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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Embrace Weeding For A Happier Life

One of the secrets to being happy as a gardener is to embrace weeding.

No matter what kind of garden you have, as soon as you cultivate the earth and plant what you want to grow, the weeds will begin their quest to take over your garden.

Embrace weeding.

You will never finish weeding. The weeds are always out there sprouting and growing in the areas you think you have finished weeding. You might slow the weeds down a bit or even halt them temporarily, but eventually they come back. They always do.

Embrace weeding.

How?

Make weeding a regular part of your routine during the growing season. Just as professional organizers advise people to spend some time each day picking up and decluttering to keep a house neat, you should plan to spend some time each day, or even every other day, weeding. It could be as little as 15 – 30 minutes of weeding, and it would still make a difference.

Of course, sometimes a house is too far gone with clutter so you have to spend some concentrated hours and days getting it back in order before the “maintenance decluttering” works. The same is true in gardens. If you have a garden that is more weeds than flowers, you will have to spend some concentrated time getting rid of the weeds and bringing order back to the garden before spending just a little time each day weeding makes a difference.

Embrace weeding.

Know your weeds. If you know which weeds are annuals, you’ll know those are the ones that you should pull before they set seed. For the perennial weeds, you should try to get as much of the root as possible.

But don’t fret if you don’t get all the root of a perennial weed. It’s just not possible. I advocate that you just keep pulling them as they show leaves and eventually, you’ll start to see less of them. And don’t let the perennial weeds set seed either. In fact, don't let any weeds flower and set seed if you can help it.

But if you have field bindweed in your garden, I’m sorry. Consider moving.

Embrace weeding.

Wear gloves when you weed. Finding a good pair of gloves that allow you to get a good grip on the weed is important because you want to protect your hands from weeds that fight back like stinging nettle, poison ivy, thistle, etc. If you can’t find such a pair of gloves, some gardeners have been known to cut off the thumb and index finger on a pair of gloves. Then at least they are protecting a part of their hands.

Embrace weeding.


Use good tools. Your hands are not the only tools to use for weeding. I have many kinds of weeding tools, including hand tools and hoes. Some are more useful than others and it is difficult to make absolute recommendations. I suggest you try some of the weeding tools yourself and see which ones work for you. Then when you find a weeding tool that you like, guard it with your life, it’s your friend in the garden.

The picture above shows one of my new weeding tools, a Cobrahead Short Handle that I got for Christmas. It’s next to a dwarf columbine, Aquilegia flabellata ‘Cameo Mixture’. I gave this tool a good work out today and I’m keeping it, guarding it with my life. It’s great for weeding.

I used it like a little hand hoe and roughed up a bunch of grass that’s growing where I didn’t want it, and it made it easier to pull out that grass. I also found it worked well getting up under dandelions and thistles so I could pull them out with a “reasonable” amount of the roots.

Embrace weeding.

Follow the shade and the rain. If your schedule allows for it, weed in the shade whenever you can, if the area you are weeding is indeed ever in shade. And we all know that weeding is easier right after a rain when the ground is wet, but not sopping wet. If you haven't had rain in awhile, water, then weed.

Embrace weeding.

You’ll be a happier gardener and have a happier life in the long run if you just accept weeding as something you will always be doing. So make the best of weeding, embrace it, and have some fun while you are doing it.

29 comments:

Gina said...

carol - i just dont know if I can embrace it. they are way faster and smarter than me. maybe if i get me one of those fancy weed puller thingys?

Kathy said...

Another excellent post that could have been published in a magazine.

Melanie said...

Weeding is actually quite soothing to me. It's only when I have to get it done and don't have the time that I feel stressed out. Tomorrow I'll try to do some embracing :-)

Debbie said...

Great thoughts, Carol...sort of like doing dishes!

Rose said...

Interesting concept, Carol. I don't know if I can "embrace" it, but I can endure it. I've found lots of mulch is my best defense against weeds. Even though weeds still manage to poke through, there are fewer of them, and I don't mind pulling a few weeds here and there. It's when things get out of control that I get overwhelmed.
Just read yesterday's post--your tulips look absolutely gorgeous! Some tulips don't seem to last long for me; I might try your tip of treating them more as annuals.

Robin's Nesting Place said...

It's a good thing I find weeding relaxing, because after a busy and stressful week I'm ready to do a little or maybe a lot.

Do the dandelions seem more prolific to you this year? It's a great year for spring blooms but the weeds have gotten in on the act too.

beckie said...

Carol, just today as I was doing my garden walk-about, I started pulling the odd weed or two. And in moving around the beds, another here, there etc. I thought to myself, if I spend 10 min. a day I can keep this under control. I don't know why this had never occured to me before...and I certainly had never thought to write about it. Good advice! Thanks for putting it into words.

Mad Man Bamboo said...

A never-ending, but nonetheless important task indeed...

Sean

Pam/Digging said...

Carol, you're a genius at these engaging, funny, yet practical posts. I'm feeling very Zen just thinking about weeding after reading this post. Keep up the good work.

Nancy J. Bond said...

