#05- All About Noxious Weeds

Hey. Hey, what is up, everyone? This is Ete with another episode of EcoLawn Science. Today I want to talk about noxious weeds. I spend a lot of time researching, treating, working with better solutions for noxious weeds in Utah, but it’s actually a newer word to me. I did lawn care for years in Jersey, and we have them in Jersey, but it wasn’t such a common term. We’re now in 2020. You see noxious weeds actually, in the news, you see them in legislation, you see them everywhere. And so let’s talk a little bit about noxious weeds. 

So the way areas like Utah and other states define noxious weeds is they’re actually weeds that are harmful, or they can injure agriculture, horticultural crops, natural areas, you know, ecosystems, livestock. Often they will be toxic to dogs, to horses. Not all of them. But these are the type of weeds we’re talking about. What happens is they become such a pest in their native community that the government actually gets together and declares it, they have an act on, and we’ll talk about that in a minute, and they say this is what a noxious weed is. And hey, you better be taking care of these weeds. 

And I’ll give you an example. In Park City, Utah, or Heber, Utah, it’s a beautiful place. I love to mountain bike. People like to horseback ride. The same trails are used for runners, mountain bikers, horseback riders. So they’re getting a lot of use, and people here utilize them. We’re outdoors all the time in the summer, even in the winter. And so I remember about three years ago, there’s a trail I love here called Coyote. I think it’s about a 22 mile loop, but there was a major section, we, me and my sister, would call it Thistle Forest. It’s a downhill section, and you’re picking up probably 18, 20 miles an hour. And it opens up with the trail, the land opens up, the landscape, with no trees. It’s like a field, but the trail gets very narrow. And at one point about three years ago, these noxious weeds grew over the trail, probably for about 100 feet length of the trail. And it happened to be one called thistle, which can grow, you know, 10-12 feet high, and there’s just spikes on every inch of this plant. And I remember we would drive through the first time, and I actually, like, fell off my bike because I didn’t want to go into it. And then eventually I just started just cutting through it, and I’d kind of tuck my arms in so I’d get scratched up as least as possible. But this is a great example, because, like, these weeds take over areas. So that’s that’s what makes them, you know, noxious. Here’s a biking path, horse path that people will utilize for enjoyment. And now we can’t use that section because of these weeds. 

And so they’re usually invasive. They’re usually, they spread very quickly, which makes them scary. They can take over a barren area so fast, and most of times, especially here anyway, they are not native. They were brought in from another area, sometimes on purpose, sometimes by accident. 

I actually, recently, about a week ago, was on Channel Two in Salt Lake, and they were doing a series on Myrtle spurge, which is one of the noxious weeds. And when they brought me on, I was talking about it and and sharing with them how, you know, ten years ago, people were planting myrtle spurge everywhere in their yards, you know, in their fields because it did so good here in Utah, right. It didn’t need a lot of water. It did great in drought conditions. But guess what happened. So they brought it from, like, Eurasia, planted it in Utah because, oh, it’s a pretty plant. And it is. But guess what. It started spreading. And now it has taken over hillsides, mountainsides. It’s really invading and taking over. And one of the negative sides is it really impacts the local landscape, and it really changes the soil, what’s going on in the soil. And often it could be damaging to that soil. 

And so that’s what you have. So these things can take over and, you know, so that’s why the government has had to step in and say, hey, if you have these weeds, you know, we’re gonna declare this a noxious weed and we’re actually going to set up something about it. 

So let me tell you a little bit about what, what happens here in this state. And it could be, this is a Utah State Legislature. So I’m actually getting this off of the Utah state, the website, and it’s called the Utah Noxious Weed Act. And so I think every state might have its own things. But here, because we love the outdoors, we’ve really buckled down. But basically, let me read what it says to you. So, “if the owner or person in possession of the property fails to take action to control or prevent the spread of noxious weeds within five working days after the property is declared a public nuisance, the county may, after reasonable notification and to the property without consent of the owner, perform any work necessary consistent with the sound weed prevention and control practices to control the weeds.” And then it says, “If the county controls weeds on a piece of property, as described in subsection one, and seeks reimbursement from the owner of record or the person in possession of the property, the county shall send the property owner or person in possession of that property, a documented description of the expense and a demand for payment within 30 days on which the weed control took place.” Now listen to this. This is wrapping up: “The property owner of record [or the person who gets that] shall reimburse the county for the county’s expense within 90 days after receipt of the demand for payment.” And the last part, “if the demand for payment is not paid within 90 days, the charges become a lien against the property and are collectible by the county treasurer at the time general property taxes are collected.” 

