OUR GARDEN’S MOST PROLIFIC WEEDS

Even with a field guide, weeds can be hard to name. At least in polite terms. As a gardener, identifying them as weeds is easy enough, once they’re past a certain point of sprouting – they aren’t what you’re expecting and they’re growing faster than what you planted. Staying ahead of them is another matter, especially if you’re trying to be organic like us.

Here are 10 that have been especially problematic this year.

  1. Virginia creeper: Initially, it looks like a nice ground cover in a wooded area. Maybe something to climb a tree trunk, too. But beware, it develops tenacious woody roots that can grow six feet a day – that’s not an official measure, by the way, just a sense I have returning to the same site a day after I thought I’d cleared it. This beast nearly took out one of our big shrubs last year. ‘Nuff said?
  2. Bindweed: Another one that can strangle a neighbor in no time. It looks a lot like a morning glory, which can also go rogue.
  3. Creeping Charlie: This little ground ivy and a shiny-leaf cousin take over in no time. One couple two blocks away covered their entire garden in black plastic this year in what we suspect is a futile effort to eradicate it.
  4. Mystery stalk No. 1: It has large leaves and started popping up like crazy in our strawberry bed. New to us this year. Looks like its seeds come at the base of the leaves. Think it’s also the one in two of our potato pots … kinda resembles the young tater plants. At least it was easy to uproot.
  5. Mystery stalk No. 2: This one has nasty-looking jagged leaves and a big fuzzy stalk. Also new to us this year. Can’t find either of these online.
  6. Wild chervil: Looks kind of like Queen Anne’s lace, which we tolerate, but I just read the down and dirty on this deceptive tan flower. It’s going to be big trouble next year. Ouch!
  7. Multiflora rose: Its vines are always a pain, and they take over in no time. For us, they’re often near the equally stubborn Japanese honeysuckle.
  8. Dandelions: My, what taproots! And if you don’t get all of one up, you’ll soon have another opportunity … to fail.
  9. Common purslane: Another one that gained a foothold this year and will be back with a vengeance next year. My wife says I better learn to like it in salads.
  10. Grass: Many varieties invade the garden and squeeze out what we’re growing, but the Bermuda roots and stems have been particularly nasty this year.
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AS A FOOTNOTE AT THE TABLE

I wonder if the longstanding tradition of morning cleansing of marble steps at the front door in many inner city neighborhoods of Baltimore has survived the stresses of two-income families or single-parent households? Who knows when it started or in how many other locales it’s also practiced. This has been a custom of row houses, connected to each other – blue-collar communities, in fact – and not of detached suburban housing. And that makes the foremost difference.

These poems consider what women do and preserve – though not always exclusively. Yes, I’ve known women who bale hay or decipher monastic manuscripts, and I’ll also admit men can know nothing of bearing children or nursing. Yet, somehow, many women seem most at home around the kitchen, even if it’s nothing more than a teacup or a picnic. Even her garden, should she be so inclined, seems to extend from that table or the alchemy of her oven. And that goes for flowers, as well as vegetables and berries. (Remember, though: not all mothers and daughters can stand to be in the same kitchen at the same time, though they both be masterful cooks.)

Looking back on Baltimore, I remember my next-door neighbor, each morning in season watering the black locusts between our houses and the street. Maybe she did her stoop, as well. But the trees, which seemed to have always been there, were beautiful and timeless, as if spreading their own table.

Returning 1

~*~

For the poems, click here.

TEN NOXIOUS WEEDS

They won’t coexist. They strangle any competition. At heart they’re boa constrictors with stubborn roots. And if that won’t work, they’ll just suffocate it.

  1. Yes, grass. When it gets in the garden beds, it pushes everything else out.
  2. Ground ivy. We have two types all over the place.
  3. Virginia creeper.
  4. Multiflora roses.
  5. Japanese honeysuckle.
  6. Goutweed (St. Jerome wort?).
  7. Stealth maples. Don’t laugh. Twice in two decades a pleasant little shade garden reverted to forest.
  8. Japanese knotweed.
  9. Dandelions, with their deep roots. Ditto for Queen Ann’s Lace.

Mint comes close. We have both spearmint, east of the house, and peppermint west of the Smoking Garden. But sometimes it comes in handy. Especially for folks who want contractors bags filled to brimming.

~*~

What would you add to the list?

Virginia creeper is an attractive weed … until it starts smothering everything it’s overrunning.

WAY BEHIND IN THE YARD AND HOUSEWORK

In the cardio aftermath, I was generally laying low, apart from my immersion in some serious revisions of my previously published novels.

And then? I looked at the window and saw an outburst of green – on the trees, especially. I had a sharp sense of having lost a big chunk of time.

We had some hard storms this winter, and some major branches came down from our trees. We were lucky they missed hitting roofs, cars, or outdoor furniture.

Still, it’s meant a lot of cleanup, and there’s more work to be done with a chainsaw.

The gardens, too, are behind schedule. I never got to the beach to collect seaweed, back before the seasonal out-of-town parking ban kicked in. Hauling those buckets and extracting the collected bags from the car trunk takes exertion, beyond what’s considered safe during recovery. I mean, I’d hate to take a nitroglycerin pill at the beach while working alone.

Nor did I get to some interior painting and picture-framing, as planned this winter. Some? There’s a lot.

We are watching some big changes downtown, especially where the city is carving away a hillside to extend our riverfront park and open space for new housing as well as open direct access to a hilltop park above, which is also being expanded and developed. This development, which crept up on me while I was recovering and not heading down that way to the indoor pool, will greatly enhance the central focus of the city.

Downtown is also undergoing the razing of an old retail block to make room for a five-story retail and worker housing structure. It will also eliminate what’s been an annoying traffic obstruction.

Glad I’m back in action. Wonder what else I’ve been missing.

Me at the compost bin at the far corner of our lot. Every year I empty the finished compost, which gets worked into the garden beds, and reload it with more leaves and the like to start over. Producing a full bin of compost takes at least five times that volume of raw material.

FARM-FRESH POTENTIAL

Carmichael’s, the restaurant her family owns in my new novel, has me looking more closely at others.

The daily soup special at the family restaurant in my new novel, What’s Left, was one way to introduce the now widely touted practice of local sourcing, perhaps with a hint of organic gardening. Here it begins when Cassia’s great-grandmother and her sister make rounds of nearby farms, gardens, and orchards in search of fresh produce, eggs and dairy, and perhaps meat. (I never get quite that specific, but a quick brushstroke will do.) The action picks up with her parents’ generation and its back-to-the earth movement – one in which I suspect some bartering might have occurred. Used cooking oil, for instance, has found value as motor fuel for some farmers.

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ANY NUMBER OF WAYS

he could die now flattened by wheels electrocuted, biting a live wire poisoned or simple disease or drown all the complications, amassed *   *   * somewhere, in the limbs what had riled him so early? Blue Jay squawking could be confused for squirrels (What was the opera, anyway? Certainly not Cinderella with her matching fur […]

LOOKING OUT

picnic table with a block of snow 2-feet deep atop it and a hole at the center extraordinary deep purple in the Siberian irises Quaker ladies abloom on the meeting burial ground – even on the Friends graves in Pine Hill Cemetery the ox-eye daisies I lifted from rock and sand to transplant here – […]