Okay, so what’s wrong with this picture? Imagine a passel of lovely ladies gingerly stepping though damp fields of grass, careful not to damage their Louboutins and the like. Through our parks they swarm like models lost at New York Fashion Week. Did someone lose an earring?
Nope, friends. These fabulous females, though certainly supermodel worthy, are actually members of The Garden Club of Nashville, TN’s Weed Wrangling Team. Conceived of by this garden club, a part of The Garden Club of America, this trademarked prototype was such a smashing success in 2015 that it has spread statewide this year (Memphis is kicking up some dirt right now along with Nashville) and is expected to roll out nationally next year.
Weed Wranglers is expected to roll out nationally next year.
The white leather gloves are off, along with the heels, replaced by more suitable grubby attire. Team leaders Cayce McAlister, Laura Landstreet and Elizabeth Lamar are chief cowboys for this rodeo and are all too happy to share their knowledge, but they give credit to Steve Manning, their weed guru and president of Invasive Plant Control Inc. Cayce credits Steve with making the wheels turn.
Elizabeth, Cayce and Steve knew this event could develop strong roots, deciding it would be possible to make it much larger than a one-park event. So they began the process of trying to reach a broader market. They’re on a serious mission to ensure the natural beauty and health of their communities through communication and action. More simply put: these folks are master weeders, and they’re not afraid to get dirty. This is the ultimate “getting down to the roots of the community.”
In year one, approximately nine public parks and green spaces in Nashville participated, including Nashville’s Warner Parks, Cheekwood Botanical Garden, the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere, Bells Bend, Shelby Bottoms, Radnor Lake, Lipscomb Academy, Belmont University, Greenways for Nashville and Richland Creek Watershed Alliance and Owl’s Hill Nature Sanctuary. This year, upwards of 20 public parks and green spaces in Nashville, as well as other sites in Memphis, Knoxville and Lookout Mountain, TN, will reap the benefits of The Wrangle. Knoxville’s and Nashville’s Wrangle is March 5. Lookout Mountain’s is March 12 and Memphis’ was last month.
And so, a week from today, Wrangle participants will unite to eradicate invasive plant species in all the nooks and crannies around Music City. Weeds are tricky little buggers, often posing as good plants by looking sweet, innocent and green at first glance.
All of the cities involved this year applied for and received funding through the Garden Club of America’s Partners for Plants program, which is a joint habitat restoration program of the GCA Conservation and Horticulture committees.
We asked Steve why this program is important. He explains, “This event was developed in part to bridge the gap between land managers and the general public. Invasive species pose a serious threat to all landowners, but the educational gap has been lacking between professional land managers and private land owners. The Weed Wrangle provides a tool for bringing the two together. Our public green spaces benefit by the volunteers who participate and control invasives in their favorite parks. The private landowner benefits by learning the specifics about invasive species and the control mechanisms they can use on their own properties.”
Steve also shares a list of nine ways anyone can get in on the weeding action. Here they are:
- Learn about invasive species, especially those found in your region. Your county extension office and the National Invasive Species Information Center are both trusted resources.
- Clean hiking boots, waders, boats, trailers, off-road vehicles and other gear to stop invasive species from hitching a ride to a new location. Learn more at PlayCleanGo.org.
- Avoid dumping aquariums or live bait into waterways. Learn more at Habitattitude.net.
- Don’t move firewood. Instead, buy it where you’ll burn it, or gather on-site when permitted. Learn more at DontMoveFirewood.org.
- Use forage, hay, mulch and soil that are certified as “weed free.”
- Plant only noninvasive plants in your garden, and remove any known invaders.
- Report new or expanded invasive species outbreaks to authorities. Here is a state-by-state list of contacts.
- Volunteer to help remove invasive species from public lands and natural areas.
- Ask your political representatives at the state, local and national level to support invasive species control efforts.
Steve also has advice for the home gardener. “The first step is to consider the plants you are buying and planting in your landscape. Always look for options that are native to the area you live in. Many great native plant nurseries have begun to see success in the United States. GroWild Nursery in Fairview, TN, provides excellent choices for native plants, along with Bates Nursery in Nashville.”
He continues: “Another characteristic of Nashville properties is the row of bush honeysuckle, Chinese privet and multiflora rose that often grows along property lines. In many cases, this creates a solid, 10-foot-deep swath around a large perimeter of Nashville properties. These invasive plants inhibit the growth of our native plants and are detrimental to native wildlife. Controlling the invasives and replanting with natives can increase everything from butterflies to native wildflowers.”
When asked his favorite part of The Weed Wrangle experience, Steve points to watching what plants grow from the seed banks where the invasives have been chased off. “On one of our first projects almost 20 years ago, we removed Asian Bush Honeysuckle from the edges of Cheekwood Botanical Gardens, directly across from the Warner Parks. This bush honeysuckle had probably been there 20 years or more, and nothing else was growing underneath or around it. The next season after the removal, the state-endangered species Thicket Parsley started to come out of the seed bank. You never know what is being suppressed beneath the invasives,” he claims.
While Steve’s favorite moments from The Weed Wrangle are shared by all the team, Cayce McAlister shares her fondest memory (no, it’s not a mud fight). “My favorite moment was seeing our young female volunteers pull weeds carrying their purses,” she says. That has to be a sight to behold, indeed!
Upcoming Weed Wrangles: Knoxville and Nashville’s Weed Wrangle is March 5, 2016. Lookout Mountain’s is March 12, 2016.
To start your own weed wrangle, call Steve Manning at (615) 969-1309 or email at [email protected]. The Weed Wrangle for 2017 has already been set for Saturday, March 4. Giddyup!