Tag Archives: weeds

Much ado about mulching

This year I feel like a proper gardener because I’ve mulched my plots for the first time during the growing season. Last fall I began the trend: adding manure at the end of the season and mulching with fallen leaves lying around my plot.

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Looks much better than having it bare all winter. The leaves will break down and add organic mater to the soil.

I scored a bale of straw from my plot neighbour who was replacing her straw border. I’ve used about half the bale already, between my community garden and my friend’s allotment.

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Bare plot at the beginning of the season with garlic and thyme bush (that looks dead) at the back and calendula next to the straw bale.

I think my plot looks really professional with the straw. One of my plot neighbours mulches with leaves he collects during the season. I’ve read that you can also use weeds as mulch, but you have to ensure they don’t have any seed heads, or you’d just be adding to the problem.

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Just imagine how bare this space would look without the straw mulch

Mulching has many benefits, the best (in my opinion) being weed control. My friend’s allotment plot has a huge weed problem. My brother and I have been pulling weeds but they inevitably return, especially with all the rain we’ve been having.

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Nicely mulched herb garden at the allotment

I’ve been hauling straw down by hand to manage the herb garden and the zucchini bed. Not sure I have enough for the tomato and pepper bed. I’m thinking I should save the straw for the my plot rather than the allotment (I’m not sure we’ll have it next year). Perhaps I could try weeds; there’s no end of them down there.

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Endless weeds. This space was in pretty good shape a few weeks ago but didn’t mulch it. Now it’s back to square one.

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The rain, the soil, and other things

The weather has been all over the place this season. We had a really long winter in Toronto and not much of a spring. Summer weather in May with frost on the May long weekend. Drought conditions in early June and more recently several days of storms with torrential downpours.

I planted my first set of seeds at the community garden the first of May. I checked back frequently at first, then low and behold three weeks past without a visit. My brother had been watering religiously so I wasnt too worried. Then he came home one day and told me that our friendly neighbour to the right told him, “man, you guys need to weed!” I went to visit the next day and was shocked by what I found.

At least the onions are OK

At least the onions are OK

View from above. I recognize lambs quartre, but the rest are a mystery!

View from above. I recognize lambs quarter, but the rest are a mystery!

I rightfully felt shame for the neglect. As I weeded for the next two hours I thought about the signs these weeds were showing me:


  • lots of weeds means the soil is fertile (I read this online somewhere)


  • nothing I planted is growing (except the onions)
  • these weeds are harbouring a ton of lema beetles! (and if you look closely at the weeds above, leafminers are just as active)
Lema beetles making babies

Lema beetles doing what they do best — making more lema beetles!


Lema beetle eggs

More eggs!

More eggs!


  • lots of white spiders with large white sacks. I think these are good guys but they took off once the weeds were gone.
White spider with giant egg sack. Spiders are good right?

White spider with giant egg sack. Spiders are good right?

OK, so some things managed to survive: a sunflower, some beets, a few marigold and cornflower, a nasturtium…

First radish of the season!

First radish of the season!

And one lone radish which I promptly harvested along with some onion tops and enjoyed that night as a reward for all my hard work :).

First radish of the season

First radish of the season





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What happens when you leave your garden unattended for 3 weeks…

The garden becomes a jungle

Potatos (flowering),

Potatoes (flowering), and assortment of weeds and mystery plants

Weeds invade

Strawberry plants surrounded by weeds

Strawberry plants surrounded by weeds

Leafminers invade your beet greens



What you thought were beans turn out to be morning glory (for the second 2nd year in a row) – and they’ve taken over



One zucchini plant becomes two

Yep - there are two here

Probably should have noticed this earlier

You miss the last of scape season

No more scapes and the leaves are starting to turn brown. Oh well, soon it will be time for garlic!

No more scapes and the leaves are starting to turn brown. Oh well, soon it will be time for fresh garlic!



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Flower garden

Last year I planted a few calendula in my dad’s front yard and he really liked them. This year he asked me (several times) to plant more so I decided I would do one better and plant several beautiful flowers in his front garden. I had an abundance of seeds: calendula, cornflower, borage, sunflower… It would be beautiful.

He promised he would weed before I came over but when I called to say I was coming over yesterday morning, he hadn’t gotten to it yet. I thought, fine, I’ll do some weeding, throw down some seeds and be outta there in time for the start of the Muhtadi Drumming Festival at noon. When I went over,  I was shocked to find this jungle!

My dad's front yard - full of weeds!

