It is that time again—early Spring, when we gardeners begin the battle with and against Mother Nature. Already the sun’s rays are warming up the soil and steady rains have enabled hibernating perennials and bulbs to send tiny green shoots peeking out above the soil.
We are ready. Armed with hoes, rakes, edgers, shovels, hand tools, clippers, and mulch. We begin removing the vestiges of winter, amending the soil, edging the beds, removing early weeds.
Our adversaries are also getting ready—and they are many.
On our side, we have our garden tools, healthy plants sheltered by a nursery, compost, and fertilizers. We also have our stubbornness and resolve. But Mother Nature is a fickle friend who can take as well as she gives.
Against us, are the time-tested enemies: invasive plants, weeds, critters, and bugs.
In my garden, my most insidious weeds are violets. Yes, the stuff of poetry, sonnets, springtime, which shares its name with a beautiful color in the rainbow. In the last two weeks, I have already pulled up thousands of violet seedlings, some so thick they form a mat. They hide within my Echinacea and Rudbeckia (black-eyed Susan); making it almost impossible to pick them out without causing damage. No weeds are more persistent in my garden than violets, but others (such as wild grasses) are equally nasty.
My next nemeses are the invasive plants that previous gardeners planted (my house is 250 years old and has had a lot of gardeners). There are a number of them, but the worst are Goose-necked Loosestrife and English Ivy. Goose-necked Loosestrife is a lovely plant that grows about 18-inches tall with medium green leaves and a long-lasting white flowerhead that resembles a goose’s head and neck. But it is also rude. Its fleshy stems go underneath plants and hard surfaces, and attach to sprinkler hoses which allow them to sprout everywhere. They relentlessly invade every flower bed and even the lawn.
The most ubiquitous invasive species has got to be English ivy. Once it is there, it is there to stay. Let’s face it, if people visit bearing English ivy, they are not your friends.
Our next adversary is the inevitable summer drought. Our clay soil hardens into a brick forbidding any rain or nutrition from penetrating, drying up the leaves and flowers.
Don’t forget the bugs. Bugs are everywhere, some are nice, like lightning bugs, but the bad ones are really, really bad. Japanese Beetles destroy the leaves and flowers of Knock Out roses. And gross, disgusting slugs slime their way around hosta leaving tracks and trails.
This year, the critters have already drawn the first blood. Bunnies are adorable, with cute little white tails that seem to bounce as they run away. My bunnies feast on my sweet pansies. They prefer the flowers, but are willing to eat the leaves of any desired plant (except the invasive ones, of course). Later, deer and groundhogs will finish off the remaining plants.
With so many adversaries, it is only our resolve and stubbornness that can see us through this battle. But we all know who wins in the end.
To quote Michael Pollan, “Nature abhors a garden.”
Angela Rieck, a Caroline County native, received her PhD in Mathematical Psychology from the University of Maryland and worked as a scientist at Bell Labs, and other high-tech companies in New Jersey before retiring as a corporate executive. Angela and her dogs divide their time between St Michaels and Key West Florida. Her daughter lives and works in New York City.