What’s Up? Dock!

– Posted in: Miscellaneous

From this space, roughly five feet wide by six feet deep . . . Image of site of future hydrangea. . . I dug out all these dock roots (that’s a 15-inch ruler) . . . image of dock roots next to ruler to show lengthplus this wagon full of rocks . . .image of children's wagon full of rocksplus these additional weed roots, mostly goldenrodImage of pile of weed roots

This time of year, when the soil is saturated from snowmelt and spring rain, is the only time I have any hope of extracting dock roots in something close to their entirety. They put dandelion roots to shame in terms of length and sheer tenacity. I have seen dandelion roots as long, but they are usually growing in good soil and are easier to pull, assuming, of course, that you have loosened the soil with a garden fork first. That’s why dandelions get their difficult reputation, I’m convinced–because people are trying to pull them out of the lawn without disturbing the surrounding sod. I always loosen the soil around a tap-rooted weed with the fork first, and I grasp it below the crown. If it doesn’t come out with a slow but steady pull, I move more dirt away from it and have another go with the fork.

I didn’t really give this area a thorough digging. I just raked the leaves from one spot, dug up all the dock I could find, and then repeated the process until I had gone over the whole area. I’m sure I missed some, and I know there’s more goldenrod. Just after I finished, the UPS man pulled up, quite late for him, and handed me my Fedco shrub order, which has the hydrangea in it, as well as 5 winterberries.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

If winter is slumber and spring is birth, and summer is life, then autumn rounds out to be reflection. It’s a time of year when the leaves are down and the harvest is in and the perennials are gone. Mother Earth just closed up the drapes on another year and it’s time to reflect on what’s come before.

~Mitchell Burgess in Northern Exposure

Comments on this entry are closed.

Carol July 6, 2007, 7:04 am

I can not believe all those rocks you dug up!

Susan May 10, 2006, 9:48 pm

re: Judy’s query about considering dock a vegetable

The National Gardening Association’s Weed Library has an entry describing curly dock (Rumex crispus) as “a hardy perennial weed found in most American gardens that is anchored by a branched taproot. New green leaves that emerge in spring often are tinged with red. The young leaves are edible but become bitter when warm weather arrives. A tall seed stalk appears in summer. If left alone, a healthy dock plant can shed 40,000 seeds, which remain viable for years. …” (Yikes!) It fails to address the question of how edible the roots might be.

Edibles in the Park (a Fit Magazine article by naturalist Steve “Wildman” Brill), though favoring the young leaves and flower stalks, hints that the roots might be best discarded: “The highly nutritious, lemony flavored young leaves are excellent raw or cooked in early spring, as are the leaves on the flower stalk and the peeled flower stalk in mid-spring. People boil the long yellow taproot and drink the bitter tea to detoxify and to help liver or skin ailments.”

Susan May 10, 2006, 9:36 pm

That Komodo Dragon hosta Jenn found is quite the plant ~ 7 feet wide? and blue, too?

I saw a lovely little hosta this weekend at the garden shop, and near the other end of the size spectrum, that went by the name “blue mouse ear”. Very neat and dainty, and smooth in texture, rather than ridged.

Kathy Purdy April 24, 2006, 5:55 am

I don’t recall the post you are referring to, but golly, what a hosta!

jenn April 23, 2006, 9:30 pm

Not related to this post, but you have mentioned in the past that you wished for some big-leaved drama plants for your garden (the topic at hand, I believe, was gunnera…)

I found this that might interest you.

Alice Nelson April 13, 2006, 9:00 am

The one weed I believe might be more insideous is Aegopodium or Bishop’s Weed. Not only does it have roots, but it has rhizomes that can run for many feet and deeply. It seems to be impervious to Roundup (naughty word?) One area of our town is totally infested with it including wooded areas and they can’t get rid of it. In one planting we put in on a hillside we found the rhizomes 3 feet down. One inch long piece of rhizome we found later was already sprouting. The variegated variety is not quite as bad as the green. It might be useful as a groundcover on the north side of a building AWAY form any gardens. It is advertised in catalogs, so beware.

Kathy Purdy April 13, 2006, 6:43 am

Cyndy: thank you for considering the physical repercussions! My back was fine, but my left knee hurts. My left leg is the one I use to push the fork into the stiff clay soil.

M Sinclair Stevens: I’ve always thought honesty was the best policy. I want to get across the idea that one’s garden doesn’t have to be perfect to give you pleasure. Did you see this post of Angela’s?

Zoey: It was satisfying. I just hope I got them all, because the shrub goes in today.

Judy: After you tried to get me to think of them as vegetables, I went out and weighed the roots. My “yield” was one and a half pounds.

Kathy Purdy April 13, 2006, 6:33 am

Ro: According to this link, French sorrel is Rumex acetosa and I’ve been pulling out Rumex obtusifolius, so they are the same genus, different species. Nevertheless, the information at the link I gave you describes it as a vigorous perennial plant. It sounds to me like once you have it, it’s going to hang around. Also, there is another plant called red sorrel that is Rumex acetosella, and this is most definitely a weed, though it does have lemony leaves.

RO April 12, 2006, 8:22 pm

Happy Birthday, Kathleen (Kathy to all of you). I am thrilled your “Endless Summer” has arrived. I hope it is everything that you hoped for. Is rumex the same as sorrel? I was going to plant some red sorrel, but now you are making me think twice.

Zoey April 12, 2006, 5:44 pm

It looks like you had a very rewarding day of accomplishment! I always feel good after a long dig for a tap root that comes out in its entirety.

M Sinclair Stevens (Texas) April 12, 2006, 11:06 am

Inspiring photos. This is the getting-your-hands-dirty, real world view of gardening that you never see in fancy magazines. Gardeners, hoe!

cyndy April 12, 2006, 7:20 am

Ugh!….how is your back feeling? You remind me to take advantage of this time of year to dig up a nasty burdock down at the roadside. It has been getting bigger every year…and I hate the seed heads….

Kathy Purdy April 11, 2006, 9:29 pm

Well, I am talking about dock (Rumex obtusifolius) and Gobo is Arctium lappa. Furthermore, the burdock around here is Arctium minus, but that didn’t stop my Japanese friends from digging it up and eating it. I guess I’d try it as a vegetable if someone else did the work of digging it up and preparing it. We have a little bit of spotted knapweed in our field, but it doesn’t show up much in my garden beds. My Weeds of the Northeast says it likes dry soil, which we don’t have much of here.

Judy Miller April 11, 2006, 9:00 pm

No hope of turning your mind to considering it Gobo, then, and a vegetable, is there?

If you had knapweed, you’d rather like dock. It at least doesn’t poison the soil for anything else (knapweed is allelopathic as well as taprooted).

I always sort of enjoy the frost-heave weeding, esp. dandelions as they’re sitting there, proud of the ground, ready to be yanked.