Wednesday, May 15, 2013

You are not a Jedi yet, young gardener

Wren in the garden
Corner house + double lot + 10-foot parkways = whole lotta lawn. And that lawn had been ignored for years when we bought the house. Moving in, we admired the pretty white flowers covering the grass.

Uhhh. Yea. Those would be bindweed flowers. Bindweed, nicknamed "Devil's Guts," is an invasive weed with roots 20 feet deep and 30 feet wide. Or more. Even the tiniest bit of root propagates a new plant. Not that that's necessary: the seeds are viable for 60 years.

Once I realized what a monster it was, I knew I had to get rid of it. So, being a devout organic gardener, I tried heavy mulching, black-plastic solarization, clear-plastic solarization, hoeing, tilling, pepper spray, vinegar spray, weed torches, salt, soap, hand pulling, and ultimately hair pulling. I kept reading cheery accounts of how these methods worked on any weed, but my 7,500 square feet of heavy, well-established infestation gave not an inch.

So I began reading up on chemicals.

It's a classic tale of how one goes to the dark side. I was desperate and both 2,4-D and glyphosate, ingredients in common herbicides, lured me with magic bullets — they supposedly killed bindweed. So I dutifully researched what these chemicals do once released into the environment and decided it was OK; I could indeed bed down with Monsanto.

One trip to the hardware store later, I was suiting up in full haz-mat gear. In the flower beds (I wasn't yet growing veggies), I delicately painted Round-up on bindweed leaves with a brush. The lawn I sprayed.

Bindweed leaves started turning brown within hours. And, after a couple of applications, the plants died. They DIED. Jay dubbed Round-up "Die Mother F*%#@~*!," which I shortened to DMF.

DMF became a big part of our lives, and our vocabulary. It could be a noun: "I need to buy more DMF." A verb: "I just DMF'ed that." An adjective: "The DMF'ed leaves are already brown." You get the drift. It got to the point where I forgot the actual name of the product. When friends asked how I was finally winning the war on bindweed, I just went blank. "My ally is the force and a powerful ally it is?"

I started this fight over ten years ago. Almost all the bindweed is gone. Yea, "almost all." I don't think I'll ever be completely free of it and I don't think I'll ever be completely organic again. But I'm OK with that.

Perhaps I'm older and more mellowed or perhaps I've learned that gardening, like life, offers little perfection. You get things as good as you can and you try to enjoy the process. You know, when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. And when life gives you bindweed, you get our your rubber gloves, your raggedy foam brush and your jar of DMF.


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