Monday, April 23, 2018

How does your garden grow?

It was uncharacteristically sunny over the weekend which means I once again don my overalls, rubber boots and tackle the weeds that insist on populating a good portion of my property. I also took this opportunity to remove a grape arbor that was collapsing under the weight of grape vines that have never really produced any grapes.

I have written about my backyard before, but a good journalist never assumes the reader has read anything he has written before and provides enough background to give context to his story. And though I was never a very good journalist, I will say that my house is built on the edge of a slope that flows down to a stream. The stream is called Shell Creek (though I haven't a clue why, there aren't any shells in it). It runs on the surface up to my property line and then goes into a culvert that diverts it under the road next to my house.

I thought it was cool when we bought the house to have a stream down below the house. But after lots of expenses for shoring up retaining walls and dealing with water leaks in my basement because of the underground streams that feed Shell Creek, I'd be happy to live somewhere on higher, flatter ground. I also would like a normal backyard that isn't constantly trying to revert back to nature. Every year I battle horse tails, blackberry vines and mountain beavers. And all are nurtured by being close to water.

If you aren't familiar with horse tails, they are a primitive weed that looks like green surface to air missiles when they break through the ground. They have been around for millions of years. They cover everything and have a common root system that is almost impossible to destroy. And after reading about how to get rid of them, I've discovered I've been doing exactly the wrong thing for years -- trying to pull them up. Because, apparently, when you pull them out of the earth, several more sprout from the root in the same place.

The solution to get rid of them is to make the soil less to their liking by improving drainage (not easy on a slope fed by underground streams), infusing it with lime and then fertilizer. It is also suggested that you cut them down with a weed eater. This is sort of a relief because I'm very tired of pulling weeds. It does, however, present a logistical problem of running extension cords down my slope and standing at a steep angle as I battle the horse tails with a weed eater that runs out of weed eating cord every five minutes. Oh, and you are supposed to gather up all of the horse tails after you cut them and seal them in a plastic bag to prevent the seed spores from escaping.

I think it would be easier to just sell the house.

If I ever do get rid of the horse tails, I've got to figure out what to plant to replace them. I've tried various ground covers with limited success. Last year I did try planting pumpkins on some of the more level areas. I managed to grow three pumpkins that were pretty much the size of a soft ball.

The slope does have several old growth Rhododendrons that shield some pretty wicked blackberry vines. And there is still a great deal of ivy that has crept up several of the surrounding trees. The ivy jockeys for position with morning glory vines.  Oh, and let's not forget the dandelions.

I filled my compost bin, my yard waste container and a free standing pile of compost with the weeds I dug up over the weekend. And I barely made a dent in the useless vegetation that covers the slope.

Why do I bother? Because I'm afraid if I left the slope uncontrolled the stuff would eventually encompass my house.

On the bright side, I get the satisfaction of being outside and working with my hands.

Yeah right.

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