My garden is weedy. Part of this is intentional. Slugs and critters don’t seem to care if they are eating weeds or veggies or herbs, so I leave the weeds in places if they aren’t competing with what I’m cultivating. This has helped reduce the damage.
On the other hand, if I don’t stay on top of the weeds — preventing them from sprawling or going to seed — then I end up with a real mess on my hands. Right now I’m trying to extricate grass seedlings that are surrounding lettuce seedlings. It’s like agriculture surgery.
I am also keeping weeds to make fertilizer tea. I throw them in a five gallon bucket with banana peels, fill it with water, cover it, and in two weeks I have the best free fertilizer. I strain it and dilute it one to one. This simple trick is changing my gardening game this year. The plants love it. When I have enough nettle growing, I’ll do the same with it.
Someone told me to try planting mint in the garden to deter pests. This is also a dangerous game, but I have noticed the groundhogs have abandoned their burrow in the garden now that the opening is surrounded by mint. I’m trying the open-bottom pot in the ground trick. Supposedly, this will keep the mint from spreading. We use mint in tea, and I would love to learn to make our own cilantro mint chutney, so a little more mint is welcome if I can corral it.
I’m also trying rue around my one sunflower seedling. I cannot grow sunflowers here. They are simply too delicious. I had one in a pot that was thriving, but eventually even that one got chomped. I decided to plant it in the garden surrounded by rue seedlings. Rue is one of my favorite herbs, and it’s very bitter. I’m hoping the critters don’t like it and will leave my sunflower alone. It’s a red sunflower, and it seems to be coming back with two stalks instead of one.
The deer ate the baby gooseberries. Next year we will try a fruit cage. They are also nibbling at the low-hanging baby apples. Luckily our apple trees are old and big — too tall for the deer to reach very many. I have a good feeling about the apples this year.
My garden sorrel started flowering. I cut it back, trying to coax it into a longer season of greens. Then it cranked the finger at me. I guess I’ll let it go to seed and hopefully have sorrel babies next year.
The Daikon Radishes are doing great. I would harvest this one, but I’m supposed to let it go to seed first. The rest of the kimchi garden is hit or miss. The mustard bolted. I may plant more. The Napa cabbage is struggling. We did get a bunch of kale today, but that may be it for the season.
The good news is some of the peas rebounded. I hope to get a few. The tomatoes and peppers are doing well. The zucchini is surviving. And the Jerusalem Artichokes seem happy so far.
The soapwort is thriving, as are the hops.
And we have strawberries, if we can keep the chipmunks at bay.
Maybe the chipmunks will be happy with the false strawberries from the ground cover I’ve let go in places. It’s like gardening sleight of hand or the Jedi mind trick. “These are not the strawberries you are looking for.”
I am trying my hand at foraging. I’ve never foraged more than blackberries and wild onions, so this is new. We have Dryad’s Saddle growing on our property. I went through a long process of identifying them, although I’ve read there are no poisonous lookalikes. Unfortunately, I got to them too late. I tried sautéing them in butter, but they were too big and tough. I’ll try again in the fall or next spring, now that I know what they are. (Please do your own research on mushrooms and don’t go by anything I say. I’m not an expert. I’m still alive though. I ate one bite… well, tried to.)
This year, I have roses. Okay, they’re invasive multiflora rose, but they smell divine. We’re removing any that are competing with other trees and plants, and pulling up those that have spread. But we will leave one or two that are doing well, and collect the hips in the fall for tea. This plant provides food and shelter for wildlife. (We’re handling honeysuckle the same way since the hummingbirds love them.)
I recently read an article about climate change and native species that made me rethink how we handle competition in our natural environment. Granted, some invasive species have to be controlled, but many will be balanced by nature. I’m letting the mosquito larvae go in my pond and attracting dragonflies with plants to help control them. This is how I’m trying to think about things. Also, I’d love to install a bat house.
I’m seeing many more bird species this year. I feel like we must be doing something right. In addition to the regulars (goldfinches, house finches, titmice, nuthatches, downy and red-bellied woodpeckers, blue jays, and crows) we now have regular visits from red-winged blackbirds, grosbeak couples, cowbirds, a red-headed woodpecker, and I even saw what I think was a Cedar Waxwing at the Oriole feeder, though I’m not 100% positive. I did see an Oriole early on at the hummingbird feeder, but it’s not been back even though I’ve now put out jelly for it. We have a female hummingbird in addition to the males (ruby-throated), which come back each year. And we finally have regular cardinals. This is good, as they eat stink bugs, and we have too many of those.