By Phyllis Galowitz

gardenphyllisophyA soft breeze rustles the leaves of the trees where I’m sitting in the backyard. An owl hoots its plaintive song in the distance. A robin finds a worm in a muddy patch. It’s a perfect day, dry, temperatures in the sixties, sun making the leaves sparkle, wildflowers filling every empty space. You might call them weeds and I suppose they are, but on this day, after many days of rain and gray skies, I’m appreciating every one.

I’ve been “out of commission” for a month, unable to plant the flats of vegetables bought during the first week of June, unable to plant the beautiful rosebush or the azalea or the dogwood tree or to wear the beautiful garden gloves, all of which came for Mother’s Day. The plants had to be planted by my children who came to their rescue before they withered away. The beautiful gloves with chamois palms were worn first by them instead of by me!

The rain was good for the newly planted things, but it also encouraged weeds or wildflowers to grow where they were not meant to be and pests to flourish with no one to stop them. Not all insects are bad.  Some, like ladybugs, are voracious aphid eaters and therefore beneficial to the garden. Slugs are certainly a problem. A way of dealing with them, as I’ve mentioned before, is to fill tuna fish cans (they’re a good size) with stale beer and sink the cans into the soil almost to the rim. Slugs are attracted to the beer and climb into the cans, where they drown. Maria told me that another effective way of ridding the garden of those nasty creatures is to spray them with strong coffee. Grapefruit or orange halves, their insides scooped out and laid on their sides, attract slugs which crawl in and can’t get out. Then there’s the nasty job of drowning them in soapy water in the morning!

Birds do a good job of eating many insects, naturally; so encourage them to visit your garden. Some flowers and herbs discourage pests, such as marigolds, lemon balm and garlic; intersperse them with other plants as a protection as well as for their beauty.

Just as pests flourish in the rainy weather we’ve had so much of, so do weeds. My driveway is becoming a meadow! I don’t like spraying it with chemicals but what a job it is to pull out by hand all those weeds that seem to enjoy growing in the gravel. I’m going to try spraying them with a solution of 4:1 vinegar and salt (Barbara’s trick), the runoff of which is not so good for the environment either. I’ll let you know what happens. If you are going to pull the weeds by hand, it’s best to do it after the rain when the ground is wet. They’ll come out more easily.

I don’t know a better way of pulling out the grass that grows in the flowerbeds.  But what a job that is, and if you don’t get the roots, it will surely come back. Oh well, Happy Gardening!~