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Chambers Bitters

October 2012

QuestionI really enjoy your columns and now have a question of my own. I have received conflicting answers on this. I have faithfully put yard clippings in a mulch pile consisting of leaves and mower material. Because of the overwhelming amount of weeds, etc this year, I have been told not to use this around my flowers and shrubs. The threat is presenting a never-ending buffet for weeds to grow.  You get the tie-breaker--yes or no.

AnswerHome compost piles typically don’t generate enough uniform heat to kill weed seeds. Have you ever had a wild squash or gourd sprout magically in the garden—the vegetable seed wasn't killed either. If you had a lot of weeds in your lawn, you could be incorporating them into your flower beds via mulch. I think the prevalence of the weed chambers bitter had to come in via mulch or nursery stock in many home gardens. So my answer would be no as a mulch. If you do use it, just be on the look-out for weeds—the smaller they are the quicker they can be killed and your chance of establishment is less.

September 2010

QuestionI tried to ID this plant using lots of Web resources with no luck. I'm sure you know the identification. Lots of these plants popped up late in my flower bed this year. They are attractive so I took no action.

AnswerUnfortunately, you should have taken action. The weed is called Chambers Bitters and it is INVASIVE. If you look on the underside of each leaf, you will see tiny white flowers and then tiny little seeds. One plant can produce hundreds of seeds, so a few weeds this year means thousands next year. I never had the weed 5 years ago, and now it is almost a ground cover in some of my beds and I pull it out constantly! Good luck.

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