Removing barriers and embracing a few weeds

Last week, I got up one morning with the birds to work in the yard. We live in the woods but there are several landscaped portions of our yard with gardens and raised beds.

One particularly vexing spot is a section we call weed hill. One corner of our yard in the back slopes down. There are large trees growing there but I guess they weren’t always there because we inherited a lot of weed barrier. 

Nothing is more surprising than finding weed barrier in a rural wooded landscape. And there’s a lot of it.

I’ll let you in on a secret:  I &%$#@! hate weed barrier. In theory, it’s a good idea, but in practice it doesn’t work as advertised. I actually think that it probably needs to be maintained and people skip that step. Instead, there’s a pretty good chance that you will wind up with a weed carpet like we did. So slowly, we’ve been cutting and pulling up large chunks–yards and yards of it. The good news is that underneath is almost completely weed free, a blank slate. The bad news is there’s a lot of it–did I mention that? And unfortunately, a previous owner decided that carpet remnants might be a good substitute for actual weed barrier. 

Um–no. That’s a really bad idea. That cannot be good for the environment. Also, I am here to tell you that I have weeds growing on top of that carpet.

So we keep cutting and pulling one 6-10 foot section at a time. Weed barrier zero is the goal.

The true secret to keeping weeds at bay is probably plant density. PLant enough that the desirable plants give the weeds a run for their money with plants that out-compete them. Mulch helps, too. Last summer, we picked up about 50 bags of free mulch from someone on Freecycle. We are still using it. Freecycle and Craigslist are great places to get free or cheap landscaping materials and plants. 

Also, mindset shift: weeds are a way of life when you have a garden. When we try to be weed free with weed barrier or chemicals or what I call “zero-scaping” (i.e., rocks), there are unintended consequences. Instead I accept weeds as part of the natural world. Pulling weeds can be as meditative as sitting on a meditation cushion. And it connects you to your garden in a visceral way. And unless the weed is an invasive plant that endangers the local flora and fauna or creates a fire hazard, a few weeds here and there are really okay.

I’m not busy

clouds

I’m ashamed to think about the many times that when asked, “How are you?” I answered with some variation of “Busy, but good.” I know now that busy isn’t a feeling. And it’s not a virtue or an excuse. I wore it as a badge of honor for so long, and I took it as a sign that what I was doing was important–that I was important. I willingly and also, at times, unwittingly participated in zero-sum games of oneupmanship in the name of busy.

I’m not sure when it happened exactly, but I stopped being busy in the last two years. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not bored or lazy. My days are filled with lots of interesting activities and tasks that I am on the hook for, but busy has been banished. Instead, I have been learning to say precisely how I feel. I am learning to name my emotions.

It turns out that naming emotions puts us on the path to regulating them. And it lets us connect more fully with the people around us instead of erecting the police line do-not-cross-tape of “I’m just so busy.”

So, contact me, will you? I can’t wait to catch up. 

Garden update: June 2019

plants on the light table

How did it get to be June?

Wow, my garden update feels like one of those cooking shows where they put the uncooked dish in the oven and a moment later pull out the finished dish! 

I assure you, it was nothing like that. First of all, many of my seedlings keeled over when the power went out for days and the temp inside my house was down in the 40s. No light table, no bottom heat, no ambient heat. It was sad. I had to start over with almost everything. Amazingly, my tomatoes made it through snowmageddon, but one variety, a cherry tomato called Cherriette, lagged well behind the others. I thought they would never grow up. (They did.)

I live in the woods and there is no open space that gets full sun all or most of the day. This is a good news/bad news situation. And really the only bad news is providing enough sun to the veggies that demand it. I am trying lots of plants in pots this year and moving them around to find the best spot. 

So–do you think I have a pot problem?

Here’s what did well:

  • Tomatoes
  • Texas Sage
  • Eggplant
  • Squash
  • Cucumbers (though I lost a couple after transplanting)
  • Artemesia (but sooooooo slow to start–but, first time growing from seed!)
  • Yarrow (also slow)
  • Verbascum (first time!)
  • Hyssop (first time!)
  • Asters

I have a couple of these:

  • Bok Choi
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Thai Basil
  • Melons
  • Some miscellaneous flowers including bachelor buttons and Chinese forget-me-nots

#Fail

  • Basil
  • Jerusalem Sage (first time)

Wild success with no help from me:

  • Tulsi Basil
  • Mint 
  • Strawberries (I can’t believe it)

A couple of my bell peppers from last year may be coming back–they are sprouting new leaves. Fingers crossed. 

Some plants will be transplanted into bigger pots or grow bags. I bought some 7- and 10-gallon grow pots to try this year. 

You might notice some other things in the photos that are definitely not veggies. Last year I bought seedlings from the Thurston County Conversation District. I could not dig holes fast enough so some plants went in pots. They all did well and in some cases outperformed their fellow plants that are in the ground. 

How’s your garden this year?