Give the boot to hitchhiking weeds |

Give the boot to hitchhiking weeds

JoAnne Skelly

Anyone who has ever tried to cleanse their property of tall whitetop, Russian knapweed, hoary cress, or any other noxious weeds, knows that these weeds are incredibly difficult to get rid of. It takes years, and a lot of work and money.

When people or animals work, play, or move through an area infested with noxious weeds, there is a chance for hitchhikers. Weed pieces or seeds attach to parts of clothing, vehicles, fur, hide, paws, or hooves, which allows infestations to move to new areas.

When noxious weeds spread, they displace native plants that provide food and habitat for wildlife, people, and livestock. These destructive weeds cost us money by reducing the land’s natural and agricultural productivity. They also increase maintenance costs and reduce the usefulness of the areas they infest.

An example of increased maintenance costs is the meadow at Kings Canyon owned by the city. After the Waterfall fire in 2004, Russian knapweed took over 40 acres, growing 14 inches tall in four-inch deep ash within just two weeks of the fire.

In the three years since the fire, the city has spent more than $42,000, applying chemicals and grazing goats to try to control the weed. Additional money was spent on reseeding in order to introduce desirable species to compete with the weeds.

When infestations are not managed yearly, they spread aggressively and control costs rise exponentially. Some cost estimates for the great plains states fight against leafy spurge indicate control costs for just one year were more than $100 million. Noxious weeds are never controlled in one year. It usually takes about five years to knock back an infestation.

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What can you do to prevent hitchhiking weed seeds? Check your shoes and clothing for seeds and pieces of weeds before getting in your car after hiking or camping. Inspect bicycle tires, look closely at your animals and remove all seeds from their coats, paws and hooves before transporting them from an area.

Inspect your vehicle, trailer, ATV, and other equipment as well. Remove the seeds and put them in a plastic bag for proper disposal, where they won’t reinfest an area. When using equipment such as tractors or backhoes in known weed areas, wash all equipment prior to moving it. There are washing units especially designed for this purpose and they should be used on all construction sites.

Working together and being diligent about reducing hitchhikers can reduce the spread of noxious weeds.

For information, e-mail or call me at 887-2252. You can “Ask a Master Gardener” by e-mailing or call your local University of Nevada Cooperative Extension office. Check out many useful horticulture publications at

• JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.