Kill my weeds (wandering jew, black eyed susans)
April 12, 2015 8:45 PM   Subscribe

How can I kill a rampant infestation of wandering jew and black eyed susan? The weeds are making my dogs itchy itchy itchy! Manually pulling them out makes me itchy itchy itchy!

We have a huge yard. The back half is up a little hill. The hill is sandstone covered in sandstone rocks/rubble that I guess were leftovers from excavation when they built the house in the 60s. There are several lovely trees in this hilly bit. There are also lots of ferns. We like this patch of jungle.

And all over everything, is a lot of wandering jew and black eyed susans. Picture 1 shows how the black eyed susans have grown over everything. There are ferns and clivia under all that. Picture 2 is just a close up to show how mingled everything is.

I don't mind spraying with Roundup or something even if it kills the ferns. I'm happy to replant in-between the rocks and trees, whether it is replacing the ferns with ferns split from elsewhere in our garden or some other ground cover that won't irritate my dogs. I don't want to kill the trees.

I think I can't do any kind of covering with plastic/cardboard/newspaper because the rocks underneath are all higgledy piggledy. Am I wrong? Not sure if I could mulch either, again because it's so uneven, I think mulch might just slip downhill pretty quickly. I'm not a gardener so do correct me if I am wrong.

It's a very big patch, about 30m wide, about 10m deep. There's no budget for someone to come take the rocks away or anything major like that. I have lots of time.
posted by stellathon to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The World Health Organization just put out a study saying that they thought glyphosate (one of the chemicals in Roundup) is a probable carcinogen. I didn't read how they thought you had to be exposed to it to have effects, though.

Boiling water works, though that's a lot of trips up and down the hill for you. Vinegar is supposed to work too.

Good luck! I hope you find something to de-itch your dogs :)
posted by feets at 1:28 AM on April 13, 2015

I'm going to share my research methods in case they are helpful, and also because it is research rather than applied experience.

I had to look up the Black-Eyed Susan thing, because I thought that was a completely different kind of plant. I found a useful QLD government site about weed control (a big thing in Australia, where they tend to take over native species and are thus invasive nasty pests). It recommends no chemicals for the Black-Eyed Susan vine, just uprooting and mulching to prevent regrowth. However, it has recommendations for Wandering Jew. That fluroxypyr thing sounded like it might be a goer. Then, of course, I wanted to know what it's sold as (fluroxypyr not rolling off the tongue) and looks like it is available commercially in the US as Spotlight (scroll down). As for safety, doesn't seem too bad. At least to me.
posted by Athanassiel at 2:26 AM on April 13, 2015

If you're willing to give it some time, cover the area with heavy black plastic or several layers of cardboard held down with bricks/rocks. That will kill EVERYTHING growing there and then you can start from scratch.
posted by LittleMy at 4:24 AM on April 13, 2015

We like this patch of jungle....I have lots of time.

So, why not let it be? Install an invisible fence to keep the pooches out of it. Or a visible fence. Landscape selectively to maintain and diversify the jungle-ness but gradually overcome the invasives. Just smother a small patch at a time, re-plant with something robust that will withstand the invasives, move on to the next portion.
posted by beagle at 6:02 AM on April 13, 2015

Depending on how invasive the black eyed susan is, and how easily is can propagate from roots after being mulched under, you might be better off using a scorched earth policy by burning the entire area down to the dirt, then replant. There's a torch you can get that hooks up to a propane tank (large or small) meant for weed control. Here's an example of the smaller of the two this store carries.
posted by redindiaink at 7:50 AM on April 13, 2015

I urge you to please NOT spray Roundup on the weeds. Round up will kill the weeds, but will also poison the soil, leach into the groundwater and kill every insect around - including honeybees. Those honeybees will then take the poison back to the hive and kill all her sisters. Please do not use Roundup - ever!

Boiling water will work, as well as vinegar. Another method you can possibly employ is hiring a few goats to come weed your property for you. I realize that location is far from Sydney, but maybe there is a service like this that is closer to you. Renting goats has become quite popular in the U.S., particularly when trying to rid properties of poison ivy and poison oak -- the goats love it and it doesn't harm them at all!
posted by ATX Peanut at 8:00 AM on April 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

Roundup is a herbicide, not a pesticide, and as such should be more or less safe for bees and other insects. It targets a plant-specific enzyme, so if it is harmful to insects, that's likely to be more the result of the quantity or the other chemicals (e.g. surfactants or whatever) used in the formulation than the glyphosate itself. Glyphosate itself doesn't seem to persist for very long in the environment, and the degradation products are less toxic than glyphosate itself. So no, you shouldn't be spraying it indiscriminately into the air, but if you use the amounts recommended and apply it directly to the plants, you will probably not cause the death of every insect around you.

