August 14, 2010

The Gardener's Battle

If the weeds seemed bad in July, in August they only seem worse.  The gardener's attention is turned from maintenance and cultivation, to the harvest and it's preservation. The mulch has been beaten down and is thinning as it crumbles away to soil, gradually giving way for unwanted things to grow up through it.  Areas that remain unmulched are a weed's free-for-all.   The weeds seem to grow more quickly and with greater vigor.  They "know" the days are shortening and make a concerted effort to fulfill their life's mission: make seed.

To make matters worse, July is usually when we have our dry spell, which means the ground is hard as a rock, making it difficult to either pull or hoe those weeds.  From time to time I can't stand it and have to get my hoe in there.  After a rain the ground is soft, which makes the job so much easier, especially with my grape hoe.

One particular nasty, which I always feel a sense of urgency to get rid of are these:

Sandburs.  These nasties stick to pants, socks, fur, and paws and are painful to pick out.  Oh they look innocent enough when young, like lovely new green grass.  But once the seeds mature and dry, watch out.  Consequently I am intent on getting rid of as many of these as possible.

As I hoe I contemplate God's conversation with Adam in The Garden

Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life.  Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you.  By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground because from it you were taken.

While some might protest that this is merely mythological, no one will disagree that weeds and pests are a lot of what makes gardening and farming difficult, laborious work. I suspect this is one of the reasons many folks say the farming and homesteading lifestyles are too hard, and why they would never choose them.  On top of that, our culture seems to think that the goal of life is ease and fun. It's as though everyone is looking for their  own Garden of Eden.  But those of us who toil away at our relationship with the soil know that the quest for a life of fun and freedom from work is no easier than our own.  It's just a different type of labor with different kinds of weeds: job pressures, time pressures, money worries, debt, rush hour, social activities for the kids, the pressure of getting it "right," the pressure of presenting a certain image, the pressure of what others think, etc.  Life isn't easy either way.

Sooner or later the goats show up.

They know I'll toss armfuls of weeds over the fence for them to munch. Sometimes the chickens show up too, because they have their own gourmet weed delicacies to consume.  They  become distracted much more quickly than the goats however, and are soon off on other chicken business.  Eventually I become distracted from my task too, by something that needs to be picked: okra, squash, beans, tomatoes....

Well, I reckon that's the best that I can do.

I got rid of most of them, but many weeds find safe harbor amongst the squash vines. Those are the ones that  guarantee next year's battle.

The Gardener's Battle © August 2010 by Leigh at


Runic Rhyme said...

Ah, I've just finished a cup of coffee and this was a good little push to make me get out there and do the same! Where are my gloves....?!


Michelle said...

Not TOO bad in the garden this year, but I have some thistles blooming in the pastures in spite of my early work, and out there the ground is rock-hard (at least six weeks with no rain here) and now we're enduring a heat wave. I need to get out there and at least cut off the flowering heads (into a big bag) so they can't seed....

Ohiofarmgirl said...

I love that you said all this.. I'm about ready to slap on a hat, trudge out there, and take on my share of the curse. Yep. But we are all in this together, right?

And thanks for ID'ing those silly burs.. I had no idea what they were.

Madness, Trouble, Squish and Milkbone said...

That's why god made herbicides! ;-) No, seriously weeds are the no.1 problem of organic gardeners everywhere. It's never-ending!

Nina said...

The original garden here is a total mess and no matter how much weeding I've done, it's still full of quack grass, witch grass and pig weed. At least the latter is easy to pull. I'm not sure there really is a solution for the quack grass. The new garden which was done with a Stott layering method is virtually weed free. Now if I can only figure out how to get rid of the creeping charlie in the lawns and gardens. Herbicides and pesticides are under strict control and banned for home use here!

Razzberry Corner said...

Ah, yes, we are all looking for our own Garden of Eden, aren't we? Wouldn't life be nice without weeds?

Jo said...

My weeding has been pretty good, up until mid-July. Since then I have just been focusing on stopping the weeds from going to seed. Every year it seems to get a little bit easier. Except for the grass. That seems to get worse all the time. Thanks for the garden pics!

Renee Nefe said...

between the weeds & the bugs I sometimes wonder why I even bother. Today out of my 6 remaining apples (after the birds ate all the blossoms and the hail knocked off any the birds missed) I found that the birds came back and ate from 4 of the apples that weren't even ripe yet! Sigh! Well not even an apple tart for me.

But then I pop one of the cherry tomatoes in my mouth! Sometimes it's worth it!

Sharon said...

We need some goats. Do they eat cottontails? That's our pests.

Theresa said...

Well, just from the subject title I get a fab visual of you dressed in a garden's version of paratrooper gear.
We too have a pervasive thistle which requires cutting or weeding out right now before they go to seed. Oh for some cooler temps

Annie said...

Weeds? Work, work work. Or go on holiday and find yourself knee deep in them... Despair. Very often. Go away again. They don't. Then: work work work again... It can't be changed, I'm afraid.

Leigh said...

Runic Rhyme, weeding does require motivation, doesn't it? :)

Michelle, ugh on those thistles. I do hope you keep them from going to seed. They are such a nuisance otherwise.

Ohiofarmgirl, you have those in Ohio too? They must be universal!

BM&T, so true. The organic gardening books often make them seem easy to control, just pile on more mulch! It really isn't that way though. :(

Nina, whew but that old garden has really been a challenge for you, hasn't it. I wonder if your pig weed is Chenopodium album, AKA "Lamb's Quarter"? It's delicious and nutritious as a steamed veggie, like spinach.

Lynn, especially those grasses that seem impossible to get rid of! Of course, one gardener's weed may be another's desired outcome. :)

Jo, that's where I'm at too. It's encouraging to hear you're making progress. The hard work does pay off, doesn't it?

Renee, oh my, those bugs. They are the other challenge. I didn't realize birds would eat apple blossoms! Something I reckon I'll need to watch out for once my apple trees start blooming. I'm so glad you're finally getting cherry tomatoes!

Sharon, LOL. Unless you have a cottontail weed, I think you're out of luck. :)

Theresa, well, I do wear an armor of sorts: floppy hat to shade from the sun, long pants and socks to protect from bitey bugs, and boots. :)

Annie, too true, too true! I'm afraid to leave the house for more than a day for what I might come home to!

Robin said...

Wow, I have never seen Sandburs before. What nasty looking plants. We are always trying to hoe up the thistles we see but I fear our garden is pretty weedy at the moment. I pretend that it looks amazing though. hehehe