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Friday, April 8, 2011

Nature writes. Gardeners edit.

Taking a drive around our neighborhood you see these beautiful front yards and pavements lined with pretty yellow flowers. Draw close and you realize its the same weed that has been tormenting us by growing all over our yard. Below is a photo of it. Granted that this isn't like its ugly cousins with thorns and unsightly blooms but it slowly but surely takes over your yard. The one saving grace is that procrastination helps just a little as their yellow blooms are indeed pretty to look at.

I read somewhere that to be "certified" organic for a vegetable patch, there has to be a chemical free buffer zone around your garden for 50 yards all around. Keeping this in mind we have been trying hard not to use any chemical methods (Roundup, etc.) and just do it the organic way, i.e. pull them out one by one. Doing this every day does help me take my mind off other things and is a great stress reliever. Not sure if my fellow gardeners feel the same. 

Over the past few years I have come to know my weeds quite well and even smile at  recognizing some of them along the free way during my commute to and from work. These are usually at least 5 feet tall, making me wonder if mine would be the same had I let them grow. 

I sometimes wish that Caltrans and city community works departments realize what they are doing. I find that the weeds are allowed to grow as much as they want through the entire wet season and flower and set seed. At this point they are asking to be disturbed so they can launch their seeds into the wind. Precisely at this time all community departments realize that the weeds are no longer adding to the beauty of the landscape and decide to come over with a large scale weeder on a tractor and take care of business: for the weed that is, sending them everywhere. Maybe I am the one who does not understand the plan. Maybe this is their cheaper alternative for green landscaping for 4 months of the year.

Our approach to weed management for the most part follows the age old saying "Prevention is better than cure". We were left with no other alternative as our neighbor decided to neglect his $$$$ yard (with sod and ornamentals) and let it become a test garden for every variety of weed imaginable. With a nearby constant supply of weed seeds it was akin to "lake effect snow". Adding to the weeds are our very own oak trees that have riddled our yards (both front and back) with acorns that are like land mines to the bare foot. 

Here is a sneak peak from across the fence

Hence we decided this winter to learn from our mistakes of years past and put down a thick layer of [wood chips/twigs/leaves/mulch] on top of any exposed non-planted soil in our yard ensuring to leave a buffer zone around the main stem/trunk of plants and trees. This did the trick and the number of weeds we had to take care of this spring was a fraction of what we were left to deal with in the previous years. In addition to keeping things down, even the few that grew were a breeze to remove from among the wood chips.

If you are looking for free wood chips then contact your neighborhood tree service and they will be more than happy to deliver a truck load. Just watch out for too much eucalyptus or pine tree chippings as they can really make your soil acidic. For folks in the San Francisco Bay area (mainly the south bay and peninsula) we highly recommend Jose Tree Service who did a great job with our oak trees and provided us with plenty of wood chips when asked.

We are hoping to continue this effort for most of our yard. However, its a losing battle in our front lawn as the weeds are tightly interwoven with the grass and we lose a bit of the grass with every attempt to pull them out. We may resort to a general purpose weed prevention chemical, but would really prefer not to go that route. If my fellow green thumbs have any suggestions of an organic way to get rid of the weeds I am all ears!

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