Gardening With Laurie: Gardeners really are dependent on Mother Nature
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By Laurie Garretson
Talk with any gardener long enough and the topic of conversation usually turns to the weather.
It does not take long for any new gardeners to learn just how dependent they will become on Mother Nature. Rain, heat, wind, hail, freezes and droughts, are all very important contributors to the success or failure of any plant. The extended cold temperatures this past winter were like a surprise wake up call from Mother Nature. Then, last summer, we were dealing with the horrible drought. Despite the unpredictable weather, there are still gardeners who enjoy the challenge of working in the soil and working with nature.
I don't believe you'd be able to find many people, gardeners or not, who would complain about the weather Mother Nature provided us with this past spring. After going through such an unusually cold winter, the spring was greatly appreciated. How wonderful it was to garden, work and to just be outdoors. But what a difference a few months can make. August just really isn't a very enjoyable time to be a gardener.
There's no question about it, it's just way too hot.
We have been lucky to have had several good rain showers the past couple of months. Most lawns around town show the benefits of all the moisture. Because of the rains, there seems to be fewer grass problems this summer, at least so far.
Although the rain showers have been nice, the weeds they've brought out sure aren't. Hardly anyone likes a weedy lawn. Most gardeners spend hours tending to weed control in their lawns, flowerbeds and garden areas. Thousands of dollars are spent each season in our area on chemical weed control products. Fortunately, there is growing concern among organic and even non-organic gardeners about all the run-off from chemical herbicides found in our waterways.
Many eco-agriculturists believe that weeds are telling us what is wrong with our soils. It's been shown that good soil management can control weed problems. A healthy soil, rich in organic materials and microorganisms, is less prone to weed problems.
Lower levels of beneficial microorganisms are typically found in soils that grow weeds. This lack of microbial life results in mineral imbalances that then result in poor soil. Gardening organically will literally bring life back to your soil; chemical products won't.
Enriching the soil's fertility and microorganisms doesn't happen overnight. This is a process that can take years, depending on the condition of the soil to begin with. How do you then handle the weed problem while you work at enriching the soil? Actually, there are several safe and effective ways to help kill and suppress weeds. Strong vinegars mixed with orange oil is one natural solution. Solarization, which uses energy from the sun to kill off all unwanted vegetation is another natural solution. Crops like rye grass, clovers and vetch are commonly grown as cover crops and used as living mulches. Several inches of shredded tree trimmings can work well in flowerbeds and garden areas as a natural mulch.
The state of California has actually used insects imported from Australia to help clear up a specific weed problem they had. Larva from this Australian beetle fed on the foliage of the weed and after a few seasons the weed was controlled.
Animals have been used for centuries all over the world to clear off areas of unwanted plant growth. The animals get fed, the weeds are no longer a problem, and the soil gets fertilized as the animal roams.
Next time you look at a weed, stop and think about what Mother Nature is telling you.
Until next time, let's try to garden with nature, not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.
Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to email@example.com or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.