What I want my gardens to look like!
What they look like some days!
Like many of you I find there simply are not enough hours in the day to get everything done. This reality comes into micro-focus during the summer months when the things that I need to do increase in some kind of cosmic bell curve relating to the length of daylight hours. One of my time savers is my beloved little vacuuming robot, the Roomba by iRobot. It happily vacuums my upstairs carpets every day and then puts itself back on its charger to get ready for the next day. It’s a wonderful time saver and the thought of it struck me after doing battle with some weeds in my front garden this week. Why has someone not invented a little garden bot that can ID weeds from perennials(unlike the owner of said garden who pulled out 2 of her baby fern leafed bleeding hearts this year when they were small thinking they were sprouting queens-ann-lace) and zap them, or something else impressively high tech?
I suppose until someone does come out with an iWeeder us gardeners will have to go to war with weeds with long standing techniques. I have gathered some for review, some I do some I am promising to try to do better.
Mulch, then add more mulch and when you are done repeat. That may be a bit much but if we are mulching I think we tend not to add enough, you can have too much of a good thing, above 4 inches seems to be a problem for not allowing enough oxygen to permeate the soil. Before I put the original layer or additional layers down I add newspaper(or cardboard in grassy areas), I also try to add some newspaper and a bit of fresh mulch around new plants. Most of the time I read 3 inches is the magic number. That is quite a pile of mulch, bring a little ruler with you to check the height and add more. On this note if you have a garden of any size it may be cheaper to bring it in by truck load than buying it in bags. Warning if you are going to mulch and say have just planted a bunch of Hens-n-Chicks at soil level, mark the darn things before you cover them with mulch and can’t find them. A smarter gardener with plants that sit low to the ground and have shallow root systems would make little hills to plant there Hens-n-Chicks at about the level they planned to mulch to, oops maybe I’ll remember that tip next time.
There is an old saying “Pull when wet; hoe when dry”, that all master gardeners know (Hi, Mom) and the rest of us should try to remember. A few hours after a drenching rain, or a good watering weeding is easier. A few good tools to get out as much of the roots as you can will help as well, a long V tipped chisel, found at your local hardware store is an inexpensive and effective tool for getting big tap roots chopped way below the soil line. When soil is dry, weeds sliced off just below the soil line will promptly shrivel up and die, especially if your hoe has a sharp edge.
No light, no air, no space! If we plant the plants we want together tightly the weeds will have less space to cause problems for us, therefore we will spend less time fighting them. Along these lines planting things that spread, like the area and will be more or less self-sufficient will make your gardening life easier. In my area something like tiger lilies, purple cone flowers and spirea for a flowering shrub will spread and fill in a space in a year or two. Anyone want to know how many baby spirea I pulled out from under my front porch last year? Time to pay attention to gardens in your area that you like and seem to be always in bloom and looking healthy. If you can’t ID the plants stop and ask, gardeners are typically happy to indoctrinate others into the cult.
Stay on schedule. This is maybe the hardest; it involves regular commitment of time and old fashioned hard work. Crab grass is much easier to pull out when it has been above the ground for a few days then a few weeks. The bright side of this advice is that if we do all the other things we should be able to get to a garden nirvana where our plants flower and flourish from spring to frost with little basic care and less weeding.