A bit anal, you say?

Ok, so I actually spent sime time compiling these bloom dates, but it wasn't really that difficult. The earliest peony to open in 2012 surprised the heck out of me in April. And since I always snap photos of my peonies (they're such prima donnas, you know), and I've made sure the date stamp on my camera is current, it really was simple.

Peony Bloom Season 2012 is a date listing with photos of almost all of the peonies in my garden.

(Almost) Weed-free: You Can Grow That!

For a gardener, weeds are like death and taxes -- one of the only sure things in life. Despite our efforts, weeds will find a way to benefit from the wonderful conditions created for desirable plants. I say it's time to put an end to their easy lives.

While garden entrepreneurs have tried to make weeding fun, it's not always easy. I've heard of more than one person who has tried to save some money and use what's handy to do the deed. But here's a clue: if a method to get rid of weeds seems simple, it's either not safe, not effective, or will prove lethal to all but the weeds you wanted to kill in the first place.

Ignore the flowers--look at the weedy patio cracks!!
If you are completely against chemicals, here are some more benign methods of weed banishment:
  • Cook them: Boil a pot of water and douse weeds in driveways, between pavers and along paths.
  • Cover them: "Practical Science for Gardeners" author Mary Pratt recommends covering any bare ground as thickly as possible with a layer of some suitable material such as manure, chopped bark, old carpet or porous plastic membrane.
  • Crowd them out: Pratt suggests growing desirable plants as close together as possible and immediately mulching areas cleared of annuals in fall to prevent weeds from gaining a foothold in mild winters. This one is my personal favorite, however, it seems to invite "Zelig" weeds.
In a 1983 Woody Allen mockumentary, Leonard Zelig was a nondescript man with the ability to transform his appearance to that of the people who surrounded him. Some weeds have adopted this very behavior, usually outgrowing the very plants they emulate. It's where the well-worn saying, "If it looks too good to be true, it's probably a Zelig weed" comes from.

How you deal with weeds is a personal choice, and there are dozens of gadgets with which to do it. Garden entrepreneurs have been reinventing the hoe, coming up with dozens of incarnations of the original tool. It all boils down to the job at hand, soil condition, age of the weed and the gardeners' physical strength and stamina.

Hobby arsonists might want to try a flame weeder. These are propane-powered torches that kill weeds with fire. Manufacturers suggest keeping a water source handy and staying away from conifers, poison ivy or other plants that are flammable or if burned, can cause lung injuries. (And they don't recommend it for creme brulee.)

Perhaps not as much fun as a flame thrower but certainly safer is the Water-Powered Weeder, distributed by Lee Valley. The tool shoots a high powered stream of water alongside the root of weeds like dandelions, effectively making it easy for you to pull the whole root out.

CobraHead Weeder
Radius Garden Weeder
I usually turn to my CobraHead weeder or my Radius Garden weeder.

Dealing with weeds can be expensive if you like gadgets. It can be dangerous if you like fire, and back-breaking if you don't stay on top of weeding chores no matter which tools you use. Make a resolution in the dead of winter that you'll stay on top of weeds before they can sneak up on you and gain a major foothold. And check out other helpful gardening tidbits here:

The Perfect Gardening Pants

This is the time of year when we eat too much, look back too far and, perhaps, think way too deeply. Happy New Year! And welcome to what I expect will become a foray into comfortable innovations in the garden world.
If I were to design a pair of pants  in which to garden, they would be a cross between sweats and jeans. They would be soft against the skin but tough enough to withstand a nick or two by semi-sharp pruners. Buttons would be replaced by Velcro, and pockets holding anything extending below the hip would be detachable. Quickly. You see, while women over a certain age might not concede to loss of flexibility, recalcitrant joints, or thickening middles, they will admit to having demanding bladders.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m busy in the garden, the last thing on my mind is going inside for a pit stop. Until that need becomes immediate. My husband knows better than to come between me and the bathroom during gardening season. He runs for safety when I rip off my gloves and hurtle toward the door yelling, “Coming through!”

The perfect pair of gardening pants would be “off-able” in an instant yet contain enough substance to protect me from thorns and branches. They’d be strong enough to stay up with the added weight of a pair of pruners and even a trowel or weeding implement, which are the only two items I’ve consistently needed at the same time at the furthest point away from my tool stash.

The perfect pair of gardening pants would have optional ankle cinchers so I can easily don a pair of boots while I’m wearing them. I wouldn’t need a pocket in the pants for knee pads, but double fabric or a tougher fabric at the knee would be a must. The Velcro closure would be adjustable at the waist so as to avoid an uncomfortable gap upon bending. And here is the biggest selling point of all for whomever designs and/or markets these women’s gardening pants. THEY SHOULD RUN AT LEAST A SIZE LARGE! That way, if we want them really baggy, we could just order our regular size, or even a size smaller if they have enough extendable perks!

By virtue of the fact that the largest consumer group consists of those born between 1946 and 1964, and that 40 percent of us are obese*, what self-respecting size female baby boomer wouldn’t want to buy a pair of gardening pants in a size down from what they normally wear? (Just sayin'...) What do you think?