At War with Mother-in-Law’s Revenge

When we first moved in, Kay, the previous homeowner, came to pick up some mail and offered some gardening tips on how to care for all the beautiful perennials she planted in her 40 years in the home. One of the first things she said was that I needed to pull the “mother-in-law’s revenge” early and often.

What’s mother-in-law’s revenge, you ask? Well, Kay didn’t really know what it was but she named this formidable garden invader after her mother-in-law gifted Kay a few seedlings for her garden claiming they’d be the perfect filler and ground cover for her beautiful front gardens. Kay’s mother-in-law passed shortly after she planted them and said they’ve been haunting her gardens ever since. The seedlings quickly multiplied and choked out many of her strongest plants. She’s been pulling them from her garden–and cursing her mother-in-law–every year since.

Since making this our home and taking over the gardens, I too now curse Kay’s mother-in-law every time I have to weed it out of the gardens. It doesn’t just cover the open, available real estate on the ground, it likes to hide in the middle of other plants–like my hostas, chrysanthemums, and russian sage–making finding them early and pulling a bitch. And despite my best back-breaking, weed-pulling efforts, it seems to come back with more vehemence each time. I’m telling y’all this stuff could flourish in a vat of bleach with no light.

Finally, I did some research last year and discovered the real name of this pest–goutweed. Goutweed is an extremely aggressive, invasive perennial. Savvy Gardening calls it the “cockroach of the botanical world” and “a beast to eradicate”. While on the prohibited or restricted plant list in some states, goutweed can be found in some garden centers under the name of “bishop’s-weed” or even “snow-on-the-mountian”.

Turns out, Kay’s approach of pulling the plant, which often comes up fairly easily, is one of the worst things you can do! Goutweed stems from a web of rhizomes which branch far and wide underground. You see, rhizomes have a nasty habit of multiplying from broken or left behind roots in the ground–like when you pluck gray a hair and five more emerge, thriving and taunting you.

So how do you get rid of it? It’s a painstaking process. Many sites recommend fully covering it with plastic, essentially “cooking” the devil which can take anywhere from 8 weeks to 2 whole seasons. You can also smother it by cutting it down and covering it with cardboard and mulch – 2-3 feet beyond the menace’s prersence. Another option is spraying it down with a vinegar solution or even chemical-based weed killer like Round-up.

My initial plan was to try the smother and cover method. I figured I could cover around some existing plants and add good soil above, building up the gardens and planting new perennials which would look better in the front of the house than black plastic. Besides, I had PLENTY of cardboard thanks to Amazon and Christmas time which I stored for several months. Unfortunately, when we prepared for hosting my sister-in-law’s engagement party in May, Sr. wanted the garage clean and recycled all my cardboard. To be fair, I caved and gave him permission.

June is always a busy month at work and difficult for me to get in the gardens and then I was out of comission for several months with nausea in my first trimester. By the time I got back to life–and the gardens–in September, mother-in-law’s revenge had ravaged the front gardens.

Exhausted and over it, I’m not ashamed to say I finally caved and turned to the chemicals. After all, this was war. I came to terms with the fact that there’d be some casualties, like my russian sage, mums, and a few other perennials. After the first careful spray, I was disappointed that the beast didn’t begin to wither within hours. I had totally imagined a scene out of The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy douses the Wicked Witch with water and finally ends her reign of terror.

No such luck. However, after a few weeks a difference could be seen. AND my chrysanthemums didn’t die! Two more rounds of spraying and I’ve made a serious dent in the rein of Kay’s Mother-in-law’s revenge.

Unfortunately, the arrival of the cold weather has stalled my progress because the chemical sprays are recommended for using weather above 60 degrees. Looks like there will be more work in the spring. I’m thinking I may need to srpay again a time or two and then will likely cover with cardboard and fresh soil so I can plant a few new beauties. This will allow the new plants to thrive while the chemicals dissipate under the decomposing cardboard barrier.

I also haven’t touched the bed of hostas in front of the kitchen bay window yet but I plan to smother and cover that small bed. With my Japanese Maple in that bed, I don’t want to use any chemicals. Besides, the hostas are overgrown and can’t be divided because they’re infested with goutweed so removal or covering is the best option. I’ll cover it this winter and it’ll be fun to design a new perennial bed there in the spring–something that doesn’t have hostas maybe?



It’s been a while

So much to catch y’all up on!!

It’s been a few weeks since the constant nausea of my first trimester subsided–praise the Lord! Since then, I’ve been trying to catch back up to life and all the things around the house and gardens.

