Anyone who believes that the earth was created for the benefit of us, the humans, clearly doesn’t garden. Every day spent trying to grow edible plants is a lesson that nature, of her own accord, has no interest in sustaining us with her bounty. The earth – at least my little section of it – was created for the benefit of chickweed.
Nature is deeply invested in anything that can derail our efforts at growing our own food. Why else would the fecundity of rabbits be the stuff of proverb? Got a better explanation for mid-summer hail storms? And there’s nothing nature loves so much as a cutworm.
It is only now, well into summer, that some of the edibles in our garden seem to be thriving. The weeds, though, have thrived from the moment the ground unfroze. Grass, purslane, the ubiquitous chickweed, and a host of other UWTs (unidentified weedy things) spring up everywhere, relentlessly. I go out with the cultivator and hack at them, only to have them reappear two days later, unharmed. If whatever doesn’t kill them makes them stronger, we are host to some Herculean weeds.
After the fifth or sixth iteration of this, I was getting tired of it.
“I’m getting tired of this,” I told Kevin, after I’d spent a sweaty hour turning over the soil. Again.
Kevin called my attention to the fact that the area under our hydroponic system had no weeds at all. We’d covered the row with weedblock before we put in the poles for the pots and, true to its name, it blocked the weeds.
“We could cover the whole garden with it,” he suggested.
We could. And we were tempted. But there was something about the aesthetic of a garden covered with black plastic that made us balk. Besides, a roll of fifty feet goes for something like ten bucks. Surely there was an alternative.
It was a stroke of good fortune that Kevin’s kids, Fallon and Eamon, were visiting. I’m surprised they ever come see us, because all we do is put them to work, but there they were. So we put them to work.
While I took the cultivator to the weeds one last (!?) time, Kevin grabbed the pitchforks, hooked up the landscape trailer, and took the kids (they’re not really kids – Fallon’s 25 and Eamon’s 15) down to Barnstable Harbor.
At low tide, it’s easy to see the high tide line along the south side of the harbor – it’s where big piles of dried sea grass accumulate. We got the idea of using it as mulch from our friend Jess, who wrote about her mulching technique on her blog, Dame de Fleur. We figured she and her dad couldn’t have taken it all, and there was probable enough left for us.
Two trailers full was enough to mulch the entire garden. We even put some over the weedblock, decoratively.
Literally as I was admiring our collective handiwork, the phone rang. It was Christl, gardener extraordinaire and excellent friend. I told her, with some satisfaction, that we had just finished mulching the garden with sea grass.
“What kind did you use?” she asked. “Is it green or brown?”
I told her it was the brown kind at the high tide line. “Is that the wrong kind?” I asked, with fear in my heart.
“No … “ she said, but there was a ‘but’ in her voice.
“But?” I prompted.
“It might have seeds in it.”
Miracle of miracles, I’d actually thought of that.
“That did cross my mind,” I told her. “But I thought those would be seaweed seeds and they wouldn’t grow in …”
“Sand?” she interjected.
Oh yeah. Sand. That is where seaweed grows, isn’t it? And sand is what our garden is built on. Carver Coarse Sand, to be specific.
This year, chickweed. Next year, seaweed. If it’s got ‘weed’ in the name, I can grow a bumper crop of it. So go ahead, bring on the rabbits and hailstorms.