After a brutally cold and rainy spring is it truly safe to work in the garden? No promises, but hope prevails that we are past the risk a killing frost will undo our careful labors. Like most gardeners I enjoy spending quiet time turning up my little plot, planting seeds, setting starter plants and providing for the garden’s needs with water, protection and weeding. We wait, nurture and watch for the bountiful results of all this industry.
Did I mention weeding? I delight in hovering around the veggies diligently plucking away rogue intruders. Plants that have no place in my garden are easy targets. Die, creeping Charlie, bindweed, crabgrass and dandelion. Wither, evil pigweed and lambs quarter. Don’t even think about it buckhorn and you — edible purslane; you are garden fodder — I’ll eat you on the spot!
However, I struggle with the definition of a weed. A weed is simply a plant growing where it is not wanted. We want to remove any plant that is a hindrance to our chosen plants by competing for water, nutrients or sunlight. But what about all the innocents? The volunteers of tomato, sunflower, pumpkins and squash bravely germinating from last year’s parents? I grapple with the conundrum of killing off what last year I tenderly nurtured.
Yet every year it is the same. The little sunflower seedling looks harmless enough and I extend mercy. By the end of the summer, my innocent intruders have taken over the garden, shaded and crowded out my real vegetable plants reducing harvest significantly. There must be some lifelong lesson I need to learn.
So, this year I am rededicating myself to a gardening commitment. I vow to pluck out all weeds, real and imagined, and live the definition of commitment as defined by Webster: “The state or quality of being dedicated to a cause (my garden) or activity (weeding).” Synonyms include dedication, devotion, allegiance, adherence and attentiveness!
Of course, there are less dramatic ways to eke out a few green beans! If, garden warfare is not your priority for the summer, try container gardening, small raised beds or keeping your fingers out of the dirt entirely and visiting our many farmers markets. North country residents also have many options to join a CSA (community supported agriculture) where someone else does the weeding.
For information on options to obtain fresh local produce, call Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County at 315-788-8450.