"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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Copyright © 2008 by Bill Scifres


So you are fighting little weeds in a big time fashion, are you? Well what gardener isn’t?

And, you have been finding the weeding chores more an exercise (pardon the expression) more “exercise” than getting shed of the little monsters.

Well, it is par for the course, as my golf-pro son-in-law says: “The rub of the green.” Still, there are some things you can do that will make your lot a lot easier (pardon the puns).

In any event, I think we are prone to agree, that mechanical devices are the best weed implements (like the trusty rototiller), but  the common hoe is probably the most used for weeding (and may be the best, though it can make muscles quite sore).

Still, if you use your noodle, this kind of implement, the kind that is used for dragging (not chopping), will eliminate small weeds by exposing their roots to air and sunshine. It’ll even work on large weeds, but may require more than one pass. If a weed’s roots remain, this can lead to generation of more above ground growth.

There are several implements (including the common hoe) that will eliminate small weeds if one simply backs carefully between the rows after sinking the business end of the chosen implement in the earth. This still is not a cupcake, but it beats a chopping motion so far as the expending energy is concerned. The chopping motion may do a better job.

Another little trick I have picked up in the weed war is working with weed covered soil that is a little damp, but still crumbly. You say, of course, but that you can’t always weed when the soil is of the best consistency.

So in that case, you have to weed when you can (that’s like “goin’ fishin”) and put the garden hose or sprinkler can to work in rendering soil moisture the way you want it. But remember, you only want to create a loamy, easy-to-move soil . . . not a loblolly. If it is too wet, it won’t work. You want light, crumbly soil.

Gardens are wont to get crusty on the surface with prolonged drought or too much rain, or a combination of the two. That can, and often does, keep seed-originating plants from breaking through the surface to life-giving sunshine. Some plants may be adversely affected. Thus, it is always good to keep the soil loose around plants. Tom Waitt, my dairy-farmer host for gardening, calls it cultivation . . . working the soil. He adds that this is a very crucial element of growing anything.

I have found that it is well that water, in creating the right conditions in the soil, should show puddles, but should disappear into the soil rapidly. Then, after a short period of rest, it is time to work. But the weeds don’t sprout in one day, and neither should their elimination. Work slowly, but with a plan. As the old saw goes: “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

I might add, that neither were Utica, or Old Forge, Poughkeepsie, or Niagra Falls, either and they are all important New York cities.

Be that as it is, the weeds-in-garden syndrome is very bad this year. They are young now and should be dealt with at the earliest. There are all kinds of chemical tools to curtail the weeds, but when the word “chemicals” is mentioned, I shudder for the welfare of my plants.

The long cool, rainy spring has given the weeds a head start on the veggies and flowers. In many cases, transplanting and replanting will be necessary. That strikes home, because my three rows of early corn show me only half a dozen potential roasting-ear producing plants. I fear they must be replanted, along with the radishes.

Incidentally, if you can get your “tomater” plants going well, some time before tie-up stage cover the earth around them, and between the rows, with two inches of straw. It will keep the moisture in and the weeds out. The straw also will keep the fruits off the earth and they will not rot as badly.

Also, if rot spots are not real big, the rest of a “tomater” can be salvaged with a sharp knife, especially for cooking. Skins can be fished out with a fork after cooking, or if the “tomater” is still in good shape it can be skinned after blanching in boiling water. I leave them in the water until the skin cracks. I also am told that freezing will loosen skins.

RABBITS, BLESS ‘EM—Rabbit problems seem to be cropping up more prominently this year than in recent gardens, maybe because the weather let them grow. There simply appear to be more rabbits.

I have heard several places that the planting of marigolds in the garden will repulse bunnies, also that the marigolds should be planted in clusters.

We’ll see.

I also have designed a tomater-plant cage from little chicken wire (conical in shape) to thwart the rabbits’ lunch habits. I am told that the rabbits can dig under the cages. We will cross that bridge when we come to it.

This, of course, recalls a neat sort-of little half-rhyme my dad used to recite for me when the bunnies quit their dens under the woodshed and got into our garden: “Rabbit . . . Rabbit . . . you’ve got an awful habit . . . Running through the turnip patch . . . eating all the cabbages.”

TIP TOPICS—Terry Shive, North Carolina writes: “You might check your ‘squarsh’ plants for stink bugs, BB. Dig around the plant with a finger. They can bore through stems and kill plants in a matter of days. I just cleaned out a bunch of them by spraying a concentrated mix of Sevin around the plants’ roots . . . had no idea they were even there . . . they are masters at hiding. For dinner I fixed taters in their britches, cole slaw, broccoli, red beets, and shrimps . . . all from the garden ‘cepting the shrimps. Will have zucs ready for lunch soon.” 

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All columns are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Bill Scifres, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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