Monthly Archives: August 2014

Wildflower, Weed or Herb?

Here are some pictures of wild plants that I took this morning.  I didn’t plan on appreciating these plants and really, I hadn’t noticed them until just now.

2014-08-25 08.54.28 2014-08-25 08.52.57Are they weeds?  Aren’t weeds supposed to be dull and rather plain?  These plants are interesting and look like something you would see on a packet of seeds to purchase.  I look at them, and marvel at how they are healthy, prolific, and beautiful and kind of wish I had planted them.  But, they are wild.  No nurturing, only a will to grow and flourish.  Unfortunately, they are all growing in spots that they shouldn’t.  Well, spots that I have called off limits to riff-raff plants… namely my blueberry rows.   I am often tasked with weeding and these plants are destined to be “weeded out” quite soon.  The term “weeding” usually means getting rid of the parts of the group that aren’t deemed up to par.  It can mean any number of things, but in a garden, the obvious reference is to plants.  Plants that are not like the others, or not growing in the right place, maybe messing up a straight row, or plants that weren’t intentionally placed.  Note that I didn’t say anything about them being weak or ugly.   It seems silly, really, to pull out healthy plants just because I say so.  The task entails pulling up plants and tossing them aside.  You pull the plant up, roots and all, and wish it not to grow back… ever.  Does the weeder know all about the unwanted plants? The vast diversity of unwanted plants?  Perhaps they have some beneficial quality. Maybe they are lovely to look at if given the chance to bloom, perhaps fragrant, edible, or medicinal.  I have been interested in wild plants and their usefulness for quite a while, but I don’t know enough to judge and have been known to relocate a few.

Weed The distinction between what is a wildflower, weed or herb is relative to your wants and needs for that particular space – right then.  Everything changes.  Lambsquarters is a weed to me. I pull them out and discard them, but they are edible.  Mint is an herb, but is so invasive that it is recommended you only grow it in a pot.  Countless wildflowers are mown down because they are only recognizable when they bloom.  The lesson here, I believe, is the need for knowledge.  But, to know everything about every plant is unrealistic.  Some knowledge is critical though, like identifying poison ivy… and what about being able to pick something to eat?  That can also be important.  At the very least, we should make an effort to know the value of native plants in our immediate area.  Go outside and look around for wild plants, and then look them up on the Internet or in a book and find out the name and something about it.  I believe they deserve that.

Red Wigglers

Organic worms… is there such a thing?  Absolutely, and you can order them right off the Internet, which really shouldn’t surprise you.  We bought our first batch of Red Wigglers about 6 years ago, but now we grow our own.  They are pretty self sufficient, but we do check on them often, make sure there is adequate moisture and provide fruit and vegetable scraps for them to feed on.  They seem to especially like melon rinds.  Worms are incredibly beneficial for gardens.  Plants need oxygen at their roots, and worms create the loosened soil that allows that.  They provide lots of other services as well, but one of the main things is the worm castings (worm manure if you don’t know the term castings) …you can also buy that on the Internet.  If a worm or its castings touch the roots, it helps inoculate the plant against bad nematodes and many soil born diseases.Reg Wigglers

Currently, we are beginning our fall preparation for the cold months ahead by making over-wintering a little easier on the plants.  Perennial plants are plants that come back the following year.  Even perennials can die over winter if it is exceptionally cold and they don’t have adequate mulch.  We will try to check all the plants, but we are starting with the blueberries.  Some varieties of blueberry produce earlier than others and are subsequently finished before others.  The Climax variety was our first variety to fruit, so they are the first to get babied.  It’s a slow process because we are trying to do everything we can for each individual plant while we are there because with so much to do, it could be a long time before we get back to that plant.  That is also why we are beginning in August.  The process includes taking out any weeds, moving away the old pine straw and checking the crown of the plant, checking the moisture level and the ph, shaping the bush slightly to help it grow the way we want it to but pruning as little as possible, then adding a handful of worms to each plant, top dressing with compost, and finally adding fresh pine straw.  We are a little obsessive about trying to do everything right especially since the blueberries are young.  Everything is organic but with all of the permaculture practices we are incorporating, it should get easier as the years progress.

Picking in the shade

GreenBeanTrellis2 Our green beans usually go wild.  I don’t know what it is, but they grow here as if Jack (from Jack and the Beanstalk) planted them.  (Doug plants ours, and no, his middle name is not Jack.)  He has put the beans’ enthusiasm to good use though… shade!  This is one of the best ideas yet and I am entirely appreciative.  They are grown on a trellis, but not just a regular trellis.  They are grown on a recycled fence panel that is bent into an archway that you can walk under, and Doug usually puts more than one archway together. Archway You can see it better in the second photo.  The third photo shows the view from inside.  A wonderful bonus is that all the foliage grows to the outside, but all the beans hang down on the inside!  This makes picking easy and fun.  It’s better for the plant also, since you don’t have to wade through a sprawling bean patch, and it keeps you from having to sweep your arm through the foliage in search of beans. You (or any of your kids or animals) can’t step on them either, because the beans are planted really close, and all along the outside edges of the fence panel. (Not the inside.) Here in Georgia, the sun gets blistering hot about the time of year when the beans are ready to be picked, so this is quite a handy bonus to be able to pick beans in the shade.  Several people can fit under the trellis, so if you have a couple of helpers, they will have plenty of room and since there are beans at every height, no one feels left out.  A regular adult can reach all of the beans.  If you are under four feet, it could be a bit of a challenge to reach the ones at the tippy top, but you can always just use a smaller fence panel.  I recommend you try this in your garden. From inside archwayMake sure you are growing “climbing beans” for obvious reasons. Basket of Green BeansHere is a photo of one picking session.  We pick about every third or fourth day.  They are great sautéed with olive oil and fresh garlic.  I’ve canned several quarts now, and the beans are slowing down a bit.  The leafy archway still makes a great respite though.