In the past month, we’ve waged war on the “mother-in-law’s revenge”–aka goutweed–in the front gardens, planted fall mums, orchestrated a near-whole house refresh with new carpet and paint in the majority of the house, revived the dahlias in the cut flower garden, celebrated 2 birthdays and an anniversary, finished the football season, and moved the girls into a shared room to free up a room for the nursery.

The big garden also got A TON of care and attention from Clint who built raised and installed garden boxes and used old pallets to build a new compost bin. I’m serious y’all, it’s impressive!

As the cool weather rolls in, we have much more to do–like prep the coop and gardens for winter.

I’ll be posting something about each of our updates and adventures moving forward. In the meantime, what winter prep tips do you have to share with me?!



Check out what we’ve been growing!

Has it really been 3 months since we’ve posted?! Let’s just say life got pretty busy this summer.

June had us going in every direction for baseball. Work was also crazy as we added two new hires and put on our 2nd annual summer conference for educators. I didn’t have much time to get out in the gardens though there wasn’t much happening in the gardens. Surprisingly, my bee balm didn’t return this year. I’ll need to research why this happened though I think it may be overcrowding by lemon balm and the cleome spider flowers.

But as the summer heat began to roll in come July, we got some exciting news about a surprise that has prolonged my absence form the gardens, and almost everything else.

We’re expecting Camp baby #4! Baby Camp is expected to arrive in mid/early March!

Though this pregnancy has been the roughest, with 3 months of queasy nausea–something I never really had with pervious pregnancies–we’re all so excited. Grace is beyond excited, praying for a girl and constantly giving belly kisses. Jr. is praying for a boy and no longer being outnumbered by girls, and Ella is the only one that has said she’ll help change diapers 🤣.

With all the nausea, I really haven’t been outside much as the heat makes me feel awful, so does reading, driving, the smell of just about everything–poor Sr. has about 7 new deodorants he can’t wear because I can’t stand them and he’s running our of options 🤣🤷🏻‍♀️.

I’ve been so thankful to the Norris family for taking care of the big garden and bringing us harvests as they get them. Clint has gotten so into it all, he’s taking over the design and early prep for the garden for next year, more on that in another blog.

My MIL Becky has also been helpful and either pulls weeds or clips blooms for a vase every time she comes over. Check out this bouquet she took home a few weeks ago:

This week, I enter the 2nd trimester and hopefully the nausea subsides and I can get back outside. I’m itching to work on the house gardens and fill the porches with mums–my favorite. I’ve taken a few pictures the few times I’ve been outside this summer of some of the blooms I’ve found. The Cherry-frost climbing roses are about as tall and me and the zinnias are blooming away in the cut flower garden. My gladiolus bulbs must not have been planed deep enough because they shot out leaves but no floral stems and the wildlife has enjoyed my sunflowers (they new got higher than a foot), most of the cosmos… and eventually the dahlias. I did manage to make a few bouquets in early August and have plenty of zinnias to make more. Next year I’ll have to create either a greater barrier or pick more animal resistant varieties.

So excited to continue to share our journey with y’all!



Cut Flower Garden plan: Year 1

It’s almost here! Sun’s out, buds out y’all! Yes, sad attempt at a little gardening humor. Real sad.

Regardless, it’s warming up here and we’re only a handful of weeks from the danger of the last frost! I’ve got my bulbs waiting and little seedlings thriving indoors. A few weekends ago I spent the morning laying out the garden plan for the new cut garden.

I decided that since I want my cut flower patch to not only produce beautiful bouquets for the house but also look beautiful in the yard–think cottage garden– I needed to think about what I put where.

Inspiration:

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/307018899603003505/
https://www.pinterest.com/pin/91760911128127552/

This is where the teacher in me takes things a little far.

First, I decided I needed an info sheet for with all the basic information on each plant I’ve got for the garden, including planting/seed sowing preferences, bloom, height, and harvest time. This way I could determine where to place each plant so there’d be visual variety and plants wouldn’t overshadow their neighbors. I also added an image of each plant, so I could picture the adult plant and consider color.

I then created another sheet with the layout, considering the height and spacing for each plant, and marked which plants were perennials–so I knew where plants would be coming back each year and where I’d need to replant. Finally, I created a layout with bloom times as I want to have something blooming in each part of the garden from spring to fall.

