No, I’m not really thinking it is Christmas but I found myself channelling Santa Claus as I searched for the hoe today to tackle the weeds, crying “Hoe, hoe hoe!” as if calling it would bring it out of hiding. We seem to have a lot of weeds this year – far more than in previous years. Even D has been moved to pull up a few in the veg patch and he rarely bothers (weeding reminds him too much of housework I suspect). He did find the hoe for me today, although it was of limited use. Because he tends to plant densely in the kitchen garden beds in order to maximise the crop, it is usually impossible to get the hoe between the plants. Instead, I took the kneeler, a hand fork and some sturdy leather gardening gloves and painstakingly combed the weeds out from between the veg.
The gloves were essential. We appear to have lots and lots of nettles, more than we have ever had before. They are small so far, but no less dangerous for that. We had a few last year in amongst the carrots and beetroot, which made harvesting a bit of a challenge, so this year I wanted to get them out while we can. Stranger than the nettles, though, are the poppies. Not the common yellow kind that we have growing freely in the orchard and at the front of the house but the delicate, beautiful purple and red ones. It took us a while to work out what they were as they are everywhere. In all the veg beds, some of the flower beds and even in the basket in the greenhouse where we grew our early peas. Not your average weeds, that is for sure although, as one of our friends pointed out, we could consider starting our own opium farm!
Weeding is a very mindful task. I find it totally absorbing, physically demanding and very satisfying – the beds always look so much better when I have finished. Mentally, it stills the inner chatter, freeing up my subconscious to make connections it may not normally have the space to find. Today, my subconscious gave me the answer – we have been our own worst enemies and spread the weeds ourselves.
This is the first year we have been able to use a lot of our own compost as well as the topsoil and manure we bought in to top up the raised beds. We are proud that, having had no idea about making compost when we arrived, this year we had a full bin of rich, dark soil that we could use. We spread it liberally around the garden – in the beds, the containers and the greenhouse. Hmmm, in fact, all the places we have been finding nettles and all those poppies …
We knew there were nettles growing all around the compost bins. We mostly leave them alone as they are great for caterpillars and we would much rather they eat them rather than our brassicas. When the nettles get so large that we can no longer reach the bins safely, we cut them down and then they grow again. What we hadn’t realised is that they must have spread their roots or seeds inside the bins themselves and so into our precious compost. Once I had worked this out, it wasn’t hard to imagine me cheerfully throwing the remains of the poppies I grew from seed last year into the bins without a moment’s thought. It was only a surprise that we don’t have other flowers growing rampantly in the veg beds too – I am sure any seedlings I thinned out will have ended up in the compost too. Oops!
We can clear the nettles from the work area behind the shed. We can stop throwing seedlings and any seedheads into the compost and put them in the garden waste bins collected by the council instead. However, as we have three compost bins – one to use, one to fill and one to leave alone to work its magic – it will take at least three years before we have used all the compost we have started making so far. Until then, we will have lots of weeding to do and I had better keep that hoe to hand …
Next week I will be leaving D to the weeding while I am visiting Liverpool and two very special gardens that I can’t wait to share with you all.