By the time you read this column, your garden should be planted. The weather has cooperated with much-needed rain. Transplants aren't shocked as much when under cover of clouds for a few days as they acclimate to their new home outdoors. My greenhouse is so leaky I don't feel the need to harden my transplants off before putting them outside.
Naturally, I have more tomatoes than I have space, so I will have to find someone to adopt them because I cannot kill them myself.
The rains have been most welcome, not overpowering or filled with anger and hail. We try to protect the tiniest of transplants with old tin cans or plastic Folgers containers. I prefer the tins but don't often purchase restaurant-sized cans of beans. So I scrounge.
While rain is a blessing, there are other things taking advantage of the wet – my arch enemy of late – weeds.
They say that weeds are simply plants that grow where they don't belong. I have never seen so many weeds show their faces so early in the season, and I guess I have to blame the rain. This is my year to defeat those weeds and try and have a picture-perfect garden. (I have found that the only picture-perfect gardens are those on television, but that's a story for another time.)
You can do things to prevent weed pressure on your vegetable plants in their early development. This year, I will win the war on weeds. So, when hopefully the sun shines warmly on Monday, I begin my weed rotation.
First off, the ground near the drip lines is green and furry like a Muppet. So, I will get out one of my favorite "zombie" killing tools and begin to "disturb" these first-out-of-the-chute weeds. My latest "zombie sticker" is a hand-held hoe narrow by about two-thirds the width of a regular hoe. I have some raised beds with close rows, and this tool is perfect for that three-inch space. My first attempt at weed control involves hacking the soil and "disturbing the roots" of these unwelcome plants. Allow them to lie on top of the ground and dry out. If you do not dig deeper than an inch or so, you will not bring any more weed seeds to the surface and thus eliminate (hopefully) many weeds.
One of the things you must be very careful about early in the garden is disturbing the roots of the plants you wish to grow. Sometimes you need to allow the weeds to coexist until the vegetables are stable enough to stay rooted as you remove the weeds. If your carrots are up and you want to help them, use the Ruth Stout hint about using manicure scissors to cut those weeds at the soil line, leaving the carrots intact. This also works for thinning carrots and beets. And the view from down under can be quite pleasant on a sunny summer morning.
Once your vegetables and herbs are stable and healthy and the soil is warmed, you can control weeds by mulching with grass clippings, straw or those weeds you have pulled and allowed to wither in the sun.
People say gardening is difficult, but if you can spend the first month nurturing your plants and disturbing the weeds, you can sit back and enjoy your garden until it's time to harvest. It needs very little attention, water, sun and love. But, don't forget the love. That's the most important thing you can do. Even if you can't get a handle on all the weeds, they do serve the purpose of keeping your soil covered. Don't fret. Even weedy gardens produce, just not as much. So sing to those plants and let the battle begin.
Sue B. Balcom
Writing, or maybe talking, comes naturally to me and under the guidance of a great newspaper editor I have acquired skills that led me to author four books.