Weed Problems

Well, this is Colorado after all…  

My wife Stormy and I have an uneasy relationship with weeds on our lot here in Southern Gables. The back yard drops off into a largely untamed hillside. I call it our “Colorado Native Vegetation Laboratory.” Many of our spring and early summer mornings are devoted to pulling the weeds we don’t like. The ones we like, they stay. At different times of the year our “good weeds” include pretty yellow and purple flowers, and grasses with lots of shades of green, sage, and gold. There are spiky yucca plants and stands of prairie grass that wave in the breeze like amber waves of grain. The plants we don’t like include massive prickly Scotch thistles (No offense, Great-Grandpa MacDonald) and big, bushy, seedy green plants – curly dock, I think – that we almost eradicated two or three years ago but they regrouped for a new attack and came back in force. Over the last month or so our weekly output for the trash pickup has been large enough for me to feel conscience-bound to put out a tip for the trash man. 

Some of these plants are invasive, noxious, and determined to beat us. On my wild hillside, I’m sad to say, a few varieties of these lowlifes are winning. These include field bindweed and cheatgrass. While Stormy and I have been uprooting and carrying out armloads of unruly, bulky, waist-high undesirables, these ground-huggers have been proliferating under our feet. It seems to be a losing battle. 

Our neighbor Kristen De Lay, an expert gardener and environmental advocate, has written before about our local ecology. This is an excerpt from an article she wrote in 2020, just the parts about these two nemeses. (I have been waiting to use that word since missing it in a fourth grade spelling bee.)  Even though bindweed has pretty whte flowers, and cheatgrass looks nice as a ground cover, I know they don’t belong here. It’s tempting to say I’ve done enough weed-pulling for this season, but would my guilty conscience haunt me?  Could I let it go and think it doesn’t matter?  I defer to Kristen’s knowledge and wisdom on these questions. Here’s the expert opinion. 

Stop the Invasion

By Kristen De Lay

Invasive species of plants can be trees, vines, perennials and even grasses that are not native to our region. They don’t have natural predators (animals or bugs) that help control them, are resistant to disease and are able to spread at an alarming rate…. Cheatgrass and Field Bindweed are,,, considered noxious weeds by Colorado.

Why Should I be Concerned?

The primary reason we should be concerned is because these species take up space normally occupied by native plants or they are stronger and take over the plants. This displacement reduces food sources and habitats of our native bugs and animals, essentially adding to their decline. 


As you can see by its name, Cheatgrass is a grass. It is also known as Downy Brome. In my  picture you can see both Cheatgrass and bindweed. It is one of the first grasses to turn green and by July, it has turned to a reddish or straw color and is beginning to drop its seeds. It is also highly flammable when dry.  Cheatgrass is very common around our neighborhood and I am constantly pulling it in my own yard. The seeds are very prolific and can even get stuck in animal fur and be easily carried to different locations. It is very easy to pull as the roots are shallow (wear gloves!), so if you see it, pull it and also throw this guy in the trash.  Here’s a video on this one from Colorado Yard Care that provides great information:

Field Bindweed

Field Bindweed is rampant in our neighborhood and it is really hard to control. Their root systems can grow up to 20 feet deep into our yards and their seeds are viable for 40 years! Here’s a great Bindweed resource where I gathered this data from the Colorado Dept. of Agriculture.

In my yard, I try hard not to use herbicides like Roundup; however I did use it on this. But, it didn’t work! The Bindweed kept coming back. In my research, I have consistently read that pulling it when you see it, over and over and over again is the best way to eradicate it from your yard. It’s blooming now (June), so I’m regularly out hunting for it in my yard. If you can pull it before it develops its long root systems, it’s also a great win. Here’s a picture of what it looks like as a baby.

[In 2023] Last summer, I actually tried the bindweed mites that only eat bindweed, helping to biologically control the plant. I purchased the mites through the Colorado Department of Agriculture and received several strands of mite covered bindweed where I was instructed to wrap them around my existing bindweed, in a small area of my yard. It’s too early to say if it has worked, as it can take 2-3 years (yes, years!) to see if they make a difference. That’s a long time, but my bindweed isn’t likely to disappear any other way. Learn more about how to order your own mites by visiting the Colorado Department of Agriculture website. You have to order well in advance (probably a year) and they are shipped in a cooler. Once you receive them, you’ll need to quickly apply them to your own bindweed. The bugs are so tiny that you really can’t see them. I think I only paid about $35 or so, if you’re up for the experiment and have a great amount of patience. Note: If you go this route, don’t also spray the bindweed area with herbicides, as you’d probably kill the bugs. [Update, 2024: I can’t tell if they have done anything.]

Be an Advocate for Removal

Jefferson County Invasive Species Management has some great educational information related to all noxious and invasive species around our area. I highly recommend that you utilize them when you have questions related to weeds. They have a lot of great information and really care about our area. Another great resource is the Colorado Weed Management Association.

Kristen De Lay is an avid gardener with a special interest in native plants and creating wildlife habitats. She is a member and volunteer for the Colorado Native Plant Society and also participates in our Sustainable Southern Gables group. She and her family have lived in Southern Gables since 2016.

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