Little Time This Year! :(

caterwallinMay 31, 2011

Because of the rain that we've had almost every day for the past two months, the weeds have gotten way ahead of me! I have everything in the milk jugs (winter sowed) yet. I had wanted to plant lots of tropical milkweed, but the milkweed patch is so overrun with weeds that I can hardly walk in it let alone plant anything. To add insult to injury, in addition to the multitude of weeds that I have already had, I also now have Canada Thistle growing in the milkweed patch! The place where it is the worst is amongst some bushes that I planted here 15-20 years ago. I spent several hours yesterday cutting those bushes all down so I could get to the thistle; otherwise, I thought I wouldn't be able to get rid of it. I also see that it's growing at various spots where I want to plant the milkweed.

The only garden that I really have control of is the one closest to our house. I have managed to keep that weeded between rain drops the past few weeks, and I managed to put plants in one section but have lots more to plant in there. I also have another garden (very big) that's overrun with weeds. I don't like to spray if I don't have to, but I broke down and sprayed yesterday or else everything would be weeds the entire then, what's the point of having the garden?!

When I dug all of these gardens out, I did it by hand with a trowel, digging out the lawn (didn't even spray it to kill it first). So I ended up with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Cubital Tunnel Syndrome; I was operated on for those with little success. I had intended to run the Mantis tiller that I got last year but found out that I can't stand the vibrations on my hands. I can't depend on my husband because he won't do it, so I guess I'll just have to do a little bit at a time and hope for the best. I just don't want anyone to do something stupid like I did and go hand digging so much lawn to make garden because you'll regret it. I had so wanted to try to have plants here for every butterfly that I might be able to get here in my county, but now the stark truth is staring me in the face...I have to downsize. :( It upsets me to no end that I can't provide for the butterflies like I want to, but I literally have trouble sleeping at night thinking of all of the things that I have to do outside. I'm taking the time out now to type this because it's so hot outside and I came in for a break before I pass out.

I've given up on trying to kill a big patch of crown vetch that someone had in some ground that they dumped here one time. I am always so busy gardening that I hadn't noticed it growing until it was already pretty much out of hand. That stuff is very difficult to kill! I know it's a host plant for some butterflies, but I don't like the way it's crowding out everything in its path.

My biggest challenge here is keeping the weeds under control. There are various kinds growing in the lawn and are now also growing in the gardens. A few I never noticed up until a couple of years ago and now it seems like they're all over the place. I have a vining one called Creeping Charlie that is a real pain in the butt, and there are some that I don't know what they are except annoying and prolific. Now I also have a vicious vine (some kind of variegated vinca) creeping into our yard from two neighbors away from me. I think she planted it along the edge of her woods, and it crept all the way through that woods and into the woods behind my next door neighbor and now it's starting in our yard. It's just all over the place in the woods and when you look over that way, there's nothing growing but that and the trees. So I'll have to start spraying that and hope that it doesn't take over our yard. I really wish that people would educate themselves before deciding to plant things.

In the gardens, I had thought that if I put down carpet in the paths to keep the weeds down (I know, it's not very aesthetically pleasing, but I have to be practical), that would take care of a lot of the weeds, but now ground has washed onto most of the pieces of carpet and the weeds have managed to even grow on that too. :/ I just don't know how to keep up anymore and feel very discouraged. I can only do so much by myself, and with my body not cooperating, it's very difficult. I sit down to do all of my gardening because of my degenerating discs, so that slows me down too. I think I'll finally have to listen to my family (everyone has been telling me that I "bit off more than I can chew") and plant grass and make less garden even though it spites me because making it is what caused my problems. You know, I feel like the digging was for nothing. If I had only known what was going to happen. Sorry for the rant but I don't think I've ever felt so frustrated in my life. Thanks for reading.


