COUNTY'S WEEDS A GROWING PROBLEM
As the director of vegetation management for Union County, Gary Dade has been on the job for 14 years.
In that time, he has never seen so many weeds, so early in the year.
"I'm shocked," he says. "I've already seen scotch thistle, knapweed, leafy spurge. The knapweed's already forming rosettes. It's a good month early."
His kids joke about job security. And although he appreciates the humor, weeds are a serious subject for Dade.
"People need to be aware. The weeds are going to take off once it warms up," he cautions.
Even though some weeds may look pretty to the eye, noxious weeds are non-native plant species with no natural predators to keep them in check.
"Meadow knapweed, for example, was brought to this country from the Mediterranean," Dade says.
Non-native species will continue to grow unchecked choking out all native plants and grasses in their path.
Some studies are showing that introducing the weed's natural predators (insects) have had some good results in controlling their spread, Dade says.
For the general public, however, Dade suggests landowners be aware of what is growing on their property and how fast it spreads.
In Indian Valley north of Elgin, for example, knapweed was growing at a rate of 100 acres per day a few years ago.
Thanks to increased public awareness and grant funds Dade was able to obtain two years in a row to provide pesticides to landowners, that growth has slowed but not stopped.
There is still work to be done.
"Go ahead and spray your weeds, even if it's cold right now. It takes longer to kill them in weather like this but be patient They will die," he says.
Dade believes a mild winter has caused the early growth and a warm wet spring will provide continued optimum growing conditions.
This last week's moisture is also good for weeds.
"Water makes the weeds grow," he says just like any other plant.
The key to control, he repeats, is awareness and early spraying.