I remember as a child that my mom would wake me cheerfully with the words, “Morning, Glory!” We will forget for a minute that there is never a reason to be that chipper and cheerful at 5:45. Nonetheless, that phrase combined with her effervescent personality made me think of Morning Glories as a positive thing.
What did I know; I grew up in a desert and morning glories were not a problem for us? I have since moved to East Tennessee, where they are not only a problem, they are a menace! My disdain for them is second only to kudzu.
I know that some people, for reasons I cannot imagine, grow them on purpose. I have even seen recipes for cooked morning glories, and found legions of devotees to the plant. This blog is not for them. In fact, they will probably want to hang me for suggesting the destruction of the plants. That notwithstanding, for those of us who did not plan on raising a crop of morning glories, they are a problem.
They are vigorous, invasive, will outcompete most anything and they seem to believe my corn stalks were planted as climbing trellises for them. Additionally, in their early stages they are very similar in appearance to my green beans and okra. In my early days of gardening, I cannot tell you how many of my desirable plants I have hoed down, thinking I was killing a morning glory.
In my search for control of these blasted weeds, phrases like this “You are fighting Mother Nature, which loves the plants we call weeds just as much as she loves your garden plants. Weeds are simply Nature’s darlings which have learned to out-compete other plants. Keep your hoe active, and remember that weed control is good exercise!” were small consolation. (this is actually a quote from a web page on controlling morning glories!)
At long last I have come upon some information that helps me understand my enemy, and through trial and error I have developed a method for reasonable control.
First let’s shed some light on this plant and give you some of the basics.
- The Morning Glory (Calystegia sepia) is a vine-based plant that prefers shade and fertile soil.
- Morning glories propagate in two ways: rhizomes (horizontal underground stems) and seeds.
- Seeds from one flowering morning glory can remain viable in the soil for up to 5 years.
- The tend to build up in the flanks of your garden, then invade the heart of the garden.
- They are heavy foliage producers. This allows them to produce and store abundant sugars for energy through photosynthesis in their roots.
Why your current methods of control may not be working:
- Their propagation method makes them very hard to control. If you seek to pull them up, till them, or hoe them out before they flower and seed you are only controlling one method. However, be pulling on them, you are breaking their flexible roots allowing the rhizomes to send of more shoots. If you hoe or till them you are chopping the rhizomes into pieces and each one of those pieces, even small ones, are capable of developing a new plant.
- Even if you could successfully remove the plants so that the rhizomes were not an issue, their seeds remain viable for up to 5 years so you will have to remain diligent for a protracted period of time to gain success. Even one slip up, or taking a vacation where the plants can flower and produce seed will serve as a setback.
- You can remove the leaves so that you interrupt photosynthesis which will weaken it. However, since they have such an extensive underground network of roots and rhizomes, the sugar you rob from a plant in one part of the garden can be replaced by stores of energy in a plant tens of feet away.
Given their hardiness and the survival mechanism that nature has built into these survivors, how can you control them. One way is to exclude the plant from seeing the light of day. That is, by using carpet, cardboard, layers of newspaper, or turf to shade out the plant completely. This process will usually take a full growing season, but it is effective. Because it takes a season, if you garden regularly like I do, it may not always be practical. One solution is to rotate your garden. Take your larger garden plot and subdivide it into two or three sections. Garden intensively in one section, while the other remains fallow. (If you do this, use a cover crop like barely, clover, or a legume as a ‘green manure’.)
The other method, and this is the one I use, is the use of a labeled herbicide.
2, 4-D is very good BUT it will also volatize (rise up in the atmosphere) and hover with morning fog and dew. Once it does that, it will settle on plants you did not wish to kill and will cause damage if not destruction of your desirable plants. For the sake of your other garden plants and for your neighbors, even area farm crops (there have been proven cases of 2, 4-D volatizing and ‘walking’ on fog up to 2 miles from the point where it was applied. This is a big problem in my area where cattlemen use it to control pasture weeds and tomato growers occupy the same county. Complete fields of tomatoes have been wiped out by this product because of its use by a neighbor.)
My herbicide of choice is glyphosate, brand name is round-up, but there are less expensive generics out there. Glyphosate is a ‘take-all’ or complete herbicide. It will kill anything it touches, even your valuable plants so you must be careful. However, here are some tips:
- It goes without saying, but read and follow the label. DO NOT increase the dosing instructions on the label. It is unnecessary, it can provide unwanted effects, and is expensive.
- Adjust your spray nozzle to a stream rather than a mist. This will reduce the likelihood that you will have problems with overspray from your intended weeds to your desirable plants.
- Never spray when the wind is above 5 miles per hour. In my area, that usually means spraying early in the morning or late in the evening.
- Spray in the morning because the temperatures are cooler and the pores in the plant are open and receptive to liquids. By the heat of the day, to keep from drying out, the plant shuts down making them almost impenetrable.
- Tie a sock or small piece of a rag over the end of the spray nozzle. This will allow you to wet the cloth with the herbicide and then ‘wipe’ the product on the leaves. This still provides good weed control but keeps the product off of neighboring plants.
- Use Monty’s NanoBoost. By mixing one ounce of NanoBoost per acre with the proper rate of glyphosate, you can increase the effectiveness by allowing more of the product to get into the plant. It will also help more of it reach the root system so that you are controlling the visible climbing weed as well as the underground network of roots and rhizomes.
- It usually takes about 2 weeks for glyphosate to work. (A bit less time with NanoBoost added). During this time, you still will want to remove the foliage and/or flowers form any viable plants to keep them from reproducing and to further weaken them until the herbicide has time to take effect. You may need to repeat this process a couple of times throughout the growing season. Once the canopy closes between the rows, you can let up a bit because not as many of the morning glories will become viable.
By following this plan, I have not gained complete control, yet. But after two years, my morning glory problem is only about 10% as bad as that of my neighbors. Be diligent and you will gain the upper hand.
Read more about Monty’s NanoBoost, here. You can find it at your local farm store, or by calling Monty’s Directly.