Controlling weeds, pests may be easier than you think



For folks who long to grow their own food without all the fuss and fancy equipment, we bring you the gardening foibles of Bobbi Buchanan. She doesn’t have the wherewithal to hoe a straight row, let alone keep her garden neat and weeded. She’s an expert at nothing, which makes the fruits of her minor labors that much more inspiring for the rest of us. Welcome to The Lazy Gardener.

Chief Editor

Raise your hand if you hate weeding.

Lazy gardeners such as myself don’t want to spend much more time than it takes to throw some seeds in the ground and pluck all those beautiful veggies when they finally pop up.  Weeding is low on my priority list, and it was even lower than usual this summer, being particularly painful to accomplish with temperatures hitting 90 degrees at 8 a.m.

I did my best to get up early to tend garden. However, once there, I would just stand and stare. And sweat. I did manage to water my beans, lettuce, peppers and tomatoes every morning before the scorching sun hit our little patch of paradise. But I didn’t get much weeding done.

Instead, I read up on weeding and discovered that not all weeds are bad. I also observed where I had the least unwanted growths and developed a strategy for building on that next year. Turns out, I have fewer weeds in my containers and the garden beds that sit closest to the house, at the highest spot in our yard.

Of course, there are other tricks for controlling weeds. For prevention, I wait until our horse manure and compost is at least a year old before adding it to the garden. When those suckers do crop up, I prefer hoeing them out. Some people like to lay newspapers or cardboard between rows. I’ve done this once, and it works well, if you don’t mind the extra work.

I’ve seen all kinds of organic herbicides on the market, and I’ve heard homemade vinegar sprays are effective in killing weeds. But something I’ve learned from gardening the past five years is that you shouldn’t try to fight nature too much when it comes to weeds, bugs and weather. Nature always wins. In other words, sometimes it’s good to be lazy.

For example, we planted a dwarf cherry tree five years ago that’s bloomed and born fruit every spring. However, before the cherries could ripen, the tree was getting attacked by these aphids that are farmed by tiny ants. Every year I tried new tactics to prevent the invasion, including soapy water, diatomaceous earth and neem oil, to no avail. One summer, at the encouragement of a friend, I spent an hour a day for several weeks manually scraping the aphids from the foliage, and the cherries shriveled and died anyway.

When I spotted the pests this spring, I didn’t get angry or even shake my head; I simply made peace with the pests and wished the tree luck in surviving. I don’t know what happened to the aphids, but a few weeks later, I was able to gather enough cherries to bake a pie.

I didn’t fight the bugs in the garden either. I followed an old-fashioned plan of planting some extra and planning for the worst. A few plants suffered from various aphids and beetles, but the bulk of the garden thrived.

As if the oppressive heat wasn’t enough, the summer’s growing season also brought torrential downpours, including at least two hail storms in my neck of the woods. Most of the squash and zucchini got hammered, but not before my family had enjoyed a bushel. And because I over-planted, two of the plants hung on for a while, allowing me to cook a few more batches of my favorite soup—squash and split pea. Click here for the recipe.

So the lesson of this year’s growing season is, relax, take it easy and enjoy the fruits of your labors.

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