Sunday, June 29, 2014

Garden Detente: Patience, Persistence, Perseverance

“It is no use saying, ‘We are doing our best.’ You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary." -Winston Churchill
I have friends and relatives who have stood there motioning towards what used to be a beautiful garden, now overtaken by quack grass and thistles, saying, "I've tried and tried but just can't keep the weeds out." Or "Look, it's as if I never even weeded in there. Heck, I've said those things myself. It wasn't until I took the bull by the horns that I really made any headway.

Success relies on perseverance, but what does it take to persevere in the garden? Dale Carnegie said it best, "Flaming enthusiasm, backed up by horse sense and persistence, is the quality that most frequently makes for success." Yes, so you might as well till it under and cover it with sod (gasp!) if your heart isn't in it. You've got to love it, have a passion for gardening, and learn what you need to know to be successful.

Quack grass in the garden: persistent digging and the gentle, patient following of the root runners just under the surface. You won't get them all the first time you go in, no matter how thorough you think you've been. It's easier just after a rain or a good watering,  when the soil is workable, especially if you've got clay soil like I have. In addition you must eliminate the source. It is coming in at the borders?

There are many solutions for keeping the grass out at the borders such as plastic, poured concrete, brick, or stone but I prefer the trenching method. If you're unfamiliar with this method it is basically just as it sounds. I dig an eight inch wide trench around my gardens, which hinders grass from crossing into the garden. Once or twice a year you are to clear out any debris but I have been filling my trenches with coarse wood chips which look nice and allows the lawn mower to get close without slipping into the trench. every spring I clean that out and start fresh.  This method eliminates the need for trimming and allows for easy expansion of the garden which the other methods do not.

Thistles in the garden: I hate the Canada thistle. I once considered naming our property Thistle Down but that seemed just too defeatist. Instead, I return once again to the mantra: patience, persistence, perseverance. Part of patience is learning about your enemy. You can pull thistles until you're blue in the face, as well as red and blotchy on your arms and legs. Then tomorrow you'll look and they'll be back! Thistles have deep horizontal roots that send up shoots. You'll often notice a line of thistles coming off this one underground root. If you don't get to the thistles in time they also have those seeds in that fluffy down that can blow everywhere. Now, I don't care for using chemicals in the garden but this is one of the few cases where I often will resort to a broad spectrum herbicide if I can be sure I can use it safely, keeping it away from any of my more desirable plants.

I love to garden, but I love to enjoy my gardens even more. In order to do this I have found "tricks" and methods that work for me. I may use battle metaphors but always with peace and balance as the end goal. Stick with me and I'll give you some tips I use and also tell you some stories of garden disasters that may be even more helpful than my successes.

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