I live in Southern Oregon and we are dealing with at least three consecutive years of drought here. When we bought our place four years ago it was lush and green. Things were way overcrowded, many plants had no space to grow and thrive. So, thinking things needed to look neat, tidy, orderly, and cared for I cleared much of it away. You clear away the unwanted and put in the wanted, tend to them and make them grow, and spend a lot of time effort and money getting rid of weeds and creating growing spaces. Everyone else’s yards are that way and it is just how it is supposed to be done right?
Today I regret that decision and work.
I see it in a whole new light now. I feel that bare ground is dead ground, because bare ground, is dry ground. Today, if weeds are growing, I feel at least there is some green and creating oxygen that is keeping some moisture in the ground. If there is a patch of weeds in a place I want to plant something else in, I will dig it up but not until then.
Weeding my garden is not something I do anymore. I see weeds as protection and life. Not just for the ground but for all the ground dwellers, insects, bees, birds, and more. Yes, even the Bermuda grass I am plagued with, it too provides shade damp and life to many things.
Today my yard and garden are very messy looking. I have folks tell me I need to clean it up all the time. I prune where and when needed for the health of the plant only, not for the aesthetic of it. For example, cutting back the dead stalks of flowers at a season’s end. I do not do this. I feel they provide shade, ground cover, food to insects, food for birds, or draw insects that are food for birds. I only cut back the old stalks when the new ones are coming in and only if they need the space or the old stalks are no longer of use as protection or shade to the new ones. Then those old stalks become mulch.
In nature, none of these things are done in the wild. What got me thinking this way was a conversation I had with a nursery owner two years ago when I was concerned about getting water to my plants. In that conversation, he said the plants need rain/water for the leaves, buds, and bark, the roots are fine. If you use lots of mulch and keep the ground covered like a forest floor and provide shade, they will be ok. Since then, I use all my leaves, grass clippings, and shredded paper as mulch and I have fake rain days.
What is fake rain? Me, out there with a hose and a spray nozzle spraying fake rain/water on my plants. I spray water over the whole surface as rain would. I do this for every plant no matter the size. I have discovered I use less water than traditional ways of watering. You can see the plants perk up right in front of you and it leaves me feeling as happy as they do!
So now I am on yr. two of trying to bring back or grow as much shade, leaves, and groundcover in a natural way as I can in my messy ecosystem. It seems to be the only way to keep my corner of this green planet green in this changing climate. So, a messy yard, fake rain, and useful weeds it is until that changes.