So, I spent awhile in the community garden today, pulling out mint.
When I inherited this plot from friends in the summer of 1996, there were some nice things in it--a lovely white peony, some orange (non day-lily) lilies, a thatch of very tall striped grass in one corner. Still, at some point every summer, I hate those friends because the summer before they gave up the garden, they planted mint. It's not that the mint was already there and they couldn't quite get it all out. No, they put it in. On purpose. And here I am, 12 years later, still pulling it out.
For the first summer or two, one end of the plot was taken over nearly entirely by mint and johnny jump-ups. But as I learned more about gardening and had more things I wanted to put in, I didn't want to lose the space, and so I began a campaign against the mint, which by then I was calling "the mint that wants to rule the world."
And then for a bunch of summers, I was able to keep the mint somewhat contained--there was still a patch at one end, where it had originally been. And then there was a little patch in the middle of the garden that I pulled out when I remembered to. But there was no sense of invasion, no sense that the mint was winning.
Except now it is. When I planted the peas, a month or so ago, I dug out a bunch of mint that had crawled underneath the pea fence and was attempting to colonize the other half of my plot, the one that's basically empty and where the utilitarian rows of vegetables grow. (Since the original half of my plot is a bit over-stuffed--you know, because I can't bear to pull out any of the corn poppies or larkspur that have self-seeded all over the place, not to mention the fact that for years I took any perennial anyone offered me--I try to keep the second half fairly clear, so there's actually room to put some vegetables in. )
In an interruption of my mint rant, I'll post some photos of my bipolar garden, all taken last summer.
The original half.
The newer half.
And here they are both together, with the pea fence in the middle:
I've been slightly neglectful of the community garden of late--it's the torn between two gardens thing partly, but also the weird weather pattern, where the sunniest days are Weds. and Thurs., and weekends are cool and cloudy. (Then there's the fact that I had obligations on two sunny Saturdays that kept me away from both gardens.) I can't blame the weather entirely--maybe I've just become a lazy gardener. But I know that the longer I let the weeds go, the worse it will be to tackle them. And so, I spent a chunk of time over there this afternoon (wearing a wool sweater AND fleece!). I tried to clear some of the weeds on the empty side. I pulled out some nasty witch grass. But mostly, I pulled out mint. There was mint mixed in with the artemisia, mint overrunning the creeping thyme (which is itself overrunning the grass path next to the plot), mint settling itself into the bed with the garlic and the one where leeks and lettuce grew last summer. I dug and pulled and pulled and dug and followed the snaking vines as far as I could, but I couldn't get all of it.
After an hour and a half or so, I had to leave to get ready to go to a dinner thing. To show for my time, there was a big pile of mint and witch grass to be composted, and my hands were filthy, dirt under my nails. My hands did, admittedly, smell pleasingly minty after all that--the only nice thing I will ever say about the mint. But the mint is still winning, and meanwhile, all I can do is keep pulling it out and keep cursing my friends. I wonder, after 12 years, if there's some statute of limitations on the willful planting of mint. Because really, what I'd like is for them to have to pull it out, as a lesson. It seems like it might even be fair for me to sneak over to their house and stick some mint in, but I'm not that vengeful (I don't think). Goddamn mint.