Bees on poppy

My immune system is currently battling against an alien invader – the cold thoughtfully passed on to me a few days ago. The outcome of this conflict is not in doubt; it’s duration is less clear cut.

War and conflict appear to be part of the human psyche. Even those of us who are far removed from the armed forces may become embroiled in the War Against Weeds, the War Against Pests or an ongoing quest to Dig For Victory. Although we are far outnumbered, we have both chemical and biological weapons in our arsenals.

One of the most enduring images of war for the British is the field poppy, taken from the Flanders fields that bloomed so spectacularly after the horrors of WWI churned them up. It is now our symbol of remembrance.

(Those of you who are botanically-minded should note that I know the poppy above is not a field poppy; I believe it’s an opium poppy.)

Those poppies bloomed because their seeds had lain dormant underground, just waiting to be brought to the surface so that they could germinate. Weeds have a tendency to do that, which is why the phrase “One year’s seeding, seven year’s weeding” encourages us to remove them before they set seed. Even so, weeds are a perennial topic in garden writing.

  • If you’re going to be digging your soil in preparation for a spring sowing, then the stale seedbed technique is one way of getting the weed seed problem under control.

  • No Dig technique, such as mulching the soil surface, cut down on the need for weeding.

  • Not all self-seeded plants are unwelcome. There are numerous ‘volunteers’ in my garden, that have grown by themselves but are most welcome. The list for 2011 includes elderberries (thank you, birds!), calendula, parsley, violas, borage, lemon balm, lavender, tree spinach and wonderberries. I’m hoping the 2012 list will include those opium poppies.

  • Volunteer tubers are a little harder to deal with. Potatoes can grow in the compost heap, and where we forget to dig them up they can grow again next year; the experts tell us this is a sure-fire way to attract pests and diseases. The oca that grew in my garden in 2011 were, I’m fairly sure, left over from 2009 (having grown and not been completely cleared for a second time in 2010). The Jerusalem artichokes I planted in the ground last year may become a problem in my new bed layout.

  • But even if your self-seeders are weeds and not welcome volunteers, they may still be useful. With foraging and wild food still on the rise, they can make a welcome addition to the dinner table, particularly at this time of year when there’s not much going on in the veg patch. Foraged leaves are acceptable entries in Veg Plotting’s 52 week salad challenge, which has just kicked off.

Yesterday was not a Writing day. Yesterday was a Dealing With the Accounts day, and a Loud Conference Call Going on Downstairs day. Oh, and an Uncovering a Giant Mushroom in the Garden day :)