In a prior post, I mentioned how I had yet to move a large chunk of soil off my driveway. After I filled my new beds earlier in the summer, the leftover triple mix basically sat undisturbed under a tarp.
I had been meaning to move it to the top of the hill all summer (which is where I am planning on building 4 new beds for next year) but just never got around to it. I barely gave that blue tarp in the driveway a second thought, although it did seem to be looking a bit “lumpy”. Well, a couple of weeks ago I took off the tarp and this is what it looked like:
|Where's the Soil?|
Not only did this soil have an extremely high clay content (which wasn't obvious until it dried out and large chunks of it were hard as rock) but it was also LOADED with weed seeds – as is now evident. There did seem to be a lot of weeds in the new beds, but I didn’t think too much of it as I never let them get that big before pulling them.
The triple mix that I got a few years ago for the original four beds had been lovely with hardly a weed to be seen - and yes, I did let it sit on my driveway for that long as well. What can I say, when it comes to moving soil, we tend to procrastinate :) At the time, one of my neighbors purchased several yards and we split the soil & the cost. Well, I thought I was being smart & purchased the mix this year from a different supplier because it was less expensive. After all, soil is soil, right? Well, I learned my lesson, and then some.
After getting rid of all those weeds, the soil looked much more respectable:
|All Cleaned Up|
This photo was taken about two weeks ago. Two thirds of the soil has now been moved and I'm hoping to finish the final third this weekend. And just to be clear, all the rocks in the picture were not from the soil - they were being used to hold down the tarp. This soil was bad, but not THAT bad ;)
Speaking of weeds, back in a mid-September post, I showed a picture of my empty onion beds. The only thing left in these beds were the perennial bunching onions and my weed nemesis – bindweed. I said that I would explain why I had let the weeds grow in a later post - so here we are.
|Bindweed in Onion Bed|
If you have never encountered bindweed in your garden, consider yourself lucky. It is a vigorous grower that entwines itself around any plant or structure that gets in its way. The roots are not only extremely long, often going down as much as 30 feet, but they are also very fragile, breaking off at the slightest tug. And every little section of root that is severed results in a whole new plant. Bindweed reproduces by both runners and seeds. And of course the seeds can lay dormant for some ridiculous amount of time – in the neighborhood of 20 years or more.
Pulling it up doesn’t get rid of it unless you have a whole lot of time on your hands because you will probably have to pull the same plant up dozens of times over the course of several years before it gets week enough to call it quits. They regrow super fast – when I pull them up, they usually reappear after only a few days. You can also do shallow cultivation every 2 weeks but then it will take up to 7 years (that’s right 7 years!!) for it to be eradicated. The Principal Undergardener wrote a great post that pretty much sums up my frustration with this weed.
|Bindweed creeping up side of bed|
Since I built my beds on top of grass that has bindweed in it, it doesn’t take long for it to find its way to the top of the raised beds. And no amount of cardboard or newspaper mulch can stop it either. So, unfortunately, bindweed is the one and only time that I break down and use a chemical alternative.
I am trying an iron based herbicide that is absorbed into the leaves & roots and causes the cells to die due to iron oxidation. It's called Scott’s EcoSense Weed-B-Gone. This particular brand - Weed-B-Gone – actually has a powerful herbicide if purchased in the United States. But on our side of the border, the same company (and same brand name) is only permitted to use an iron formulation to kill weeds (glyphosate & 2,4-D based herbicides like Roundup and Killex are banned in Ontario).
Iron based herbicides do work, although they are not as effective as traditional herbicides. But they are, apparently, a lot safer for us & for the environment. I still take these claims with a grain of salt – wasn’t Roundup supposed to be safe too? But when it comes to bindweed, I’m at my wits end.
So to make a long story short, that is why there was a sea of green in the empty onion bed. I was pulling the bindweed all summer, while the onions were growing. But after they came out, I let the bindweed grow so that I could spray the leaves, which I did a couple of weeks ago. Luckily, the fall is supposed to be the best time to treat this weed, although I have seen conflicting statements on this as well.
|Close-up of Tangle of Bindweed in Onion Bed|
This was after only a couple of weeks without pulling
Even though this iron based herbicide is supposed to be “safe”, I will not plant anything in this bed until next spring, just as an added precaution.
The good news is that once bindweed is eliminated from each bed, all I will have to do is monitor the mulched paths, specifically around the perimeter where the mulch meets the grass. I really don’t care about bindweed in my grass – mowing keeps it more or less under control - so long as it doesn’t encroach on my beds.