Thursday, March 1, 2012
The weather this week has been spectacular with the lavish feel of brisk mornings and warm afternoons, both of which make it perfect for the gardener. It is the sort of spring weather which makes one rush outside to smell the newness of the season and watch the leaves unfurl in an amazing time-lapse 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 as 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. To truly remove weeds it is necessary to trace the stem of the weed below 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. Since it is difficult to feel the root system wearing gloves many gardeners chose to weed gloveless. However an inevitable snag may prove uncomfortable and without gloves over time fingers tend to split. And since the gardener's staple, Mercurochrome has been permanently removed from the market curing the split green thumb is not easy. Now it is probably best to purchase a nice thin pair of gloves and wear them to prevent soil-damaged fingers.
Weeding can be an almost a Zen-like activity, calming, unrushed, and quieting. When the soil is moist and the weather not too hot or steamy, slowly moving along the bed without rushing is 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.
*Before enthusiastically weeding, do perform the 'weed test'. It is from my own observations...
The Weed Test
There is a test the gardener may use when deciding to weed, plant, or transplant. Go to the garden and find a weed who has been cleverly hiding, attempting to disguise itself as a flower. Pull the weed and drop it on the walkway and wait a few minutes to see how quickly it begins to wilt. On some days it will remain unwilted for up to twenty minutes, sometimes even hours. On other days the weed will wilt almost instantly. The day it instantly wilts happily weed and the weeds will not return. On the days the weed does not wilt, do not weed but rather transplant, trim to stimulate growth, repot, or plant seedlings... in both cases your endeavors will be met with success!