I made the first dandelion patrol today, a dull root knife in hand, my eyes as badly in need of sharpening up for the coming season. There aren’t many weeds this early, just perennials and biennials, but the overwintering dandelions, early clumps of quackgrass, cheatgrass, and crabgrass, plus a few Chinese lettuce and mustard are way ahead of the perennials they infest. Eliminating weeds being the intention, just as important is a quick check on how plants fared through the winter. I see Lupine and Delphinium emerging, vole decimation in one area of scabiosa (their favorite plant, every winter) and discover that the blackeyed susans survived at a high rate—often they fail to make it at all.
Late emerging perennials allow me to spray glyphosate safely over their beds, speeding up the weeding process. Chasmanthium, platycodon, and asclepias rows all get a spot spray, mostly on the difficult to control dandelions.
Remembering the bare spots that showed up in the gooseneck bed last year, I move some shovelfuls from the edge of the bed to transplant in those holes, and I’ll mulch the entire bed with wood shavings in a day or two. It’s getting difficult to keep the creeping wood sorrel out—being a low growing weed with leaves dark enough to blend with the soil, it’s a prolific seeder I’d never seen until I brought it in with a nursery purchase and ignored it as a weed from a more temperate climate that would never survive here.
I’ll patrol again in three or four weeks, when I discover those weeds I missed and see the return of those I only partially dug, and then a week or two later throughout the spring. When bloom hits, about the first week of May, we’ll check the field every day for the telltale yellow dandelion flower and we’ll stop what we’re doing and dig any culprit up, since a bloom today will be a seed tomorrow and a few thousand seeds to contend with in coming years. The scabiosa beds take extra vigilance, since their leaves mimic dandelions closely (or is it the other way around?), and blackeyed susans seem to attract them as companions, too. Once the weather stays above 80, the blooming slows to almost nothing, so we can return to a monthly patrol.