Mistakes in the garden provide learning experiences

Now it’s time for a commercial break to bring to your attention a good product I use to successfully put out my garden fires.

Now it’s time for a commercial break to bring to your attention a good product I use to successfully put out my garden fires.

I, like many of us I’m sure, have made a number of big garden foo-foos over the years, and the fallout of some of these blunders continues to remind me of it year after cursed year.

There’s nothing like learning the hard way, and these unintentional problem areas are the last thing I need to deal with when there’s so many other tasks to keep me busy in the yard and garden. Take, for example, the time I stuck a baby gunnera down in my woodland garden where I thought it would eventually look great towering over the ferns and hostas. Now this water-gobbling hassle of a teenager is a real pain.  Not only is it miles from a convenient water source, but it’s stupidly unconfined and the uncontrollable root system is spreading out into the paths and surrounding garden beds.

Before I knew better, I constructed rock walls without a grass barrier beneath them, which now requires continuous weeding both along the edges and out of the beds they contain.

The list of my mistakes goes on and on (sigh).

My first and steepest learning curve, however, has been my blackberry vine. I grew up on the Coast and picking those delicious blackberries was going to be something I thought I was going to miss out on. When I moved up to the Shuswap however, I was delighted to see that there was a huge wild patch growing near me. But it was on a steep bank and most of those black beauties were difficult, if not impossible to pick.

I had seen a yard on the Island that had a very controlled and fenced-in blackberry patch, whereby the owner could easily mow any vines that were making a run for it across the lawn. I attempted to duplicate this little patch of heaven, but my big boo-boo was to plunk it into a big soily space with lots of soft ground to root into. At that particular time of my life, I was preoccupied with child, chores and ever-expanding gardens, so it quickly became an untameable garden beastie. My dreams of big, juicy blackberries hanging over the fence like a fruity waterfall quickly turned into a nightmare, and I couldn’t seem to get rid of it.

My means of counter-attack was annually cutting it right back and digging out the root balls. But eradicating the pop-ups continually stymied me.  Layers of cardboard didn’t work either, and using any poisonous substances wasn’t an option. I needed to bring in the big guns, and they turned out to be these Dinoflex rubber mats, which are approximately three by three feet in size, and pretty skookum in weight.  I overlapped the mats all around the entire area to totally suffocate the remaining suckers that may be lurking under the ground and left them for a couple of years.  It worked.  Of course, I also killed off the living soil underneath and deprived the ground of life-giving rains, so it wasn’t without some sacrifice.  But like they say, desperate times requires desperate measures.

Now I have all kinds of creative uses for the mats and I keep some stockpiled in case I come up with more ideas. They can easily be cut into the right sizes (with strong scissors) for weed barriers, so I use them around the base of my rock walls.  They work great for lids and skirts for my compost bins, and I use them to cover up and protect my piles of organic materials, as well as for the machines such as my chippers and power wagon.  And, of course, they work the best for my temporary (and sometimes out of pure desperation – permanent) weed control measures.

The company is located in the industrial park near the SPCA in Salmon Arm and every year, now until Aug. 1 through the weekdays, they have a big parking lot sale with all sorts of recycled rubber products.  I also see these mats at Canadian Tire now (and possibly other hardware stores), and they’re all about $3 each. For the truly unruly garden emergencies, slap a mat on it to buy you some time.

In the meantime, grab a lemonade, sit back and do what Scarlet O’Hara always said: “I won’t think about it today, I’ll think about it tomorrow.”

 

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