Controlling Weeds the Natural Way: By Hand

Landscape contractor Chris Hart-Henderson, left, discusses options for removing annual ryegrass from the property. May 8, 2012.

I’ve talked before about the wood being used in the construction of Desert Rain–how it is all either Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified or reclaimed. To meet the Living Building Challenge (LBC) the project must not only incorporate, but must solely use materials that are “safe for all species throughout time” (LBC 2.0). Meticulous planning has ensured that everything–from the foundation to the roof and everything in between–will be non-toxic and equitably sourced.

Annual ryegrass growing on the Desert Rain site.

The same amount of concern for what goes into the Desert Rain environment applies to what’s being taken from it. Careful board-by-board and nail-by-nail deconstruction of the homes that previously stood on the site ensured that materials stayed out of the landfill and were put to reuse. Now Barb and Tom are faced with a new dilemma: what to do with the annual ryegrass that is quickly spreading along the west side of the property. It needs to be removed, but the question is: how?

Chris and Tom in the quickly growing ryegrass.

When faced with a wide area weeds, a too-common approach is to spray the area with a noxious weed-killer. But that obviously isn’t a solution when working on an LBC project, and it isn’t an approach Barb and Tom would take regardless. But the non-native ryegrass is a tremendous fire hazard and must be removed, and it needs to come out in order for other plants to thrive. To meet LBC standards, a dedicated percentage of the project area must be used for food production, and landscape contractor Chris Hart-Henderson’s plan incorporates service berry, elderberry, currants, wild strawberries, rose hips, Oregon grape, and choke cherries.

Barb and Tom met with Chris on the site on Tuesday afternoon. They pulled ryegrass as they discussed their options, which essentially are to try to smother it with a mulch or to pull it–and keep pulling it. With its wide distribution throughout the western portion of the site as well as in some rocky areas, it doesn’t sound like it’s feasible to smother it. So the answer is to pull. With constant maintenance, Chris says that it can, over time, be controlled.

Tom, Barb and Chris pulling the annual ryegrass as they discuss ideas for keeping it at bay.

Chris Hart-Henderson of Heart Springs Design.

Pulling annual ryegrass.

The ryegrass quickly piles up.

A visitor with a mild interest in the grass: a yellow-bellied marmot.

Once the grass is pulled it will leave room for edible plants on the site--as well as for tulips like these.


0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *