DUCHESS OF DIRT: Weeding is a chance to take a close look at the garden

Gardening can be darn hard work.

Fresh from a winter of inactivity, we jump straight in, tackling the chores to get the garden shipshape. Pruning alone can be monumental depending on how many trees, shrubs, and vines you have ambitiously planted for their fruits or floral display. It takes me days to prune just my rose hedge, but then it is roughly 90 feet long.

This year, John spent more than a couple of days dealing with his vigorous golden hop, Humulus lupulus ‘Aureus.’ It had become so unruly it was impacting on the wisteria growing on the other side of the pergola. Imagine. A hop vine out-muscling a wisteria – which, by itself, is capable of bringing down a porch if left unchecked.

It was quite the sight watching ‘Man vs. Vine.’ But the fight is not over yet. Vine is refusing to stay down permanently.

If the gardener is lucky and only has a few pruning jobs, he can take a breather before starting a game of plant chess – moving those that are in the wrong spot. This, too, can be an arduous task depending on the size of the plants that need to be relocated for esthetic purposes in your landscape design.

I will never, ever forget the day we had to dig up our ‘Virginia Richards’ rhodo and move it across the driveway. Good thing it is a beautiful rhodo because it was about six feet tall and had a six-foot diameter root ball when we moved it. That was a grunt day.

Full disclosure: we actually did that job in the fall, which is absolutely the best time to move plants of any substantial size. Utilizing the cooler temperatures and expected increase in rainfall in autumn is helpful in re-establishing the plant in its new spot. (Do keep an eye the plant is actually getting enough water.)

After completing the game of plant chess, there is the vegetable garden to be readied, the compost bins to be tended and new plant acquisitions to be installed. Lots to keep the gardener busy for days or even weeks, depending on the size of your garden.

From those chores, we naturally segue into deadheading and weeding. The latter is where I seem to be spending a fair amount of time lately. On my knees. Either I did not get after the deadheading quickly enough last season or the current weather pattern is prime for seed germination. Although, you would not have known it by the bean seeds in the veggie garden.

Actually, I quite enjoy weeding. Always have, even as a kid helping my dad in our garden in Victoria. Great activity for promoting thought and a great pastime for escaping the stress of the day.

But the very best thing about being on your knees in the garden is what you see… if you just look. To be honest, it really helps if you are not at all squeamish and are not bothered by little creatures.

I love encountering ground beetles…as brief a glimpse as it usually is because they immediately skitter away to a new hiding place. But that glimpse means I have a friend in the area who takes care of slug eggs and a host of other pests. Millipedes are also great hunters, as are spiders and garter snakes. Rule of thumb, if the creature moves fast, it is a good guy and deserves a spot in the garden.

Another blessing about being on your knees in the garden is time spent with your plants on their level. The perfection in a tiny flower, the shape of a leaf, the promise held in a new bud. There is peace, tranquility and yes, good news in the garden… even if you are on your knees and weeding.

Leslie Cox co-owns Growing Concern Cottage Garden in Black Creek. Her website is www.duchessofdirt.ca

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