Tag Archives: gardening

Weeds

Jim Taylor’s blog* about weeds prompted this week’s posting. He likes to get a dialogue going, and I took the bait. Here’s what I sent him.

“Hi Jim,

I enjoyed your “man-against-nature” depiction of the war in your yard, where the weeds may not be winning but yield a lot of power. As a lifetime gardener, I can relate. I recently took a course from the “Master Gardener” organization and have developed a fresh perspective that I’d love to share with you.

First, some science. Weeds are messengers. They are a symptom of disturbed soil. The more you disturb the ground by digging the weeds up by the roots, the more that the seeds of their cousins get a chance to germinate. The cycle continues, as you’ve observed, to your chagrin.

I suggest a cut-and-cover strategy instead. Cut the weed off at its base and cover the ground with mulch – straw, dried grass clippings, compost – whatever organic matter is handy. You can even add the carcass of the weed if it hasn’t already gone to seed.

When the weed’s root sends up a new shoot through the mulch, as it probably will, cut it off before it develops many leaves to feed the root. After two or three attempts, the root will die of starvation, and its remains will feed the soil for the plants you want to nurture.

Add lots of dried leaves to the mulch in the fall. Leave them on in the spring, and keep adding to the layer of mulch. The earthworms will integrate the tasty bits it into the soil, so adding mulch will become the new ongoing cycle. And your soil, and therefore your plants, will be much healthier.

Next spring, you can cut off the odd weed that has the gall to breach your mulch barrier and busy yourself with environmentally-friendly pursuits like watching the beautiful blossoms and continuing your delightful blog.

That would be a win all around, I’d say.

* Jim is a prolific writer with a theological bent. If you are looking for an interesting perspective, you can request a subscription to his blog, Softedges, by emailing jimt@quixotic.ca

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Waking up

I used to refer to missing a weekly entry in my blog as a “blink”. Then I started to snooze for a few weeks at a time. Since Christmas of 2018, I’ve gone into all-out hibernation in the blog department.

Life on another front, on the other hand, has been more active than usual. From January to March, I enrolled in the basic training for people who aspire to the “Master Gardener” designation. The course involved a full day of classes and about ten hours of reading and research assignments each week.

“It will be intense,” they said. They did not lie.

My learnings have led to new insights.

In the Master Gardener program, we are taught the principle, “Right plant in the right place makes a healthy, happy plant.” Something I didn’t understand decades ago makes perfect sense now.

My Aunt Velma, one of my mother’s sisters, was an avid gardener. When she heard we had bought a house after I got married, she lovingly divided one of her favourite plants so I could have it in my garden, too.

“I call these rosabluebells because I don’t like the real name. The flowers come out pink and gradually turn blue,” she said. She may also have mentioned they do well in the shade. By my logic, if a plant did well in the shade, imagine how much better it would do in the sun.

So I planted the rosabluebells along the foundation of the south-facing wall of our house. I recall a visitor saying, “Oh, I see you have some lungworts.” No wonder Aunt Velma hadn’t shared the name.

Over time, other plants took over the area where I had planted the lungworts. I wasn’t as into gardening then as I am now and likely wasn’t that keen on having a plant with such an ugly name, anyway. They died out and faded in my memory. 

I recently learned that plants that do well in the shade typically developed as woodland plants and actually need shade and moisture. No wonder my neglected lungworts languished. https://plantdatabase.kpu.ca/plant/plantDetail/1007

In the Master Gardener program, we are also taught to use the Botanical or Scientific names for plants, rather than their common names. If that had been the general practice, my aunt would not have had to rename her prized plant.

Its botanical name is Pulmonaria.

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