no new weeds
today's garden tip comes courtesy of another garden i have the pleasure to work in and learn from. a magnificently peaceful earth space where i get to spend hours at a time, a few days per week, meditatively pulling weeds from beds of kale, herbs, lettuce, hydrangeas, etc. naturally, as i uproot all sorts of plants from their would-be abodes, i can't help but think of topics i want to write about. so i guess it's sort of fitting that i'm writing about the very thing i'm working with... weeds.
and what exactly is a weed? well. i'm not talking about that weed. this is about weed weeds. difficult to name individually, because most experienced gardeners will tell you that a weed is merely a plant growing somewhere that you don't want it to. so, any and every plant has the capability of being a weed. though, i admit, some way more than others.
let's face it, plants are the original survivors. because the biggest dinosaurs (land animals, for that matter) ever to have roamed the earth, were herbivores. and what's still with us today? just saying... plants are gonna make it. the most innocent appearing of 'em will wreak havoc on your garden, unless you're paying attention. it'll be out there singing like destiny's child - all in the name of living another day, and/or geologic period. meanwhile, spreading roots far and wide so that you and generations that follow you, never, ever, ever obliterate them.
which brings me to an issue we're currently facing in the aforementioned garden... being overrun by mint. yes. mint. as in tea, mint. folks who know, know that mint can be crazy invasive. if it ends up in the ground anywhere in your garden, it will be everywhere in your garden, before you can harvest your first cup. which is why most gardeners, save the few mint farmers out there, only grow it in containers.
and while mint works wonders as an effective natural pesticide and lends a certain freshness to the air; it will do this while also sucking the very life out of all the rest of your plants, if you're not careful. which is why when introducing new plants purchased or given from others, it's important to keep the plant quarantined for a minute or two. and by quarantined, i mean, keep it potted - whether in the container in which it came, or in a new container - it must stay out of your garden!!! if you are tossing the old soil, this won't apply. but. you also don't want to toss unchecked soil into your compost, unless you are absolutely sure of what you are adding to your pile.
i cannot stress the importance of quarantining enough, because you don't know what's in the soil that came with your new plant. anything... i mean, anything could be lurking in there (including, but not limited to, fungal diseases), and if you don't take the time to observe what comes up, your garden can be overrun with plants so invasive, you'll find yourself resorting to poisonous methods to stop the spread. effectively killing off important microbes in the soil and much of your garden in the process, for years to come. yes... years.
unobserved transplanted soil is how we believe the current crop of invasive mint found "home" in the garden. and mint is only one of the problems we have (or could) encounter from not being diligent before planting. there's good ol' morning glory - which we've almost gotten under control, but has roots that extend some twenty-odd feet beneath the soil. which are nearly impossible to remove without resorting to violent 'pesticidical' methods... i said nearly. there's also a grass called nutsedge, which fortunately, we don't have, but another garden i've worked in became overrun by it after bringing home a few plants from a local nursery and planting them immediately. and then there's the possibility of fire ants... not in any of "my" gardens, but in those of folks i know... which are all preventable by a good ol' quarantine.
and so. always, always, always follow the first rule of permaculture when introducing new plants into your garden - observe. watch. wait. be patient. identify any unwanted plants hitchhiking in the soil of new plants before putting them in the ground. do your best to remove them from the container - carefully pulling all the way to the root. you're probably safe to place your plant in the ground when you no longer see growth from the undesirables.
otherwise, prepare to spend hours at a time, a few days per week, meditatively pulling mint (or whatever's brewing beneath the surface) from just about everywhere in your garden. bah!