So, in a summary, if you’ve got noxious weeds on your property and you’re not taking care of them, they have the right to come in and just take care of them without you. And then they have, and then they have the right to send you that bill to pay for it. And if you don’t pay it within 90 days, they can actually have a right to put a lien against your property. So I know that sounds crazy. The first time I read that about eight years ago, I thought, this is insane. And I can see both sides of it, you know. On one side, it’s your property. Why should the government or anyone else be able to come in and tell you what to do? So I totally see that. 

And on the other side, knowing from my expertise in noxious weeds, the damage that these weeds can do and how fast they can spread, and I’ve seen it… I’ve seen people take care of their properties and then neighbors not, and it spreads on, and it’s toxic to their dogs. The dogs get sick. 

So with all that being said, I can see why they had to come down so hard. Whether it’s right or wrong, that’s up to you, you know. But anyway, that’s what it is. So these weeds, I mean, as you can see, the government will enforce the removal of these weeds. So it’s a pretty serious thing. 

Let’s talk a little bit about the ones that I see the most. Now remember that most of the noxious weed control that I do is in Park City, hundreds and thousands of acreage. But I also do quite a bit in Wasatch County, and then we do quite a bit in Utah County and we’ve got one massive project up in Salt Lake. These are the weeds that I see average of all four of those areas, three or four of those areas. 

So the most common one I see is thistle. And you’ve got, you know, musk, scotch thistle. You’ve got yellow star thistle, bull thistle, there’s, and there’s a local thistle, which the name is not coming to me right now, but I’ve seen it in Park City. It’s actually a really pretty plant. 

So thistle, and that one, as you know, when the seeds germinate and its stalks, it’s kind of crazy because each of these little seed heads could hold thousands of seeds. And so, like one. You know, one plant could have 10,000 plus seeds in it, and so after it seeds, the head goes to seed and the seeds open up. There’s not much you can do. You have to cut it and bag it and get it out of there. Otherwise, that seed’s going to drop on the ground, and that one plant could produce 10,000 plus seeds so you can see how, let it go for a few weeks, or maybe a couple of years, and it will take over. It’s a nasty one. It’s got the spikes. It can cut you up. 

You know, people make teas out of, out of some thistles. I was recently in Scotland, and it’s like they’re state flower, I think, or whatever. Like, the team, the football team was called the, what was…Inverness Thistles or something like that. You would go to some of the castles and thistles were literally on the buildings, like engraved in stone. So they love it there. 

So I didn’t mention that we have to, you know, spend a lot of our time controlling thistle, but anyway, that’s probably the biggest one. You’ll see that in a lot of areas. You’ll see it in lawn areas, flower bed areas, and then tons of native areas. And you’ll see them get up to 10-12 feet. And so you know they’re, they’re, if you get them young, especially as rosettes, when they’re little babies, they’re easy to kill. There you can, you can actually treat them with organic weed controls and have phenomenal success. Once they grow up and they get 5-6-7 feet, it’s just a mess. And once they seed, there’s really no point in spraying them because it’s already going to die. It’ll seed and die off. So at that point, you just want to get those seeds off. 

So the key to a good thistle control is getting there early in the season, as soon as it’s a little baby and before it seeds. And either, like I said, you could spot spray with an organic weed control. You can get an over-the-counter weed control. You can pull it out. There’s a lot of things you could do, but the key is get it out before its seeds. But yeah, there’s five or six types of thistle. 

Another one you’ll see a lot is Dyer’s Woad. That’s kind of a crazy plant. It’s really waxy, and so it can be a little harder to kill, because when you spray it, um, you know the product can run off of it, but it produces these really yellowish flowers, and you wouldn’t even know they’re noxious weeds because they kind of look pretty. But they’re a nightmare, and, and so again, get them early.