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Oh Cathy, I am sooo sorry. I know how you feel and I don't have the physical ailments you described as an excuse. In addition to my perennial beds, I keep one small annual butterfly garden. I do this for my kids and because that is easier. I can till everything under and start again in the spring. I looked at it in late march and it was fine. Well, I couldn't get back out into the garden until last week and it was overgrown with weeds. This rain has given the weeds a super boost. I am very frustrated as the seeds should have been planted already. My perennial beds are a mess. I use little to no weed killer and am ready to take a bobcat to the place and start over. Ahhh, that is the answer! Power tools!!!

Now if they just made a power tool for mosquitos...The little buggers are out in force already. Another by-product of all the rain. Joy.


    Bookmark   May 31, 2011 at 3:21PM
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bandjzmom(7 NWGeorgia)

Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww Cathy girl..I am so sorry that you are so discouraged. Might be best to downsize and then try to maintain one or two butterfly gardens. Maybe one annual and one perennial garden? I have seen pics of your gardens, so I know that it's a whole lot for one person to keep up. Take a deep breath, and make a new plan. :o)

    Bookmark   June 1, 2011 at 7:52AM
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jrcagle(z7 MD)


I will say that as a generally chemical-averse gardener, I use RoundUp on the Canadian Thistles. Here's why: the roots go way, way down (6 to 10 feet on mature plants), and pulling the plants seems to encourage MORE plant production.

Of all herbicides, RoundUp is supposed to be (perhaps others can chime up) biodegradable within 48 hrs.


    Bookmark   June 1, 2011 at 10:33AM
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butterflymomok(7a NE OK)


Like you, I have too much garden! This year I am putting down newspaper (three sheet thickness) around my plants--over the weeds and all--and mulching over the newspapers. Yes, this is work. But it's easier for me than the back breaking weeding. I now have arthritis in both wrists from when I broke them in 2009. I use straw for mulch as I can handle it better than the bags of mulch. Hubby will help me get the straw to the back yard, and remove the wires, but from there I'm on my own. Don't know if this will help you or not. I feel your pain!

Also, vinegar is a supposed to be a good weed killer. Use it straight from the bottle. It's like RoundUp in that it isn't selective in what it kills. I bought a gallon for less than $3, and am getting ready to spray a lot of crab grass. Will let you know how it works.


    Bookmark   June 1, 2011 at 10:47AM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Sandy, the vinegar sounds interesting! Please do let us know how it works.

I'm so sorry about all this Cathy! I've had carpal tunnel syndrome for years, a somewhat mild case in both wrists - I get numb in my hands, with pain up my arm at the drop of a hat! I got it working in Medical Records in the early computer days, filling in jillions of long forms by hand with medical information to be sent off and loaded onto a computer. I work a little, then take a break, then work a little, take a break, etc.
Trying to take care of garden beds is a pain, but it's somewhat easier in raised beds - the weeds don't spread as badly. My husband and I made mine years ago, but it doesn't sound like your husband would help you there. Are your kids old enough to help?
I'm so sorry, 'just hope you can work it out!

    Bookmark   June 1, 2011 at 1:41PM
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Cathy, I can SO SO relate! I had to start cutting back on my garden area about 4 years ago. I now just garden in my front yard, which is very small compared to the back. My lots are a triangle shape, and the largest part of the triangle is the back yard, and the small is the front yard.

Every year I say I am going to cut back the front yard, but so far, haven't done it. I worked really hard doing clean up, weed pulling, 2 new small beds, seed sowing, and planting a few new things (only about 20 plants). But, it shows. This is the BEST it has ever looked.

BUT, I paid for it! My back (lumbar) went out once and I had to take a week off not doing anything and in a great deal of pain. I had back surgery in 2004, and it looks like I am headed that way again since it is a degenerative issue. I can't bend my knees and get back up anymore, so need to use the bench. I also have severe stenoses in my cervical spine as well. I try to ignore it, but it gets pretty painful sometimes.

