June 11, 2010

Backyard Adventure

Since we bought our house, we have been working on the yard little by little. At the moment we are focused on reducing the population of unwanted plants. There are weeds in the lawn, overgrown bushes in the back yard, and aggrasive species climbing on top of trees and power lines.

While we pull the weeds out, we are also interested in learning what they are and what makes them grow. Here is a few things that we have identified so far.

Wisteria sinensis (Chinese Wisteria) blooms with purple flowers in April and is fragrant. They have wrinkly leaves with pointed tips. They like to climb onto things and choke trees to death. If there's nothing to climb, they send off shoots on the ground in all directions until they find another thing to climb onto. When we first moved in, we find that it has climbed onto every tree in the back yard and over the power lines which also runs along the property edge. Also to note is that this plant is toxic and can cause nausea, vomiting, stomach pains, and diarrhea. We started trimming them in a back corner and we were able to clear out a few square yards of space which we have built a compost bin. We moved towards the other side of the back yard and now we are about half way across. There's still more to trim.

Trifolium repens (White Clover) is there all over the lawn, both front and back yard. Their presence indicate the soil is lacking in nitrogen. They have white flowers in June and are easy to mow because they don't grow very tall. I see them as one of the least troblesome weeds.

Lotus corniculatus (Birdsfoot Trefoil) grows deep roots and gives off small yellow flowers in May and June. They grow from a center point and creeps outwards, about a foot in diameter. They also spread by sending stems underground (under the shallow-rooted lawn grass) to a nearby location and grow another bunch. We have been using shovels to dig them out and it works only because we don't have very dense grass in those areas. Jenn calls them monster weeds because it is hard to pull out without digging deep into the soil.

Taraxacum officinale (Dandelion) is a very common weed. They come up in early spring like April and produce yellow flowers, followed by a ball of white seeds that fly around in the wind. Mowing doesn't work too well because the flower and seeds stay low until they are ready to bloom. They also grow very rapidly, often flowering and seeding within 2 to 3 days. We worked hard 1 day just pulling the flowers and seeds. Then we kept pulling the flower heads whenever we see one. Now we don't see them as much. I am not sure if that's because we pulled most of them out or because they don't like warmer weather as much. We don't want dandelion in the lawn, but it is actually edible and may have medicinal effects. I see our wild rabbits munching on them when we come home from work. I think the rabbits like these fresh salads.


  1. To me, from the description, the Chinese Wisteria sounds more like a monster than the Birdsfoot Trefoil. And I wonder why Dandelion is strongly recognized as a weed in the US, but not so much in Taiwan or Japan.

  2. I think it's because in many parts of the US, homes have lawns with grass, and many people dislike the sight of dandelion stems sticking up all over the place among a field of neatly cut grass lawn. In Taiwan, the only place with grass field is high up in the mountains. In the cities, most people live in high rises and no lawn, and in that climate there are other types of weeds to worry about.

    Dandelion also don't do like hot weather. They stop reproducing once the weather gets to above 70.

  3. I eat Dandelion as vegetable. We bought it in our local farmers market. It is also used for Chinese herb medicine. I guess some farmers grow it for sale into farmers market. It is easy to grow.


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