Have you ever proceeded into a project, only to be conquered by frustration?

I generally avoid synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. I like to use methods and products that support the health of the whole eco system. I want any animal or child to be safe to play on the grass. Did you know that 1 in 3 dogs will come down with cancer? We gardeners often are concerned about protecting our plants from dogs and other critters, but instead it is more likely that our domestic pets or desirable wildlife such as birds, butterflies and bees will be harmed by chemicals we use on plants in our gardens.

For years I have used an organic weed and feed type fertilizer, whose primary ingredient is corn gluten. I applied it to the lawn with a drop spreader twice a year, and I have been happy with the results. 

Nevertheless, it was not available locally, so I had to pay a high shipping fee on top of the cost of the product. This year I determined to buy a local alternative. It was easy to find a good organic fertilizer, but the pre-emergent was harder. Finally I located a corn gluten product designed to be applied with a hose end sprayer. That seemed easy, and it was on sale! I bought a couple of bottles.

I had been happily applying the product for about fifteen minutes when I realized it was not being sucked up by the delivery system. I put the bottle down and went to turn the hose off so I could investigate the problem.

This outside faucet is original to my old house, and when I turned the faucet handle to shut it off, the thing exploded. I gasped as water hit me full in the face, and then I stood in shock under the geyser spraying out into the yard. 

Husbands are good for this sort of emergency. Lou shut off the water to the house, then was able to cap off the broken faucet. It was late in the day and I was soaked, so I decided to wait till the next morning to finish the corn gluten application.

A new day. It was gorgeous! I made a mental list of things to accomplish in the garden, beginning with a few minutes to apply the corn gluten. I attached the hose to another faucet and began the process. I soon realized the delivery problem from the evening before had not magically fixed itself. The product had apparently congealed in the bottom of the bottle while sitting on the shelf. Lou dumped it out into another container and vigorously stirred it until it appeared normal. He put it back in the hose end sprayer, and problem solved. We thought.

Four hours later I was in a nasty mood, and Lou and I were snarling at each other. I was still trying to apply the corn gluten, which refused to stay in solution, no matter how much shaking or stirring. I had abandoned the sprayer that came with it and used my own sprayer, which also clogged quickly but at least I could clean it. Lou kept telling me to just dump the stuff out. Finally, I gave up. 

There was still a lot of it in the bucket that Lou had used for stirring. I picked the container up with the intent to toss its contents on a group of weeds out front. I was walking across the patio when the handle to the bucket broke, and the whole mess of orange gritty corn gluten solution splashed over me and into my shoes, then spread across the patio.

After the fact, I checked reviews online about my particular corn gluten product. Every single review mentioned a problem with the delivery system. I read the same frustration I had experienced. How many folks who try this product will go back to artificial chemicals? Next time I will pay the shipping costs for my previous organic weed and feed, if I can't find a good local alternative. 

Later, I sat on the arbor swing as I sipped a cup of coffee and listened to the birds. I felt the stress leaving my body. It was, in fact, a gorgeous day.  


Early Spring, Conquering Weeds

Forsythia and early spring daffodils are beginning to bloom in the front garden.Signs of spring are everywhere in the garden: spots of chartreuse green emerging along branches; emerald shoots pushing out of the earth; flower buds swelling till their lustrous, candy colored contents are released; birds singing and performing courtship dances in the air; children playing outside, their shouts and laughter carrying through the woods from an adjacent neighborhood. Rosa rugosa 'Alba', emerging from dormancy

Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles)

Daphne odora 'Marginata' (Variegated winter daphne)



Summer snowflakes (Leucojum aestivum). Despite the name, these bloom in early spring for me.

And weeds, lots and lots of weeds.

It was a particularly pleasant day, and I spent a good portion of it on my knees in the garden, or else sitting on my rump, happily pulling weeds. After several days of rain earlier in the week, the ground was soft and many of the weeds came out easily. 

There are three main ways I get rid of weeds:

Simply chopping the tops off at ground level is a temporary esthetic fix, but pulling them out by the roots is far more effective. I love my hoematic, a versatile tool that is indispensable for getting them out by the roots.My well used hoematic

Smothering weeds with a good layer of mulch is a quick way to beautify the garden. For areas with heavy weed cover I use newspaper, brown paper sacks, and even cardboard layered over the ground, then topped with an attractive mulch, such as  pine straw or pine nuggets.

I limit the use of herbicide, but I do use it for truly obnoxious weeds like poison oak.

I don't mind weeding. I let my thoughts drift as I mechanically attack the chore. I think about God, about relationships, about garden design. I ponder politics and compose blog posts. I wonder at the force that causes these unwanted plants to erupt by the thousands. They appeared almost overnight, and already many of them, even the babies, are producing flowers, determined to churn out another generation before I hack them to death.

Weeds grow year round in my climate. Even in winter, on milder days, it is a good idea to grab a few in passing. If I pull ten weeds, I am preventing hundreds of wanton offspring. On days dedicated to weeding, I am euphoric over the unnumbered multitudes that have been thwarted. I am not discouraged that I have removed a mere bucket from an ocean of weeds. I focus on what I have done, rather than on what I can never do.

I will not conquer all weeds. That's OK. I enjoy the battle, for it gets me into the garden, where I experience the earth and watch the good guys grow.Grape hyacinth