I know… overkill; but mentally I feel like this garden will be a piece of cake! I’ve thought of my plants from nearly every angle and will have no excuse for hesitation regarding which plant to put where. Now I just have to concern myself with the walkways and perimeter…. what type of fence posts will I invest in and will I do my walkways with mulch or pea gravel? 😱

Here’s some inspiration I’ve been pulling from:

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/1055599901620867/
https://www.pinterest.com/pin/137711701091841482/
https://www.pinterest.com/pin/398287160797916208/


This Week on the Half-Ass Homestead: March 7-13, 2021

This week was a busy on for me at work but in the back of my mind I all could think about was how I needed to get seeds started. I spent evenings in my newest book, In Bloom: Growing, Harvesting, and Arranging Homegrown Flowers All Year Round, and to say I’m inspired is an understatement. The pictures are beautiful and have me dreaming or a cottage style cut flower patch.

Last week I put in my request with 811 and got news that the entire side yard is clear! Unfortunately they didn’t inspect the back yard as I asked so I had to put in another request. I think this was due to the comment I made on the request that made is sound like I just wanted the back left side of the yard. Despite not having the rest of the back surveyed yet, I’ve officially decided where I’m putting the garden!

As I shared before, some of the pain points of the current location are that it’s too far from the how, and a water source. After some thought, I’ve determined the side yard is the best place for the garden – it’s close to the house, and the water hose, so I’ll be more likely to get out there and watering will be easier. And even better, it’ll be right in my line of sight while I work and paint from the sunroom! I watched the sunlight on the plot throughout the day to ensure it receives plenty of sun.

So this morning I got right to planning. First with the vegetables using my handy-dandy Clyde’s Garden Planner to map out what, how and when I can plant. I found it easier for me to visualize everything by making a chart with each month and a list of what would need to be planted indoors, outdoors, and harvested.

I did this same thing with my flowers and added the tasks to one of my new 5 year planners. Both planners have places to log information about planting and harvesting but I like the open layout of the of the Royal Horticultural Society record book.

After I laid out the scope and sequence of planting and harvesting times, I took a break to get the the girls shoes for Roseanne and Cameron’s wedding next week . On the way home we stopped by Lowes… I mean, shut up and take my money, Lowes! I not only picked up the landscape fabric I went in for, but I also came home with tulips (because the girls had to have their own tulips ), gladiolus (because they remind me of my Mom), peonies (my favorite), dahlias, and some evergreen trees to add a screening around the fire pit area.

When we got home, I went out to see what I had to work with in regards to dimensions for the side garden. Because we need to maintain a passage large enough for us to drive a truck in the back–for when we have mulch and gravel– I’ve got a maximum width of 12 feet but have a lot to work with regarding length. Rather than doing the traditional raised rows of 18 inches, I’m opting for 3 ft wide rows for more surface area to plant in – like a hybrid raised bed/raised row.

As I was showing the girls, they requested a sitting space for their “Girls Club”. The Girls Club was just started this week between the girls and Ava. When they meet they “take notes on nature” and have even requested a guided tour of the emerging plants in the house gardens. ❤️ They also plan to have art on Wednesdays, picnics on Thursdays, and show-and-tell on Fridays. With this adorable request in mind, I’m thinking I’ll opt for 40 or 50 ft and have sketched out a few plans.

Tomorrow I’ll spend the day planting seeds, marking off the side garden with landscape fabric, and maybe even moving soil.



This week on the Half-Ass Homestead: February 28-March 6, 2021

Things are continuing to warm up on the Camp Farm. I cannot wait to get out to refresh the gardens!

I’ve spent evenings reading more about mini-farming and continuing to contemplate raised beds vs raised row. I finally opened up the book that started it all: Raised Row Gardening: Incredible Organic Produce with No Tilling and Minimal Weeding I’m still deciding but there were some really great reminders here – like the costs of raised beds and the effort in amending a raised bed vs raised row. Until I have to new spot picked out, I can delay my decision. And speaking of placement! I put in my request with 811 to have them come mark the utilities.

It’s still a little cool to clean up the gardens but it’s nearly prime time to start seeds! I ordered another germination kit so I’ve got two 72 cell trays. I had a few seeds for the flower garden from Floret Farms but Grace and I went a little crazy at Lowe’s Saturday 😬

I mean she kept tossing seed packets in the cart and I was too tired to sift through them much. I figured I’d return what we don’t decide to use.

Also, I’ve added two new books to my ever growing library of homesteading. I can’t wait to crack them open tonight!

In other news, Grace and Ella have adopted a stink bug as a pet… his name is Larry and apparently he likes oatmeal.