Central Virginia Organic Gardener

"And 'tis my faith that every flower enjoys the air it breathes." - William Wordsworth, 1798

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Good season, bad season

If I were to evaluate the 2010 summer growing season, my evaluation would not be favorable. With a record number of days over 90, and a substantial number of days over 100, it was a pretty miserable summer to be a gardener. I got to the point where I would get up at 5AM to get outside before the heat hit, but, even then, it sometimes got uncomfortable really fast. The intense heat fried tomato pollen, stunted the growth of plants that looked lush and were tall last year and reduced fruit and vegetable production substantially. The heat "burnt" my raspberries, killed my fennel and strawberries and my acanthus did not bloom. Then the rain stopped too. And resumed again 2 weeks ago, almost too late to make a difference for summer crops, except to help my squash rot and mildew spread.

A few things did do well. Unfortunately one was weeds (and poison ivy which loves the heat). I know I am an obsessed gardener, but the weeds got away from me and now I have to do massive catch up (or pull out). A few rules about pulling weeds (if you are in a spot where you cannot hoe and have to hand pull):
1. Do not weed in dry soil. Wait until after a rain, if you can, or after watering. Weed roots in damp soil come out much more easily than ones in dry soil.
2. Start at a edge and work your way in. If there is a clearly defied edge from landscape edging or bricks, start at the end, not in the center of the weedy mass. You will loosen soil progressively as you go....unless
3. You have some tall, shallowly rooted weeds in a more central area (like fox tail). These come out easily and loosen the soil to make pulling up weeds like wiregrass easier.
4. Try to weed before the plant sets seeds. Some weeds set thousands of seeds!
5. Once you finish an area, try to mulch with something like wet newspaper and grass clippings or leaves to reduce resprouting and to kill off stragglers.

Some weeds are very sturdy and need repeated pulling. The little "nut" on the root of a nut sedge is capable of sprouting a few hundred to a thousand times. Wire grass can resprout from a tiny bit of root. Pokeweed and dandelion need to be dug up- they send down a deep taproot that, once broken off, can form multiple sprouts (like the multi-headed hydra from Greek mythology). Many weed seeds can remain viable in the ground for years, waiting for their moment in the sun.
It can be a bit daunting, but repeated weeding over time can make a difference- and without those nasty herbicides!
Happy gardening! And weeding!

1 comment:

Anita said...

I'm sorry the heat ruined some of your plants. When I think about the delicious dishes you prepare using your veggies...*sigh*