This is more likely to be successful if you pull up what you can before applying the Roundup, and be prepared to re-apply the Roundup directly to the plant (like with a paintbrush or something) as new shoots come up, over a long period of time. This would also have the side effect of preserving the ferns and clivias and etc. that you're okay with keeping. It will be time-consuming, but you've said you have lots of time, so.

"Probably causes cancer" has a specific technical meaning that does not actually mean that being exposed to it will cause you to have cancer or that no one should use it for anything ever.
posted by Spathe Cadet at 1:10 PM on April 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

There is scientific evidence that glyphosate is bad for bees. Not as bad as neonicotinoids, but not good either.
posted by feets at 11:43 PM on April 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

The evidence is that they are less sensitive to nectar reward, and their associative learning is impaired. This is a pretty far cry from poisoning the soil, leaching into the groundwater, poisoning every insect around, then taking the poison back to the hive and wiping out the whole colony.

I mean, fair enough, I retract "more or less safe." But at the same time, the researchers you linked aren't even willing to say that any bees would be killed; the furthest they're comfortable with going is "we speculate that successful forager bees could become a source of constant inflow of nectar with GLY traces that could then be distributed among nestmates, stored in the hive and have long-term negative consequences on colony performance." (emphasis mine) So the researchers can imagine a situation in which foraging bees could bring glyphosate back to the hive, and they can imagine a situation in which something bad might happen to entire bee colonies as a result, but they don't offer any proof that this has actually happened, and specific about what the consequences they envision.

To my mind, this means that yeah, Roundup's probably not helping the bees any, but how do earthworms and spiders like vinegar? Do soil microorganisms and pill bugs shrug off boiling water? Are beetles and fungi cool with flamethrowers? Just because a weed-control technique is familiar doesn't mean it's only affecting the weeds.

The OP's situation is for a short-term use, in a small area, which could be applied only to the two species of plants. If it were me, I'd think Roundup would be totally justified, but I suppose everyone's consciences will draw that line somewhere different.

Stepping out of the thread now.
posted by Spathe Cadet at 7:28 AM on April 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

"The evidence is that they are less sensitive to nectar reward, and their associative learning is impaired ... then taking the poison back to the hive and wiping out the whole colony."

Bees forage for pollen, nectar, propolis and water. If a chemical is present in/on any of those things, it'll bring it back to the hive. I'm not sure if it is true of propolis or water, but nectar and pollen are passed off to worker bees at the entrance of the hive who then take it further inside where it will be stored in cells as "bee bread" and what will eventually be honey. The foragers let other foragers at the hive know where they can find more supplies, it's called a waggle dance and it's actually a very complex ritual that communicates distance, direction and more.

So, you have bees that are less excited about foraging for food who can't find their way home, or can't give accurate directions to the food they find because they've been exposed to roundup. What's a few bees right? Well tangentially, they've found bumblebees lose their navigational sense by merely smelling a funigicide. Bumblebees are important pollinators that gleefully work blueberry fields in a way the honey bee doesn't want to. It all comes down to the shape of the flower and the anatomy of both bee species. Less pollination = less goes to market, or no blueberry pancakes for you! :)

One of the problems with the studies that have been done on the efficacy of miticides, fungicides and other chemicals used in agriculture is they didn't test for multiple source exposure and a lot of problems facing bees are due to chemical cocktails being created either through direct treatment (say you're treating for Varroa and Nosema), or through their foraging behaviour.

I'm thinking about becoming a bee keeper, so I've been spending far n away too much time learning while I fence sit over committing to buying my first nuc. They're more than bugs in a box that deserve far more respect than what we've given them thus far.

Are beetles and fungi cool with flamethrowers?

I suppose beetles wouldn't like it so much, but the fungi? Cleve Backster might be the man to ask.
posted by redindiaink at 6:40 PM on April 15, 2015

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