Here is the recipe of the week. Start with garden soil containing a mix of finicky seeds, roots and rhizomes. Add a dash or shower of rain and ever-increasing doses of heat. Sooner than you want, the combination of these ingredients will result in a healthy weed menu. Well, it wasn’t that easy; definitely much easier than making Fluffy Jiggly Cheesecake.
Of course, not everyone is thrilled with the result of this recipe, that of weed, that is. I don’t mind a collection of weeds in my lawn where they add lots of color throughout the season, but I am not fond of weeds in the vegetable patch and flower beds. Weeds in gardens are competitors, competing for light, nutrients and space with desirable plants. As such, weeds must be removed.
Weeding is not something many people enjoy. Having spent much of my youth crawling on hands and knees weeding row after row, acre after acre on the family onion farm, I don’t mind weeding on a much smaller scale of our gardens. In fact, as a self-proclaimed master of mindless tasks, I find weeding a peaceful experience, a chance for contemplation, even though I haven’t solved the world’s problems yet. Nevertheless, like other gardeners, I try to complete the task quickly. Fortunately, there are a variety of tools to help the world’s weedkillers.
Small hand tools for weeding include items such as soil cutters, a Cape Cod weeder, a fishtail or dandelion weeder, a handheld garden cultivator or claw and a Cobra Head weeder. Long-handled tools for weeding include hoes, stirrup hoes, and garden pitchforks. Everyone in our family has a favorite weeding tool and none of us agree on one. Thus, it would be good to familiarize yourself with the options, perhaps by borrowing a tool from a friend before buying your own.
Weeding is one of those tasks that must be continued throughout the growing season in order to achieve the best growth of desirable plants. This is especially true for vegetables. However, the need to remove weeds can be reduced by applying mulches around the plants. Straw and grass clippings are good options for the vegetable garden while buckwheat hulls, cedar bark and shredded wood work well in flower beds. Wood chips may be best for mulching around trees and shrubs, but make sure the mulch is not piled up against the trunks of trees and shrubs.
ERUPTION OF THE GYPSY CATERPILLAR
While weeds can be annoying, one creature is even more annoying right now, and that’s the gypsy moth (formerly called gypsy moth). Here in the Berkshires, the caterpillars hatched early last week from egg masses on tree trunks. Soon after, they climbed into the tree canopy where they wove tiny, silky threads that allowed them to be blown away by the wind, a process called ballooning. They land randomly on other trees, on the sides of buildings, on fence posts and, unfortunately, on people. Not only do we have to brush the critters off our clothes before entering the house, but we also see a rash, similar to poison ivy, on our exposed skin surfaces. The rash comes from contact with the fine hairs on the body of the caterpillars. For more information on the rash, see this website: myhealthystate.org/itching-for-relief-how-to-treat-a-gypsy-moth-rash/
Well, if weeds and caterpillars aren’t boring enough, here’s a gardening to-do list for this week:
- Continue to sow sweet corn, root and leafy green seeds. It’s a little early but current weather trends are such that bean seedlings seem worth the risk. However, don’t put all your eggs… er, seeds in one basket… er, in the garden. Plan to plant several maize and bean seeds to extend the harvest season.
- Place floating row covers over crucifers, i.e. cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower, to protect the plants from cabbage moth. Also, place row covers over leeks, onions and shallots to protect them from the allium leafminer.
- Try incorporating vegetable crops into your landscape if space is limited in the vegetable patch. A few pepper plants or eggplants nestled among peonies and daylilies will make you stop and marvel. It’s good to keep visitors wondering – you don’t want them to get too comfortable.
- Remove any blooms that appear on blueberry and strawberry plants that were planted this spring. Yes, it hurts to lose the opportunity to harvest fruit from these plants this year, but removing the flowers will encourage plant growth and ensure better fruit yields in the future.
- Make room in the vegetable for a few annual flowers that are attractive to bees and other pollinators. Some plants to include are: annual daisy (Osteospermum species), borage, calendula, cornflower, cosmos, lantana, salvias, sunflower and zinnias,
- Watch for eastern tent caterpillars on fruit trees. Apply a spray containing Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) to the foliage of these trees.
- Move your weeder away from the trunks of young trees. These nylon filament mowers can easily girdle the fine bark of young trees. If you are chronically neglectful, cut the grass around the trees using hand shears or remove a strip of grass around the base of each tree and replace it with a layer of organic mulch.