Labor Day Garden Labors

By Roger Erpelding
Contributing Writer

A three-day weekend meant lots of things to do outdoors. Saturday was rainy, but Sunday and Monday were perfect for outdoor work.

Beth mowed the lawn and beat the rain early on Saturday morning. That meant trim time again. As it has turned out, Beth trims the front, and I trim the back. This was one of my first jobs on Sunday morning.

Monday morning was spent trimming along the south fence–a considerable distance, and a real haven for weeds. For the most part, whatever was growing along the edge of the brick paths in the yard, and on the south side of the south fence, were weeds and were thrown into a compost bag. There were a couple of exceptions. This time of year the field bind weed, or convolvulus, grow crazy with their twining and twisting habit. Also along this fence are several hyacinth bean plants interested in accomplishing the same thing. How do I tell the difference? The bean leaves are larger and rougher. The bean stems are also rougher than the bindweed.

There are two other plants along the south fence I want to let grow. One is the balsam, or lady slippers. During this time of the year they are over a foot tall, with round and smooth stems.  They also have cone-shaped seed pods that hang down. If the seeds are ripe, the pods will burst when you fool with them. The spearmint is also allowed to stay. A clump of it is located on the east end of a railroad tie, and its fragrant leaves give it away.

Toward the east end of the south fence is a lilac bush that has spread from inside the garden, and a clump of iris that has done likewise. The woody stems and heart-shaped thick leaves give the lilac bush away; the sword-shaped leaves on the iris are distinct, are smooth, and have parallel veins.

With Sunday and Monday being perfect days outside, it reminded me that autumn is not far away. The nurseries will be shipping their fall bulbs soon. This gave me cause to dig into an envelope in my dresser drawer, where I had placed a number of prepared dymo tape labels. I collected 7 of them, went outdoors, and filled 7 plastic pots about two-thirds full of fresh potting soil. The pots have been used for bulbs in the past, and the five bulbs in each group will fit snuggly into them. There will be larger pots for the paperwhite narcissus and daffodils, but I’ll prepare them later. The same will go for the tulips. Right now on my patio table where I do this work there are 7 geraniums, one Christmas cactus and one alovera plant. They will go into the sun room later this month, leaving space for the larger pots.

There is just one job I did not complete. I didn’t get the weeds pulled up around the stumps in the south-east corner of the yard. This job certainly was of no immediacy, and can wait until freeze up if need be. And it is probably a good thing I waited. I discovered a day later that I had encountered a little poison ivy along the south fence as well. It isn’t a serious outbreak, but the message is loud and clear–weed that wild area in the corner wearing long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Poison ivy is a very insidious and ugly weed for blind gardeners. By the time you know you’re into it, it is too late.


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