Friday, July 31, 2009

Weeding can be rewarding

Every garden has a few weeds sprouting their ugly heads through the blooms that have been carefully planted and cared for. It seems as though they appear over night sometimes. One day the beds look well tended, and the next day there's another colony of weeds to take their place.

Many of the plants we detest in our garden beds, including crabgrass, ground ivy, plantain, chickweed, and wood sorel, amoung others, are incredible survivalists. Incomplete removal of the root system gives life to another clone to fill in the space. Their seeds are capable of surviving years of dormancy in the upper soil layers until just the right conditions of moisture, light, and nutrients become available. Every weed we pull exposes another seed in the soil waiting to emerge from dormancy. It seems that we perpetuate the need to weed with each weed we pull.

Thankfully there are simple rewards that accomodate the vicious cycle of weeding. My 90 minutes in the garden on Thursday afternoon brought a number of these small benefits to my attention:

The rapid, spilling notes of a House Wren keeping a watchful eye on my activities from the edge of the fence. Many of the garden's insects have filled its belly over the course of the summer.

The Monarch caterpillar who's presence was discovered while thinning a patch of unruly wood sorel from around it's milkweed host plant. These plants will sustain both larvae and adult.

A Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly sipping nectar from the blooms standing tall over the Purple Coneflower. Pollination will create seeds for feathered visitors as summer changes to autumn.

A Honey Bee with full pollen sacks refueling on nectar from the blooms of the Butterfly Bush before returning to the hive. The resulting honey will hopefully sustain the colony through the coming year's winter.

A female Widow Skimmer dragonfly resting between flights around the yard and garden in pursuit of insect prey. She must keep her strength in order the lay the eggs necessary for next summer's dragonflies.

And the reward of ripening Wine Berries on the way to the compost heap. A refreshing reward for an hour and a half of bending, pulling, and stuffing unwanted weeds from the garden soil into my buckets. Their unwanted bodies will decompose to enrich the soil of garden some time in the future.

Take time to enjoy nature's simple rewards this weekend.

-Adam Zorn, Naturalist

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