This time of year I start thinking about cement. I mean, like, which parts of my acre can I cover with it. All winter long I crave green and long to grow things, but when the June heat meets the spring moisture, a jungle of weeds appear. I wonder how anyone can be worried about the rain forest (aka: jungle) in the tropics when even a moderate amount of water turns my desert into a tumble of lush weeds. No human planted those tropical jungles, which makes them full of weeds, right?

Laura Blodgett Weeds

Yet, I know that cement or asphalt are not really the answer. I have lived in Taipei, Taiwan, and seen the city barely hold back the onslaught. Plants grow out of retaining walls and over roofs. Here in southwest Idaho, my own asphalt driveway is a miniature mountain range where some pine tree roots are bulking up. Should I sacrifice my lovely decades old evergreens so that I can have a flat driveway? Even these hard surfaces tend to get covered in debris which fosters weed growth. Weeding will need to be done unless you want the yard to be totally “natural.”

Laura Blodgett Weeds

Mulch helps, but I have some very healthy looking bind weed growing in my well-mulched rose garden. So, have I mulched the roses or the bind weed? In some garden beds, I have tried planting enough desirable plants closely so that there is little room for weeds. Ground covers are the same concept. In both instances, this often harbors weed seedlings under the canopy, until one day I discover several four foot tall wild elm trees or the mother weed for next year’s weed crop of thistles.

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It’s not that these things don’t help some. Just like directed watering helps some. Sort of. Sometimes I think it just keeps the nice plants from growing in certain areas. Pigweed and goat head vines seem to find water for their roots no matter what.

If I’m going to have any kind of yard, there are going to be weeds. The question is how do I get around to eradicating as many as possible? This year, as I stewed in my usual mid-June weeding crisis, I thought of drawing a schematic of my yard with weeding zones. Every time I weed an area, I can mark it somehow. Looking at the schematic can help keep areas on my radar that I might neglect.

Just drawing a reasonable map of my yard either ends up badly out of proportion or too large as to be printable. I have a daughter studying graphic arts in college, so I told her about my problem. She got the lights in her eyes that I was hoping for. A couple of days later, I have this:

Laura Blodgett Weeds

What she did was find our yard on Google Earth satellite view and take a screen shot of it. (see notes below) Then, she used Adobe Illustrator’s pen tool, circle tool, and rectangle tool to draw lines and circles around weeding zones. She knows these zones because she has helped me a lot in the yard. The solid structures, like the house and sheds where shaded. With Illustrator, the project is built in layers and she could then make the photo disappear, leaving only the outlines. She superimposed a grid over over the whole thing to make it easier for me to mark off specific sections.

I did a Google search to find out how to take a screenshot on a Mac several weeks ago, so I can tell you that:

command-shift 3 if you want the whole screen

command-shift 4 if you want to select exactly which part of the screen to photograph

There are other apps and programs out there for drawing graphics on photos. Microsoft Office was mentioned in a few articles. Also, Photoshop. If you are very low tech, you could just:

  • Print the screenshot,
  • Draw the outlines that you want on it
  • Trace those lines onto a blank piece of paper using the old tape-it-up-on-a-window trick
  • I would then be tempted to take a photo of that to be able to print for future copies
Now, I can line out sections that have had weeds pulled. I can cross pattern it the other direction when I do it again, noticing spaces that are well weeded and those that have yet to be attended to. I can mark and date areas where I have sprayed weed killer. Or color in where I have spread Preen. I can circle in red some place I notice that I need to get back too soon.

Every General should have a strategy. There will always be weeds attempting to invade and conquer, so it is not a war with a distinct beginning and ending. Not during my lifetime, anyway. But even if I can’t win the war, I can win a few battles. I will keep pushing back the barbarians!