Kill the Weed Beast

I know, my title for today’s post sounds rather harsh, but this is a desperate situation that calls for an all out declaration of war.  The enemy… a dreaded noxious weed called horsenettle.

For some time now, hubby’s been in full hand-to-hand combat with this vile weed.  I spoke briefly about our struggle in my August 22nd post – my husband had a mild case of heat stroke that day from his unwavering assault on this prickly beast of a plant.

Let me introduce you to your worst nightmare (as far as weeds go).  Meet Horsenettle (Solanum carolinense L.) a.k.a. The Beast.  This weed actually has been called several names (some of which I will not repeat here in this blog).  A good one is “apple of Sodom” and my favorite (besides the name we gave it)… “Devil’s Tomato”.  How appropriate.  Do you see a theme here?

Horsenettle (Solanum carolinense L.)

Horsenettle is in the nightshade family (Solanaceae) and is closely related to the potato.  Hubby and I are uncertain as to the actual species of horsenettle this is, but it is a horsenettle all the same and is considered by the State of Nevada to be a noxious weed.

This weed is a herbaceous perennial.  Beware, this weed has hard spines along its stems and leaves that can easily penetrate through thin gloves and skin.  These spines can break off easily and be very painful for the unfortunate gardener who comes in direct contact with this beast.

The genius of this weed (and its tactical advantage) is in the way it easily propagates. This weed’s roots go very deep and are beyond the average gardeners’ arsenal of tools and ability to eradicate it through digging.  These deep roots also spread laterally sending out runners like a virus popping up new plants where you least expect, choking out nearby plants.  Another way of spreading is by seed. Small green round seed pods fully mature to a yellow color then break open depositing 60+ more seeds right into your beloved garden beds.  Also, if you have an encounter with this beast and hack it into tiny pieces, each of those tiny pieces will root and grow into a new plant. Yikes!

Some people see this weed as beneficial and consider it to be a beautiful wildflower with its delicate purple star-shaped flowers.  All I have to say to these people is, “Are You Crazy!?!”

Now the worst part (yes, there’s a worst part).  This plant is poisonous and if ingested can kill both livestock and humans.  An especially dangerous prospect if your beloved dog loves to chew on plants in the garden or your child picks and eats the little yellow seed pods.

Okay, so I’ve described the beast and warned you about its unfriendly nature.  Now, how do you get rid of it?  Well, there’s no real simple answer to that question.  Hubby and I have read about everything we can on this weed and have followed expert recommendations using the least invasive and least toxic methods first.  We try to follow organic practices as closely as possible and it breaks my heart if we have to resort to chemicals.  Here’s been our approach…

Strategy 1 – Dug around soil surface to pull multiple weeds out. Results: Weeds came back in same spot and in surrounding area.

Strategy 2 – Dug much deeper to try to get out as much of the root system as possible (after finding out how it propagates). Results: Took longer for the weed to come back, but it did come back and in the same general area.

Strategy 3 – Followed recommendation to pour Distilled White Vinegar on weeds (we also dug deeply around each weed exposing as much of the root system as possible).  Results: the leaves and roots turned brown and shriveled up. We pulled out and threw away what looked like dead plants. Within a few days, the darned things were back in almost the same spot.

Strategy 4 – Followed advice of local experts and used Glyphosate – Super Concentrate (basically Round-Up on steroids). Results: again, the leaves and roots turned brown and shriveled up and we  carefully removed the remains.  The plant came back near by (probably a runner).

I also want to point out that hubby is outside battling this weed several times each week.  Both of us are on high alert and scout the area the weed is growing very closely.

Well, hubby and I have fought the good fight for over a year and enough is enough. It’s time to bring in the big guns. One of our fruit trees is being threatened by this weed as it regularly appears  in and around the tree’s water basin. The fruit tree is my Blenheim Apricot and its growth is markedly less than all the rest of our fruit trees.  It needs help.

Strategy 5 – Use a targeted herbicide; hubby has been carrying on a question and answer conversation with Dow Chemical via e-mail and we’re expecting a recommendation from them any day.  Maybe now we’ll be able to get rid of this thing.  Only time will tell.

What sickens me the most about this whole thing (besides the use of some strong chemicals in our near future and possibly losing a fruit tree), is the fact that we “fed the beast”.  Yes.  Hubby and I encouraged this beast to grow  and flourish within our yard.  As unsuspecting new homeowners on a fast track to make the property safe, we had to cover over several deep trenches in the back yard just along the backside of our home.  We pulled several large weeds (some of which were horsenettle – we didn’t know it at the time) and as we shoveled dirt into the trenches, we noticed several yellow balls in the bottom of one of the trenches.  We proceeded to cover the tiny yellow balls with dirt.  And there you have it… the beginning of our dilemma.

Just in front of the window on the right side of the house was a large trench (about 2-3 feet deep). This trench contained several small yellow balls (we know them today as seed pods). The plants you see growing just outside of the trench are horsenettle. If we only knew.

This goes back to education and research.  If there’s one thing you can take away from my post today it would be… learn from my mistake.  If you encounter an unwanted plant in your garden, research it, take a clipping to your local nursery or better yet, your local cooperative extension and get it properly identified. Take the precaution to clip off and discard any visible flowers and/or seed pods in case the plant spreads (take the necessary precautions in case the plant is poisonous).  Learn everything you can about the plant then take the necessary steps to eradicate it.

Well, with that lesson learned, I’ll be sure to give you an update on this challenge as we make further progress. I hope you have a wonderful day and hope someone makes you smile 🙂

God Bless,

The Artistic Desert Gardener


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