Out here in rural Victoria we only have ADSL access, which at times runs very, very slowly. It would be great to be able to do more videos of the gardening, however, six minutes of footage can take five hours to upload.
In recent days it’s been very slow. So I’ve been weeding, manuring and preserving. The middle shelf is half full of lovely jars of relish and chutney. Out the side, the paddock is slowly being cleared of blackberry nightshade and other nasties that grew up rapidly with the heat and rain. The front yard is still a wasteland of buffalo and weeds… Though the woman up the road reckons she knows goat people. With any luck a goat will help clear some of that out and prepare for more productive uses.
There’s a couple of good Australian websites for figuring out what’s growing where the grass and herbs should be. Weeds.gov.au and weeds.org.au. Weeds.gov is a good, comprehensive database. Weeds.org is run by WWF and other ecologists. This was a very helpful site with good clear photos and detailed information about each species.
If you’re a bookish type who’s given to reading and research, study of weed and grass species can be fascinating; a whole sub-subject of agriculture. Being such an arid country Australia is now home to pretty much every weed on the planet. Hemlock, nightshade, thistles and burrs from every other continent have been transported here and grow happily in marginal or salinated areas as well as in pastures and gardens. The weeds.org site quotes quite a bit of info from published sources including Noxious weeds of Australia; Parsons and Cuthbertson, published by the CSIRO. So if you’d like to know the binomial (Latin or scientific name) of that thing you’re trying to kill, you may find it there. Reading about them is certainly an interesting way of procrastinating to avoiding actually dealing with the things.
What I have found is a new most hated plant. Yes folks, even more despicable than buffalo in the herb beds: Khaki weed Alternanthera pungens.
Last week I mowed a cluster of these back to dirt in the hopes of clearing them up, but it turns out the roots are perennial. Fortunately they’re not good competitors so keeping the ground covers and herbs going should discourage them. On the ABC Gardening site is a recipe for “lawn sand” which is equal parts of garden sand, sulphate of potash and iron sulphate. Apparently it will kill off most broad leaf weeds in lawns. I’ll give this a try and see if we can clear up the top growth before it all sets seed. They’re nasty little needles and spines that are awful for the dog or anyone else to walk over.
Bathurst or noogoora burrs are really nasty. It is also sometimes called “daggerweed” which is quite appropriate. The spines easily penetrate leather riggers’ gloves so they need to be stood on before you can get a grip on the stem to pull them up. Probably as nasty as Scotch or St. Mary’s thistle; both poisonous and painful.
As kids we thought blackberry nightshade was belladonna and used to scare each other with how deadly it was. Turns out it isn’t the same thing and not nearly as poisonous as oleander, which people grow in their gardens all over the place. Nightshade is a solanaceae, same family as tomatoes, potatoes and chilli. This one is also coming out by the roots quite easily. It will take a while to get the sheep paddock clear of the stuff, there’s an acre of this and bathurst burr to pull out.
Wild tomato or cutleaf nightshade, Solanum triflorum, is also growing in the paddock. It may or may not be poisonous to stock, but is thought to have been used by Native Americans. The funny thing is that there are volunteer (self-sown) tomatoes also growing in the paddock, probably from compost. With all the sheep manure, they’re doing pretty well.
The rest of it seems to be fairly pedestrian, marshmallow, nettles, prickly lettuce and sow thistle. Nothing eats the nightshade, it’s just taking up too much space. The burrs and khaki weed are the real problem and with any luck the lawn sand will keep the khaki weed down. We also seem to have horehound, which was useful for something or other herbal that I can’t remember now.
Couch, it turns out, is thought to be a native grass. There’s a relative called “windmill grass” that looks quite similar though it grows in tufts rather than creeping. It’s also fairly slow growing and drought tolerant. It sounds like a good alternative as pasture grass, as there’s no prickly seeds to foul the wool and it’s supposed to be nutritious. It will be interesting to see if there’s seed available. This might also be a helpful alternative to fescue as a lawn grass.
Another interesting thing I learned, other than that broom, calla lillies and agapanthus are considered weeds despite still being sold in nurseries! The plant we’ve been calling stattice, that grows all over paddocks around here and further south, is actually vipers bugloss. It’s in the same family as Patterson’s curse and borage, and was once thought to be a treatment for snake bite.
If you’re interested in weed species, in particular those that are often grown as flowers, there’s another site from Canada with gorgeous photos. Andy’s Northern Ontario wildflowers. Great photos for identifying nightshades, wild carrot, bugloss and others that have also been introduced here.