Thursday, May 30, 2024

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HomeReal EstateHome & GardenTHE LAZY BERKSHIRE...


While last weekend did not bring a deluge of rain, it was cold and windy at my house. I chose to do some concentrated weeding because 1) the beds needed it, 2) the beds were in the sunshine, and 3) the house blocked the wind.

I found it! I admit to being shamed by others’ posts of photos boasting snowdrops and crocus blooming in their gardens. I thought I missed it! No! I found the crocus that I planted, and it was blooming just fine, thank you. I still plan to buy more in October so I can have a bigger show next year.

While last weekend did not bring a deluge of rain, it was cold and windy at my house. I chose to do some concentrated weeding because 1) the beds needed it, 2) the beds were in the sunshine, and 3) the house blocked the wind. Did I get everything accomplished? No, I did not, but I wore myself out and still accomplished something.

Perennial weeds are like ice bergs: deceptively small in the spring with not much above the surface but loads of roots below. Dig up all of it.

I will need to come back—later this spring as well as summer—to the asparagus row and the front foundation border where I will pull crabgrass and ground ivy that regularly invade. But unlike continuously pushing a boulder up a hill, weeding does get easier. The more often I attack the weeds, the easier the job is to remove them. The soil becomes looser and the weeds weaker.

Ground ivy and clumps of crab grass have moved into the asparagus bed (at left). The asparagus can handle poor soils and weedy competition (it grows on roadsides after all), but the Lazy Gardener still wants to eat as much as possible, so a good annual weeding helps to reduce competition.

I pulled a clump of weedy sorrel (looks like clover and tastes like lemon) from among last year’s asparagus remnants. On the surface, the sorrel seemed puny, but I dug under it with my new digging knife/trowel and removed a massive clump of roots. Perennial weeds continue to grow under the soil surface even as you remove the tops. I like to get at the perennial weeds early in the season when moist soils release the roots more easily.

Annual weeds will germinate but fail to establish if you attack them routinely with a hoe, garden fork or scuffle hoe. All that seems like more work but doing it more often also makes it easier.

Are you excited to weed yet? No? Try to prevent those weeds from germinating in the first place by using corn gluten weed prevention. Organic corn gluten spread over grass or garden beds will prevent any seed from sprouting; that is any seed, like grass seed or wildflower seed. However, it will not kill perennial weeds that already have roots deep into the soil. In fact, corn gluten adds nitrogen to the soil and probably helps the perennial weeds grow stronger.

So, use corn gluten carefully. Spread it while forsythia blooms—which indicates the soil temperatures are right for weed seed to sprout. After the forsythia bloom period will be too late to prevent weed seed sprouting.

I turned some of the winter rye, my green manure, over the weekend. This coming week has snow again in the forecast—a predictable spring April Fool’s prank—and that will settle into the turned soil helping to break down the fresh organic matter. I only turned sections that I plan to seed soon with peas, lettuce, arugula, and spinach. I will wait two weeks to plant the greens. I already popped some peas into the ground. I have more peas to plant if these don’t take off.

I grew tired of the scraggly stems and seed heads of last year’s black-eyed Susans, asters, and goldenrod. I finally cut those down but did not remove them. They will mulch the wildflower meadow and provide some protection for the new flower rosettes of annual and perennial plants. As I tromped around, I saw clumps of beebalm and lupine, as well as more asters and iris. I think perennials are The Lazy Gardener’s best friend—they just keep coming back!

I should add that I was tromping around the meadow with a hedge trimmer to shorten the dead stems, and it was wet, even muddy. Do you recognize potential compaction? Yes. That could be a problem if I was trying to grow a uniform fairway of lawn. Not my goal. The wildflower patch—though large, I shouldn’t call it a field—has rivulets all through it with clumps of perennials and grasses standing separate like so many islands. By cutting back the stems, I scattered remaining seeds and then tamped them into the muddy surface with my tromping about. I won’t step back into the patch again this season except to remove invasive species like purple loosestrife.

Gall from a goldenrod gall fly formed along the stem of goldenrod. Wasp larvae may join the gall fly larvae inside the gall and attack the companion or birds may excavate the gall and eat the larvae feeding inside.

In cutting back swaths of goldenrod stems, I smiled at the numerous galls that swelled about three feet up the stems of numerous plants. Galls form around a goldenrod midge egg. The fly lays the egg, and the plant continues to grow around the growing egg and larvae. The plant still flowers and the stem dies, but the gall remains as part of the woody remnant. Botany continues to fascinate.

For your calendar, Western Massachusetts Master Gardeners have two more symposia where you can join other garden enthusiasts and get all sorts of gardening questions answered: Berkshire County symposium is April 6 at Lenox Memorial High School in Lenox, and Franklin County symposium is April 13 at Frontier High School in South Deerfield. Mass. Learn more here.

Where will you be on Monday, April 8, 2024? A humbling phenomenon will occur on Monday afternoon when the moon passes between Earth and the sun for a few moments of sudden darkness along the path of totality, just about 100 miles west and north of Berkshire County! Further afield from the totality, you will notice shadows and sunbeams take on an unusual crescent shape. Supposedly, the darkness lasts long enough to prompt birds, insects, and amphibians to launch their evening rituals. Look around and take it all in. There won’t be another U.S. eclipse spanning coast to coast until 2045. Learn more from NASA.

I call myself the Lazy Berkshire Gardener because I don’t want to work too hard in my gardens. I want to enjoy them. I find it easier to observe my landscape and let the compost happen, the water pool up, or daisies to self-sow. I look for ways to do the minimum task for the biggest impact. For example, mulching is better than spraying and much better than weeding all season. I look for beautiful, low-maintenance plants that thrive in or at least tolerate my garden conditions. Plus, I’m willing to live with the consequences if I miss something.


The Edge Is Free To Read.

But Not To Produce.

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When it comes to woody plants, I feel more strongly about protecting them from insects and managing diseases than I do about perennials and annuals.


Sometimes the lazy gardener must choose what can be done in the time available.


While we busily plant our annuals as a rite of the start of summer, just like Memorial Day, don’t neglect your perennial gardens.

The Edge Is Free To Read.

But Not To Produce.