by Charlene Burgi
Those are fighting words in some circles, but this kind of thievery, while dealt with using an iron hand, was for the good of the garden. I walked into the greenhouse this afternoon to check on the condition of the newly sprouted seedlings of beets, chard, peas, cauliflower, and lettuce after yesterday’s snowfall and last night’s temperatures dropping into the low 20s. Everyone looked snug and secure while basking in the reflected heat pouring in through the triple wall polycarbonate windows.
It was then that I also noticed the water thieves. No, it wasn’t that someone hooked up their garden hose to our faucet. Nor was someone taking water illegally from the stream allocated for our designated water rights. It was weeds cropping up in the little garden bed with my seedlings inside the greenhouse.
Weeds are water robbers! The water you supply to your plants is easily consumed by those pesky unwanted intruders. Their roots are right down there with your seedlings’ sucking up just as much water as, if not more than, your prize tomato or basil babies.
I believe that part of successful weed eradication is to catch the culprits while they are young. The dilemma is how to extract them without disturbing the little treasures growing in the same space. I found this task to be a challenge as gently pulling on the weed often lifted the seedling as well since their root systems are often intertwined.
What to do? I sprinkled water on the loamy bed, and then with one hand tenderly placed my fingertips on the soil around the base of the seedling, while gently tugging the unwanted weed with my other hand. Tedious—yes, rewarding—absolutely.
This brings up another issue. In the past, I have been asked to define a “weed.” I also remember being shocked years ago to hear that any plant growing in an unwanted space in the garden is classified as a weed! Those words tug at the part of me that doesn’t like to waste anything. After all, there are volunteer parsley seeds that germinated in the same bed where the beets are now growing. Poppies are emerging through the heavily mulched flower garden and lining the path. They are weeds perhaps by others’ standards, but welcomed to grace the walkways here as I know these poppies survive and bloom without additional water.
Do you have water thieves lurking about your garden? The rains finally came, followed by the sun, and that is the perfect formula for seeds to germinate whether you want the seedlings or not! Catch the unwanted water-consumers while they are little. Your plants will thank you later!
Earth Day Marin Festival April 6
Join us for a fun, free, family-friendly community celebration at Redwood High School on Sunday, April 6, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., to discover ways to save water and other earth-friendly habits. Enjoy music, hands-on activities, inspiring speakers, storytellers, puppet shows, authors, organic food, and much more! For more information visit earthdaymarin.org.