 And with all these weeds, the complicated part with noxious weeds is you could have 10-15 different types of noxious weeds, and they each have their own life cycle. So some may come up in, in May, drop their seeds and then the next, and then, seed and germinate in September. Some may not come up until July. Some, you know, and even within the thistles, the six types of thistles or whatever I said, some of those don’t, they’re on a different schedule that you have. 

Then you have your rhizomatous noxious weeds, which are the ones where the runners, like underground, the root systems, it runs on rhizomes, and they’re all connected. So think of like one massive plant. Those are the hardest. That’s where your Canada thistle, also your field bind weed or morning glory. That’s that. And that’s why that stuff is so hard to kill. You cut it, it comes back stronger. 

So anyway, you have a lot of different types. A lot of life cycles. And so a good noxious weed control program is really about timing. It’s about understanding the weeds, their weakness, and understanding the best method to take care of them. A lot of noxious weeds you can maintain mechanically, which means you remove it with a shovel, with scissors. You cut the heads off. There’s a lot of that. Some of them–depends on how infested this gets–some of them you, have to spray them, again. When they’re young you can use good organic products, but when they get mature, you just don’t have that option. So there you have to have all these tools and this knowledge in your tool belt to really do a good noxious weed control program. 

A couple other than I want to mention. So we talked about the thistles, the dyer’s woad. There’s hoary cress, also known as white top. That you see a lot in disturbed areas, so when someone was digging or or installing new landscape or whatever, usually in the soil around that you’ll see, you’ll see that pop up. It’s hoary cress, but it’s called white top because once it flowers, it has these white little tops on it. There’s poison hemlock you want to watch out for. knapweed, I see a ton of, russian knapweed, spotted knapweed. There’s different types of that. Get them young, they’re easy. Your field bindweed or your morning, your wild morning glory I talked about, is rhizomatous. It’s very hard to kill. Canada thistle as well. 

A couple more. Houndstongue. I see Houndstongue everywhere in Park City. It looks like a pretty plant, but then later in the summer, it comes up as a big, thick plant. You would think it was a native plant, but then in the summer it gets this purple stalk, and it’s very easy to identify. You’ve got quack grass and it just goes on. There’s black henbane in Park City. I’m trying to think if there’s anything more that I’ve missed off the top. I mean, there’s toadflax. There’s oxeye daisies. There’s the spurge that I talked about, the leafy spurge. The list continues.

 And so you can go, to, if you Google “noxious weeds Utah” or whatever state you’re in, “noxious weeds Michigan.” If you Google it generally you–because we’re so concerned about these weeds–your state will already have a plan in place, and they’ll already have these weeds identified. In Utah we have over 25 somewhere between 25 and 30 on this list, and there’s three classes of lists. Some are like, Urgent, woah get them out! Some are like, all right, keep your eyes on it. Don’t let it get out of control. There’s a lot of different theories. Some people say spray everything and kill it off. Some people have learned how to utilize some of them and keep certain types in the soil, but keep them really at bay. 

So again, it’s just having the knowledge of, first, identifying and understanding what type of weed it is, the best way to kill it with having the least amount of impact on the environment, and then the best time of year, and then just developing your plan. You may have to write it out, and often it’s more than a one year plan. A lot of these will come back year after year, depending on the infestation. It may be a five year plan, but you can absolutely sit down and you can go through, walk your property, see what weeds you actually have. Write it down or take pictures. Do some research. Find out what they are, find out the best time to kill them, the methods that you feel good about, and then you can lay out a plan once you know their life cycles. Some of them you’ve got to check on 2-3 times a year. Some of you are going to be out there monthly. So you build your plan. And I would build out a three year plan. And the goal is to really minimize. You may struggle with some of them, completely eradicating them depending on how bad the infestation, but you just want to minimize, you know, the amount and the infestation. 

Of course, you know, if you don’t want to deal with that, you can always call a professional. And you know, they’re designed, they have larger equipment, specialty equipment, so they can do this very cost effectively and cover large areas. 

But yeah, that’s in a nutshell, that’s noxious weeds. And I hope this was helpful. Hope you guys have a great day and we’ll see on the next episode.

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