Saturday, June 20, 2015

Weed em or Weep

In many respects, it’s been a perfect spring. The cool start with only a couple of days of bloom blasting heat allowed spring flowering bulbs to appear on stage long enough to receive a standing ovation. We did have a nasty frost in May, which punished the keeners who planted annuals too early. It also severely abused one of my tender hydrangeas — ‘Big Smile’.  It survived winter under the snow, sprouted leaves in earnest, and then lost them all to the frost. Guess who isn’t smiling now.

The good news is the regular rainfall this June. Instead of having to water at every legal opportunity to ensure new stuff actually grows after I planted it, as was the case the last few Junes, I’ve been watching my rain barrels overflow. The frequent rain is tough on farmers trying to harvest hay, but at least the corn is racing skyward, as is a columbine in my garden. It normally grows to about waist height, but thanks to the extra moisture and perhaps a little too much compost, it’s outpaced the nearby delphinium and is now as tall as I am, tall enough that I’ve had to give it a ski pole for support.

Everything is growing well in the veggie garden too, especially the zucchini. I like to see enthusiastic plants, but with zucchini, there’s a fine line between a good harvest and a disposal problem.

But, along with the good news goes the not so good, and the bad, and the worse. This weather has created perfect conditions for opportunistic vegetation, that is — you guessed it — weeds. When I say weeds, I mean anything that sprouts where it I don’t want it to sprout. Trouble is, I swear every seed that ever floated into my back yard, plus every seed produced by plants actually growing in my garden has sprouted. This is because they were protected this past winter by a good snow cover. With all the rain, germination has been guaranteed.

It’s the weeds in the cracks in the patio and pathways that are the problem. Out front, the gravel paths are especially susceptible and have taken on the look of an urban wasteland.

If you’re faced with out of control weeds, there are options. Plenty of mulch is a fairly easy solution for most flowerbeds unless the weeds are outnumbering preferred plants, as can be the case if a bed has gone untended. The only solution is to dig out the good plants, replant elsewhere temporarily, then cover the whole bed with plastic sheeting to smother out the weeds.

If things are especially bad, it may mean leaving the plants in and sacrificing everything. The plastic will need to stay in place for as long as a year, but it does the trick. As for weeds in pathways, I use a crack weeder, a hook shaped knife that works very well, especially after a rain.

Using boiling water, vinegar, or even salt to kill weeds is often suggested, and they do work to some degree, but too much of the latter pair can be harmful in a garden. Another alternative is a flamethrower — not a military version, but a small blow torch. Keep in mind that this will contribute to your carbon footprint, so use sparingly. Another trick is to sprinkle corn gluten on the pathways. It has been shown to inhibit the germination of seeds, though how well isn’t certain. I’ve tried this in the past and it did show promise. If all else fails, it’s keep on weeding and hope for a drought — or maybe not.

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