I Fought the Weeds…
…and the weeds won.
Well, not really. I’d call it a standoff.
(This is, btw, another repost, originally written 05/07/2009.)
I spent a couple hours this afternoon in the garden again, attested to by a stiff back. The aspirin should kick in soon, and I feel certain I’ll be able to straighten up again before dinner.
I don’t really mind the aching back, though, not really. Most things that are worthwhile require work and work often means a bit of pain. I don’t relish it, but it’s nothing I spend time worrying about, either. Part of how you know you’re alive, I think.
I also think it does a soul good to need a bath, to be dirty, not just sweaty or need my hair washed, but to have the water run brown off of my feet an arms as the smeared mud washes away. Dirt under your fingernails, even long red fingernails, is something that does a body good.
Anyway, now is the time to be pulling weeds, if you live in the Bluegrass State. We’ve had rain and more rain and then a bit more rain after that, so the ground is soft. It’s still cool enough to be outside without the heat being impossible.
In another month, the ground will be dry and the weeds will be a foot taller, and far more settled into their stolen corners of my garden. It’s a very satisfying feeling to tug hard on a weed, something that is confidently spreading its unwelcome little leaves, and have it pop out of the ground with a sudden release.
You know it won’t come back, you’ve routed it out permanently. There are others that aren’t so accommodating, you wrestle with them for a while, then give up, cutting them off at the soil line, hoping they’ll die on their own. They rarely seem to.
I prefer pulling weeds, too, to using chemicals. The problem with that is you never know exactly what you’re killing, herbicides can kill everything they touch and usually contaminate the soil for a while, too. Working in the soil is, I think, good for the spirit and spraying things from a bottle isn’t working.
It’s satisfying, too, to take stock of your garden as you poke around in it.
My white phlox is happy and will bloom soon. Iris are blooming now, along with columbine. The lilacs and azaleas have come and mostly gone, with a few straggling blossoms left to prove they were here.
Next will come the peonies, the blue star, my false indigo. Purple clematis and pink fairy roses are twining around their arbors, and the hosta has grown at tropical speed.
The garden is full of cool greens and pale yellows, the darker ones coming later in the season. The perennial geraniums and ever-blooming begonia are happy, filling out their designated spots, the Asiatic lilies and day lilies getting bigger all the time. I read somewhere that for lilies, water is the best fertilizer. In that case, they should be happy indeed.
Weeds are a nice survey of how healthy the garden is. A garden that grows good weeds is also likely to grow the plants you mean to grow, too. I am lucky to have lovely soil, thick and dark, crumbly and rich. I have worms that would make an angler envious, fat and long, revealed with every shovel of dirt that I turn over, in every hole I dig with a trowel.
I moved a caterpillar from one of the areas I was weeding to some host plants we have for them, somewhere happier for him to spin his chrysalis and return to the garden as a butterfly.
I unearthed a centipede as well, and spiders and grubs, but my general rule is, I don’t kill bugs outside, unless they’re mosquitoes and land on me, or ants that have gone too atomic in their growth. Inside, I widen my scope to flies who won’t just go back outside, ants in my kitchen, and roaches.
Once in a while a spider has to go, too, if he can’t be captured and sent outside. By and large, I point out bugs to slave drew and he carries them outside. Last night it was a lightning bug.
This winter I had a brown leaf cutter who lived in my bathroom. He wasn’t an annoying kind of bug, but he was very industrious. One day I’d see him on the vanity counter, the next somewhere in the shower. Then he’d be on the hamper in the hallway. Then on the hanging leaves of the spider plant in the hallway.
Periodically I’d scoop him up and dump him into one of the other plants in my hallway, but he had his traveling shoes on, clearly, and he never stayed anywhere long.
I haven’t seen him for a month or six weeks, so I suspect his short life ended somewhere among the leaves, but he was a pleasant enough tenant for the short term. Quiet, didn’t take up much space, never made a mess.
So, anyway, today I finished the bed I had been working on, and moved to the bed behind the pool. It’s best to do that one before the pool is open, and before the ground covers get too grown. Much harder to rake around than rake over. I got about half of it done, maybe a bit more, but it’s amazing how much difference it makes.
Now I’m sitting at my desk and writing, watching a robin in the birdbath in the back giving himself an absolutely exuberant bath.
If you garden, you tend to love robins, because they’re your companions. They hover around as you garden, silently chiding you to go in so they can descend on that newly excavated ground, dig for those fat worms, the grubs, all the other insects that hide under the ground and under the weeds.
I imagine the bathing one had his fill of bugs and worms and then decided to take a happy bath as dessert. It’s hard not to smile watching him, splashing madly, wings flapping, water flying.
I came home a year or so ago and looked out the sliding door and into the pool. The pool cover was still on, as it is now, and since it’s a mesh cover, the water will rise above it when the pool is very full, creating a very shallow pond for the birds.
There was a hawk, a sharp-shinned hawk, in fact, which is a smaller hawk, maybe half or two-thirds the size of a red tail hawk, taking a bath in the pool, the first and only time I’ve ever seen a hawk on the pool.
I stood and watched him for about two or three minutes. He was still a majestic bird, and he held himself very still, very regal. He would look around, as if checking to make sure no one was looking, then abandon himself to the bath for ten or 15 seconds, then go back to looking like the predator he is.
He did it probably six or eight times, then took off, no doubt to spread his wings on some branch and dry off.
We have nests in the yard, too. Robins seem to prefer the dogwood and crabapple in the front yard, the sparrows love the thick white pine and holly trees, and this year we have a blue jay nest in the cherry tree in the back.
The gold finches have been frequenting the thistle feeder by my window, in their best Sunday courting best, brilliant yellow males, the females a more subtle color.
The cardinals, too, love the yard, and one of the things I like is watching the cardinal pairs at the end of the day. The male perches nearby, watching, while the female pecks around on the ground, eating her dinner. He keeps out a watchful eye for anything that might pose a threat to his mate, and his call is so distinctive even I recognize it.
So, I’ve done all I’m going to do today, there’s another couple or three hours that I’ll need to do to finish the bed behind the pool. There are a few other small beds that I need to work on, too, but none of them are as pressing.
I’ll get the rest of my plants put into the ground in the next couple of weeks, and then I can spend more time enjoying my garden than I spend sweating in it. The sweating, however, will continue throughout the summer. I’ll let you know how it goes.