You don’t push brooms, you PULL them!
It turns out there is an upside to all the rain we’ve been having. Beyond the obvious replenishing of our reservoirs, decreased fire danger, and grateful garden plants that is. The rain has made our soils much softer…potentially problematic in regards to mudslides I admit, but where French Broom (Genista monspessulana) is concerned, the excess rain is exactly what we needed.
You might remember last November’s Broom Bashing post about how much I truly loathe this plant, and why…really, I despise it. I find Poison Oak irritating. Oxalis is a royal nuisance. Brambles and Bull Thistles are tenaciously leather-glove-piercingly thorny. French Broom though is (almost) in a league of its very own. It’s by no means the only invasive plant here, but it is by FAR the hardest to eradicate.
In the past twelve months I’ve been noticing French Broom popping up in more areas of our property. It’s a cowardly plant, often found hiding behind Miner’s lettuce, cowering beneath the Sword Ferns, and lurking amidst the monkey-flowers, attempting to evade detection. Twice a year though we make every effort to pull it, or even cut it if we have to. ANYTHING to prevent it from blooming, and setting more seed.
Sometimes I feel like I’m just giving it a minor wrist-slap…but last Friday, I donned the gloves, pushed up my sleeves, and went the full 10 rounds.
I’m sure it’s not a total knockout, but I did pull more than a thousand plants just from the hillside in the front of the house. At the end of the day I was somewhat question-mark-shaped from bending down all day, but I felt almost smug. I filled the front-loader on the tractor with plants of all sizes, an inch high, to over 4 feet. Even some of the larger plants that have been cut a few times, that refused to previously let go of the surrounding soil, were successfully terminated.
I admit, the broom did fight back once or twice, knocking me over backwards as the roots reluctantly released their grip on the soil, but a few minor bruises were worth it.
I know some people think it’s pretty, but when I see just how much of it is invading our California wild-lands, my heart absolutely sinks. Our wet winter will mean a bumper broom bloom and early seed set for this pervasive weed all over the Bay Area this spring. We have another stand behind the house that will be attacked this week, as that task has now shot to the top of my priority list, but I know it won’t be enough. In the last few years, more and more French Broom has been gradually encroaching down on the main county road. We’re even starting to see it sprout along the creek banks, and despite winning my albeit small battle on Friday, it’s clear I’m losing the war.
This problem is obviously much bigger than me. I’ll continue to wage my insignificant battles here on the home-front, pulling every plant by the roots that I can find growing here, like some crazed, deranged, obsessive-compulsive broom-butcherer. Then I’ll try experimenting with some native plants that might be able to survive in the now nitrogen-rich soils where the broom stood, in some vain attempt to find something that can out-compete this hostile invader. I have some Arroyo Lupine (Lupinus succulentus) I can transplant out. It’s worth a try.
We know we have many more rounds to go in this fight, but for as long as we’re here, we’ll never give up.
“I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.” ~Winston Churchill