Saturday, July 7, 2012

Weed Control or Right Action?

Every time I weed or water, I take stock of how things are going. I've made decisions to push back the wild field growth and plant specific flowers or edible fruits, roots or leaves. This gives me responsibilities but doesn't really put me in charge. When it doesn't rain for days on end, I feel the urge to provide water, since I'm the one who asked this plant to grow in this place soaked in sun and dried by wind. If it rains too much, I am the one who puts boards, or rings of salty or sharp materials out to attract the slugs from the plants that get besieged the most. I know that deer will prune my cherry tomatoes and lily buds, some woodchuck may eliminate my zinnias or half a cucumber plant, the birds and chipmunks will some of the blueberries. I understand that all my effort to weed in any one place will be repeated again and again and grow over if I neglect that task.

Today, after many sunny days, there is a drift of cloud cover and I know that means today's task will be transplanting. There are just a few plants that are not thriving as they could. In a couple cases, I attribute this to wrong placement: planted where once they had dappled shade and now have too much sun because of the loss of a nearby bush or tree or the opposite case, planted once in sun and now because of the growth of nearby trees, not enough sun to flourish.

For me it is intuition more than garden design that brings the shovel to hand. I know that where I plan to put that astilbe it will have a good mix of what it needs, but I also know that to make even a small hole for it, I will be excavating rocks and filling in with soil from somewhere else. I cannot control what will happen. Sometimes moles will eat the roots of a healthy happy plant and it withers and dies. Sometimes for two years in a row I don't see a plant bloom because the deer have chomped the buds and then there is a spectacular Spring show, unlike any I've ever seen because somehow the deer passed it by that season.

Yet I do feel the weight of my actions, playing with the lives of plants, even if for my own good purposes or their better cultivation. I carefully cut the chard leaves that we will eat, leaving the plant's newest growth to continue. I cut the lettuce, or broccoli rabe in the coolness of morning, water in the coolness of evening, and do that which I know to do in ways that I hope disturb the natural cycles the least. I see the wilting leaves in the hot sun, and think about the evening's watering to sustain them. I know that the buds that open in the morning care nothing for me or my appreciative gaze.

I have taken it on to grow these beautiful and edible plants where there were once different beautiful and edible plants (though perhaps not edible for me), leaving many wild patches of raspberries and blackberries, roses and barbary, gooseberries and elderberries, along with the field full of grasses and thistles, milkweed, joe pye weed, yarrow, vetch and so many others whose names I may never know or cannot remember. As soon as I turn my back, the plants I have planted here will struggle to keep their footing as the wild ones return. Each seeding for its own survival, spreading roots, and seeking out the moist earth.

Today, after I moved an echinacea from deep shade into a sunnier spot, the sun came out. That poor plant drooped, even with the good soil and water I had given it. I put a wire cage around it and draped a white tee shirt over it for protection. Half an hour later, the clouds came in seriously and sporadic rain drops began to fall. The tee shirt came off, the droopy stalks still sagged, but perhaps tomorrow will straighten them up. The coral bells, astilbe, heliobore, and goatsbeard have all settled down as though they were just waiting for this moment. Today the gray sky brings me joy.

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