One good thing is carpal tunnel has never afflicted me, and I do all my digging with hand tools as well. But, I have been using a typewriter and keyboard since I was 16 years old, so 45 years. Don't know if the use of my hands and wrists so much prevented it, but I have not had to deal with that. I have friends who have had the surgery, tho. Not a fun thing for them!

I suggest concentrating on one important area and working on that this year. Sometimes we just have to accept that we ain't what we used to be. Old, but determined!


    Bookmark   June 1, 2011 at 8:48PM
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bernergrrl(z5 IL)

Cathy, I am so sorry to hear about the difficulties you are dealing with.

I've had to cut back on gardens too b/c of time, and there are a couple that are completely out of hand, and I've basically just let them go to the sheep sorrel and creeping charlie and whatever else is out there. It is a lot of work to maintain so many gardens.

Anyway, I've done what Sandy has done, and it worked well for the past couple of years. Put down newspaper or brown paper bags pretty thickly and then put mulch on top. Be sure to overlap edges b/c otherwise the weeds can find their way out. sooo much easier than weeding.

You can use vinegar for the regular weeds, but I've read that it might just do a top kill and not get down to the roots, but repeated applications might exhaust the plant, and it will eventually die. I've been thinking about that for all of the barren strawberry around here as well as the crown vetch that has taken hold of now two garden.

Hope things get better for you!

    Bookmark   June 2, 2011 at 8:03AM
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I think it depends on the vinegar you use. The acetic acid in vinegar is what kills the plant. Household vinegar is a 5% solution, while stronger solutions labelled as an herbicide are most effective. That said, they are more hazardous to use and require more care in applying since they can cause skin burns and eye injuries. The "herbicide" vinegars are also harder to find - maybe farm stores, restaurant supplies.

I think I'd go with what Sandy suggested rather than vinegar, but, of course, it's up to you. I just don't think you'll be happy with the results of household vinegar. The thought of using the stronger acetic acid vinegar makes me a little nervous, but I'm kind of a weiny when it comes to using chemicals.

Just my 2 cents.


    Bookmark   June 2, 2011 at 11:01PM
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terrene(5b MA)

I'm sorry to hear that you're feeling overwhelmed Caterwallin, but and sympathize. It is frustrating not to be able to do everything we wish to do for the butterflies! I have several large gardens, and it is a lot of work to keep them up. Also problems with the wrists, because I broke the left one in 2007, injured the right in 2008, and had terrible tendonitis in both in 2009. Ugh! They are now pretty good, but they are arthritic and tend to tighten up. It is is extremely important that I do regular yoga, and shoulder and wrist exercises to keep the muscles and tendons strong and flexible. Also pace out my activities.

Weeding is one chore I don't enjoy! But a couple years ago I bought a scuffle hoe to weed and wondered where had I been all these years? This tool makes weeding larger areas much much easier, however I do occasionally scuffle out desirable seedlings. I don't use chemicals in the gardens but occasionally I use Roundup elsewhere, for example on invasive herbaceous plants like garlic mustard.

Mulch is also very helpful. In the gardens I use mostly leaves. For paths I use cardboard and wood chips - a lot of work initially, but this suppresses weeds for a year, and after that just a quick scuffle or occasional light weeding keeps most of them under control.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2011 at 11:11PM
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I can sure relate to your problems.

My problem is the steep yard/bank I have to work with (and my bad back).

I have to be careful of each step so I won't fall. Mulch will just slide right on down the bank. I go into the woods and try to find big rocks to put on the lower side of my plants to save them from washing away, but there are never enough rocks!

I got Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever last year from tromping through the weeds and woods, so I must deal with the side effects of that.

We just have to do what we can and learn to not worry about what we can't get done today.

Our butterflies will appreciate it.


