Monday, February 28, 2011

Enter Ms. Spring! ...And Weeding

Currant blooms~

Thankfully February is almost over and we see remarkable changes in the garden; spring is coming! The Currant bushes have tender green leaves and the Viburnum blooms are the size of a button. The tiny yellow Forsythia blooms, which are always the first to arrive at the garden party, are slowly covering the barren branches before the leaves emerge. Many gardens are sporting darling Crocus and Hyacinths which may be seen as low spots of scent and color. The buds on the early Jonquils and Daffodils are swelling and some have already opened. Tulips have pushed through the soil and a few purple blooms can be seen on the Vinca. The amazing leaves of the Surprise Flowers have broken through the soil as large clumps of yellowish spears, pushing with incredible strength to emerge. Tiny buds of miniature leaves can be seen on the Roses and their arrival truly marks the end of winter.

Woodland Violets~

Unfortunately all of the activity includes the rush of early weeds who have crashed the party like a crowd of raucous drunks. Weeding must begin in earnest with each warm day for if left to their own devices, they will overpower the true guests.

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. 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 choose to weed gloveless… thus the term ‘green thumb’.

Weeding can be an almost a Zen-like activity… calming, unrushed, and quieting. When the soil is moist and the weather not yet hot, it can be a perfect way to spend an afternoon. The rewards of successful weeding are a stack of wilting weeds, a lovely garden and the satisfying feeling of a job well done. When the task is completed, reward yourself with the gift of an English trowel. They are relatively expensive but are the best in the world and will last a lifetime. Every gardener deserves one... maybe I'll gift myself this year.

*I suggest my 'weed test' before working all day... pick one and see how quickly it wilts. If it wilts almost instantly, you are free to weed like crazy. If remains somewhat perky for ten to thirty minutes, don't trouble yourself weeding... it will not be a fruitful endeavor. And don't plan to plant anything new on the good weeding days... whatever is planted or transplanted will have a difficult time and will not thrive.