Spring Gardening Special Section: Follow these laws for a beautiful, healthy garden

Published on Thu, Apr 28, 2011 by Naomi Knowlton

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Laws are often elusive until you run in to one head on. I have discussed noxious weeds in the past two columns, but I didn’t mention the laws regarding them.

In its publication, “Noxious Weeds That Harm Washington State,” the Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board defines noxious weed as “ … the traditional, legal term for invasive plants that are so aggressive they harm our local ecosystems or disrupt agricultural production.” Fifty percent of these noxious weeds escape from gardens.

The remaining 50 percent are world travelers, accidentally carried on shoes and wheels in our increasingly connected global society. Many of them are very beautiful, and until we learn of their dangers, we innocently promote their growth.

Since plants grow without regard to political boundaries or property lines, we all have a role to play in preventing and controlling the spread of invasive plants.

Washington State’s first noxious weed law was passed in 1881 to help control invasive plants that were threatening farmer’s fields. Today we recognize their widening threat to ecosystems and wildlife. Washington State’s current weed law (RCW 17.10) established state and county noxious control boards that have identified three classes of noxious weeds: Class A, B and C.

Class A noxious weeds are the newcomers, the weeds you are least likely to see and the most important to report. By reporting a Class A weed, such as giant hogweed or slenderflower thistle, you can help stop an invasion and perhaps eradicate the invader before it spreads statewide. If you see a Class A weed, identify the exact location, take a picture (if possible) and report it to our local Whatcom County Noxious Weed Control Board. State law requires eradication of these weeds.

Class B noxious weeds, such as gorse or scotch broom, are often fickle—they’re abundant in some areas and absent in others. We want to control the areas in which they’re abundant and prevent them from spreading to parts of our state where they are absent.

Class C noxious weeds are already widespread. Morning glory and himalayan blackberry, two weeds I’ve discussed in previous columns, are Class C weeds. We can educate people about the importance of controlling these weeds, however, they are so widespread that total eradication is next to impossible.

The Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board lists several measures you can take to prevent and control invasive weeds:

• Be careful what you plant. “Garden Wise: Non-Invasive Plants for Your Garden” offers alternatives to common garden plants known to be invasive. It is a well-illustrated and informative publication and it is available at www.nwcb.wa.gov
• Be careful when you travel. Check your shoes, wheels, clothing and pets after a trip.

• Clean your boat after use.

• If you have invasive plants on your property, do your part to control or eradicate them.

• Volunteer to participate in weed pulls and native plant restoration projects.

• Request that nurseries promote and display only non-invasive species.

• Don’t trade plants with other gardeners if you know they are species with invasive tendencies.

For more information on weed laws or weed removal, contact the Whatcom County Noxious Weed Control Board at 360/715-7470, or visit www.nwcb.wa.gov.

Preventative weed control is the least expensive means for us to control invasive plants, and the practice can start at home in our own gardens.

May Gardening Activities

• Trim spring-blooming shrubs after bloom.

• Remove spent bulb seedpods, allowing bulb foliage to mature.
• Combine herbs with annual flowers.

• In late May, around Memorial Day, fill containers for summer color.
• Plant dahlias, gladiolus and calla lilies.

• Harden tender transplants by putting them out in a sheltered location and bringing them in at night.
• When soil warms, plant seed corn and beans.

• In late May, fill containers for summer color and transplant starts of heat-lovers such as tomatoes, peppers, squash and cucumbers.

• Check all irrigation systems; set up a simple rain gauge.

• Mow every 5-7 days.

• Dig out dandelions to prevent seeding.

• Lawns optimally require one inch of water weekly, either rain or irrigation, but not both.

A garden is never finished. It is a work in progress, and there are no big secrets to a healthy garden. A recipe for a healthy productive garden: common sense, good gardening practices (which we can learn), and consistent effort.

“Keep a tree in your heart, and perhaps a singing bird will come.” Chinese proverb

Please send your gardening questions to the Garden Guru at info@thenorthernlight.com.