    Bookmark   June 3, 2011 at 6:36AM
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Thanks for commisserating, everyone. It's nice to know that people understand what I'm going through.
Elisabeth, I bet your kids love your garden! My kids are grown and live here and have jobs with little time to help around here, as is the same with my husband. So I'm the outside person. The thing is, I spend more time outside than a person does working a full-time job because of it being so hard to keep up with things. I certainly would be tempted like you mentioned with the bobcat, and yes, those mosquitoes and gnats almost eat me alive some days.

Angie, Yes, I already decided that I'm downsizing. I don't want to get carried away and downsize a lot because I know what I went through to get rid of the grass before, so I thought I'd take off about 1/4 of the top garden, and I'm doing away with 1/2 of the milkweed patch. The milkweed patch gets soooo weedy, and that's the place where that darn Canada thistle is coming up the worst, although I've noticed little plants coming up in almost all of the gardens/beds. I don't think I'm any more decrepit this year than I was last year, but the rain that was almost nonstop for 2 months is what really did me in this year, and I don't want this to happen again.

Jeff, Wow, I didn't realize that the roots go that far down! I agree with you and am using RoundUp on these tenacious thistles. They'd take over if a person would let them.

Sandy, I've been holding off on putting down newspaper because I always get a really bad slug problem here every year when I put down newspapers and mulch. Those creatures hide under things and damage my plants so much, and I thought that it would be especially bad this year with all of the rain that we had for 2 months.
I'm really sorry to hear that you got arthritis in your wrists from the result of your breaking them a few years ago. I remember when that had happened when you were about to go visit your daughter. What an awful thing to happen to ruin your plans and then to get arthritis yet is a real bummer.
I'll try vinegar on some weeds and see what the results are.

Sherry, Since you've had carpal tunnel syndrome for awhile, I guess you understand how uncomfortable it can be. Well, the numbness is more annoying than uncomfortable. It's the pain up my arm from the cubital involving the ulnar nerve that I mind the most, but I'd be happy if I wouldn't have either one of those problems.
I wish I could put in raised beds, but I don't think that's possible. It's a very good idea though. I wouldn't get help from anyone putting them in or doing anything else outside. My "kids" don't have the time or ambition. Ha! Thank goodness neither of them want to have kids because that it's a lot of work raising kids. I'll do the best I can here with what abilities I have and try to accept that I'm not as young as I used to be. My problem is that my mind wants to do the work of a 20-year old (what one would physically be capable of doing, that is), but my body feels like my age plus 20 years. If I were magically given the body of a younger person for just a week, would I ever be smokin' rushing around to get things done that I want done in the gardens. :)

Susan, That's great that things look so nice at your place; I'm just sorry that it took a toll on your body, which I know what you mean. I tried to do a lot outside yesterday since it was an absolutely lovely day. With the exception of two small breaks, I worked outside from about 11:00-8:00. I paid for it too...could barely make it out of bed today. I always do have trouble in the morning, but it was especially difficult today. My dr. is afraid I'll get hooked on vicodin so won't prescribe me anymore, but geez, I made a bottle of 30 pills last for a little over a year because I take them as little as necessary. I wouldn't exactly say that I'm a druggie. lol I'm seeing the back specialist next month to see what's plan B because plan A (steroid shots last summer) didn't help me.

I'm going to do what you said and I've picked the garden closest to the house to concentrate on this year. Since it already doesn't look nearly as bad as the others, it shouldn't be too bad to get it in even better shape and maintain it. The others have gone to the dogs so much that I'd almost need a work crew (yeah, like that's going to happen :/) to make them look nice. I guess I'll just have to settle for one nice-looking garden and too lousy-looking ones.

bernergrrl, I guess you and a lot of others know what I'm having to deal with with the gardens. Even without a lot of rain, as you know, they're a lot of work. Through in the rain and not being able to work out there practically the entire spring, and it makes it extremely difficult if not impossible to get caught up with things. I had this idea that I somewhat failed in my goals to provide for the butterflies in the ways that I wanted to, but I can't lose my sanity trying to be "Wonder Woman".
I have been trying to delay with newspapers and mulch (I have bags of leaves I'll use) because of the slug problem that I get here every year, but I have to start doing something to keep the weeds down. It would be nice if I could get someone to rototill, but I'm not going to count on that.

