Drastic Action. (It’s only a garden)

In May, I wrote about the garden transformation in my future. Well, the future is here.

Drastic times call for drastic measures

Garden Spring 2023In April, I planned on having someone come to weed out the goutweed and black swallow wort. The guy who came thought he could get the invasive plants as they came up. It sounded feasible, in the hands of a skilled person like him. But, he ghosted me. By June, I gave up on him.

I also had to give up on the idea of surgically removing the plants that don’t belong. They were entirely enmeshed with the other plants by the end of May. Garden viewed from driveway

I hired someone else in June, got ghosted again…The third time was the charm. For a reasonable price, the garden got dug down to bare earth. In July, it was covered with 4mm black plastic until next year.

Garden stripped to soil, Summer 2023It is quite the shock to go from full-blown plant chaos to bare earth. It’s pretty sad out there. What is most sad is that the black-eyed susans were just getting into their glory time when the digging began.

It takes drastic action to clean up the mess. The black swallow wort was mixed in with the other plants. So was gout weed, which is an ornamental plant that is invasive. I couldn’t save most of my plants without leaving the roots from these two bullies, who would come back to plague me again. Getting rid of bullies – once and for all — seems like a reasonable goal for my plants and the rest of my life. 

Getting ahead of black swallow wort

This summer on my business blog, I wrote about invasive plants. Partly it was inspired by how much more invasive the invasive plants became when the Norway Maple tree was removed from in front of my house. I wrote:

(June 14, 2023) Black Swallow Wort has already climbed from underground to about three or four feet. It began flowering before Memorial Day.

In the spring, you’ll see the dark purple flowers.

By early summer, you will see the pods. They break open to dandelion-type fluffs that take to the air. Please don’t spread the joy around your neighborhood.

I took a picture of a root. It’s a public service! I pulled this one just for you (and the monarchs).

Black Swallow Wort root

The City of Somerville is partnering with community groups to raise awareness about black swallow-wort (BSW), a very aggressive and invasive, non-native weed that can be found throughout Somerville. I quote the City below:

Why Is BSW Unwelcome in Somerville

Black Swallow-Wort (BSW) displaces native plants and habitats, threatens butterflies and songbirds, and is toxic to deer. It is especially harmful to the monarch butterfly population because it resembles milkweed, where monarchs lay their eggs, and once the monarch larvae hatch, they die from eating the toxic BSW leaves.

How to Spot and Remove Black Swallow-Wort

Black swallow wort podsBSW pods start to appear in Somerville in late May and early June, and the City and community groups are asking residents to remove BSW when they see it.

The BSW plant has shiny green leaves that come in pairs along winding vines often found around fences and shrubs. It has thin green pods that are important to remove before they turn brown and disperse wind-borne seeds.


BSW also has small, dark purple flowers that grow in clusters with five petals and a green center.

Whenever possible, BSW roots should be completely taken up and the pods should be removed. To dispose of the plant, be sure to place all of it in a sealed trash bag.

Do not compost or place BSW in paper or yard waste bags because it will resprout.

To help spread the word, the City has created door hangers about BSW and how to remove it. Door hangers are available for pickup from May through mid-July at the Somerville City Hall Welcome Desk (93 Highland Avenue). Please pick some up and distribute them in Somerville. [from Somerville City website]

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