Thursday, April 24, 2008

How Lazy Are We?

Sometimes I wonder what has happened to us, as a people, in this country. How lazy have we really become?

I've started volunteering on a gardening help line here in Wichita. Last Tuesday we got a call from a woman who wanted to know what to spray on her garden to kill the henbit that was growing among her iris plants. We informed her that

1) there wasn't a spray to kill the henbit that wouldn't also harm her iris plants, since both are broad-leaved plants;

2) the henbit is going to die and disappear soon, so it's really not necessary to do anything; and

3) if not doing anything wasn't an acceptable option for her, henbit is very easy to pull. So in the final analysis, we recommended that she simply weed it out.

She got rather huffy and said that she had way too much henbit to actually pull it out. Then she hung up, obviously unsatisfied with our answer.

Her attitude is far too common these days. Somehow, actually leaning over or kneeling down and (gasp!) pulling out weeds by hand seems to be seen as absolutely beneath any "normal" person's dignity. A triumph on the part of the chemical industry, I'm afraid.

It saddens me. First of all, this attitude leads to the use of ludicrous amounts of herbicide. I've consistently seen reports that say homeowners use many times more herbicide per acre than do farmers.

Secondly, reaching automatically for the spray bottle separates a homeowner from his or her yard. I find pulling weeds to be a relaxing and enjoyable part of yard least as long as I keep mulch on my beds to help control the weed population!

As I've mentioned before, one of my favorite gardening rituals is to grab a glass/bottle/can of my favorite beverage at the end of the day and stroll through the yard. As I stroll, I check on what's newly emerged, what's newly blooming, what's showing stress of any sort...and I keep my eyes peeled for weeds. If I get to them early on and pull them every day, as soon as I see them, the number of weeds never builds up too high and I avoid having them set seed. ("One year of seed leads to seven years of weed!") This walkabout doesn't have to take very long...but I often prolong it, just because it's so pleasurable.

My daily walkabout also keeps me aware of what's going on in the garden, usually before anything reaches crisis level. I notice pests and predators and their changing populations, visiting critters (or their tracks), plants that are doing too well or not well at all, and all sorts of other information. All of this keeps me much more in tune with my garden than I would be if I only acted when I noticed a problem from inside the house or from on the lawnmower once a week.

I can just hear the thought going through many readers' minds about now: "That's fine for you, but I'm much too busy to take time to walk through my garden daily."

Well, by the time you look over your crisis problem (which you could have averted with a quick intervention 2 weeks ago), figure out what you need to do, go to the store to buy the appropriate spray, come home and use it, then wait for whatever results you might get, I can almost guarantee that you've spent a great deal of time...and money. A great deal more time and money than you would have spent doing daily walkabouts with small interventions. Furthermore, you are not remotely relaxed about the situation. Your yard/garden has become a burden, rather than a stress relief, to you.

So now, before the season (and the weeds) gets too far advanced, give the daily walkabout a try. Grab a beer, a glass of wine, or a big iced tea and meander tonight. It gets addicting, in a wonderfully relaxing sort of way.

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