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Maintain social distance and garden


Last updated 4/30/2020 at 7:42am

Si Osgrove's succulent garden is weeded and mulched.

Si Osgrove

Special to Village News

It's a time for new phrases and words as doctors, the governor and the president are telling residents to maintain a social distance, I physically distance from friends, juniors, seniors, Democrats, Republicans, bank robbers, over-zealous telemarketers, etc. I've always distanced from smelly trash cans. But there is one group I will not keeping a distance from.

While I shelter in place from home, for who knows how many months, so as not to receive COVID-19 from some infected person or horse who coughs in my direction – three horses live two houses away – I am face-to-face with weeds.

Our quarter-acre backyard is not a lawn. The space contains numerous fruit trees – oranges, lemons, figs, kumquats and tangerines – the rest of the space is dirt, clay mostly. With every winter and spring rain, new weeds climb out of the earth. I'll ignore most of these weeds but not the weeds in my 7-foot by 16-foot succulent and cactus garden. I won't ignore those weeds that have magically appeared in some hundred succulent plants in black pots, the one I potted in weed-free potting soil. Where do these weeds come from? Uganda? Jupiter?

Some people who can't go to work during these dark times contemplate overcoming boredom by watching endless episodes of "Bizarre Foods of America," "Cold Case Files" or "The Young and the Restless." Some work from home. Some slug away at online trigonometry tests. Unlike all of them, my time is being spent productively. This coronavirus isn't going to depress me. I've got thousands of weeds to take my mind off the pandemic, at least during daylight hours.

There is no time to go to stores. No time to be around possibly contagious humans overbuying rice and toilet paper. No time to worry about not having our own private ventilator.

With my three-prong cast aluminum cultivator in my leather-gloved hand and rubber garden boots on my feet, I venture forth each day for two or three hours to murder weeds. I'm on a mission. Along with a hoe, I sever roots like a football player tackling an opposing ball carrier below the knees.

I'm butchering, scalping, stretching, mutilating and extracting these dirt devils in my succulent garden. I'm pulling cheat grass, filigree, spotted sparge and other weeds I won't dignify with names. I have broad-leafed weeds, sedge weeds, grass-like weeds and tiny flowering weeds. I have weeds botanists haven't even named yet.

If I can't loosen weeds with hoe or cultivator and cannot pull them out, there is one last solution for me. I take aim and violently swing a Roughneck eight-pound sledgehammer. This action kills and buries a dozen or so of these little monsters all in one effort.

My skills have gotten better each day. After removing weeds and spreading 16 buckets of mulch throughout the succulent garden, I take satisfaction in my work. I think I deserve the title of "Serial Weed Killer Extraordinaire."

By the way, the succulent and cactus garden looks lovely. A barrel cactus has just started to bloom in small orange flowers. Another two cacti are about to burst out in yellow flowers. Tomorrow, I will start buying vegetable seedlings.

Red bell peppers and Swiss chard grow.

Tomorrow is today. I stop at Joe's Hardware and Grangetto's Farm and Garden Supply looking for six-packs of vegetables, but both stores don't have much to offer on this particular day. Wow. Could it be a run on veggie six-packs? What is California coming to in this age of coronavirus? A friend recommended Diane's Herbs, a nursery at 3642 S. Mission Road, Fallbrook. Turns out Diane's Herbs has a gigantic selection of vegetable six-packs. You just can't see most of her plants from the road when driving by.

You may not know it, but buying vegetables 4-6 inches tall is more satisfying than stocking up on toilet paper. I also find it gratifying to plunge my hands into potting soil. I put it in my raised planting beds. In 60-80 days, my family will be eating our own organic veggies. They are sweet, fresh and free from pesticides. Then, we'll need more toilet paper.

I think I'll plant a toilet paper tree.


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