In the past week, I’ve taken a run at eliminating a pretty, but particularly annoying, weed from my garden: Hairy bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta). This early in the season, its clusters of dainty white flowers look lacy and particularly decorative. Flowers are especially prevalent in the garden in cool weather, from mid to late spring, although this plant will bloom through much of the season provided plants have adequate moisture. Flowers arise from a mound of pinnate (featherlike) leaves with small rounded leaflets, and the plant springs up everywhere that moist soil occurs, including containers and mulched garden beds.
Innocent looking hairy bittercress in the garden.
How could I possibly identify this small, innocuous plant as my enemy du jour? In another week or two, the flowers from the main spring crop will fade and seed will ripen. Trying to pull plants with ripe seed is simply an exercise in futility. The authors of Weeds of the Northeast describe them as “explosively dehiscent, propelling seeds over 3m.” That’s nearly 10 feet, so pulling seedlings—or even walking through a patch of plants—is basically an exercise in seed distribution. So far, getting angry at the little boogers hasn’t helped at all, so I’m on a pulling mission.
When I’m weeding, I tend to focus on a single species. In this case, eliminating flowering plants cuts back on seeds for next year’s garden. Theme weeding also means I don’t have to change tools from plant to plant: Weeds like dandelions and wild onions require a gardening knife for digging, while hairy bittercress can just be pulled and tossed into a collection basket. (It does mean I have to go back over the beds again, though.) And while my aim is eradication, I know that’s impossible. In reality, I’ll just cut down on the hairy bittercress next season, but that’s good enough for me!
A day’s weeding. More planned for tomorrow!