Weeds are the constant companion of the gardener, and there is no garden — not even a rock garden or a green roof garden — where weeds do not abide and require continual attention.
For active gardeners, weeds take on an ambient quality: They are always on your mind without consuming your thoughts. You just know that you have to get to them when they’re young. Once you have prepared beds and planted things, beyond that spurt of work, weeding becomes the single most time-consuming aspect of gardening.
For casual gardeners with land — they have been called “yardeners” by PR demographers — the weed dynamic is different. They don’t think about weeds all the time (this is their downfall), and when they notice them, it’s as a field of kudzu-strength monsters. They break into a cold sweat and are consumed by the prospect of a fight to the death.
People I work with often ask me about weeds, and I give them my stock answer. I remove weeds manually with a razor-sharp hoe, with a weeding knife or with my fingers.
I don’t like to use herbicides or pre-emergent products because to do so would kill seeds of annuals and biennials that I want, such as the poppies in my garden that I sowed as seeds in February. They are blooming alongside cranesbills and crowding out potential weeds (though not all of them).
Removing weeds is only half the job, because if you don’t attend to the vacant land after weeding, they will return. You can fill the gaps with plants you want — such as my poppies — and keep weeding until the plants you have fill in, or cover the area with mulch. You may do all three and still have to remain vigilant. One weed can disperse hundreds of seeds.
Often, the people I’m advising take a defensive tone and say they did all that, and the weeds came back. But that’s not what they did. On a hot Saturday when they would rather have been in the park with their kids, they assaulted the weed patch, probably with the wrong tool — a shovel, perhaps. Because it was so unpleasant and laborious, they believed that the job was done, as if they had painted a door or reattached a loose gutter. Two weeks later, the weeds returned because the disturbed soil was left untended.
The other reaction is simply to tune out what I say. I can tell from their look and their body language that they don’t really want my advice, they just want to rant about weeds.
This is one way of dealing with weeds. Perhaps I should save my breath and accept that many people have not come to terms with weeds and never will. I could become a weed shrink.
“Help. Weeds have consumed my garden and filled me with anxiety. They are coming between me and my family.”
“Would you like to talk about it?”