In the early summer when I took possession of the orchard, I saw a plant growing in various areas around the grounds that I had never seen before. It had pretty shaped leaves so I decided to let it go for a while and see what it would look like when it got bigger. Big, and bigger mistake! It literally turned into a dense jungle next to the barn that was so thick you could not walk through it and the plants grew to be 12-15 feet tall. They literally engulfed the entire side of the barn. I decided I had to find out what it was. Much to my dismay, after doing some research, I found out it was giant ragweed. Giant is right. And after reading up on it, it is apparently the bane of every farmer’s existence in this area. One farmer wrote that it could not be destroyed even by the most powerful farm machinery. After reading that, I wondered if I even stood a chance at conquering this foe.
I had never seen ragweed like this before, but I did know that a great many people are allergic to ragweed, and since this was going to be a public place for my bed and breakfast guests to enjoy, it had to go! I also knew it was about to flower and go to seed, and my reaction to that thought was, “oh hell no.” As summer continued on, the giant ragweed was taking over entire hillsides and acres. It was a battle I immediately knew could not be won in a single season, so I had to prioritize which areas I could make a dent in that were the most necessary to do so.
Trying to Control Giant Ragweed:
After spending literally days cutting down ragweed that had stalks up to 2 inches in diameter with a tree branch trimmer, I had barely made a dent in it. I went after the smaller stalks of younger ragweed with my new, amazing, Stihl weed wacker which can handle stalks up to about an inch in diameter and say, “give me more”. The bigger stuff had to be cut by hand, one stalk at a time, and there were approximately 20-30 stalks per square foot of this prolific and extremely invasive weed threatening to take over my entire orchard if let go to seed. It was a massive, thick jungle next to the barn making it’s way down the hill and starting to establish itself in the orchard and vegetable garden area. THAT I was not going to let happen.
It took me three solid days of cutting to get rid of the thickest patch of ragweed alongside the barn and to try to reduce the numbers in the orchard. Every time I went for a walk and came across a ragweed plant, I saw red and went after it, tearing it up by the roots if possible, and cutting it down if not. After about a month of this insanity, I realized I was probably beating my head against a brick wall by even thinking I could stop this intruder from taking over the entire grounds.
The funny thing was, after I slowed down my military efforts against the weed, I stumbled on an article saying that this much-hated weedy adversary actually has a positive attribute. The seeds are a very good source of protein that chickens especially like. If I had a mind to, I could harvest the seeds for a very good plant protein source.
Now I had a conundrum.
Since I was planning to start chickens the following spring, should I let the ragweed go for feed for the chickens or continue my seemingly hopeless attempt to eradicate it? I ultimately decided it still had to be controlled because it was in danger of engulfing the entire property if I let it. However, it was too daunting of a task to accomplish in one summer. So, I tackled the biggest, thickest patch, and the infestations closest to the bed and breakfast guest house, and decided it would require the least amount of hard, physical labor if I let the rest go until next spring and was diligent from that time forward of just mowing it down and pulling it where I could. At least I had a plan of attack. It was all I could hope to attain. The giant ragweed kicked my butt once it was allowed to take over the entire property by the previous owners who obviously didn’t weed at all.