Lesson Learned

The goal.

I have been working to devote a large patch of my yard to native plants.

The dream is to have a little “meadow” of grasses and wildflowers native to Kentucky that will support the well-being of bees, butterflies, and birds.

I have a tendency to embark on such endeavors with a sketchy knowledge of what is involved. (More on that later.) I trusted my instinct as an experienced gardener, tilled up the sod over our septic field, raked away any plant debris and scattered some very expensive seeds from Roundstone Native Seed Company.

My son-in-law helping with the rototilling.

The seed germinated, along with the weeds. SO many weeds that my native plants didn’t stand a chance. The few that showed promise were soon nibbled to the ground by deer. It was a weedy mess.

My first mistake was thinking that a deep rototilling of the soil could defeat the weeds. As clean and clear as the planting bed looked after tilling, it harbored thousands of dormant weed seeds. The tilling merely brought them to the surface where sunshine and water made them spring to life.

There are only a few effective methods to get rid of weeds. In a patch this large, pulling them by hand is not an option. It’s almost impossible to tell the good plants from the bad. Burning is also not an option. I knew I needed to kill them fast before they flowered and went to seed. I had to resort to a weed and brush-killing herbicide.

The weeds have been sprayed. Now I wait to see which will resist the spray and hit those again. In about three weeks, I will till the bed again. Then I’ll wait again to see which weeds come back. At that time, I’ll spray again, wait, and till again. (Update: I will likely NOT till any more so as not to disrupt the soil structure.) The goal is a weed-free bed, ready for planting in late October or early November. I have learned that the native plant seeds will benefit from overwintering in the soil. The cold weather causes “stratification,” a process that helps break dormancy and initiate germination.

I could have learned a lot about this process both from the internet and from material provided by the seed company. I looked it over. That’s about it. How hard could this be?

This project pointed out a persistent personality flaw. I am a know-it-all. It’s probably the main reason I started my own company – I wanted to work for myself. I almost always assume I have the answers and forge ahead “half-cocked.” I seldom ask for advice. Many do-it-yourself projects over the years were ill-advised, barely planned, and poorly executed. There have never been any real catastrophes, but there have been some expensive mistakes. I won’t begin to tell you about my poor home decorating choices.

The upside of this quirk is that when I learn a lesson, I REALLY learn a lesson.

So, if you see me making mistakes, please don’t tell me. It’s just how I learn – the hard way. Fingers crossed for a good spring crop of native plants and that our deer find other things to eat.

Thought In Memory Of Thomas Brown

Human life is a voyage on a sea of meaning, not a net of information.

Gregory Benford