Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Postscript to a Back-Breaking Enterprise

Remember the area in my back garden where earlier this year I dug out all the nasty thistle weeds and sifted the soil and then replaced it? I wrote about it in this post.

I let it sit without any plants in it for a little more than a month, waiting to see if any more arose from the area. And they did, the demon weeds. I dug around and pulled them out, and waited some more.  More showed up, I got rid of them, without pulling out the Round-up, which I had threatened to do. I finally planted the area up again, and lo and behold a few days later noticed that there were thistles in the lawn adjacent to the bed. That must be where they're coming from.

Mother Nature hates me!

What did I do to deserve this?

When it comes to this thistle, I feel like Robert DeNiro playing Al Capone in the movie The Untouchables.

"Capone: I want you to get this fuck where he breathes! I want you to find this nancy-boy Eliot Ness, I want him DEAD! I want his family DEAD! I want his house burned to the GROUND! I wanna go there in the middle of the night and I wanna PISS ON HIS ASHES." (Pardon Capone's bad language -- of course you all know I'm such a sweet-talker, I would never use such bad language...)

In this case, botanical vinegar will have to do as a substitute for my piss.

One day after being dosed with botanical vinegar

Still reluctant to pull out the Round-up, I have a large bottle of botanical vinegar (acetic acid at 20% strength, which will burn your skin), which I bought from Amazon. I've had pretty good luck with it on weeds. Strangely, it seems to do a better job on tap-rooted weeds like dandelions than it does on shallow-rooted ones like grass, especially if I really shower the center of the rosette. It works best in combination with sunshine, so I waited to use it on a day when we had a string of sunny days in the forecast. Keep your fingers crossed.

Here's what the area looks like planted up again. I put back some of the original plants, but also,  the Astilbes, Hostas and Aquilegia were originally in the front garden shade area that I recently reworked, and wrote about here in my Bloom Day post.

You may have noticed a new tree in that first photo of the replanted left side of the path (it's the thing that looks like a leafless stick). There used to be a Clethra alnifolia there, one of two in my garden. Clethra is a great Eastern native shrub with sweetly scented flower spikes late in the summer. Some of the thistles that dared to rise up after the Big Dig came up in the middle of its root zone. I dug it up halfway and tried rocking it to loosen the roots enough to get the thistles out, and the result was that I broke the shrub in half (I'm not admitting to being rough, but ahem...maybe I was.) I briefly considered trying to rehab the poor defenseless shrub, but since I had a second Clethra growing in another part of the garden, I decided to dig it up completely and put the remains in the yard waste bin. Did I really need two of the same shrub, when there are so many worthy plants?

Now that it was dug up, I had a ready-made hole just waiting for a new garden resident. My brain started ticking over. What could I plant there? So many choices! The Magnolia macrophylla that I've always wanted? A Stewartia pseudocamellia? A monkey puzzle tree? Maybe a crape myrtle? I rejected all of those as not best-suited to this small, sometimes shady spot. Given its proximity to the raised veggie beds, I thought -- a fig tree!

So, that's what that leafless stick is. I hope it thrives.

The experience started a kind of revolution in my brain. I have multiples of several species shrubs. Four Ribes sanguineum. Three vine maples. Two Indian plums. Surely I could remove some of them and put in some of the shrubs and small trees that I've been lusting after...

Well, you'll read all about that in a future post.


  1. Yay for the fig tree! It's always a great idea to plant something that produces food.

    Boo Hiss for the thistles. Vinegar, 20%, I'll have to tell He-Who-Hates-Thistles and sprays to the far reaches of the earth to thwart them.

  2. Wow, you're proving more stubborn than the thistles! Congratulations on you Saint Valentines Day Massacre of the thistles and hooray for your new fig tree. I'm going to have to try botanical vinegar as I'm tired of continuing to dig some weeds.

  3. I wonder if botanical vinegar is available here, must check...

  4. Ooh, what kind of fig did you get?

    1. I'm kind of ashamed to admit I've misplaced the tag already. And my memory is crap.

  5. The thistle issue is a tough one, for sure. It is kind of like play whack a mole. We have a problem with them here, too, and have been battling them for several years. My hope this year is to stay on top of them and get them as soon as they reach for the light of day - a nice hit of Roundup with a spreader sticker in the afternoon - they seem to draw it in best then. From what I have read, it is all one huge plant that has invaded underground and the key is to keep that mother plant from being able to grow via photosynthesis. We are going to be tenacious about getting rid of this terrible scourge!

  6. Those pesky weeds! Your weed-free, renovated area looks good.

  7. Laughing out loud. A fig is on my wish list.

  8. Good luck with the thistles - and the fig tree! I've planted Clethra but it doesn't like our alkaline soil.

  9. I didn't know about botanical vinegar.
    Your persistence is paying off with those thistles.

  10. It reminded me of my fight with hops several years ago. It was scary... but now, I kind of miss it. Although, hops are prettier than thistles!
    Our monkey puzzle tree is getting big. So, I'm glad you chose a fig! I always wanted a fig with beautiful dark purple fruit (I love with my eyes, he-he), but the owner of the nursery insisted (!) I bought Desert King (green fruit). She said it was the best for our area and the tastiest. I still want purple... Anyway, I hope your thistle is gone for good and your fig will make you happy!

  11. Those are Canada Thistles. They're very much rhizomatous, so every little sprout may be part of the same plant. If the vinegar doesn't work, you may have to resort to a systemic to get all the yards and yards of underground runners.

  12. I admire your resolve Alison, I'd have had the weedkiller out after the first attempt!
    You've made a nice choice and I hope it does well for you.
    Loving the Dicentra - what a marvelous specimen it is and it truly brightens up that corner.


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