Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Stiltgrass--Coping With its Copious Growth


With a wetter than usual summer, it's been a good year for growing stiltgrass. Everybody grows stiltgrass, though not intentionally. It can grow four feet high along fencelines and in neglected flowerbeds.

It's easy to pull, but frustrating in its abundance, so most of it survives to set seed on skinny stems with sparse leaves that perhaps explain its name--the leaf being the foothold on the long stilt. In this photo, one of the smartweeds (Polygonum) with similar leaves but small pink flowers can be seen at the bottom.

Stiltgrass also spreads into lawns, particularly in wet years, causing a blotchy appearance. Remarkably, it can still set seed even when kept mowed down. Even someone who doesn't particularly like lawns can grieve at the sight of an old-style soft fescue lawn succumbing to incursions of stiltgrass. Pre-emergent herbicide? Corn gluten? Or else use the infestation as an excuse to dig up the lawn, plant shrubs, perennials or vegetables, and mulch well enough to prevent the annual stiltgrass from growing.

Past posts on stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum) can be found by typing the word (stiltgrass) into the search box at the top of this page.

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