Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Getting Rid of Ragweed: Hand-Pulling Seems to Pay Off in the Champs des Possibles

Ragweed season is upon us, but the pesky allergy-causing weed may not be so big a problem in the neighborhood this year because of an interesting initiative by the folks who are trying to reclaim disused land along the railroad tracks for an urban park.

You'll remember that the group Champs des possibles and others from Mile End have installed behives and done some guerilla gardening in the space, which was recently acquired by the City of Montreal.

Last year the area was mowed just about now, in an attempt to cut back the ragweed before the plants began sending their wind-born pollen everywhere. A mass of other flowers also disappeared--chicory, Queen Anne's lace, golden rod, clover--along with the noxious weeds. To head off a similar event this year, three weeks ago volunteers spread out and hand-pulled nearly all the ragweed in the area. They aimed to leave about 10 per cent of the plants, since a variety of insects feed on them and birds you'd like to have around feed on the bugs.

This morning I walked through the fields to check things out. The flowers were there in force, but I saw very little ragweed--mostly along a couple of meter-wide paths that had been mowed. It appears to be a very interesting project. Certainly, the bees which were buzzing around the hive seemed content to have such a wide variety of flowers.

Photo: Ragweed from the University of Massachusetts. Note the inconspicuous flower, which means that pollen is spread by the wind, not insects or birds. It's the tiny size of the pollen grains that cause the problem as they get inhaled and irritate.

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