Kudzu or Pueraria montana var. lobata, the miracle of Japan: with its ability to retain erosion, intoxicatingly sweet grape scented blossoms, and nutritious sources of food – unknowingly became a scourge of the South after its introduction to the US in 1902 by David Fairchild. Fairchild also witnessed the killer vine’s tendency to climb anything in sight, smothering it with leaves – not permitting light to reach the plant and sheltering the soil from rains. However, by 1935 Kudzu nurseries were popping up all around America, no doubt lured by a plant so easy to propagate, and so easily to sell as a “miracle plant” to farmers.
(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on August 13, 2007)
However, the promises that caused kudzu to be so popular then, have little to do with the need to for home gardeners to remediate its growth now. And although I advocate gardening “all naturally” – I am willling to recommend pulling out the heavy chemicals to rid kudzu.
I successfully eliminated kudzu from my property over a 3-year span. It was hard work; however, with newer chemicals it is easier. The first year we moved into our home, I dug all the kudzu I could, not knowing that the tubers could grow up to 12 feet underground! I continued the digging battle that year, until a friend explained that he made a “kudzu tea” of chemical brush kill that could really knock vines out in the fall. I decided to start the fight again, the next year, as soon as the vines emerged from the ground. Each leaf was painted with a concoction of total kill and Dr. Bronners soap, which helps hold the weed killer on the resistant leaves of kudzu. This quickly killed the vines back. New vines died, older, established vines were just weakened. I continued to apply this concoction – not spraying unless I had an area I could cover totally without harming underbrush. In the fall as the vine visually began to really weaken, I treated the vines to a nice drink of tea! I mixed a new “tough vine killer” with water – to the exact recommended rates on the bottle. Then I poured some of this into a very stable bottomed container and covered the container with foil, tying it in place. Now each of these cups was dug slightly into the ground for stability. Once tea was served, I took the kudzu vine tips and smashed them raw between two bricks, just about the depth of the cup.
Smashing them reveals their fibrous interior, which acts as a straw for moisture in the vine. I stripped this area of leaves, and stuck the vine in the cup. Two days later, the cup was empty. I filled the cup again. Vines withered; died back…it was hard for me to tell if this was just fall die back, or death.
As spring blossomed the next year, kudzu did not prosper. The vines that did regrow were visibly weakened. Only one or two sprouted. They were treated in the fall to another helping of tea.
It has now been 5 years of no major kudzu invasion in my back yard. Once a vine did pop up, it was treated and the young vine died suddenly.
Kudzu monsters can be prevented from taking over the universe; it just takes time and patience!
Music, color and gardening - the three go hand in hand in my Electric Garden. I enjoy gardening organically for 12 months of the year in the South and am garden speaker and educator, coach and designer. I write about rock'n roll, vintage fashion and of course, gardening.