May 21, 2012

Battling weeds a busy job

It's happened again.

In just the past week, my perennial flower garden has transformed into a jungle.

The plants and weeds had been emerging at a relatively normal rate, and I was barely keeping up with them. But then this recent perfect combination of mild temperatures followed by a few days of soaking rains and then sun has created ideal growing conditions.

Both my perennials and the weeds have put on a surge of growth. It's actually a bit intimidating to figure out where to begin.

I'm guessing I'm not the only one in this situation, so I thought it might be helpful if I described my plan of attack.

I start by walking around my garden and really studying what's there. Some perennials are well-behaved and take care of themselves with little help from me, such as baptisia, peonies and astilbe.

Then there are those that I like, but if I don't remove about a third of each clump each year, they'll take over; these include bee balm, evening primrose and campanula (bellflower).

Some perennials self-sow readily, which means they drop seed at the end of the year and their seedlings pop up all over the garden the following spring. This group includes columbine, annual poppy, Johnny jump-up and oxeye daisy.

And then there are the weeds. My two worst enemies are quackgrass, with its long white rhizomes that spread underground, and ground ivy or creeping Charley, with its crinkled round leaves that spread over the ground, forming a mat. In May, creeping Charley is covered with purple flowers.

I find it discouraging to try to tackle my whole garden at once or just pull out the worst of the weeds. Instead, I prefer to choose one section, about 10 feet by 10 feet and really clean that out well before moving on to the next.

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