Sunday, May 14, 2006

Preparing to defeat the garden's enemies

My battle with the weeds has been taking its toll on me. For some reason the intensive work I did Thursday left me almost crippled by arthritis or sore muscles. I'm not sure which, but the pain in my knees and hips and thighs was so bad I got almost no sleep Thursday night, and I was forced to take a rest from the garden on Friday. Yesterday I went back to the battle.

It was neglect that left the garden in this shape. It was really defenseless against the weed invasion. As I pull the weeds out this year, I am also preparing for the next invasion. I have discovered that the garden is a great place to recycle newpapers and cardboard. I now put a layer of newspaper on each newly cleared bit of ground that is unplanted. As I pull the weeds, they get stacked on top of the papers, thorns and all. (See papers around pot with tomoato and borage, with weeds on top.) This provides a bit of mulch and blocks the light as new weeds try to grow. I don't know if this will work, but I'm rather hoping that the same thorns that cause me pain while I'm pulling them will discouage little raccoon bodies that have to walk across these dead thorns without shoes to get to the tomatoes they robbed me of last time I had a crop. I have only six tomato plants this year, and I'd like to eat a few myself.

I've taken a chance planting the cucumbers and radishes in the ground instead of in pots or rasied beds. I'm going to plant more than I need in various areas of the garden to provide enough for both the gophers and me. I'll probably also put a couple in pots to insure that we also have some. If I have a suplus, I can give some away. I also planted my first summer squash in a pot, but I plan to also have some in bare ground. It's so late now I'll probably have to wait until fall to plant carrots.

I'm hoping the preparations I'm making this year to prevent weeds from taking over again next year will leave more time for actual planting next spring. All I should need to do is push back the mulch and plant. I'm sure a few weeds will manage to poke through, but not near the amount that I had to contend with this year. I am leaving a few thorns around the rim of the garden and will allow a few to reseed. (I'm cutting the tops of most so they can't.) I have noticed that these thorns are full of ladybugs I want to encourage. If I remove all the host plants, these ladybugs might leave before the tomatos need them. So I think it won't hurt to leave a few. I'd love to hear from anyone who has advice on this matter.

I realize that I will not be able to do everything that needs doing this year. It would be nice if I could pull all the weeds before summer kicks in, but I don't think I can take back much new territory this year. The goal is to clear enough to plant what I can keep up this summer and keep it free of weeds; to mulch what I have cleared with newspaper, cardboard and weeds; to plant something I want to cover the ground before the rainy season starts; and to see that seed heads are cut down before they finish forming seeds on the thorns. If I can accomplish these things, it should make planting next year's garden much easier.
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