AKA the broke-ass gardener

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So I was putting some strawberry plants into a strawberry pot, and I was reflecting on the name that I’ve chosen here, and how there are lots of other words I could have used to describe my gardening style.  I think “half-assed” is a pretty good umbrella descriptor, because I think maybe some of the other adjectives one could use are just facets of half-assedness.  Contributors to my half-assedness.

I was thinking about it because these strawberries looked truly awful.  Perhaps it makes more sense to go to Portland Nursery and get some beautiful packs of strawberries that don’t have a single brown square centimeter, then immediately put those plants into a brand new pot with fresh, perfectly amended soil.  But see…we’re broke.  Like, not scary broke!  We’re fine!  I think.  But I want (NEED) lots of things (especially plants) for our house and yard, so I really have to be strategic.  NextDoor and my neighborhood Buy Nothing group have actually both been hooking me up lately!  So the other day a neighbor posted that she wanted to get rid of her strawberry pots, and I immediately was like OH MY GOD ME PLEEEEAAAASE ME because my kids are genuine freaks about strawberries, and also I have done pretty well with them in the past, and also strawberry pots are cute.  Then the very next day, a neighbor wanted to get rid of strawberries.  Perfect!  The only issue is that I was picking up the plants yesterday, and the pot today.  But, like…it’s free!  And I’m half-assed!

I genuinely don’t remember exactly what the plants looked like when the lovely woman gave them to me, but they were definitely in rough shape when I planted them, after a night in my trunk.  Veeeeery wilty, some dead brown leaves, and the roots seemed very crispy and dry.  But I dunno!  Strawberries are, in my experience, pretty badass, so I planted them and watered them in, and we’ll see what happens. Thanks, people of the world, for giving me free things.  I will try not to destroy them.

I’m also, in case you wondered, the sloooooooow-assed gardener.  This is definitely the main reason I am not in commercial horticulture anymore.  I really hated having to make a quota of how many grafts an hour.  I never, ever hit my goal.  Like I made it twice in all the time I was doing it.  Today, I veeeeeery sloooooowly weeded what I am calling the garbage can area.  It has a nice ring, right? It’s got these two little shrubs that are doing so badly, and those two little shrubs are surrounded by Malva neglecta.  Weeding Malva is so demoralizing, because it’s actually really pretty even when it’s just leaves, and then the flowers are sweet too, and also, it’s got one of those stupid fragile taproots that just breaks the second you pull on it, and you know there is no way you are getting it all, and it’s going to come back immediately.  Much like that bastard field bindweed that I am constantly battling.

One thing that’s been really nice lately is that my big kid has been actually helping in the garden.  Like, not pulling one weed and then wandering away (although that also totally happens), but really sitting down and working, and listening and learning!  But it was as we were pulling that Malva that I discovered my new favorite super-identity – The Lopsided Gardener.  See, my brain understands science.  Pretty well at least.  I think because I can get away with understanding big concepts, and connections, and I don’t know, my brain just likes it.  I am not so good with disciplines like history.  So we were weeding and I was explaining taxonomy to her.  She really, really did not get much science in elementary school, which is tragic, so the idea of Genus species was pretty new.  So, my poor, poor daughter says to me, “Who speaks Latin anyway?”, and I say, “Oh, nobody anymore, it’s what they call a dead language.”  And she says, “Oh, well who did speak it?” and I sat there in increasingly uncomfortable silence, until she says, “The Romans, right?” AND I SWEAR TO GOD I SAID, “No, silly, Rome is in Italy, the Romans spoke Italian.”  And my genius child persisted, “But then why did the Romans use all the Latin stuff in Percy Jackson?” and I was beginning to be horrified and thinking, “Wait, was it the Romans?  Uhhhh, it was someone…ancient, so like…the Greeks, but they would have obviously spoken Greek….” Until my husband, who is very, very smart and much better educated came out, and luckily he is also very sympathetic so I was able to laugh as if I was not dying inside and say, “Hey, I know this is dumb, but who spoke Latin?” and the poor guy said, “The Romans!  Who do you think spoke Latin?!?!?”  This all has very little to do with my gardening, but I thought it was funny.  Also, literally the very next day I told the same kid that Napoleon was Italian.  I think I had Napoleon mixed up with the word Neopolitan.  I wish I was kidding.  You do not want me on your pub quiz team until it’s Life Sciences Night.

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I started this post three days ago and I kept thinking of other “The __________ Gardener” things but I can’t think of any of them now and it’s very sad. I am just now finishing because I’ve been dealing with this “bunny condo” debacle that I won’t even go into, and I only have one picture of the Malva and one of the strawberry pot, so I’m adding a picture of the bunny because she’s cute.  Perhaps more people might follow me on Instagram if my pictures were not all of weeds and dying plants?  Just a thought.

