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May 25th, 2007 - Deirdre on reading, writing and living

May. 25th, 2007 12:05 pm Digging the Learning Curve: Weeds, by Deirdre Sinnott

There are some glorious weeds in my garden. They are strong, determined, opportunistic, and I hate them. Some of them I refer to as "my nemesis" as I dig out their long tap roots or following their yard's-long underground shoots to the nexus.

The four things I hate most are Rumex crispus L. or broadleaf dock; a long, long vine called Polygonum convolvulus L. or wild buckwheat; Rubus or blackberry brambles; and Impatiens capensis or jewelweed. Each has its own irritating properties and each has it positive aspects as well.

First the broadleaf dock. These babies have long, thick, fibrous, and occasionally branched taproots that can reach up to FIVE FEET below ground. I’ve dug and dug some of them and not quite gotten the whole thing out. Allegedly they propagate by seed, but it seems that they are crafty enough to survive by re-growing from a bit of taproot. Since it’s nearly impossible to get the whole damn thing out, I feel doomed to be tugging on them for the rest of my days. I’ve read that repeated roto-tilling of the roots works, but I’m not roto-tilling anymore since reading Teaming with Microbes. I know that Roundout kills them too, but I’m not putting that stuff near my garden, particularly the veggie section. So I’m stuck. My research indicates that Broadleaf Dock will sooth stinging nettle irritation, but does that mean I have to let it takeover fertile ground? No.

I’d never seen wild buckwheat before. Ancient people used to gather the seeds for food, but their yield is too low to warrant cultivation. My first foray into the garden, four summers ago, I noticed that everything was being chocked by some kind of vine. A friend identified it as some part of the morning glory family, but closer inspection into the less-than-impressive flowers proved otherwise. I’ve become an expert at extracting these. At first I just grabbed their 10-to-30-foot bodies and pulled. I figured that I was at least setting them back. The second year, when I knew for certain that there was large areas of the property that were simply overgrown, not brimming with hidden treasures, I began an all-out assault. I found that plunging my fingers beneath the surface of the ground yielded an octopus-like formation of yellow roots, some stretching for as long as a foot. I’ve significantly reduced the legions Wild Buckwheat, but the struggle continues.

Berries make me happy. That is when they stay where I want them. But they are notoriously travel oriented. Not only do they cleverly spread themselves by enticing birds and mammals (such as myself) to eat their fruit and disperse the seeds, but they also shoot out long runners and form new stalks where they’re not always welcome. I feel lucky because while my house is on a small half-acre, I have both wild and cultivated raspberries, black raspberries and blackberries. It’s a breakfast treat all summer long. But I really want them all too simply stay put. They refuse. One section of the yard that I wanted to reclaim from the wildness (which developed while the previous owner grew too old to combat Mother Nature) was riddled with brambles. I began the eradication project one day when my neighbor kindly gave me a bunch of her Russian iris. I quickly realized that I was outnumbered by berries. Reinforcements arrived in the form of two younger women from New York City who were willing to apply elbow grease in exchange for good vegetarian cooking and time outdoors. The battle still rages. Yesterday I was re-clearing that bed, getting ready for this weekend’s planting session. It’s still me against the brambles, but I’m holding my own. I still have plenty of bushes to harvest from, but not in that bed, please.

Lastly there is the easy-to-pull jewelweed. This stuff looks so cute when it comes up and it has delicate orange flowers that look fetching when they drop down from the stalk. However, jewelweed took over the lawn, the driveway, and even the tiger lily beds. If I let it go, I might have lost the house. I keep some of it toward the back of the garden, away from the vegetable area, and out of the flowers, but it’s just waiting for me to tire. It will be back, the moment I let my guard down.

I won’t even go into the dandelions, plantains, Johnny jump ups, goldenrod (another one with an underground strategy) or the lousy crabgrass. I can handle all those. Or I can ignore them. They don’t raise my fighting spirit the way those other four do.


Current Mood: determineddetermined

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