I always rather liked weeding, in small doses. :) Sort of like doing the dishes -- it's not a chore I particularly relish, but I do some of my best thinking then. :)

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Now Carol, I am not going to embrace weeding. I have accepted it as a fact of gardening. I don't really mind it after the surge of spring "cleaning" has occured. Weeds are perhaps put here in our gardens to make us always feel needed. tee hee...

I think that Cobra Head weeding tool looks fantastic. I am going to ask for one for my birthday.

garden girl said...

Amen to that Carol. I'm working in a long-neglected garden that will be on our village's annual house walk next month. Grass, garlic mustard, shrublets, dandelions, and others (thankfully no bindweed,) have invaded this garden and have been left unchecked.

In the case of the grass, we're having to pull out the perenials, separate the plants from the grass, and replant because the grass has invaded the crowns of the plants. Weeding is one chore where an ounce of prevention is definitely worth a pound of cure.

Jan said...

Well, Carol, this year I will have to embrace weeding. I don't know what has happened lately (more sun, more rain), but I have more weeds than I've had in the thirty years we have been here. Your tips will help because I am determined to get rid of these pesky things, so that next year it won't be as bad.

Jan Always Growing

Sue Swift said...

Love the bindweed advice! near us in London there was a house where people wer living, but where the garden was abandoned for about twenty years. Bindweed took over, and by the end all you could see was the house poking up out of this green and white sea. It actually looked fabulous ... but I wouldn't have wanted to be the new owners who eventually moved in.

Kristy "Greenthumb" Guthrie said...

Nothing is more pleasing than a garden just free from weeds. It's taking chaos and making it organized again.
I'm having trouble coming to a decision on whether to weed the garden of my current dwelling or just let it be since I'll be moving out in a month.

Dave said...

Interesting garden blogging strategy, subliminal weeding encouragement..hmm ;). A little bit of weeding everyday goes a long way to a happier garden. I try to get them when their small. Whenever I'm outside I pick any weeds I see. You're right, it will never end!

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

Great post! I usually enjoy weeding & often go out weeding in light rain (you can really get out the whole dandelion root in the rain). I've even taught my kids to recognize & pull Maple & Buckthorn seedlings. It is a never ending job, but one that is relaxing & rejuvenating (unlike laundry).

Katarina i Kullavik said...

I've been out weeding for the whole weekend - and I might be strange - but i quite like it! What else should a gardener do? ;-)
/Katarina

Meems said...

Carol, I liked your subliminal message throughout your post ... very clever.

While I wish it didn't have to be done I guess I have sort of embraced it ---now that you mention it. I have finally learned to just make it part of the daily routine as you suggested. I don't wait until they have taken over I just stay at it ... all the time ... like it is part of the gardening experience.

I'm not saying I like but I DO like a neat and tidy garden and just like housework ... it's so much easier if it never gets out of control. Great practical ideas for us, Carol.
Meems @Hoe&Shovel

Gail said...

Excellent advice...Gail

Cinj said...

I used to sit outside in the cool of the morning/evening pulling weeds. I met so many neighbors that way. I have no such outlet now since I have so few neighbors and such a huge yard. I've started a couple of gardens. You're so right though about keeping up on the weeding. I've been going bonkers when I have gone back just a couple of times during a growing season and seen my garden in such a terrible state. I have managed to do a few minor things there, but it no longer looks the way I liked to keep it.

Ellis Hollow said...

When the weeds get ahead of me, I recall an old Aldo Leopold essay I read years ago that can be summarized in two words: Embrace weeds.

Sherry at the Zoo said...

I think weeds can be an attractive part of the garden, dont' you? One man's weed might be another man's treasure. Take violets for example. Wouldn't DREAM of poisoning, pulling, killing the beloved violets and I find it hard to believe that some people actually do! Now, thistle...that's another story. My philosphy is to let nature take it's course - LOL! (Drives you nuts doesn't it dear sister!)

Titania said...

Carol how very right you are. Isn't
there a saying weeds never die? I have some very persistent ones, I hate them with gusto! And weed...and weed, I just can't embrace those. I have other weeds which I don't mind going on my knees and minutely get rid of them.
All in all my garden is not so bad any more, mulching helps a lot.

Dr. Craig said...

If you must weed, protect yourself and enjoy it. But I like a thick organic mulch to eliminate most if not all weeding. I guess I am just lazy.

Dr. Craig

jodi said...

Words to live by, Carol. There's a sort of Zen-ness to weeding, I find, it's a nice time to contemplate everything from what we're weeding to what we're going to plant to what's for supper to how to defeat global warming. Of course, I don't have a vegetable garden so I can also just blithely pretend some of my weeds are native plants and planned where they are....;-)

Mark said...

I like to embrace the philosophy of the great gardening god'Alan Tichmarsh' in that a weed is just a plant in the wrong place...lol

J said...

My gardening inspiration, Mr. Robinson, had an old pair of pliers he used to pull up plaintains, dandelions, and other hard-to-grip weeds. Worked like a charm. Your post jiggled that memory loose. I'm going to get myself an old pair of pliers!

Great post!

Graziana said...

I don't know if I'm 'embracing' the whole weeding-thing, but I learned last year that is a summer garden work, maybe the harder.
It can be relaxing too, I just sit near the beds and let my mind run free.
Great post!