After decades of too much rain, our fields and gardens are suffering from lack of it. The edges of the tomato leaves are crispy. The heat and drought did in the radishes, and the pumpkins, squash, cucumbers and melons in our garden are drooping.
But wet or dry, one thing is certain: The weeds will thrive.
During wet years when parts of the garden were too soaked to plant, the weeds flourished. Water-loving plants such as cattails grew in the ponds, and the weeds grew like wildfire in our garden. While the excessive rain drowned our vegetables, the weeds survived.
This year, the weeds adapted beautifully to the dry conditions. Our vegetables suffered from lack of rain, yet the weeds remain hale and hearty.
Both wet and dry extremes present their own weed control challenges. My family prefers organic gardening, so rather than spray the weeds, we hoe or pull them.
When it's too wet, it's difficult to weed because the heavy soil clings to the hoe and makes it impossible to get underneath the weeds. Pulling the weeds also is difficult because the soil hangs onto the roots. If we toss them aside, they're likely to re-root.
The wet conditions, of course, also are ideal for mosquitoes, so while we're trying to control the weeds, we're also battling the buzz. Hoe, swat, hoe, swat, swat, hoe.
The flip side
But the weather cycle we're not experiencing always seems strangely preferable. This summer has reminded me of the challenges of weeding when it's hot and dry.
Last Sunday, for example, I got a dose of reality therapy, when I decided to tackle the weeds that have popped up in our strawberry patch. Hoeing wasn't an option because the strawberry plants are sending out runners and I would have chopped them off when I tried to get at the weeds. That left hand-pulling the weeds my only option.
With a glove on my left hand to pull thistles and a bare right hand to take on everything else, I got down on my hands and knees to crawl alongside the bed, pulling up weeds.
Most of the taller weeds came out fairly easy, but the ones that grow close to the ground were tougher. In some areas, it felt like I was trying to pull them out of cement. Many of them broke off at the soil level, and I had to leave the root because I couldn't dig through the hard ground to get at it. That means I'll have to go back and try to weed again.
The thistles also put up a good fight. If I didn't grab them close to the base, they broke off. Most of them were growing at the edge of the patch where the ground was softer, so I was able to dig down to the root to get the rest of the plant. Pulling thistles for a second time was not something I was looking forward to doing, so even though it took me awhile to get the root, I wanted to get rid of them the first time.
It took me a half-hour to go up one side and down the other of the strawberry rows. By the time I finished two rows, my face and hair were dripping wet. Our garden is on the south side of the farm and is surrounded on three sides -- and most of the fourth -- by trees, making it perfect for growing vegetables and fruits. It's not as ideal, however, when it comes to working in the heat. The trees protect the garden from the wind, so there is little breeze to cool us down.
After years of dealing with the effects of too much rain, I hate to complain about dry weather, but I do wish we could have more moderate conditions. I know the weeds would still thrive, but getting rid of them would be a little less grueling. I'm not afraid of a little hard work in the garden, but I'd rather not fight the effects of extreme weather while I'm doing it.
Reach Bailey at (701) 787-6753; (800) 477-6572, ext. 753; or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.