What makes a good garden? In my humble opinion, it has everything to do with a willing gardener and much less to do with design and fancy plants.
I love my garden, and although it is a humble suburban plot, I think the key to my success is my willingness to spend time on it. The most important thing that I do this time of year, by far, is pull weeds. Gallons and Gallons. On Saturday I pulled 15 gallons of weeds. On Sunday, I dispensed with the bucket and pulled one wheelbarrow full. And I still have a yard full of dandelions.
I think a lot of people have a Fear of Gardening that comes partly from weeds. Weeds can be intimidating at first. Initially I pulled out everything that wasn’t exactly what I remembered planting. Unfortunately this included all of my foxgloves.
My strategy the following year was to pull grass and dandelions and let everything else flower so that I could identify it. This was a good strategy- but you really have to be on top of the weeds just in case they set seed before you pull them.
My general goal now that I know which are weeds generally, and which aren’t, is that I like to pull 5 gallons of weeds every day. I use a handheld rake (a handheld hoe would be even better, but I don’t have one) for weed seedlings, a trowel for larger weeds and a secateur when all else fails (or something else needs deadheading, pruning, etc.) It usually takes me about 15 minutes to pull 5 gallons- and if I feel like it is taking too long, I’ll resort to pulling dandelions out of the lawn.
I also feel that it is pointless to try and pull weeds unless it has rained recently: the hard packed clay does not give up its secrets or the weeds easily. I also use this as an excuse to do something more fun in the garden (water, plant, stare, etc.)
I think I am going to try a flame burner for weeds on the rock beds- if that works it would be a nice way to avoid using roundup (not that I have, but I think about it often) or breaking my back trying to pull weeds out of the boulders. We’ll see. I think with weeds, as with most things in life, there are no shortcuts.