Sorry, will reply more another arms are telling me that was my typing limit. Thanks again.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2011 at 12:08AM
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terene, It sounds like a bunch of us (and maybe even more) have physical problems to contend with. I suspect that most or all of us have trouble keeping up with the gardens. Being the butterfly lovers that we are, I guess a lot of us take on more than we should or maybe more likely we were capable at one time of doing everything but then life threw us a few curves. Maybe if I'd have a little more restraint when it comes to planting for the butterflies, it wouldn't have become a problem. Perhaps what a person should do is just pick out certain butterflies to provide plants for or else not plant 50 or so of each kind of plant. Reading people's comments and as I've really thought about this dilemma I have, I'm leaning more towards putting grass in the entire milkweed patch and just growing the milkweed in containers. Granted, I won't have as much milkweed as I do now (well, what I would have if I could actually get in the patch to plant and also maintain it), but at least I'll have some.
I don't know if that scuffle hoe is like the tool I have. I think several companies make one like it. There are jagged tines on "wheels" that spin around and break up the soil after the other part on the tool cuts the first small layer of soil away from the rest. I had a tool like this about 20-25 years ago that I really liked but it broke eventually. I was younger back then and it was easier to push down to get the top layer of ground free from the rest of the ground. Both this tool and my old one work the same exact way, just made by different companies. I'd be able to get everything done here and not worry about it, but the old gray mare minds it in the back and hands/arms even with the tool. What I'd do if I could is run the tiller and I'd have at least gotten all of the tropical milkweed planted this past week since it was so nice most days. It's raining right now, but I can always find some other project to do.

Betty, Please be careful working on that bank. I'd hate for you to fall! That would be a tricky situation trying to work with a bad back and also watching your step and putting down rocks so the plants don't wash away. There are plenty of rocks in the woods here beside the back yard, but I don't like walking in there because of the poison and possibly turning my ankle trying to walk amongst those rocks. I also wouldn't like a snake jumping out at me. A garter snake most likely wouldn't hurt me, but ever since I was a kid I remember having rattle snakes and copperheads around. I haven't seen any in many years, but I guess that doesn't necessarily mean that they've totally deserted the area. We live in front of a mountain, and just like other creatures, I think they come down off the mountain when there's a drought....but I guess I don't have to worry about that this year! ;-)
I'm sorry to hear that you got Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever last year. Have you noticed the ticks getting worse there lately? Up until about 5 years ago, I never saw a tick on us or our cats. Then we started noticing them more every year. I had one on me last year that was attached and I went to the dr. and she put me on doxycycline. I used to think that a person might get a tick in the woods but probably not just outside in the yard. That's not true here. I can pick one up just working outside in the yard and garden. Lyme disease comes from deer ticks; we have four deer visit the yard fairly regularly, so I guess we have prime deer tick real estate here. I saw one crawling on my leg one time and couldn't even feel it, so it's no wonder that people get bitten by them.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2011 at 4:04PM
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I know what you mean about the deer visiting regularly. I can't have roses because they 'prune' the roses every night!

I had a buck cross the road in front of my van IN SIGHT OF MY HOUSE as I was leaving for work tonight. I will find no roses when I get home in the morning, and the fat deer will be resting up for their buffet tomorrow night after I leave for work!

Yes, the ticks are multiplying. We live about a mile from a lime plant, so we usually get at least 1 pickup truck load of lime dust and spread it on our yard every summer. Keeps the ticks away.

We are going to spread a couple of loads at my daughter's house soon. We always pick ticks off of us when we've been to her house.

Take care and be sure to rest often. I always get in a zone when I'm working in the garden and forget to take a break and hydrate!


    Bookmark   June 6, 2011 at 1:25AM
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