The revenge of black thumb

Having four grandparents who made a living from the land, you’d think I’d have some idea in the garden. It’s not that I’m not enthusiastic and don’t have good intentions. It’s simply that the garden seems never to make it to the top of my ever growing priority list.

I guess you could say I have a love-hate relationship with things green – my husband would, and does, call me ‘black thumb’. I think it’s a tad harsh. I do enjoy most aspects of the process – planting, watering, watching progress and harvesting. Then I love creating something delicious from what I’ve grown. What I struggle with is weeding. It probably doesn’t help that we didn’t start with a great base – but I’m still trying to work out how the incideous oxalis managed to wangle it’s way into our vege patch.

You know the stuff – harmless clover like leaves with deceptively pretty little white, pink or purple flowers. Before you know, you have a carpet of it that seems to grow back as quickly as you pull it out. And, of course, pulling it out is almost useless as it has bulbs that multiply more quickly than a rabbit breeding programme.

In the depths of the shed I found a product I purchased a couple of years back – ‘Death to Oxalis. Does not kill any other plant’. Sounded good to me. When consulting the instructions further (something I rarely do), it said to add a ‘wetting agent’. Hmmmm, not sure what a wetting agent is (nor did it tell me) but I do know they didn’t mean water. Then, on further inspection of a note tucked¬† inside, I’m am informed that may take two-three seasons to fully work. Really??!! And, there’s more… while saying it is non-hazardous, the little white piece of paper tells me not to spray on any crops to be eaten. Hmmmm, not so useful in a vege garden that has infant veges beginning to show.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I recalled Wendyl Nissen writing about oxalis. So, out came A Home Companion – my year of living like my grandmother and, what do you know, I had all the ingredients I needed to create Wendyl’s spray.

It seemed too easy – one tsp each of baking soda and dishwashing detergent and one litre of white vinegar. At this point I warn you to make the mixture up in a large bucket and wait till the chemical reaction stops, before transferring to your spray bottle. Wendyl doesn’t mention this, but you need to or you’ll end up with a fizzing mess all over the bench.

Then, it couldn’t be easier. Spray the area and wait. I sprayed in the hottest part of the day. Guess what happened several hours later? The oxalis got black spots and submitted. Two days later, it is brown and withered. I can now see my tomato and zucchini plants again (watch this space for a recipe from them).

So, yay to Wendyl. And, yay to white vinegar which fixes almost anything. Go out and get yourself a copy of her book – it’s an often funny read packed with natural fixes for around the house and garden (plus a few reasonable looking summer drinks I’m yet to try).

Update in March: It turns out that the oxalis was a little persistent. I found I had to go out a couple of times with spray. In the scheme of things, it was worth it. It was also a darn sight easier than trying to weed the stuff – back-breaking work, only for it to reappear a couple of weeks later (we’ve all been there). So, I remain sold on this simple non-toxic solution.

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