Hasn't it been a good year for Acer seedlings?
All of my gardens are suffering a plague of the dratted things! Whether it's the more common Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) or the less frequent Norway Maple (Acer platanoides) they are popping up all over the place.
In one garden with a rather old patio, I pulled up over a thousand in one go. Well, to be honest, I lost count briefly in the mid 700s so it might be plus-or-minus forty or so, but however you count it, that's an awful lot of seedlings. And in the following weeks, there were still more to be pulled up!
As for the lawns, they appear to have hundreds of tiny green parasols all over them: but at least all you have to do with those ones, is to run the mower over them and shazaam! they are gone.
So lawns are easy peasy, patios are hard work on the back but very simple to do; but what about the rest of the garden? What about the flowering borders? Well, if you find seedlings in the lawn and/or the patio, you can bet your boots there will be seedlings in the beds as well, so now is a good time to take a careful tip-toe stroll through the borders.
The daffodils are dying down, so you don't have to worry about trampling them: and the herbaceous plants are growing strongly enough that you can see where they are, but not so big that you can't put your feet down between them: it's the perfect time. Best of all, with the recent rain, the ground has softened so that you can pull them out quite easily.
And pull them out you must: don't chop them off at ground level - this only works in lawns because it is done before they have developed a proper root. If you wait until they are ankle high and THEN chop them off, they will regrow from the stump. I use my favourite tool, the Daisy Grubber, to lever them out with the minimum damage to surrounding plants, and I can assure you that I am digging them out by the hundred this year.
Not sure if what you have are Acer seedlings, or something lovely?
Well, they rarely appear singly, but will usually be in a clump - sometimes, in a very dense cluster of half a dozen all growing together.
The first pair of leaves (the cotyledons, to be botanically correct) are long, thin and narrow, with untoothed edges, and are very deceiving, as they don't look the least bit like a tree of any sort, so they are easily overlooked.
The second pair of leaves are miniature, pointed and dainty: elegantly shaped with neat teeth on the margins, and shortly after they arrive, the long thin leaves drop off. These new leaves still don't look as though they would ever grow into a hulking great Sycamore. However, take your eye off them and suddenly you have stout calf-height stems with what are clearly Sycamore (or Norway Maple) leaves, and at that point they are difficult to dig out, as they have sent down long strong tap roots. This is the point at which it is vital not to cheat and merely chop them off!
Acers are not the only trees to do this - Lime (Tilia) are little devils in the same way - but this year does appear to be an exceptional year for them.
Whatever you do, don't give up and just leave them, otherwise you will shortly find that you are living in the dense shade of a Sycamore forest!