(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on September 6, 2007. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to respond to your questions.)
Thankfully, we have an abundance of weeds at our house. When the house was built, we opted for seed instead of sod. One strong wind and the biggest flock of blackbirds you ever saw later, combined with the fact our town had a temporary water system resulting in so little pressure we could hardly run a sprinkler that year, and the poor grass seed never had a chance. Weeds moved in. When I run out of weeds in the flower beds, I can always head out to the yard, although Handsome Man shakes his head when the John Deere mower unexpectedly drops in a hole. I bought him a bag of topsoil to fill in because I’m a loving and caring wife.
Ardent weeders enjoy a little harmless destruction now and then. When I find an enormous weed that I missed on previous weeding excursions, my heart races a little. I love the type that defies the trowel. There’s something indescribably wonderful about getting out the shovel just to get one deep heavy weed off the property. When nobody’s around I like to hold the once-formidable weed above my head like an Olympic torch and hum the Rocky theme. Dave's Weeds video is great, but fails to mention the most fun weeding tools of all, the tractor and chain. There is nothing like black smoke rolling and the roar of a diesel engine as a beefy weed rises out of the bowels of the earth. You can tell the weed was deep not by measuring the root, but by touching the tip to see how hot it is.
I know what you’re thinking. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard, “You’re welcome to come over anytime,” when a gardening friend figures out my obsession. But being a compulsive weeder has some surprising disadvantages, and may be overcome by some helpful hints.
1) It’s important to know what you’re weeding. I don’t mean names of weeds, although I’ve named a few myself. (Though not dwarfs, they have names like Snow White’s Seven Dwarfs such as Pokey, Stinky, Viney, Look Out Mama Here Comes The Shovely, etc.) Know the weeds from the desired plants. The way to combat the problem if you’re relatively new to gardening, like me, is to take pictures of perennials as they’re coming up in the spring and save them from year to year. Don’t let anyone know; they’ll think you’re weird. If the plant is unfamiliar, it’s probably a weed, but check the previous year’s picture files to be certain. I learned this lesson in 2006 when my columbine didn’t come back.
2) Do not plant seeds directly in the ground. Rest assured that what are growing in little cups in the utility room are not weeds. What’s coming up in the ground, however, may look like something unwelcome, and if that mistake is made, $2.95 worth of seed is wasted.
3) Always wear gloves when going outside. It doesn’t matter where you’re going, what you’re wearing, or what time of year it is. Wear the gloves! Whenever we go somewhere, I am ready long before Handsome Man. He is usually busy picking up after me and gathering the items I forgot, but that’s another story. I’m ready first. But if I’m outside waiting on him with nothing to do, inevitably a weed beckons. And then two. Then I’m down on all fours happily ripping and tearing. Anyway, Handsome Man gets upset when he discovers my time outside “waiting for him” has resulted in dirty fingernails and mulch poking out the knees of my pantyhose. Knee pads might be in order someday, but for now the rule is only gloves. Spare pantyhose can be kept in the glove compartment.
4) Plan ahead and look behind. While thrilling to chase a weed’s underground runner, one can tear up several square feet of flower bed and disturb innumerable bulbs in the process. Trust me on this one.
5) Keep your hands off other people’s plants, even weeds, when touring someone else’s garden. First of all, it’s disrespectful. Most important though, little old garden tour hosts don’t like it when you yank their phlox. See Helpful Hint #1.
There are implicit joys to being an avid weeder besides the obvious rewards of clean flower beds and admiration of the neighbors. There is the feeling of getting something done that counts. Every weed matters, of that I’m certain. I enjoy basking in ignorance so if I’m wrong, don’t tell me, but I firmly believe that every weed I dispose of keeps two more from coming up later. The idea that the one weed I pull may keep a hundred from coming up later makes me giddy.
Honestly though, my favorite part about weeding is imagining all the pains of past experience and old undesirable attributes being discarded with each weed. Tug! There goes One Cheating Husband. Rip! There went a Cancer Scare. Yank! Out with Fear of What People Think. And then when I can’t think of any more, I think of the things in my life that still need to be cast aside. Puuuullllll! Oh, Smoking is a tough one. Will try again. Heave! I should be rid of Arrogance. Tug! I’m willing to dispose of Fear of Being Hurt. Come to think of it, perhaps I have better names for the Seven Not-So-Dwarfs after all.