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The Half-Assed Blogger

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Here’s a nice picture of the beautiful, awful bindweed I discovered today after I thought I pulled it all yesterday. Posted from Instagram where I am “halfassedgardener”

So here’s the thing.   I would not consider myself to be a “digital native”.  In fact, I’m probably not even using that term correctly.  What I mean to say is that I am not very comfortable with a computer or anything associated with a computer.  I don’t know what words mean, what acronyms stand for, or how to make things do things.  And yet.  I like to write, and I like to take pretty pictures of plants.  So here I am, having a blog that nobody reads!  Hi, five people from yesterday!

This is just to explain that I have this blog, a Facebook page, and an Instagram account, and none of them are the same, and they aren’t very good.  I am actually even more half-assed about this venture than I am about my gardening, which is really saying something.

As previously mentioned, I started this blog in 2012, maybe before “homesteading” was such a loaded term.  And maybe just as more people were actually starting to do that in a serious way!  I did have ambitious goals, but I was never realistically going to have a “homestead”.  I was just being folksy!  But the thing is, that term is kinda played out now, and also people are legit doing it!  Like, on my block!  So I have to retire that term for myself, out of respect and self-respect.  So at first I was going to be “the half-assed human”, because believe me, I am half-assed in all areas of my life.  But, I just realized that I will be writing about my garden like 90% of the time, and also half-assed human just sounds weird.  So, I settled on “The Half-Assed Gardener” . I don’t like it as much as the half-assed homesteader, but it will do.  This is where things get complicated.

WordPress will let me change the name on my pages, but not in my actual site address.  So my pages say gardener, the address says homesteader.  So far I can’t get Facebook to let me change the site name so it’s homesteader over there.  Instagram let me change though, so I’m gardener there.

Oh and finally, I really enjoy photography, but I have a lot of conflicted feelings about it, but more importantly I don’t have the time to really play with taking or editing pictures, nor do I want to spend money on a fancy app.  So a good 90% of the time my pictures are nowhere near as nice once they are on the site as I thought they were going to be.

So, that’s it.  Half-assing everything, as usual.  Just a brief explanation of why everything I do is janky.

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And a beautiful, awful web, sign of spider mites.

 

 

Hell is other people’s weeds

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My view from within the crabgravel

Y’all, how is it that when you google that with quotes it returns NOTHING.  I can’t believe there is not a wacky t-shirt with that saying on it already.  If I was in any way an entrepreneur I would make one, but…I’m not.

But it’s the truth.  Other people’s weeds are my hell right now.  Namely, the previous tenants of this house and my neighbors.  I am, let’s face it, not staying on top of them, even though I’m trying so hard.  Which, of course, means that my own crabgrass going to seed is someone else’s hell.  I’m sorry, person!

Let’s discuss what I’m battling, and my strategies.  Well, I have this perennial bed in the front yard, which I dislike immensely anyway, and am going to try to adjust so it flows a lot better.  But, as mentioned previously, this thing truly seemed almost more like a lawn than a flower bed.  The crabgrass was SO THICK.  I hand-weeded all of it, because it is my understanding that crabgrass can regenerate from root pieces.  This is my first experience from crabgrass, so I’m taking someone’s word at it.  I did manage to get most of it before it went to seed…but…right on the other side of the chainlink fence is my neighbor’s crabgrass, so, I don’t know.  That bed also has a ton of Euphorbia maculata, spotted spurge.  That stuff is everywhere in this yard.  It’s probably my lowest priority weed though, because it is actually so easy to pull usually, and I haven’t seen it rooting along the stems so far.  I am making sure to get it before it goes to seed though, because I know that is bad news bears.   I had intended to put Preen corn gluten meal down in this bed to try to prevent new crabgrass, but then I noticed some lupine and some columbine are naturalizing in it, and I really want that to continue, so I guess I’ll keep up the hand-weeding for now.

Oh, more crabgrass, by the way.  There is this super awkward rectangle, maybe 2′ x 5′, that runs between my entryway bed and the fence, and is covered in gravel.  It’s a bit hidden, and I did not notice that it had gone batshit crazy, because, when my kid is mowing, she can’t mow back there because of the gravel.  And I just spaced it.  So, this is definitely where my weeds are someone’s hell.  That grass was like a foot high and all seeds.  Luckily, it was super easy to hand pull, because it’s basically gravel over landscape fabric, and most of the roots hadn’t gone through the fabric.

