“From the necks up... well, whoever said two heads are better than one never met a hydra.”
~ Tera Lynn Childs, Sweet Venom
In Ancient Greek mythology, the Hydra was a serpent-like monster with many heads. Here’s the real issue, though: every time one head was cut off, two more grew back in its place. According to the myths, the monster was slain after much struggle and strategizing by Hercules. Over the years, the meaning of the word has evolved and broadened, so hydra (uncapitalized) means, “a multifarious evil not to be overcome by a single effort” (Merriam-Webster dictionary). That being said, I would like to take this opportunity to introduce you to the Hydra of the Andes Community Greenhouse. It’s called quackgrass.
Don’t let the somewhat comical name fool you… this plant is straight from the depths of Hades. The parts of quackgrass that are above ground look like slender, relatively fragile shoots of green grass. But underneath the surface, there is an unbelievably frustrating network of roots. The roots run along under the surface of the soil with multiple shoots of grass growing out of each root. Some gardeners try to kill it by roto-tilling the soil, but, as I learned this week, that is a terrible mistake. Roto-tilling only chops the roots into smaller pieces, allowing each segment to grow a whole new plant. Seeing the connection to our mythological friend the Hydra yet?
I’ve spent more time than I care to think about pulling up quackgrass this week. No matter how much I pull up, there seems to always be more. But rushing through it isn’t an option. Each plant must be carefully and deliberately pulled up, keeping the whole length of the root in one piece… unless you want to be pulling up more quackgrass for the rest of eternity. And so I kneel at the edge of the garden beds, tugging on a slender root with painstaking persistence, hoping that it will just let go already and come out whole. Next to me lies a pile of lengths of quackgrass roots… a pile that hopefully foreshadows a weed-free bed. Although it’s tedious work, I have to admit that pulling out a particularly long section of root without breaking it is immensely satisfying and brings a sense of accomplishment (or perhaps I’ve just been spending too much time around weeds). As of today, I am happy to say that I’m winning the battle against the quackgrass… at least until I come back next week and discover all of the plants that I missed.
~ Serena Bacon