Come harvest, ‘weeds begone’ is a distant memory

Those who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God.

–Thomas Jefferson

We’re nearing the end of the harvest season in our garden, and we’ll soon be entering the weed season. Unlike Ralph Waldo Emerson, who defined a weed as a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered, I am not a big fan of weeds. I’ve pulled so many weeds in my time that, if weeds were to have their own postal system, then in some subterranean weed post office there’d be a poster on the wall with my picture on it.

We don’t use pesticides or herbicides in our garden, but I’ve battled weeds with virtually every other weed killer known to man – hoes, shovels, salt, fire, mulch and tarps. I’ve even considered disguising our weeds as pea sprouts in the hope of tricking our resident deer into eating them. I’d try it, but I don’t want a bunch of little pea sprout costumes on my hands if it doesn’t work.

I’ve found that the most efficient method of controlling weeds in the garden is to keep the soil densely planted with vegetables in the spring and summer and a green manure crop in the fall and winter. As a change of pace, and in the hope of confusing the little weedy bastards, this year we imported a little organic matter to the vegetable beds in the form of a truck load of compost from Poulsbo. My garden assistant/significant other actually ordered the stuff, so I can’t tell you exactly what was in our compost, but I can tell you that, based solely on an olfactory inspection, it contained substantial contributions from the cow manure family of products.

I was able to move the compost from the driveway, where it had been conveniently dumped into the garden with on a thousand or so trips with my handy garden cart. I use “handy” here in the most general sense of the word, although if you had seen me trying to steer my wobbly cart loaded with a couple hundred pounds of cow manure down the driveway, across the lawn and into the garden, neither the word “handy” nor the word “convenient” would have come immediately to mind.

Later this summer we brought in a truckload of shredded bark for the walkways in the garden. The bark was deposited in exactly the same “convenient” location as the compost had previously occupied, and so I spent another weekend on the business end of a shovel filling my wobbly garden cart and enduring a couple dozen Mr. Toad Wild Rides down the driveway. However, since I look at gardening as a slightly more dusty variety of aerobic workout, I kind of enjoy my encounters with the shovel and the runaway garden cart. In fact, I’m always pleasantly surprised when our efforts in the garden during the spring and summer actually produce edible food in the fall.

Since we are not dependent on our garden for survival, we can be strategic about what we plant and where. I like corn, so we plant lots of it in the best locations. The same with peas, beans and squash. I’m not wild about beets or cauliflower, so I plant them in the least desirable spot in the garden. In January. The potatoes we planted in the garden and carefully nurtured all summer are nearly as healthy and abundant as the ones growing wild and unattended in the compost pile. Who says Mother Nature doesn’t have a sense of humor?

There is something undeniably satisfying about working in a garden. It makes sense, I guess. We come from the earth, we return to the earth, and in between we battle weeds in the earth while gently coaxing food from it. If you’d like gardens or think you could, you might want to join the Edible Garden Tour this Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. The tour is sponsored by the island’s Natural Landscapes Project, the Bainbridge Island Watershed Council, and Sustainable Bainbridge. I can’t speak for the other gardens on the tour this year, but I can tell you that at least one stop will be offering an “All-the Slugs-You-Can-Carry” special as well as free driveway rides in a garden cart. Act now. Space is limited. Void where prohibited. Results may vary. And please, no wagering.

Islander Tom Tyner is an attorney

for the Trust for Public Land. He is author

of “Skeletons From Our Closet,”

a collection of writings on the island’s latte scene.

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