to the soil in the long run but I’m not sure I could boil enough water kill it out of what amounts to about 25 cu. ft. of earth that it has taken up residence in. Therefore, I have formulated a plan, a plan so devious that it just has to work. I hope it will work by crowding out the infestation of Johnson grass and its nefarious rhizomes and I will take care that the tops do not get a chance to make seed by working them over with my trusty rice knife on a very regular basis. What could possibly do battle with such an insidious monster as Johnson Grass you ask?
That’s right sunchokes. I read all the time about how invasive they are and how once you plant them you will never be able to get rid of them. They will choke the light out and nothing will be able to compete with them and how if you leave one little root in the ground they will just come back next year. As a matter of fact I hear the same thing about comfrey and bamboo and a host of others as well. So, we’ll just see about this, we’ll see how these supposed horribly invasive food producing perennial crops hold up to a true invasive species. I hope my little sunchokes choke the living you-know-what out of the Johnson Grass. Either way I will get sunchokes out of the deal for a good long while and well, if the chokes don’t work then maybe I’ll plant some comfrey or something else in this pod. I will get this problem sorted without any help from Monsanto and their ilk.
Ok, so now it’s your turn. How would you handle this mess I seem to find myself in? Would you use RoundUp or one of the other options I have outlined here? Do you have any first hand experience with eradicating Johnson Grass? How did you get a foothold? What did you try without success? Ma and I would love to hear about you successes and failures.
Well, that’s about all I got, take it easy.