Weeding Therapy

One good thing about all the rain we’ve had lately; the weeds pop out of the ground like nobody’s business. The return of the sun means they’re also growing like mad, which means there are a lot more to pull, but the soft mush of earth doesn’t hold the roots very well. Pull ’em now, while they’re still easy!

What is and is not a weed is somewhat subjective… A “weed” is simply a plant that is growing in the wrong place. Roses can very well be weeds if they’re in the middle of the daylily bed. And every child has given mother a bunch of beautiful, free, fluffy yellow flowers. Dandelions. Weeds. Not to a 5 year old. To a 5-year old, they are golden sunshine, free for the taking, to beautify playhouses and to make crowns and bracelets. Pick as many as can be carried away; no child should ever be yelled at for picking dandelions (because the more flowers they pick, the fewer will go to seed… in theory…).

I find weeding rather therapeutic. Taking an overgrown patch of ground which may or may not have desirable plants in it and turning it into a nice, orderly, neat garden is very satisfying. It forces me to really look at every square inch of the garden and make sure I’m not pulling up the special little corydalis or ginger plant that cost $20, and finding all manner of slugs and bugs and spiders and snails around the base of the irises. My brain can shut off when I’m weeding, the rhythm of the weeding tool going into the ground and the pull of the clumps of grass or sorrel takes over, and I relax.

The satisfaction of getting the entire foot-long root of a dandelion cannot be measured. It is a rare occurrence, but a welcome one. Interesting fact about dandelions; they can re-grow from as little as a quarter inch of root. So if you don’t see that little pointy tip when you pull the bunch of leaves out of your lawn, or if you see milky sap oozing from different points on the root, it’ll be back in a few weeks. Crown Vetch and Sorrel are a couple other weeds that are incredibly satisfying to pull. It must be done delicately; their roots are long, and stringy, and will easily break, but tracing a long thread from clump to clump of sorrel, or following one white rope of vetch till it goes so deeply into the ground it cannot be dug.

Horsetail is my nemesis, though. One bed was just full of it. Iris were hidden, daylilies buried. After several hours, I looked at what I had done, and looked at what I still had to do, and remembered what the reality of horsetail really is, and realized I had much, much more work ahead. It really is a losing battle, trying to weed horsetail. Equisteum is one of the most ancient plants on the planet. Chewed on by dinosaurs, long, long ago. It spreads by an enormous, deep network of roots, and has a silica-based coating (it can be dried and used for scouring pots!), making it somewhat resistant to all but the strongest and nastiest weedkillers, and it spreads like crazy. Will grow just about anywhere, and survives just about anything. It’s job security for gardeners, if nothing else.

On the subject of weed killers, Roundup and other nasty chemicals certainly have their place, especially for the tough-to-pull and deep rooted perennial weeds like dandelions. Ordinary vinegar, though, does the job just as well on the more delicate annual weeds like oxalis and various grasses. A spray combined with soil application to get to the roots will dry the plant out, and then all that is left is a little dry clump of leaves, to be swept away in the next cleaning.