While I was working in that area, I was thinking about how much I actually enjoy weeding.  There is obviously a satisfaction in looking at a cleared area, but beyond that, I really enjoy the physical sensations of both gently pulling a shallow-rooted weed to make sure nothing gets left behind and trying to get the most solid grasp on a taproot to take as much out as I can.  I honestly think there’s almost an ASMR quality to it, as you pull up something and hear the roots quietly separating from the soil.  Yesterday I knew I was going to be weeding for a long time, so I turned on some music, and after maybe five minutes I actually turned it off and weeded in silence.  It just felt better.

So anyway, this crabgrass gravel, OR CRABGRAVEL IF YOU WILL (and I will, because I love portmanteaus) was super satisfying to weed but while I was there I saw two things that made me sick to my stomach.  One, coming through the fence, was Ranunculus repens, or creeping buttercup.  EFF THAT STUFF.  It was one of my all-time worst weeds about ten years back and I am absolutely terrified that it’s coming into my yard.  I mean, I guess I will just try real hard to keep it from rooting in my space, but it just feels really hopeless.  I’ll do more research, but all the literature I read today basically said, “Dang, that sucks.”  Also, if I am correct, I believe my neighbor has an Ailanthus altissima (tree-of-heaven) growing in his yard.  My guess, based on the glimpses I get of his property, is that he’s not going to cut that thing down.  Sooooo….that’s gonna suck.  Again, feels pretty hopeless.

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I hate you, creeping buttercup, even though you have a cutesy name.
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Stealth picture of possible enemy tree.

In the walkway between the front and the back, I’ve got two very sad looking shrubs.  They look a bit better than when I moved in, but they are still not very happy.  I thought they were a Daphne, but iNaturalist is telling me something else, so I’m just not sure.  But the gravel area around them is COVERED with Malva neglecta (so many cute common names, I especially like cheeseweed.) I have no idea how I’m going to deal with that.  I guess it’s also low on the priority list, because it’s so slow growing and won’t go bananas if it goes to seed, but still, I know they’ve got burly taproots developing under there, taking away all the good stuff those sad little shrubs need.

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Imagine this but times a hundred.

More effing gravel in the backyard.  Ugh.  All around the patio is pea gravel, where the spurge is constantly sprouting, but the worst is the tons of Convolvulus arvensis, field bindweed.  It’s partly in the gravel and partly in the adjacent bed.  I’m trying so hard to deal with it, but this is another one where all the literature basically says to set it on fire and run as far away from your house as you can.  I’m at least trying to keep it small, so it doesn’t go to seed or choke out the nearby plants, and I’m hoping maybe if I keep cutting the top down the roots will starve, but I’m pretty sure that’s wishful thinking.  The stats on this and the Ranunculus are so disturbing, about how far they can spread in a single season and how resilient their roots and seeds are.  I just feel totally screwed.

On the upside, I think the neighbors might have heard me complain about the blackberry that was creeping over the fence, because they got rid of it!  Me 1, plants 1 billion!

Lastly, sort of, I’m trying to figure out what to do with what I’m calling the “firepit area”.  I call it this because I want to put a firepit there.  And I think the previous tenants might have had a firepit there!  But, I don’t have a firepit.  So right now what I’ve got is a sort of baseball diamond shaped dirt patch, where I think they cleared away the soil.  Ideally, I guess I’d like to put flagstone down?  But like, I don’t even own this place, and also I am broke, and also, that is way beyond my sphere of understanding.  Whenever we’d get into hardscaping when I was in school I would just completely zone out.  So I have no idea what I’m going to do with it, but for now it’s just a very happy landing place for weed seeds.  And, I have to be honest, today I used a product called Pulverize on them.  I give a LOT of thought before I use anything on weeds, and I give a LOT of thought as to what I will use.  Without going into detail about how I chose Pulverize (that can be another post), I’ll just say the following:  this is the first time I’ve purchased it and the second time I’ve used it, and I’m not super thrilled.  It, like most “organic” herbicides, does not translocate to the roots, it just kills the top part of the plant.  So that’s discouraging.  Also, it is getting really foamy and doesn’t spray very well.  But I’m just looking at it as buying me some time until I figure out what my permanent strategy is.

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Wouldn’t this be dreamy with a nice patio type thing and a firepit? And some smelly nice vine planted behind?

So.  There’s my essay on all the weeds in my 5000 sq ft lot.  Today was overcast, which was actually lovely for dealing with weeds, although I guess it will probably decrease the efficiency of the Pulverize.  And, I only use any kind of chemical, no matter how theoretically safe, when my littlest one is at school and won’t be home for a few hours, so today was good for that reason as well.  Who knows what tomorrow will bring?  What horrible pernicious weed will I discover next?!