JARS v55n4 - Commentary: Weeding Challenge

Commentary: Weeding Challenge
Morna B. Stockman
Port Angeles, Washington

Here I sit, hot and sweaty but triumphant-just won a battle with thistles, albeit temporary. They come back up but each time weaker and more spindly. Hopefully eventually they give up.

When we bought this place the realtor "forgot" to tell us this area used to be a desert before the settlers dug a series of canals from the Dungeness River. What happens when a desert is irrigated? Long dormant, mostly weed-type seeds come to life. Also she "forgot" to mention we'd be next door to a field where a dairy farmer grows grass for his cows (luckily we don't often get downwind of the cows!). Seeds constantly blow in, and we live with the everlasting problems of weeds and possible drought.

Hiking, fishing and travel still pull us away. As a result, a whole different way of weeding accidentally evolved. A show place ours is not. What we enjoy is cross-pollinating rhododendrons and raising hundreds of them on the off-chance one or two great hybrids may result. This spring we noticed people driving by slowly and even stopping to take pictures of our driveway with its solid bank of blooming rhodies. We ignorantly planted them about 5 feet apart (the length of my shovel - too close). In fifteen years the bushes had grown big enough to shade out most sun-loving weeds! Flowering cherry trees formed a pink arch overhead.

"Hell's bells, if people are gonna take pictures I'd better do something about that tall grass between the small rhody bushes," I told my husband, Harold, who over my protests weed-whacked the grass surrounding these bushes (until he accidentally cut down one of the baby rhodies!).

Unable to keep up with the weeding, I dig out grass roots, dandelions, and thistles to just outside the drip line of each bush. Between the little plants, weeds grew high, shading the rhododendrons from the scorching sun. (At least that's my excuse!) The plants seem to thrive.

In short, I weed around the small bushes, letting the tall stuff in between grow and afford shade. Over the years the rhodies we keep grow big enough to discourage weeds. In the meantime, before noxious things bloom in our high grass, we declare war. This week—thistles, last week - a clinging, fast-spreading vine that, if left too long, leaves our clothes stuck with sticky ⅛ inch burrs.

This still gives us some time to relax and enjoy other fun things with a clear conscience (almost!).

Hey, God put weeds here for some reason!