In my garden, cucumbers are plotting to take over the farm. You may think I say this in jest. May I assure you, I do not. Just yesterday I marched outside and sternly warned the little cucurbits to keep their tendrils to themselves. Having alloted four (yes, four) generous spaces for them to run as they pleased, I saw no reason whatsoever for those rascally intruders to wrap themselves around the corn, choke the zucchini and climb the pea fence. All this mischief happened while I was busy picking a mountain of string beans. I just can’t turn my back for a minute.
My father’s father was a plumber, but Gup could build or fix anything. He taught us, “Always use the right tool for the right job.” In other words, don’t try to drive a nail with the flat side of a wrench. Whether planting a tree, wiring a house or making a crib for a great-grandchild, he would repeat, “If you don’t do it right, it will never come out right.”
Those words rang in my memory as I surveyed my strawberry bed early this summer. The previous year had been unusually chaotic, with insufficient opportunities to tend the gardens. When the strawberries should have been setting buds for a plentiful harvest in the next growing season, they were busy competing for nutrients with weeds we didn’t have time to pull. Although I weeded and mulched and tried to make amends this spring, the damage had been done, and this summer’s yield was meager.
Determined to set things right, we began a proper renovation of the bed as soon as the last strawberry had been picked. After mowing off the leaves, we tilled under all but two narrow rows of the youngest crowns, then weeded and thinned to allow plenty of room for runners and daughter plants. We fed them, shoveled the best of my finished compost around them, mulched and watered.
Surely, it would have been easier to scrap the whole bed and start over in a weed-free plot next spring. That would be the recommendation of many gardening resources, and I considered that option before choosing to put my efforts into renovation anyway. My decision means I will fight every stubborn weed until it gives up or the ground freezes. My vigilance will continue until late fall when I blanket the bed with Premium Ground Cover, which will protect the crowns from the cold and windy winter.
So, why did I choose the more difficult way? Maybe because the daughter plants from last year rooted well and are strong. Maybe because beginning again with new plants next year gives us no berries until the following year – such a long time to wait. Certainly because I believe my persistence will redeem what I couldn’t do right the first time, and in the garden, persistence is the right tool for the job.