The unseasonably mild weather has prompted me to start in on garden clean-up. And since the garden was untended for at least a year, there is a lot of cleaning up to do. This was what the garden looked like last year in early June, the first time we went to see the house we now live in:
And this is what it looks like now, from the left corner of the first photo:
This garden is edged with round rocks.
I have just pulled sod off the tops of the rocks in the above photo. The bare earth is on the lawn side of the edging. All the grass you see? That’s growing inside the garden, on top of, and sometimes through, the peonies. You can see one peony shoot in the picture, and there’s more underneath. Furthermore, the peonies are coming up through the rocks. The rocks have got to go. They are easy to remove. The weeds have got to go. Removing them is a more delicate, and therefore more difficult, operation.
At first, after removing the rocks, I just grabbed the grass and other weeds with my fingers, trying to get my fingers down under the roots before pulling up. Because the earth is so saturated, this sometimes worked. But often, I just pulled up the leaves, leaving the roots behind to cause trouble later. And I often snapped off peony shoots as I pulled.
“If I could only get my finger a little further under those roots, I could get them out!” I thought. Then I remembered my friend describing her CobraHead Weeder as a giant fingernail. I went rooting around in the garden shed to find mine. And you know what? It did work just like a giant finger. Here’s a typical weed overgrowing a peony. (I think it’s an aster.)
I would first do a little exploring with my own finger, getting under the roots. Then I would insert the CobraHead, like so:
The trick is to position the flat part of the blade so it is horizontal, that is, so it is parallel with the soil surface. (If it points down instead of across, it will damage the peony roots that are very close to the surface.) Then I pull straight up. Most of the time, mat forming weeds come right up. Any pieces of root left behind are easily removed with my fingers.
Repeat and repeat and repeat. I actually find this to be satisfying work, especially since the weather has been so pleasant. If I didn’t have other obligations, I could spend my day rescuing peonies.I’ve learned from my experience taking back a bed overrun with goldenrod that getting these runner-producing roots early can make a big difference.