Sunday, June 30, 2013

Bindweed and Broccoli: Growing Like Crazy

This Spring southeast Nebraska has had adequate rainfall which means vegetables, flowers, herbs, and weeds are growing well. I learned to garden from my grandfather and my mother. Mom began with a yard of clay and celebrated anything that would grow. One year, she allowed summer squash to grow up a hedge of lilacs. She loved bright clematis vines and red zinnias. Vegetables from my grandfather's garden were plentiful and near perfect. Even on the hottest days, he donned his battered straw hat and carefully tended rows of beans, broccoli, corn, cucumbers, onions, peppers, and tomatoes. I can still remember his summer smell of dust, sweat, and sun. When he finished working, he sat down in an old metal lawn chair which he placed in the shade of a big elm. My grandmother never understood why he spent so much time in that chair. She used to say, "I don't understand it. He just sits there." Now I wonder if he thought about his mother who loved to grow hollyhocks and vegetables.

Even though I wasn't able to plant tomatoes and basil until early June, they are thriving. My youngest grandson brought me three leftover broccoli plants from his garden which did fairly well for awhile. This week, since I prefer not to use chemicals, I pulled the broccoli out. The leaves, although quite good sized, were full of  jagged holes and I didn't want nearby cucumbers to become infested. Cucumbers, fresh and pickled, are a highlight of my summers.

Herbs, including oregano, lavender, sage, chives, and parsley are also growing well. A new oregano plant has produced large leaves and is an improvement on the older plant which was more stem than leaves. Since the herbs are planted in a raised bed near the house, they are protected from the wind. I can dash down the deck steps to gather a few fresh sprigs for cooking. The bed is easy to weed when I have a few minutes in the evening.

Spring tilling and summer hoeing keeps weeds down in the tomato patch and raised the bed. However, the large perennial bed is another story. Between the rain, work, and personal obligations, I cleaned out only a small portion this Spring. Prolific larkspur and sweet peas battle bindweed for survival. A similar weedy vine has taken over the trellis meant for the sweet peas. Although I made a space for volunteer strawberry plants, nut sedge has popped up all around them. Now most of the strawberry plants look as if they have some sort of blight. Two volunteer trees are growing at the back of the bed. Usually, I chop them off at ground level but the tall thick larkspur tied together with bindweed makes it hard to get to the trees. In short, the bed has gone wild. I'm pretty sure neither my grandfather nor his mother ever had a flower bed that was such a mess.

Yesterday after I pulled several buckets of bindweed and cleared only a small space, I concluded maintaining the bed is no longer fun or satisfying. Come early autumn, I'm pulling it all out, reducing the size significantly and changing the shape so maintenance is easier.  

Just as I finished cleaning up, my grandson and daughter arrived with warm cinnamon rolls from a local bakery. Sitting on the deck in dappled shade with them was much more pleasant than pulling bindweed. As my daughter and I talked about mulch and ground cover in flower beds, my grandson pushed a monster truck toward me. Then he joined our garden conversation by telling me, "my broccoli is growing like crazy." I love the thought of this almost three year old and his parents carrying on the gardening tradition in our family.

1 comment:

  1. And he was right, it was growing like crazy! Next he is waiting for the carrots, onions, tomatoes, and his sunflower to grow. He is watching the pumpkin plant take over the entire side yard and I can't wait to show him the potatoes that we will hopefully pull out of the ground!