Saturday, April 26, 2014

Eradicating garden weeds: Not

A few weeks ago in the California desert we were treated to a wonderful show of native flowers. It looked like the flowers were emerging from "nothing." How could these beauties pop up out of mud, rocks, and sand? I realized the desert soil must be full of seeds and dormant plants,  waiting for the right conditions to spring into action. "Seed banks" are an invisible part of the landscape but they're very much there. 

When we moved to our place in Cambridge, Massacusetts about 15 years ago what's now our garden was a long dusty dog run. The few plants that existed were the hardiest weeds, capable of surviving the exposure and stresses of dogs doing all their doggie things year after year. And during those years, while the dogs deposited their contributions the weeds deposited many generations of seeds into the dry and dusty soil. 

When we started our garden it was the ripe repository of lots of unpleasantness, including a tough population of weeds. 

Now there's nothing wrong with weeds. Most of our lovely garden plants, as well as our important crop plants, came from weedy ancestors. These are the kinds of plants that survive in disturbed soils that are exposed to wind, sun, and rain. The most serene garden is a tough neighborhood, full of species that want to dominate one another and take what limited resources are available. 

It's no surprise that our garden spaces harbor unwanted plants that we call "weeds." Especially a place like ours, which started out weedy, is bound to bring up lots of unintended shady characters. And the weeds can travel. Not just seeds, but roots and stems, above and below ground, work their way through the garden and show up where they're least expected. What can we do about these unwelcome party crashers? Well think about it. They were here first. Before we slather them in pesticide let's learn a little bit about how and why they grow here. We can't make them disappear. But if we have the time and inclination we can curate them out of the garden and into the compost pile. 

1 comment:

  1. Is that creeping charlie? If so, it is quite edible.