The chilly weather which arrived last week did not diminish the lavish feel of the marvelous moments in the garden. It has been spectacular with cool mornings and warm afternoons, both of which have made it perfect for the gardener. It has been the sort of spring weather which made one rush outside to smell the newness of the season and watch the leaves unfurl in an amazing time-lapse type moment.
It is truly time to address the weeds, which seem to be crashing the garden party like a drunken, raucous crowd. To the novice gardener, weeding is simply the removal of unsolicited and untidy plant material which invades the garden uninvited, overpowering and bullying the true guests. All gardens must be weeded however there are many theories on how to achieve success without repeat effort. Chemicals aside, informed personal effort is the only answer.
There are the die-hard pioneers who believe that hoeing is the only answer and that hoeing is manly. (It is!) Hoeing is primarily used in the vegetable patch to remove weeds in a crowded space; the hoe can get in and about the vegetables easily without harming them. There is an art to properly using a hoe, which must be sharpened and oiled before use each spring. The hoe, like a good knife, is a balanced tool and this balance allows the gardener to literally drop the weight of it on the intruder without much physical effort. A gentle rhythm is used and is almost like a dance…slowly lift-drop, lift-drop. It is quite effective if done properly. Experts at hoeing are often amused by those who use a frantic chopping-action, which is a waste of energy and also employs the human back to do the job of an expertly maneuvered hoe.
For the flower garden, hand removal is the only logical answer. Experts agree that to truly remove weeds it is necessary to trace the stem of the weed below the ground to the base of origin, follow the outlying roots with the finger tips, then remove all of it in a slow steady pulling motion, root and all in its entirety. This will insure permanent removal of the culprit. It is difficult to feel the root system wearing gloves so many gardeners of the past chose to weed gloveless. However since the gardener's staple, Mercurochrome, has been permanently removed from the market for the mercury it contained, curing the splits on a green thumb is not as easy now. I once gave gardening friends a gift of rubber finger cots, the kind used by court clerks and librarians to turn pages. Fitted over the thumb and forefinger, they prevented finger damage while weeding and allowed for extraordinary mobility.
Weeding can be an almost Zen-like activity, calming, unrushed, and quieting. When the soil is moist and the weather not too hot or steamy, it can be a perfect way to spend an afternoon. The rewards of successful weeding are a stack of wilting weeds, lovely garden and the satisfying feeling of a job well done.
Remember to weed on a day when the interlopers you are pulling rapidly wilt. If wilting does not occur almost immediately, the venture will not be as successful as weeding on a 'barren' day. On days when wilting does not occur for fifteen to twenty minutes, feel free to successfully transplant!