Oxalis in My Winter Garden Beds

I’m planting two of the garden beds this winter (Overwintering three of the beds for spring).  One is already planted, the other I just seeded.  Even though it is January, with the warm temperatures and zero rain it feels like we are already in spring.  My blueberries are flowering, the calla lilies are coming out and the daffodils are blooming.

With winter comes the dreaded oxalis weed.  An invasive weed with great phenotypic plasticity.  In other words, it grows tall when it needs to, it grows small and squat when it needs to.  It grows from bulbs or roots left in the ground.  It grows a long skinny tap root or a squat fat one.  I weeded my single planted garden bed a week ago and came back home to this after only a week.

Baby Oxalis

Baby Oxalis

Those short squat weeds in fact have deep deep tap roots and because the garlic is already growing in the bed and I want to plant baby bok choy in between I have to hand weed rather than just mulch.  This is a picture of an oxalis tap root.  They are even longer and bigger on the larger plants.  I just wanted to show you what is hidden under these tiny baby oxalis plants.

Oxalis roots

So I have weeded about half the bed pretty thoroughly, planted the baby bok choy seed, and watered.  We’ll see what comes up next weekend.

I’m not a proponent of using any chemicals or weed killers, although some people have made home made weed killer based on vinegar.  I do know that frost will kill oxalis, but here in the bay area we rarely get frost.  I wonder if a flame thrower (or creme brulee torch) will kill it.  It probably isn’t worth the expense.  You can hand weed faster than torching with less contribution to the already bad air.  One sure fire way to get rid of oxalis I have discovered is to have chickens.  My back yard is completely devoid of oxalis.  Occasionally I’ll bring the chickens to the front yard and put them under a small homemade chicken tractor and let them scratch and eat the oxalis to their hearts content.  Maybe if we do it enough they will get rid of all the little bulbs and eliminate the front yard oxalis too.

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