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Controlling Noxious Weeds

Now that the soil has been softened by fall rains, it is time to tackle some of the invasive weeds trying to overtake our yards and parks. One of the most easily identified is English Ivy, which was originally brought over from Europe to “green up” our fair city after the clear cutting in the early 1900’s.

It quickly became a pest, invading vacant lots and parks and attacking trees. It can be controlled by constant maintenance; with annual shearing, it can be a tolerable ground cover. But without a gardening staff to maintain it, it becomes a hazardous invasive, because it wants to climb upon every bush, shrub, tree and building. It flowers and produces berries which are transported by our avian friends to other areas. “Down with English Ivy” should be everyone’s mantra!

Another noxious weed in our midst is wild clematis, sometimes called “old man’s beard”, because of the tiny puff balls of seed pods it produces. These become airborne in winter and spring, sprouting everywhere. Wild clematis is also an aerial climber, like English ivy, and with time, it produces tarzan-like cables. In big winds, these cables act like sails, capable of bringing down full-grown trees.

Both ivy and clematis are fully controlled only by digging, but the roots can reach sizable proportions. Other invasive weeds that need controlling include Himalayan blackberries, Herb Robert (also called Stinky Bob) and Japanese knotweed to name a few.

It is possible to learn more about these weeds and recommendations for control by contacting the King County Noxious Weed Control Program at 206.296.0290. Washington State Noxious Weed Control has an illustrated booklet identifying noxious weeds. Call 360.725.5764 to order PUB 820-264W (n/6/09) or go to

The Benefits of Eggshells

If your family eats eggs regularly or you bake often, do not throw away the eggshells. They are good for your garden and for wild birds!

First, you must rinse the eggshells, and then crush them before you add them to your garden beds. High in calcium, eggshells provide a nutrient often deficient in the northwest, according to Ciscoe Morris, but which is required for healthy cell growth in plants. They also release other minerals and nutrients as they break down. The finer the crush, the quicker plants can utilize these nutrients. Just work them into the soil around shrubs and perennials.

These same shells, not so finely crushed, help to deter slugs, snails and cutworms, who do not like to have their tender undersides scratched on the sharp points of the shells. Just place around tender plants.

Wild birds benefit from crushed eggshells in your garden; they provide grit for digestion and calcium for egg laying females, resulting in stronger egg cases.

The Magic of Mulch

Leaves from deciduous trees are beneficial to your garden too. Mulch your flower and vegetable garden beds with the fallen fall leaves, they break down over the winter to enrich the soil with many needed nutrients and prevent unwanted weed seeds from germinating, saving you much labor and yielding healthier plants too!

The leaf litter also provides a warm and dry habitat for beneficial insects, e.g. ladybugs, butterfly larvae, spiders and others that need to hibernate until spring.

If you have a worm bin, you can mix in leaves when it gets smelly or too wet. Or mix with grass clippings to compost at a 1 to 3 ratio.

~Diane Morris (with thanks to Ciscoe Morris (no relation) and Katie Vincent, Garden Hotline Educator for Seattle Tilth)

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