We're in Italy – but here is the final bit on gardens – maintenance. And a new recipe.
An ode to the hoe.
Or how to maintain your garden, weed-free, the easy way.
There are two kinds of gardens.
The soil is easy to work with and there are no old weeds to contend with.
Our allotment (community garden) in Andorra was like that. Of course, knowing the Andorrans, it could have been sprayed with every commercial weed killer known to man to get it that way…. I choose not to go there.
The weeds are never gone.
There are two kinds of weeds.
1. The annual weed. The seeds blow in on the wind to take root in your fresh new garden.
Annual weeds are easy to control but impossible to prevent.
2. The perennial weed. It's been in your garden for centuries, getting bigger and stronger every year. You can't pull it out because the roots go to the center of the earth. When you cut it, with the spade or roto-tiller, it produces 2 new plants for every one cut.
Perennial weeds are difficult to control but can be killed. Once killed they're unlikely to be back.
The absolutely very best, guaranteed to work every time, foolproof, simplest way to control both types of weeds is….
Once a week, get out your trusty hoe and…. Hoe.
This accomplishes several things. If your garden has visible weeds:
1. Hoeing disturbs or cuts the annual weeds. No need to remove them. If they happen to take root you'll get them again next week. Leave them in the ground to decompose. Yes, your garden will look a little messy at first, but it will pass. Why make extra, unnecessary work?
2. Hoeing cuts the perennial weeds. As noted above, not only does this not kill them, but can cause 2 to sprout where one was. Next week, when you hoe, you'll cut them again. Keep this up and, eventually, you'll weaken the plant (it won't get to the sunlight) and it will die.
After 2 weeks of hoeing you should not see any weeds, dead or alive.
This is the critical part: Keep hoeing!
By now, the ground is easy to work and the weeds are gone. Wielding the hoe is less work but you may be tempted to quit because it all looks so nice, so pristine, so (as the French say) 'propre'.
1. The seeds of the annual weeds blow in every day. In one week they may take root, but if you hoe they don't have a chance to grow. In 2 weeks they do.
2. The perennial weeds may almost reach the surface in one week, but if you hoe you'll cut them off before they emerge. In 2 weeks, it's too late.
Once you get the ground loose it takes very little time to hoe. And the loose dirt forms a mulch around your plants keeping moisture in – an added bonus in dry weather.
Two more points to keep the weekly hoeing easy:
1. Try not to walk where you have hoed. I always leave a central path free of planting so I have a hard place to walk to tend the garden, do the watering, etc. Have more than one if your garden is very large. Tend the garden, trimming, thinning, etc. before you hoe.
2. There is a lot more to hoe when the garden is young. If you have done a good job, by the time you are harvesting you are also done hoeing. The plants are big, shading the ground and preventing new weeds from starting. If I spend 2 hours per week hoeing in June, it's down to an hour in July as the plants grow, and 15 minutes if at all in August. And I have a big garden.
Look at the early hoeing as an investment in easy, weedless harvesting.
Dijon-style mustard lends a bite to these roasted vegetables, not much…. Just a little, to make them interesting. They can be done on the barbecue or in the oven; either way, stir them once or twice.
2 medium potatoes
2 – 3 carrots
1 tbs Dijon-style mustard
2 tbs olive oil
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tbs fresh thyme
Cut potatoes in 4ths the long way and then in thirds the short way. Peel carrots then cut in thirds the short way, then each length in half. Put remaining ingredients into medium bowl and mix well – it will get thick. Add potatoes, carrots and toss well to coat.
Now you have two choices: you can put them in the oven on a baking sheet with lip (trusty round pizza pan) and bake at 400F (200C) for 35 minutes, or put them in an old 'for barbecue only' metal pan and cook over direct heat on the barbecue, stirring frequently until brown and done, 20 – 25 minutes or over indirect heat for 35 – 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove and serve.
Remember, if you think you need to hoe…. you should have done it a week ago.
To make it easy, I hoe a little, 10 – 15 minutes, every day…. Just enough to get some sunshine!