Ever-Changing Challenges In The Garden

By Mary Ellen Ellis | September 16, 2022
Image by okugawa
by Mary Ellen Ellis
September 16, 2022

My current garden has presented me with many challenges, too many to pick just one. The truth is that they have shifted over the years. What bamboozled me when I first moved in isn’t the same problems I have today. 

Facing a Large, Established Garden

The first issue I faced in creating my garden was that it was already there. There are some obvious benefits to this and not starting from scratch, but it also presented a challenge. 

This wasn’t a perfect garden, something I could simply maintain. It was the first time I faced a fully formed yard and garden that I could change any way I wanted. It felt overwhelming and daunting. I could tear everything out and start from scratch, but that wasn’t practical. I had to adjust things instead. 

The garden is a large one with multiple beds and difficult shady spots. The way I have tackled the challenge is by taking it on a little bit at a time. Each season I chose one bed or area to improve. I had overgrown daylilies in desperate need of division, beds overcrowded with hostas, and shaded corners growing nothing but moss and weeds. 

Weeds, Weeds, and More Weeds

The ongoing job of shaping the garden how I want it never really ends, as all gardeners understand. Over the course of a few years I changed and improved existing beds until a new challenge arose. 

Weeds are a problem for all gardeners, of course. In my garden, I seem to get a new variety every year that is tougher and more insidious. Just when the beds are how I like them, weeds seem to be everywhere. 

As a firm believer in minimal or no use of herbicides and pesticides, this means that I spend a great deal of my time pulling weeds. These are some of the weeds I have found most challenging: 

  • Bindweed This one showed up just a year or two after I inherited this garden. A vine with small flowers that look like morning glory, they mostly infest my daylilies, climbing their stalks. After much research I discovered that to get rid of bind weed, you essentially have to burn it all to the ground and then salt the earth for good measure. Knowing I will never truly win has brought me peace and I simply pull the vines away throughout the summer. 
  • Purslane All gardeners, I’m sure, know this ground creeper. It truly takes root and doesn’t want to give up its hold. Fortunately, purslane is also edible and nutritious, so I have also made peace with this weed and now put it in my salads. 
  • Violets. Violets are pretty at least. I have long since given up worrying about violets in the lawn. My lawn is far from perfect, and they are at least green and add a splash of color to the grass. Where violets are difficult is in my perennial beds. They tend to hide under the hostas and the roots are tough to pull. My solution is to get into the dirt with a spade and pry them all up at once. 

Challenges in the garden are ever evolving, but these two have been the biggest for me. My dream is to one day have a blank slate without anyone else’s garden ideas or weeds, but it’s probably not realistic. 

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