Reclaiming My Garden

– Posted in: Garden chores, Pests, Plagues, and Varmints, Weather, What's up/blooming
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I finally got a chance to weed my greens bed (lettuce, spinach, herbs, etc.), which needed it desperately. Looking back over my work, it looks something like a massacre of innocents, with tons of weeds piled all over the place. Well, weeds are never completely innocent. What I mostly pulled out today was some type of smartweed, which, as far as weeds go, is fairly innocent. It’s pretty easy to rip out, actually looks kind of nice, and tends to branch out from a base making it easy to make lots of noticeable difference without pulling out too many plants. In small amounts, weeds are actually kind of useful, acting sort of like a mulch and providing shade to small plants, as well. All things are good in moderation, as they say. The plants aren’t the problem; moderation is, and that is what makes a weed a weed. And smartweed is definitely a weed.

How much of a weed? Well . . . You couldn’t even see my lettuce, unless you pulled the smartweed back. My romaine was still pretty darn small, and my curly lettuce (forget the name of it right now–I just looked it up–Grand Rapids), though full sized, was really pale. Somewhere in there, there was Swiss chard.

This is what you call a Disaster. As in, my greens went into some kind of shock by the time I was finished–disturbed roots? Finally seeing the sun again? Maybe they just missed their hundreds of companions, cruelly thrown out of the bed when they were just minding their own business growing.

Part of the reason it was a Disaster was that this was only the second time I’d managed to weed the greens section. This wasn’t on purpose, honest! Now I have to give a suitable excuse to ease the guilt of extreme neglect. To keep the story short, and the post focused on gardening, let’s just say that June was a long month full of bureaucratic red tape, and anyone who’s over 18 surely must know what that’s like. In fact, taking that into account, I should be congratulated on actually getting all of my seedlings into the ground! And then, when that mess was over, we kept having 90-degree-day after 90-degree-day, and everyone knows that isn’t good for the plants. (One might point out that being drowned in weeds isn’t good for plants either, but let’s not mess up the story with irrelevant facts.) So today was finally the perfect day; it had just rained, it was still cool and cloudy with a slight breeze, and the mosquitos were not yet out in full force. So I went and weeded.

Truth be told, this is all very embarassing. I would really rather not post about it. In fact, I would rather not post at all until my whole garden once again resembled something of a garden. Or, at least, a garden for something besides Smartweed and Co. with a few weeds of vegetables and flowers thrown in by accident. But the problem is, that no one else is posting about their embarassing beds either, and that’s why they remain so embarassing. No one else is confessing to bumper crops of pig weed or wild mustard, so everyone thinks that no one else has them. But I know you’re out there somewhere! I hope to have my garden whipped into shape by August, when, hopefully, my garden will be at it’s peak. Then I can drag people up to look at it, without having to give a tour-guide spiel sounding something like “And there, if you look real hard, you can see a few snapdragons, and that one pink blossom you see is probably a cosmos. You can almost see how there are rows of plants over there–that’s broccoli. And over here–here, let me push the weeds out of the way–those are tomatoes, can you tell?” But for now, I admit it. My garden is a mess. A total and complete mess. And now, all of you people who only have a few weeds in your garden can feel better, because someone admitted to being worse. And those of you who do have disgraceful gardens, take heart. You’re not alone, even if no one else is willing to admit it. And if I, even I, can actually weed an 18 x 18 foot patch in a few hours, maybe I can actually weed the other five 18 x 18 foot patches. That, for me, is a rather encouraging thought.

By the way, speaking of weeds, I once read a discription that really stuck in my mind of where lamb’s quarters (a very common weed around here) likes to grow. The book I was looking at said that it especially liked to grow in wastelands. That seemed like such a cruel, blunt, to the point discription of what our soil is really like that I can’t seem to forget it. I used to always think of “wastelands” as places where nothing can grow. Things do grow around here–like lamb’s quarters, pig weed, smartweed, grass, dandelions and ragweed! Well, other things do grow around here, though perhaps not as spectacularly as they do in other, greener growing grounds. I don’t know know if knowing my garden is a wasteland is discouraging, because I have such terrible soil, or if it’s encourageing, because then it means that I’m such a wonderful gardener that I can make things grow, even in wastelands!

