When You are Given Lemons, Make Lemonade

by Ted Farnworth

Since my arrival as a volunteer at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden, not a day has gone by when someone doesn’t make mention of dog-strangling vine or DSV. I must admit it took me a day or so to realize that dog strangling vine = DSV = swallowwort. Why, I am not sure.

Usually, the reference to DSV is in a sentence such as “We’ve got to do something about that @$@#%% DSV. Well actually, I never have heard any of the very polite volunteers use the word @$@#%%, but you know what I mean.

In spite of many past efforts, by the end of the season, many parts of the garden are buried in DSV. Literally buried. As a way of giving the appearance of doing something, many volunteers including me have cut back the thick vines in an attempt to let other things grow. This approach may have some merit. What it does do is generate a tonne – that’s the metric unit for a whole bunch – of hacked up DSV vines, some with mature seed pods. The standard operating procedure has been to pile the cut vines up. This avoids moving them any great distance, which would spread the seed.  But there has always been the question of whether we should be composting the cut vines. If the composting is done at a high enough temperature and under the right conditions, the vegetation and the seeds should be decomposed to harmless yet useful compost.

It was Tony D who suggested that we try an extreme composting experiment using a black sealed composter – a separate barrel for DSV so that we don’t cross-contaminate other compost. Black to help keep the interior hot using sunlight and sealed to accelerate the decomposition. So that is what we are going to try.

We have purchased a black plastic barrel that we will fill only with cut DSV, let it cook in the sun, agitate it as required, and, if we are lucky, in the end we will have turned our dreaded enemy into growth promoting compost. The skull and cross bones painted on the side is a signal to all DSV that we are taking no prisoners. Cross our path and into the barrel you go!

Perhaps we can find a use for this unwanted intruder.



2 thoughts on “When You are Given Lemons, Make Lemonade

  1. yes, I walk through the FWG daily and have wondered about the dog strangling vine and stopped one day to have a conversation about it with one of the volunteers, probably you! I also am horrified by the size and robust health of the burr plants down the paved hillside!!!

  2. Hi Barb, Thanks for the feedback. It’s really encouraging to know that people use the garden, despite the dog-strangling vine. We’ve been doing battle with DSV for many years and are actually looking forward to the release of a beetle that we hope will help us control it. Scientists have been working to identify a biological control agent, as they are called, and there is hope. This method worked for purple loosestrife, after all.

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