I’m starting this early, though I won’t post it for a few days. I don’t know what brought this to mind, beyond the fact that I was talking on my last post about my mother’s hyacinths and the fact that everyone I know (translate: Southerners I grew up with) calls daffodils “buttercups” while everyone up here in Yankee land calls them Easter Lilies. I don’t know if daffodils are actually buttercups, but I do know they are most definitely NOT Easter Lilies. (I’ve pointed this out to my poor, misinformed Yankee husband many times through the years.) Anyway, for some inexplicable reason, I find myself thinking about kudzu.
For the uninitiated and non-Southern out there, kudzu is a plant. No, it’s more than a simple plant. “Plant” is far too innocent a word to describe this thing.
Kudzuworld.com describes it thus:
What is Kudzu?
What is Kudzu you say? Its an amazing plant. So amazing that some say its an alien species. The Japanese love it, but it grows normal in Japan. In the American South it’s a predator.
- It grows more than 7 feet (more than 2 meters) meters a week. Almost nothing stops it.
- It takes 10 to 15 years to control a Kudzu patch – even with chemicals. Effective herbicides (such as napalm and agent orange) often destroy the soil. Of 12 known herbicides, 10 have no effect, and 2 make it grow better.
- Its covers more than 2.8 million square km of the American South. If it were not for winter, there would only be 40 American states. Patches often are 6+ miles (10+ kilometers) long.
- Its even been called “The vegetable form of cancer”.
Here’s a very helpful information sheet:
Gardening tips from down south – How to Grow Kudzu
by Tifton Merritt
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 neighbors 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 you.
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 which ever 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 three-bedroom house.
More helpful advice:
How fast can you run?
“God may have thrown Adam and Eve out of Eden, but kudzu chased out
What is Kudzu?
From “The American Heritage Dictionary”:
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.
Kudzu was brought to the US in 1876 during a exposition in Philadelphia for a Japanese garden exhibit. It hasn’t stopped growing since.
Advice for the newcomer to kudzu gardening.
Throw the seeds and run. Very Fast.
Kudzu tends to not need anything to help it grow, but it is sometimes a good idea to shout
“Incoming!” before planting.
I know what you’re thinking. (At least if you aren’t actually from the South and don’t have personal experience with this plant.) You’re thinking that, it’s just a plant. More than that, it’s a pretty plant with lovely green leaves and beautiful purple blooms. How could anyone disparage it!
Don’t let those deceptively pretty blooms fool you! As absurd or funny as the previous claims about kudzu are, they are far closer to the truth than you can imagine. For proof, I offer this:
Oh yes it does do that! EVERYTHING that doesn’t move on practically a daily basis gets eaten by this stuff.
There are some out there who posit an interesting theory about how and why kudzu came to be a part of this nation’s ecosystem. One theory is known as the Kudzu Conspiracy. It is far too detailed to reprint in its entirety here, but please read it and judge its merits for yourself.
Personally, I don’t know that the conspiracy goes that far. I doubt the ability of any government to maintain something this insidious and conniving for so long. I do, however, have my own suspicions about the purpose of this vine. It’s a theory that I have heard others mention, and one that I cannot help but lend at least some measure of credence to.
If you read the history of kudzu (The Amazing Story of Kudzu) you will see that it was first introduced to this country in Philadelphia in 1876. The place and timing are key! You’ll note that the place was a city located NORTH of the famous Mason/Dixon Line, which anyone knows is the line of demarcation between the North (Yankees) and the South (Rebels). And the time was 1876, a mere 11 years after the end of the War of Northern Aggression. (The Civil War for you Yankees out there.)
There is a saying that was coined near the end of the war that goes like this: “The South’s gonna rise again!” It’s a bold threat that I believe the North just could not bear to ignore! So when kudzu was put on display at the Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876, they found their answer to keeping the South under control. A simple, innocent looking little plant!
Kudzu was introduced to unsuspecting Southerners as a lovely ornamental plant, or forage for farm animals, or the perfect solution to erosion control. And Southerners being the avid gardeners that they are, they cultivated it without a second thought. (Everyone knows no Southern woman can resist a pretty flowering plant. My own mother was known to dig up all kinds of flowers from around abandoned houses just because she couldn’t bear the thought of them blooming where no one would be able to enjoy them.)
No Southerner could have known in those early days just what they were unleashing upon their beloved Dixie. By the time they figured it out and realized that they had been duped by the blasted Yankee carpetbaggers who’d sold them the evil green monster, it was too late to get it under control. Since then it has quite literally taken over the South. Southerners will never again be able to unite against the Yankee enemy because they must devote every moment of their spare time to defending their homes against the kudzu invasion.
You may be thinking that I’m just paranoid. But consider the fact that kudzu only grows in the South! No Northern city need fear its choking grip. No Yankee family will have to abandon their home and land to its incessant crawl. It is a weapon, I say, aimed at the South alone! This map proves my theory!
Call me a conspiracy nut if you want, I think my point has been made.