Monday, February 06, 2006

Weed Management : Maintaining a Positive Attitude

There is no secret to weeding, but there is a secret to making this ongoing task an enjoyable one. The secret is to having a positive attitude toward the weeds, the garden, and the purpose of the weeding.

Here's a few thoughts which have helped me to enjoy the weeding process.

1. "One person's weed is another person's wildflower". A weed is simply a plant growing where we want a different plant to grow. Weeding is the art of removing healthy, thriving, maintenance-free plants, in favour of a less suited plant, but one which we desire to grow in our garden. A few examples:

a) I read a posting on a gardening trade bulletin board, someone in the U.S. (forgot which state) was actually requesting dandelion seeds. This was not a common plant where he lived. I happily gathered an envelope full of seeds, and shipped it to him, and I'm sure many others did also. (I couldn't resist posting this dandelion picture from the site To a child, what flower could be more delightful, and what seed-head could be more inviting, than a dandy-lion?)

b) I had a neighbour who, due to her age and reduced mobility, seldom worked in her garden. Most people would have considered it overrun by undesirable plants or weeds. Yet she often stopped and admired, and praised the plants she was growing there.

2. There is no such thing as total elimination. Weeding is an ongoing process. There is no need to procrastinate with "I've got to get out there some time and weed the whole garden". It can be done whenever there is a little time, or whenever you are just passing by. If it is missed today, it can be pulled tomorrow, although it may require a stronger tug. If it is missed and goes to seed, then its gazillion seedlings can be pulled next season, it just may take a little longer.

3. Weeds are great food for the compost. Many of them send a taproot deep into the soil, and extract important minerals, and others contribute by fixing nitrogen (converting nitrogen in the atmosphere into a form which is useful for plant growth). However, if a weed has been allowed to flower or set seed, it may be better disposed of, than added to your compost (again, think of the gazillion seedlings).

4. Some weeds are ones which we have planted ourselves. I grew alyssum (Lobularia maritima) one year, it was a pretty annual, with its cheery clump of white flowers. I let it go to seed, and the next year, I had it sprouting throughout my garden. For me, it had become a weed. On the other hand, the same thing happened with my lobelia, and I enjoyed the cheery clumps of blue speckled throughout my garden - so far!

5. There are no mistakes with weeding. If the same plant is popping up throughout your garden, you can safely start removing it now. As a gardener, if you don't like something, there is no mistake in composting, relocating, or giving it away. If you're not sure if it's a weed for you or not, let it grow for a while longer, but keep an eye on it, and make a decision by the time it flowers - don't let it self-seed, or you're in for more work next year.

6. Weeding can be very theraputic. Some people enjoy a good game of golf. Others learn to enjoy the simple pleasure of uprooting weeds. I have found that there is no method more pleasurable - or effective - than simple hand pulling. Unless it is very soft soil, I find it useful to carry a small hand shovel / trowel in one hand, to poke below the weed, and then pull it with the other hand. If the weeds are prickly, a good garden glove helps. If not, there is some pleasure in the coolness of the plants, the grittiness of the soil, and the childlike pleasure of getting dirty.

7. Think positive thoughts. Weeds can be admired for their amazing growing abilities. "Wow, look how fast this little guy has grown!" "If only my favourite flower could self-sow like this one, I'd soon have a large patch, and could share with all my friends." Or, you can enjoy the results of your labours. "Now that I've cleared out some space, won't my favourite flowers have even more room to grow!" Don't despair about what is left to be done, enjoy what little progress you've made.

Happy weeding!

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