Saturday, May 21, 2011

Kvetching about Vetch

If the garden is thriving, so are the weeds, and chief among them is my most frustrating nemesis, vetch. The fact that it blooms, and that the blooms might actually be considered interesting, if not attractive, does little to endear it to me. It's ubiquitous presence in our lavender hedges, herb and perennial beds, and crawling and twining amongst the roses is a major thorn in my side.

Vetch twining through the woodland phlox
I might be a wee bit more tolerant if we were hosts to Vicia grandiflora, which at least has a lovely flower. Unfortunately, we are plagued by lavender cow vetch (Vicia cracca) which is difficult to control without herbicides.

Because of it's long taproots once established and prolific root system that allows it to spread throughout the garden at a rapid pace, pulling it up has been a temporary remedy for a chronic headache. We are aggressively targeting it this spring, hoping that by consistently digging each new shoot we spot along with as much of the roots as we can, we can wear down the remaining root systems and hopefully rein it in.

In the last week, benefiting from the steady rain, vetch has overtaken the woodland phlox and echinacea.
Living next to a wetland and conservation area means a steady supply of weeds spread via seeds, and since we use only organic methods -- no chemicals -- to weed and feed our gardens, it means that there is no shortage of work for us here!


  1. Thank you for helping me to identify this weed. I, too, live by a wetlands area and have been wondering what to do about this. So far, I've just been pulling it out when I see it, but I should probably try getting at the roots.

  2. You are so welcome!

    The roots spread extensively and a small piece of root left behind sends up a new shoot before long.

    The key is to dig as much of the root system as you can, and then be diligent about searching for new growth and pulling it as soon as it shows itself. If you keep doing that, the resiual roots will eventually die from lack of nourishment. They can't survive for an extended time without nutrients from photosynthesis.

    Look carefully to try to identify the immature new growth - it does look a bit different from the mature growth, and be relentless about pulling it up. In the three years since I first posted, we've gotten rid of over 80% of the vetch in our garden this way.


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