Gardiner’s Corner

Ted Teach, Going Postal

I have decided that now is the time to take action, albeit somewhat belatedly, against a particularly insidious invasive species which is threatening to take over my beloved garden. I would strongly advise anyone who cares about their garden, and, indeed, about their local environment, to take similar action without delay.

I am uncertain as to the precise origin of the alien invader, neither can I be sure of its proper name but there really is no question at all as to its true nature. If left unchecked it would undoubtedly take over the whole locality for it evidently follows a different set of rules from everything else in my garden, even though in some ways it looks so very similar to a host of other plants. In fact, that is a major factor which this nasty species ruthlessly exploits in order to enable its expansion.

I am talking, of course, about a species which looks for all the world like a variety of grass but which is so very different from any normal grass. In fact, it is fundamentally incompatible with everything else around here for its intention is not to blend in but to establish a base from which it can then expand and gradually take over. Its appearance is highly deceptive in that it has long and fairly broad foliage like so many other benign species, and that means that it often tends to go unnoticed, or at least tolerated at first. However, once it does gain a hold you quickly find that not only can it not be trained but furthermore that it is well-nigh impossible to keep under control. It quickly becomes extraordinarily dense and very difficult to uproot. Run-of-the-mill grasses are easy to control but this particular variety is not, so ultimately you need to take a spade to it and uproot the whole lot. What you then find is that beneath the ground there lies a thick knotted mass of roots, consequently a determined effort is required in order to be certain of its eradication.

Despite the superficial resemblance of this invasive grass to so many other varieties, it does have certain defining characteristics which can be spotted once you know what to look for. The foliage of most other plants dies off in time and gradually rots away to make way for new growth but that of the invader remains, thus serving to thicken its base and provide its own support. One is left with the overwhelming impression that the invader actually feeds off its own detritus.

The most striking characteristic to watch out for is the vast number of seeds which this invader produces, although these are often not as obvious as you might expect for it appears that the development of these seeds requires no more than a narrow slit to let the sunlight in. The recent drier weather has seen vast quantities of seed heads developing; indeed, this stuff has gone even crazier than usual of late.

So how should you prevent an invasion and take-over of all that you have lovingly nurtured for so many years ? First, you must prevent the seeds from being spread; they are fairly easy to remove but finding them all is rather trickier because of their tendency to hide away, often depending on the native vegetation for support and cover. Once you have destroyed all those seeds you must set about removing the rest of the infiltrator, and that can be quite difficult since you need to dig out the extraordinarily stubborn root mass. It is likely that you will have to put up with some temporary damage to your garden when dealing with a particularly heavy infestation but it will be well worth the effort in the long run.  You would be well-advised to wear a stout pair of gloves in order to protect yourself and thereby avoid any direct contact with this unwelcome intruder for it will have no hesitation in cutting you if given the chance. Its modus operandi is to attack first – it’s no good expecting to be able to ask questions later. If you do not tackle the problem promptly it will only get worse, so do yourself and your neighbours a big favour and deal with it now. If you do not then you may soon find that you have ended up with an environment so severely devastated that no man or woman may walk there in safety ever again.

Ted Teach ©