Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Hopeful Farmer - the Japanese Knotweed edition

    Here on Rivendell Farm we have inherited Japanese Knotweed.
 To inherit this means you have been given a never ending supply of it.  This invasive plant was imported to the US from Great Britain, after having arrived there in 1825 from Japan for use as an ornamental garden plant.  It has its ornamental side, and the flowers are well liked by bees, but just try to keep it in a garden! Like bamboo, which it resembles in height and segmented stems, knotweed  sends rhizomes underground, forming a dense web of roots which all have the potential for sending up more shoots.  Any bit of root left in the ground can start the entire growing process.  It is difficult, if not impossible to eradicate this plant. In Japan it has fungus and  animals which keep it in check, but this is not the case in its new host countries.  In the UK there are actual laws about it - if it is in your property, you must report it, and work on getting rid of it.  It will creep up through  your lawn, through pavement - and there are documented instances in the UK of it growing up through the foundation and into people's houses!
working its way into the lawn

Apparently there are chemicals (Roundup) that can help - but even with cutting and applying these chemicals to the cut off plant, it can take three or four years to kill it - and EVERY stem must be treated!  Every time it is cut back, it has to work harder to come back to full height.  Cows will graze on it, I am told, as will goat (but only under duress).  I want neither chemicals nor cows, so I am working on other ways to control it.
     Ater two afternoons of cutting out a five foot section of the invader, and disturbing  a bird with nestlings

(a problem when changing the habitat - even if it is to remove invasives), I decided I needed a different approach.
A very distressed bird

the reason for her great distress
     Knotweed is hollow, and very fibrous.
 Although I have taken a few year hiatus from it, I have been making paper for quite some time, and why not try this "weed" as a fiber source for it?  Being a plant that is very sturdy, I am trying different ways of breaking it down to get to the fiber.  I gathered a bunch of the dead stalks from last year, chopped them up and started soaking them in a bucket.
really nice fibers, once I remove the pith
 I also took some of the newly chopped stalks and did the same.  I suspect both methods will work, with a great deal of time for the rotting process.  I will also try to more expedient method of  boiling some of the new stalks, some with  soda ash, some without.  I'll keep you posted on how it goes.  The outside of the  stalks are green with a purply red streaking - I wonder if I can make dye from it?  hmm...
     Knowing how long this process may take, I am looking at other  methods of using this plant - like eating it.  I have eaten it very young, it is like s lemony asparagus - very nice - but my stand is too woody at this point.  So I have been looking at other ways to fix it.  Apparently if I peel it then boil it and puree it, I can use some of the mature stalks.  I have found recipes for pies (and I do make a mean pie!)  and crumbles, as well as savory methods of serving it. It is supposed to be a healthy tea, if made from the roots.  I tried this - it tasted rather like dirt - and honey did not help that much.  I think boiling the stalk itself for a lemony tea may be the better course of action.  I will keep experimenting and researching.  So if you come to my house for dinner, do not be surprised if it is on the menu!
knotweed root

Japanese knotweed root tea -