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The Dry Garden: Best ways to beat the weeds

March 13, 2010 |  5:30 am


Winter rains have done more than quench thirsty trees, shrubs and flowers. The storms also have fed a bumper crop of weeds. Before you head out into the garden this weekend, check out Emily Green's take on weeds. In the latest installment of her column, The Dry Garden, she writes:

They do so much cooling, aerating and stabilizing of vacant lots and roadsides that Harvard horticulturist Peter Del Tredici has taken to celebrating weeds as “spontaneous urban vegetation.” But when a mother lode of seed from these fast-breeding, water-hungry plants germinates in a garden, particularly a drought-tolerant garden in Southern California, it’s war. It’s a water war.

Read Green's column, including her strategies for taking out specific weeds in specific places, then check out some bonus material on the jump of this post.

-- Craig Nakano

Illustration: "Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale" is a hand-colored engraving from "Flora Londinensis," a 1777-78 book detailing plants growing in London. Credit: William Kilburn / Victoria and Albert Museum, London.


Above, clockwise from top right: whitestem filaree, mallow, California burclover and a detail of burclover's evil spiked pods, which can get stuck between dogs' paws. Credits: All by Emily Green except burclover detail by Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times.

Weeds_Grouping Some resources for weeders:

“Weeds of California and Other Western States” is a prize-winning reference book by Joseph DiTomaso and published by the University of California in 2007.

The California Invasive Plant Council website details the things that can spread accidentally or uncontrollably. The council’s website also sells DiTomaso’s book.

The University of California Integrated Pest Management weed gallery can help to identify weeds in your the garden.

A rogues' gallery of common weeds in Southern California:

Bermuda grass, or Cynodon dactylon.

Crab grass, or Digitaria sanguinalis.

California burclover, or Medicago polymorpha.

Wild barley, or Hordeum murinum

Whitestem filaree, or Erodium moschatum.

Spotted or prostrate spurge, or Euphorbia prostrata or Euphorbia maculata.

-- Emily Green

Photo: The top row consists of the round-leafed mallow and the yellow-flowered dandelion; the bottom row consists of whitestem filaree, left, wild barley, and crab grass. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times.

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