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The End Of Thyme

Welcome to My Green Vermont - A Blog by Eulalia Benejam Cobb.
By Eulalia Benejam Cobb

I just came in from spending three hours weeding the front walk. This is a stone walk that goes from the driveway to the front door but which, because of the peculiar design of the house, nobody ever uses. However, because someone some day might cast his or her eye in that direction, the stone walk has to look decent.

A couple of years ago I planted creeping thyme in the interstices between the stones. The thyme would form dense mats, I was told, that would keep the weeds at bay. Plus, it would look adorable.

And it does. For a couple of weeks in May and sporadically throughout the summer the thyme bursts into tiny pink, white, and blue blooms. As promised, it has formed thick mats that in places threaten to cover the stones entirely.

However, the mats of thyme do not keep the weeds at bay. On the contrary, they form a protected environment for seedlings to prosper and propagate. And because the weed roots are tightly interwoven with the thyme roots, it is impossible to pull one out without destroying the other.

Creeping thyme has fragile, wee roots, stems and leaves, and for the last two summers I have spent hours squatting over it, tweezers in hand, trying to pull out weeds without disturbing it. (I didn\’t actually use tweezers, but I wanted to.) In the last rainy month, however, things got away from me. When I looked out this morning I saw that those supposedly invincible thyme mats were covered in crabgrass and ground ivy.

Both weeds are, each in its distinctive way, ineradicable. The ground ivy roots and stems break at the merest pull, and each piece left in the ground lives to creep again. The crabgrass roots itself so deeply in the thyme that it\’s impossible to pull it out without pulling out great wads of thyme at the same time.

And that is what I did today. Instead of going at the job delicately as in the past, I dug furiously with my weeding tool and tugged and yanked and ended up discarding many square feet of creeping thyme along with the weeds. As a result, there are now numerous empty holes between the stones, the remaining thyme looks disheveled, and even as the sweat dries on my skin new little weeds are taking root.

One solution would be to mulch along both sides of the walk, thus establishing a barrier between the lawn (which is mostly weeds) and the thyme. This would involve laying down a thick layer of newspapers to kill the grass, and scattering many bags of mulch on top of that. It goes without saying that by next summer I would have to weed the mulch as well.

Or I could simply turn my head away from the problematic stone walk for a season or two. By the time I look again the stones and the thyme will have disappeared under a blanket of crab grass, ground ivy and bishop\’s weed. And the walk that nobody ever used will slip quietly into oblivion.

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