And on basil: After it looked like my basil hadn’t died after it’s low fifties/high forties experiences, I tried to remember where I’d read about it not supposing to experience tempertures lower than 60. I thought maybe the seed packet, so I went and looked. They (I’m not naming names, at the moment, because I seem to have thrown out the seed packet, and therefore there is a small margin of error that I’m not remembering the info correctly) said not to plant basil outdoors until temperatures remained above 65. Mom thinks they meant 65 during the day. What counts as day? It was only 60 when I got up this morning, but yesterday it was in the 90s. Obviously, it’s not going to get any better, though I planted my basil out a couple of weeks ago, so who really cares? But curiosity killed the cat. Now I’m dying to know just how low it can get before it stunts my plants. I know one year they all did get stunted, and despite having 30 plants, I got nil basil. But I don’t remember how cold it got that year. I know that if the plants get hit by even a light frost, they turn to a dark green slime, like cooked spinach. But I don’t know how cold is too cold, and now I wanna know!!

Some of my tomato plants now have small green tomatoes on them. . .behind everyone else’s tomatoes, I’m sure. Next year, I’m going to make sure I have early tomatoes. That is my project for next years: grow an early harvest of tomatoes. Anyone wanting to give advice can go ahead now. I’m thinking it requires a lot of potting on. It seems like if I just keep potting them on a lot, I should start getting blossoms/green tomatoes within a few weeks of actually planting them out. How often should I kept potting on my plants–maybe every two weeks? As it is, I really only start taking good care of them once they’re in the ground. First, with my wasteland soil, I dig a nice big hole and fill it up with straight compost. After planting my plants in this enriched spot, I then (usually) mulch them pretty thickly (with hay, which I’m sure is a no-no, but that’s what I have). Then, if we have a drought, those are one of those things that still gets as much water as we can spare. If it’s a really bad drought, that winds up being none. (Last year, they had so little water that when the drought broke and we got tons of water, all the tomatoes split. Darn! They were doing pretty good till then, but split tomatoes don’t keep well, especially when Mr. Rodent keeps taking bites out of things.)

The peas, at least, did well. I’m always disappointed at how short the season is for peas, but I managed to get in three good pickings before the peas sizzled up. For the last picking, my aunt who loves fresh peas came down and helped. The other dissapointing thing is how few I can eat without starting to feel a bit queasy, which was, shall we say, something my aunt forgot to keep in mind. However, she said it was definitely worth it, so I guess they were awful good peas!

Flower-wise, if you can see them, I have snapdragons, clarkia, marigolds, bachleor’s buttons, and a kind of stocks (that is just about done). I had a queer mixture, purely by accident this year, that I’m not sure whether I like or not. These really dark purple, almost black, very dramtic bachelor’s buttons were blooming right next to my very pastel, delicate stocks (which were supposed to be fragrant, but I couldn’t smell anything). It was certainly what you call a contrast, but I can’t seem to figure out if I like the way it looks, or if I keep noticing it so much because it’s a gross combination. It’s certainly eye-catching, but I think it mostly goes under the catagory of “weird.”

About the Author

Talitha spent the last few years doing an absurd combination of work and school, and found it wasn’t very pleasant. Now she’s doing work, school and a garden, and life is a little better! She also enjoys photography and hand feeding her ducks. USDA Hardiness Zone: 4 AHS Heat Zone: 3 Location: rural; Southern Tier of NY Geographic type: foothills of Appalachian Mountains Soil Type: acid clay Experience level: advanced beginner Particular interests: herbs, vegetables, cutting garden, cottage gardening

If winter is slumber and spring is birth, and summer is life, then autumn rounds out to be reflection. It’s a time of year when the leaves are down and the harvest is in and the perennials are gone. Mother Earth just closed up the drapes on another year and it’s time to reflect on what’s come before.

~Mitchell Burgess in Northern Exposure

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bill July 12, 2003, 8:11 am

You are not the only one. I really need to get out and do some weeding too. I’ve been distracted by other projects. It’s really hot here already and the weeds seem to love that