Date: Tue, 24 Oct 95 21:12:27 -0700
From: Peter Langston <psl>
Subject: Kudzu anyone?
[If you already know what kudzu is you can skip down to the main section:
"Gardening Tips from Down South"... -psl]
Kudzu (kood'zoo) n. A vine, Pueraria lobata, native to Japan, having
compound leaves and clusters of reddish purple flowers and grown for
fodder and foliage.
-- The American Heritage Dictionary
Kudzu was introduced to Georgia earlier this century in an attempt to
provide improved fodder for cattle. It worked ALL TOO WELL. Cattle do love
kudzu, but not nearly as much as kudzu loves Georgia. Georgia provides
nearly ideal climate and growing conditions for this rapid growing and
hardy perennial (that's "hardy" as in calling nuclear weapons "explosive").
People have been known to leave home on vacation down here only to return
a week later to find cars and other LARGE objects buried under its lush
greenery. It climbs telephone poles and crosses wires. Its eradication is
a major expense to utility companies. The City of Atlanta has used
bulldozers to dig up the tubers in vacant lots. It's resistant to most
"safe" chemicals although 2,4,D has some effect if used frequently enough.
It's sometimes called "yard-a-night" down here because that's how fast it
seems to grow. The only question seems to be whether the "yard" referred
to is that of "3 feet" or that of "front and back". Rumor has it that some
of the roads in the more rural areas don't get enough traffic and will be
covered by kudzu after a long holiday weekend.
It is a very pretty vine in early spring and summer. Its broad leaves and
flowers are quite attractive until you start to realize that the dead stick,
that it's sunning itself on, used to be a huge pine tree. In the winter,
the first hard frost turns kudzu into tons of ugly brown leaves and thick
vines. It becomes a real eyesore and possibly a fire hazard although I
haven't heard of any actual kudzu fires. The plant regrows new vines from
the ground up every year, so you can see its growth rate must be phenomenal.
I understand that the Japanese make a highly regarded form of tofu from
kudzu tubers. It is supposed to be prized for its nutty flavor (soy tofu
is rather bland). The Japanese cannot produce enough to meet their own
demand and think we're NUTS for trying to eliminate it. I haven't been able
to confirm this use for kudzu, but, if true, they may well be right. We've
got plenty of hungry people and LOTS of kudzu!
The existence of kuzu in a neighborhood has been known to, adversely, affect
property values. The threat of planting kudzu in someone's yard is
generally considered an extreme case of "fightin' words", potentially
followed by "justifiable homicide". Regardless, you can still obtain kudzu
seeds from several major seed companies who list it as a "hardy ornamental
perennial". If understatement was a crime they'd be history.
Gardening Tips from Down South
How to Grow Kudzu
All you beginning gardeners out there might want to consider growing kudzu
as a fine way to launch out into the great adventure of gardening in the
south. Kudzu, for those of you not already familiar with it, is a hardy
perennial that can be grown quite well by the beginner who observes these
few simple rules:
Choosing a Plot:
Kudzu can be grown almost anywhere, so site selection is not the problem it
is with some other finicky plants like strawberries. Although kudzu will
grow quite well on cement, for best result you should select an area having
at least some dirt. To avoid possible lawsuits, it is advisable to plant
well away from your neighbor's house, unless, of course, you don't get along
well with your neighbor anyway.
Preparing the Soil:
Go out and stomp on the soil for a while just to get its attention and to
prepare it for kudzu.
Deciding When to Plant:
Kudzu should always be planted at night. If kudzu is planted during
daylight hours, angry neighbors might see you and begin throwing rocks at
Selecting the Proper Fertilizer:
The best fertilizer I have discovered for kudzu is 40 weight non-detergent
motor oil. Kudzu actually doesn't need anything to help it grow, but the
motor oil helps to prevent scraping the underside of the tender leaves when
the kudzu starts its rapid growth. It also cuts down on the friction and
lessens the danger of fire when the kudzu really starts to move. Change
oil once every thousand feet or every two weeks whichever comes first.
Mulching the Plants:
Contrary to what may be told by the Extension Service, kudzu can profit from
a good mulch. I have found that a heavy mulch for the young plants produces
a hardier crop. For best results, as soon as the young shoots begin to
appear, cover kudzu with concrete blocks. Although this causes a temporary
setback, your kudzu will accept this mulch as a challenge and will reward
you with redoubled determination in the long run.
Organic or Chemical Gardening:
Kudzu is ideal for either the organic gardener or for those who prefer to
use chemicals to ward off garden pests. Kudzu is oblivious to both
chemicals and pests. Therefore, you can grow organically and let the pests
get out of the way of the kudzu as best they can, or you can spray any
commercial poison directly on your crop. Your decision depends on how much
you enjoy killing bugs. The kudzu will not mind either way.
Many gardeners are understandably concerned that growing the same crop year
after year will deplete the soil. If you desire to change from kudzu to
some other plant next year, now is the time to begin preparations. Right
now, before the growing season has reached its peak, you should list your
house and lot with a reputable real estate agent and begin making plans to
move elsewhere. Your chances of selling will be better now than they will
be later in the year, when it may be difficult for a prospective buyer to
realize that underneath those lush green vines stands an adorable
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© 1995 Peter Langston