Right now my herb garden is home to several alpine strawberry plants, two rugosa roses, volunteer cosmos and five foot tall thistles. That’s about it.
Ok, not really, there’s a lot of random weeds too. Not to toot my own horn but I have a fantastic crop of burdock this year.
I’m not sure when it happened but the whole garden got away from me this year. Oddly enough, it’s closer to the house than the vegetable garden and it’s the only one with outdoor lighting. So you’d think I’d be out there all the time.
I really wanted to put up an actual fence around it this year, to keep the chickens from digging up everything and to keep my kids safe from the rugosas. Well that didn’t happen and at the moment the old temporary fence is a tangled mess of wild morning glories and ironweed.
At this point in the year there isn’t a lot I can do to save the garden. It’s too hot to direct sow anything right now but I can get ready for a few quick fall crops, more likely I’ll just get it prepped for next year. To start things off I had to rip out the front part of the fence, it didn’t make it in one piece. RIP fence.
You’re here reading this so I’m going to guess you’re in a similar position. Maybe you had a sick kid or baseball tournaments or you got sucked into painting you best friends aunts boyfriends next door neighbors kitchen cabinets. Life happens, I get it.
Accept it and Move on
No point crying over spilled milk, unless it’s breast milk, you can totally cry then because pumping sucks. The damage is done, your garden sucks. Dig out your Elsa wig and let it gooooooooooooo.
That’s one of the great thing about gardens. You always get another shot. In my vegetable garden I have 2 whole 4×16 ft garden beds sitting empty. I tried something new with my winter squash and planted them in alpaca poop piles instead of garden beds.
Those two beds look about as good as my herb garden, nothing but weeds. Seriously, I could have entered some of those thistles into the state fair and got a ribbon! Since we’re in the summer lull I’ve got a few weeks where I’m not planting anything so I wanted to try and reclaim them.
Is there anything worth saving?
First step is a recon mission. The more you want to save the longer it’s going to take to clean out the garden. If you look closely in the picture above you can see a sage plant.
While the vegetable garden beds are empty I do have a few things in the herb garden that I’d like to keep. Before I went on a garden murder spree I wanted to make sure those plants would be safe.
Go through your garden and find anything worth saving. Look carefully, you might be surprise by how much of that weed pile is actually a healthy tomato!
Go around the plants you want to keep carefully removing the weeds. Remove everything in a 1 foot radius. After you’ve got everything you want to keep marked it’s time to bring in the big guns.
War on the Weeds
In my post about weeding when you’re overwhelmed I talked about triaging your garden. Go through and remove anything going to seed and anything dangerous. Time to get rid of the thistles.
Take all that stuff and toss it in the fire pit, or the woods or wherever you get rid of your garden waste.
Then were gonna pull out the big guns. I had to get rid of tall weeds and grass. For the grass I used my push mower, very very slowly along the fence row where it had crept into the garden.
I ended up mowing down the whole front section taking out some smaller weeds along with the grass. I did leave some of the cosmos because they’re pretty and the bees like them.
Then I put on a podcast, sat down and went to my happy place. I love gardening and being in the dirt. I worked across the garden, pulling out the big weeds, digging out roots and getting the garden back under control.
I worked in sections, I have a center ‘patio’ section in the herb garden where I laid down cardboard and landscape cloth. There are also lots of bags of mulch that I picked up during the Lowe’s mulch sale.
I ended up working on this over a few days. I pulled out the big stuff and tossed it in a pile. Then I put all the small weeds & roots into my dump cart and put them in the chicken run. I had a fox take a few of my birds so everyone is on lock down. A large pile of roots gives the chickens something to dig through.
Chickens hate piles, anytime you need to keep them busy give them a pile of something to destroy. Wood shavings, a flake of straw or a giant pile of weeds.
After I finished a section I dumped in few buckets of chicken coop… material. I have a dirt floor and use the deep litter method so there is never a shortage! I lightly worked it into the soil and then covered it all with some of the dried out weeds I’d pulled. If I had straw I’d use that but I don’t.
Keeping the soil covered will cut back on the weeds popping up and encourage the earthworms to work all the chicken bedding into the soil. At this point I’ve pulled off two sides of the fence and let me tell you, the chickens have noticed.
This is my garden buddy, she’s always around when I’m in the garden. Mary loves to toss her earthworms and she’s always hanging around waiting for more.
I ended up pulling out a section of portable net fencing I bought to keep the geese in the orchard. I haven’t gotten a house made yet so they’re still living wild and free. My uncle took two of the extra males and they all seem happier to hang out at home for the time being.
The fence was long enough that I could fence off the grapes along with the herb garden. Hopefully I’ll actually get to eat some grapes this year! This was the first year I got to eat any of my currants so maybe I’ll get lucky again.
This ended up pretty wordy and you’re situation will probably be at least a little different than mine so here’s a condensed play by play:
- Find anything worth saving
- Remove anything going to seed or prickly/dangerous and get rid of it
- If there’s nothing worth saving mow it all to the ground
- If there is some stuff you want to keep weed around it carefully then mow/rip out anything left
- Add compost or rotted manure and work into the soil a little
- Cover with straw or some dried weeds (nothing going to seed) to encourage the earthworms to work your poop into the soil
- Fence out the damn chickens
You can do this all in one go, or break it up over a few days. After you’ve got the soil covered up you’re job is done. Just walk away.
Take a break, think about what when wrong and if you can fix it. Was your garden too big? Bad location?
Gardening is a learning process, don’t beat yourself up! There’s always next year 😉
Check out my Garden page for more ideas or start here: