By Kat Yares, Garden Guides Contributor
Quackgrass, Agropyron repens, is a perennial weed persistent in the northern areas of the United States. Found from North Carolina to California, quackgrass is listed as a noxious weed in many states.
The plant grows from a rhizome and begins appearing in early spring in 1 to 3 inch clumps. Blue green in color the leaves are rolled in the bud and extend as the plant grows. The upper leaf surface is rough on the ends and the remains green year round. Two rows of spikelets on a single stem form the seed head. The rhizomes can spread as much as 5 feet at a depth of 6 to 8 inches underground.
Quackgrass can crowd out other plants in the garden or in the field and should be eradicated as quickly as possible. The plant does have some value as animal feed and there are claims that as a medicinal, quackgrass tea can be a tonic for the liver and kidneys. The rhizomes can also be dried and ground into flour for adding to breads and other baked goods or boiled into syrup for use in fermented beverages.
Quackgrass thrives in almost any type of soil, from rich and fertile to gravel and peat. The plant thrives in moderate temperatures and dislikes persistent hot weather.
Cultivation and Care
Heavy mulch can be used to help prevent the rhizome from sprouting. Tilling the ground infested with quackgrass can magnify the problem by breaking the rhizomes into smaller pieces and distributing them into areas not affected.
Weed Control Techniques
* Digging and removing the rhizomes is the most effective way to deal with quackgrass. The use of a spade or shovel is necessary. Begin a foot away from the plant and dig deeply to below the rhizome. Care should be taken to remove the entire rhizome as the smallest piece can allow the plant to grow again.
* If removal is not an available option, quackgrass should be kept mowed to keep it from reaching the seed head stage.
* Non-selective chemical herbicides should be applied regularly to affected areas, as a single application will not destroy the plant or the rhizome. Care should be taken when applying the herbicide to avoid damaging surrounding plants. If using a spray, choose a still, dry, hot day for application.
* Several organic herbicides are effective against quackgrass if used while the plant is young. Acetic acid, clove oil or soap based herbicides will all weaken the plant and eventually cause the plants death if used repeatedly before the plant forms seed heads.
* All equipment used in the eradication of quackgrass, including tractor and garden cart wheels, should be washed off in an area that the seed cannot take root.