The 41-year-old gardener

We got the keys to this house and moved our very first boxes in on June 2 of this year. Then school ended, and the big kid had various camps, and we went out of town for two weeks, and it was just busy for a minute. But since about mid-July, it’s been pretty chill. And every day, every single day, I have tried to get the big kid to UNPACK HER DAMN ROOM. The day the movers moved our stuff in, she and a dear little 2nd grade (I think) friend unpacked and organized her stuff. She was VERY excited and had grand plans. That was the actual last time she put any effort into unpacking her room. School starts this coming Wednesday, and finally last Friday I told her that whatever was left to do in her room would be done on Sunday, and she was going to pay us to help her. It worked! She spent all day Sunday unpacking and cleaning, and on Sunday night she was done, capping off what was basically a perfect birthday weekend.

You know what makes a perfect birthday weekend for me? Gardening presents, and time to garden. Also, snuggles, amazing food, fun childless time with my husband, and more amazing food with dear friends in my wonderful failure of a garden. Oh! I even spent some time in my garden but NOT DOING GARDENING. This is rare! Usually if I’m outside, I feel like I have to be doing something. But on Saturday friends were soon to arrive, and I was wearing basically the one thing I don’t want to get ruined – my aspirational denim jumpsuit from Goodwill. So instead of sitting in the dirt, I actually laid down on my hammock and just breathed. That was kind of incredible.

Anyway, my thoughtful husband heard me randomly say to myself one day that I needed a gardening apron, and he found a perfect one! And it even came with knee pads. So I spent all day Sunday gardening in my hilariously awesome get-up, while the big kid cleaned her room and my husband played with the little one. So what’s going on out there?

Well, I cleaned up the entryway bed, which makes me feel so much better. I just really hate walking past a bunch of dead stuff as I walk into my house. It’s another kind of messed-up bed, with plants planted willy-nilly as far as I can tell, and not with any sort of thought to sun needs. That’s the worst thing that whoever planted this yard did – NOTHING is in the sun it needs. So this poor fern is in the north-facing yard, with basically no protection. I just cleaned up us much brown foliage as I could, and I have no idea what I’m going to do with it.

But I did discover that it’s actually putting out new growth and it is SO FUZZY.

FUZZY
Also fuzzy and from a healthier fern a few feet closer to the house, more protected.

It feels just like petting Jasper the bunny’s feet. And now I know why there is that fern called rabbit foot fern, except let’s be real – those “rabbit feet” look like tarantula legs and I will never, ever have one of those. They scare the shit out of me. Anyway, this north-facing unprotected bed also has tragic hostas and a super crappy bleeding heart in it and it’s just infuriating to me.

But! After I did some stuff to the entryway bed, I was like, Ugh, I guess I gotta deal with the corner of the yard. This corner, it’s so weird. It’s one of the front corners of the front yard, up against the sidewalk. They landscape fabric-ed the whole sidewalk edge, but they only planted the very corners, and this corner…it has one blue fescue. That is it. And it’s not even really in the corner, it’s like…in a couple feet, all alone. Completely surrounded by the damn mallow. This is the first time I’d even weeded this corner and the mallow was GINORMOUS and at least not going to seed but whoa making some taproots. So I was out there cursing the weirdos who designed this yard, when a butterfly visited me! It was such a lovely experience. I put down my tools and just sat there and watched it, for a long time. Of course my picture sucks because iPhone 6, but it was honestly probably the calmest moment I’ve had in months.

Then I went to the stupid crabgrass bed, and I had a great time with a sudden bed renovation! I realized the strawberry coming in from the neighbor’s yard was being choked out by the kinnickinick and I was like, Oh hell no. Something that will give me delicious berries versus an aphid-harboring overly aggressive groundcover that the weirdos overplanted? Duh. So I ripped out a bunch of kinnickinick. I should maybe probably have cleaned it up and put it up on Buy Nothing or something like that, but that is not the half-assed way. I even discovered a tiny little Lupine struggling amongst the crazy! So that bed is looking much nicer, except of course for the constant onslaught of crabgrass.

After that I still did even more! There are these two Weigelas in the back yard that look terrible. They are obviously supposed to be a deep purple, but they really are not. I cut some back and the new foliage is looking better, but one still was a lot of dead sticks, so I did a very slow, thorough pruning while poor husband continued to play Octonauts with the little one.

Hi, Ikea weeding bin.
If it all looked like this it would be really pretty. It doesn’t and it’s not.
Weigela glow-up.

Oh and I even deadheaded my lavender! And that was a really lovely way to end the gardening, very slowly intentionally deadheading and dropping the seeds on the ground to see if they’ll take. I have no idea if they will. But it smelled so nice and was so calm. Then I had to go back to real life and play Octonauts while husband made dinner.

So anyway. 41 is looking pretty decent. I’ve got a garden and a thoughtful husband and good friends and funny kids and there is good food for us all to eat. And a bunny. The big kid starts MIDDLE SCHOOL Wednesday. How is that even possible? Go back in my posts – it seems like she was a funny little baby with raspberry juice all over her face yesterday. Wish us luck.

Oh by the way something made a hole in my yard WHAT IS IT HELP ME PLEASE.

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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?!