Saturday, May 30, 2009


Some time in the late 60's or early 70's a group called Tee-Set recorded an obscure song called She Likes Weeds.
It was the flip side of an old 45 that I listened to as a kid. The lyrics went something like this:

There’s a long nosed dirty old witch Witchipoo
She speaks a magic word called Shackabadoo
The smell of thousand herbs is hanging round
the house where she lives in
It’s built on magic ground
She likes weeds
They're easy to grow
They are easy to grow, easy to grow
In the morning dew
She likes weeds
They're easy to grow
And they always are there, everywhere
When she needs a few

I'm not a witch, and although I enjoy the smell of a thousand herbs hanging around, I DO NOT like weeds.

One of the less enjoyable aspects of gardening, at least for me, is the constant weeding necessary. This is especially important when growing herbs, because rather than picking the fruit off the vine, you actually eat the plant, so you don't want dandelion, milkweed, or Wild Armenian Snailgrass to get accidentally mixed in with your fresh savory.

One of the plants we decided to experiment with this year is called EPAZOTE. That is the more politically correct, and socially acceptable name. It is also known by such delightful names as: Wormseed, Skunkweed, Pigweed, and Mexican Tea.
While it is widely used in Mexican food, it is also poisonous if eaten in large enough quantities. The aroma of this plant has been described as a mixture between citrus and old socks. My research has found that it is prolific, seeds and spreads rapidly, and if not controlled will take over your garden.

Why, then, would someone want to grow such a thing? I don't know. Maybe for the novelty, maybe just so I can say I did. Maybe I will actually like it and use it. But no matter my reason, I will have to make sure and control it, so it doesn't go wild and crazy.

Some plants, like Spearmint, spread by sending out long root systems that send up new shoots. These can be controlled by planting them in a bucket or #10 can buried in the ground. This contains the roots, and keeps them from spreading. Other plants, like Oregano, Thyme and Savory will put down roots whenever a stalk touches the ground, creating a new plant network, and forming a ground cover. These plants can be contained or controlled by keeping the stems and stalks off the ground.

But so many plants, like Sage, Chives and Dill, and of course, the aforementioned infamous Epazote seed off, and those tiny seeds will scatter and spread like juicy gossip at a church picnic until your garden has run amok

In an effort to keep my weeds er... plants... growing where they belong, I took a tip from The Thrifty Groove.
I prepared my soil, softening it and getting it all ready for plants. I removed all the undesirable plants.
*Note: A plant that is growing in a place where you do not want it to grow, is an undesirable. Forget about whether or not it is a plant that you have previously considered a weed. Many herbs are considered to be weeds. Many of the flowers that I see people plant in my area, grew wild and were considered noxious in the area where I grew up. Don't feel bad, pulling all the baby seedlings that sprouted from last years plants. If they don't belong there, get rid of them.

So, I pulled all the seedlings, transplanted a few to places I wanted them, and plucked the rest mercilessly. I cleared the area around each of my perennials, right up to the base of the plant, and all the empty spaces between them.
Then, I took sheets of old newspapers and started covering all the exposed soil. Every place was doubled and I used generous overlaps, because, after all, old newspapers are not too expensive. I cut slits, tore notches, and otherwise fit the papers around the base of each perennial, as close as I could get to the main stem or trunk of the plants.

It didn't take me long to realize that the slight breeze that was blowing was going to play havoc with my newspapers, so as I laid each one down, I poured water over it. I also quickly discovered that warm water was absorbed more quickly by the paper, while cold water tended to run off.

Once all of the exposed soil was covered with a liberal application of newsprint, two to three layers thick, I covered the newspaper with shredded bark mulch. I confess, I bought mine, because I wanted the red brick color, but this is often available cheap, or even free, from tree removal companies, and some cities and municipalities even make it available as part of their recycling programs.
Now, as I add more plants, I carefully scrape away part of the mulch, make an "X" cut in the newspaper, and peel back the flaps, then dig my hole, plant my plant, and after filling in the soil, I push the newspaper back in place and replace the mulch.
I am hoping that the combination of newspaper and mulch will provide a barrier to the weeds, while still allowing the garden to retain water.

I water my plants directly on the plant and/or through the plastic bottles and jugs that I have buried throughout the garden, but rain is not quite so targeted.
We had a substantial amount of rainfall last week, and I am happy to report that the water did not run off. The mulch held it long enough for it to soak through the paper, and now, it is keeping it from evaporating as fast.
So far, it looks like this was a successful project. The big factor will be whether or not we have weeds growing in the garden this year.

Time will tell. And when it does, I will share the results here. Watch this space for updates.


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