The Weeds I Hate the Most

By Patty Wilber

We have had the best monsoon weed growing season in about 20 years, according one source. Even so, NM is still a droughty state.

White areas are no drought. The colored areas show some level of drought. Drought Monitor

Around here, we had a dry June (1.2 “) , wetter July (4.88″) and moderate August (2.82”).  When written down, those number seem like less than what it felt like, possibly because it is raining right now (9/1).  At any rate, that moisture must have come at very good intervals because the result has been a bumper crop of weeds.

The two weeds I hate the most are Kochia (Kochia scoparia) and Red Root Pig Weed (Amaranthus retroflexus).

Kochia. It can get to 6 feet tall. It can crowd out almost everything, except maybe the pig weed! Note that the horse pens are weed AND grass free.

Pig weed. It seems to be able to crowd out Kochia (some is in this picture!), but it makes thorny prickers, so it is the top of my hate list.

Despite wishing I had all grass and no invasive weeds, I cannot help being fascinated with these amazing annuals.

  • They grow REALLY FAST.
  • They make millions and millions of seeds.
  • And most impressive off all, if you chop off the apical meristem, they go hog (pig?) wild on the lateral meristems.
    • (Had to throw in some botany words just to prove I still know them.) But what that means is, if you mow down the tall stalks, they grow a bunch of side branches and may even stay low to the ground. The more you mow, the more side branches and seed heads you get.  They are determined to go to seed.

The only way I have found to control them once established (without pesticides) is to pull them up.  That is not especially practical on large swaths of land, but I have done it in few spots.  If there is some grass, and I keep pulling these weeds, the grass begins to take hold.

BUT, if I slack off, the Kochia, especially, can eventually overwhelm the grass again.

Here is a spot that I regularly deweed.  We have at least five species of grass here.  Blue grama and  side oats grama are the only two I can confidently name, although I am not sure there is actually any side oats in this photo.  I have not keyed out the others.

The horses do not get to access this spot very often.  They are really good at eating every last thing in their normal areas (which of course is why we have to feed them and cannot rely on grazing.) When they eat everything, what grows back are the r-selected invasive weeds–fast growers, hardy, lots and lots of seeds.

The 30 acres across the street has not been subjected to grazing in 30 or more years.  It has very little kochia or pig weed!  Yay!

Other icky weeds that I have but am not over run by:

  • Goathead.  Beautiful yellow flowers, delicate leaves and a spiny seed that can penetrate your shoe.
  • Silver Leaf Nightshade.  Purple flowers, tiny spines on their stems, so not fun to pull out.  And you can pull them out, but they have some growth area deep in the ground, so they just come back up, over and over.  Fortunately, they don’t seem to spread terribly fast, but they are perennials.  They are poisonous to livestock.
  • Bindweed. Bindweed is a vine that creeps over the ground and wraps around any other plants it comes to. In order to get rid of it without pesticides, you have to pull or plow every two to three weeks during growing season for THREE to FIVE YEARS.  This is assuming you don’t bring in new weed seeds in your hay, like I seem to do!

I am clearly NOT going to be weed-free any time soon, but it is still satisfying to get small areas reclaimed.  I find weed pulling very rewarding, especially when I expose grass that is trying to make it!  In some of the denser areas, the weed whacker is a great way to expel hostility!

On another note, I am sad to report that ALL the rescued tadpoles have disappeared from the tank.  They did not just up and die because the dead ones floated.  So….I hypothesize that the bull snakes ate them…I suppose I feel somewhat better about that sort of demise compared to just expiring in the mud.  And they got a few more good days. Still, I was looking forward to seeing the little toads.

About BlogPatty

Here's the skinny: I have a thing for horses. They make sense to me. I have a small horse training business (it's a "boutique" training business, not because it's super fancy, but because the horses get a lot of personal attention). I also go by Dr. Wilber, and teach biology full-time at a Central New Mexico Community college.
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3 Responses to The Weeds I Hate the Most

  1. Mary Colleen McNamara says:

    Patty thanks for identifying those weeds for me. I HATE Kochia and pig weed and they seem to have followed us down to the valley. You are correct the only way to get on top of them ? is to pull them (very hard to do unless we have had s some moisture) . while the nightshade are pretty I really dislike that they are sneaky and you have to be sure to wear thick gloves because of the little buggers thorns!!!
    Keep up the good fight.
    PS I am going to email you a “horsey” thing. something for you to consider in your “spare time” 😉

  2. What a coincidence! Also the weeds I hate the most! Add in ragweed for the trifecta…

    Not that I was mowing last evening or anything.

    I hate the silverleaf nightshade the most, I think. You just can’t kill that stuff, and it’s not only prickly, it’s poisonous in the yard, especially for young dogs who weirdly, stupidly want to try the bitter fruits. Tristan at 7 months ended up in Doggy ER after chowing heartily down on the berries of the cousin cutleaf nightshade. Fortunately he’d thrown most of it up in pretty short order–and fortunately when I saw what he’d thrown up (in the office!), I recognized the fruit remnants as being in that family.

    I am about to try a vinegar treatment that sounds strong enough to peel the paint off a car….

  3. Nancy Mitchell says:

    we fight the goatheads and fight, and fight. In Eastern New Mexico they seem to be the pervasive species. And they HURT on bare feet when they get tracked into the house. Horses ignore them.

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