Can you name all the weeds? I know there’s lambs quarters, possibly vetch, but I’m not sure about the rest.

I was not expecting this many weeds. My dad said whenever he decided to tackle them, he would look out at the wilderness before him and end up putting it off. It was just too much to handle.

Another angle...

Another angle…

I sighed and, with his help, got to work. After a few hours, I managed to get the site looking pretty good and ready for some seeds.

Post weeding and planting.

A few hours post meticulous weeding. Seeds down and ready to go!

I planted the following:

  • sunflower seeds at the back
  • borage to the back right
  • butterfly milkweed and zinnia to the back left (these came through the mail from a local real estate agent)
  • cornflower in the center, with dill and garlic chives on either side (grown for their flowers)
  • nasturtium in the front
  • a border of calendula

I planted way more seeds than I probably should have so we’ll see what happens.  It’ll be a different kind of wilderness.

After all the weeding and spending some time with my dad, I was too tired to make it to the drumming festival on Saturday but I did manage to make it out for a few hours today. It was loads of fun! Have to remember to look out for it next year.


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End of spring means sweet deals

I was in Toronto when my uncle returned last week. He was upset that there were so many weeds in the garden and that my cousin hadn’t mowed the lawn. That was my fault. I’d accidentally locked the shed door. The key had gone missing so we couldn’t get at the necessary equipment (the garden claw and lawn mower). I’d felt bad that I hadn’t gotten around to planting his okra as the plants were starting to look yellow. He planted some since his return and told me today he`d plant the rest tomorrow. He`s realizing now that space is an issue in his area.

Look at all them weeds. Almost didn't notice the spicy salad mix on the left.

Look at all them weeds. Almost didn’t notice the small light green patch of  spicy salad mix on the left.

I haven`t been spending enough time in the garden to really get at what needs to be done. This is evidenced by the fact that the tomatoes were getting out of control. One plant had even fallen over, it was so top-heavy.  I swear, I was watching them closely; removing the suckers every time I visited. I thought I was doing a good job of maintaining one main stem, but each plant has bifurcated and continues to grow new shoots in any way it can. Some suckers are so big and have tiny flower heads on them that I couldn`t bring myself to remove them. I`m really bad at a tomato management.

The plant to the back left has fallen over

The plant to the back left has fallen over

Technically you`re supposed to insert the stake right when you plant the tomatoes in order to reduce the risk of damaging the roots, which is much more likely when the plant is full grown. I tied them gently but firmly to the stakes using twine.

Looks pretty good!

Looks pretty good!

Tomatoes forming!

Tomatoes forming!

I’ve noticed that one of the strawberry plants is starting to lose its leaves. I’m wondering if the weeds are strangling its roots.  Sure, it’s still forming and ripening berries, but for how long? I’m planning to do some weeding on the weekend now that the shed is accessible. Apparently they never found the key and had to cut the lock.

Strawberry plants in May

Strawberry plants in May, when they were first planted. The one on the right was the first one I planted. It was less mature than the one on the left.

You'll notice the weeds all around and the fact that the foilage is not as dense as it once was

The first strawberry plant I bought. You’ll notice the weeds all around and the fact that the foliage is not as dense as in the picture above (and no, it’s not the angle. It is much thinner).

On a positive note, Urban Harvest was having a plant sale as this is the last week their physical store would be open for the season. The sale started last weekend: 3 perennials or 4 annuals for $10. I didn’t make it on the weekend and my week was filled with after work activities. But what a deal! I couldn’t miss out…

I managed to get into union station in Toronto at 5pm on Monday. My aquafit class started at 6:30 so I took a chance and took the subway north to Dundas West station. I was in such a rush that I ended up getting 3 perennials: rosemary, lavender, and yarrow, and only 2 annuals: nasturtium and cilantro.

Left to right: yarrow, rosemary,  lavender, cillantro, nasturtium

Left to right: yarrow, rosemary, lavender, cillantro, nasturtium

The staff were nice enough to give me 2 annuals for $5 rather than $3.50 each. By the time I left, it was 6pm. As I ran to the subway, it briefly crossed my mind to go back and see if I could get the 5 for $10 deal because I wouldn’t make it all the way to the east end in 30 minutes.  I should’ve listened to that thought because I didn’t make it to class. I was kicking myself for a few days. But I suppose it was a blessing in disguise. I don’t really know where I’m going to plant what I bought…

Close up!  I can almost smell them...

Close up!
I can almost smell them…

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