Saturday, June 12, 2010

The forest for the weeds

When I first moved into my new house many friends touted the conventional wisdom to me about waiting a full season before making any major changes or doing much planting. The theory is that you need to know what you have already before making changes. You must know which parts of the yard get the most sun and when, the soil composition, and such, before you can successfully manage the garden. The problem was that the several large planting beds were so over-grown that I couldn’t even see what I had.

The largest bed runs along the whole side of the house. It was choked with plants that were four feet high and so thick I could hardly walk through. I knew that if I didn’t do something many of the smaller plants hidden in there wouldn’t get enough sun and they could succumb to a variety of pests and diseases.

I didn’t want to just start pulling though because I wasn’t always sure what was a weed and what was a plant. I decided to hit the books to help me identify some of the plants I didn’t recognize. I learned that my main culprits were Coreopsis, commonly known as Tickseed, and Boltonia Asertoides, or White Doll Daisies. Both grow pretty tall and are known to spread. Oh yeah, they spread. I am not a big fan of the Boltonia; it looks very weedy to me so I started pulling it out by the fist full. I filled three, yup three, lawn bags with the stuff. The Coreopsis, on the other hand, is very pretty and is great for cutting so I just removed a few stalks that were encroaching on other plants too much.

I discovered that there was actually some hardscape under all that and quite an interesting variety of plants. There were also plenty of dandelions, sweet pea vines and wild violets. I pulled out these too to give the other plants more space. I decided not to thin out anything “good” at this point even though there were still too many plants for the bed. I wanted to get to know the rest of the yard first so I could see if some of the extra plants could be moved elsewhere. I guess I’m not above taking some advice after all!

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