While dandelions make a nifty tea, nobody wants to look at a sea of nodding seed puffs amidst their perennials. Weeding often takes backseat to other, more glamorous garden tasks. I love planting seeds: lettuce, radish, peas, beets, you name it. I don't mind watering or staking top-heavy plants. The weeding, however, often seems endless.
It's a thankless task, isn't it? I mean, you start, and if you're lucky, you finish in one afternoon. But then next week, the weeds come marching back...with a vengeance.
Each season here at Seven Oaks, my Virginia farm, brings with it new weeding challenges. Today the dandelion and chickweed, in a few months, the wiregrass and artemesia. Oh joy.
If, like me, you hate weeding, here are a few tips to make weeding if not more enjoyable, at least less burdensome.
- Weed in the early part of the day, while the dew is still on the grass. Dew and rainfall make the ground softer and weeds easier to pull. That's especially important for clay soils where hard-packed clay resembles baked bricks.
- Wear gloves. You may be nicely weeding along and suddenly encounter brambles or another thorny plant. Worse still, your may brush against an angry wolf spider or other insect who thinks your hand is about to ambush him. Gloves protect your manicure and your flesh from both flora and fauna out to get you
- Pull the easiest weeds first. Go for the big, ugly sons of a gun first. This way you'll feel as if you're making great progress just because you were able to clear a large section of weeds.
- Weed near your home first. Another trick is to start weeding closest to your doors or windows. It's instant gratification to look outside and see a nicely cleared patch.
- Don't compost your weeds. Some gardeners disagree with this, but I don't believe in composting weed plants. If you compost them while they are in seed, you could sow a nice crop of weeds in with your compost the next time you add it to your garden. If the compost gets hot enough, it should kill the weed seeds, but can you really be certain it will? I don't like to risk it, so I recommend discarding weeds in the trash. Mine get tossed into a pile on the edge of the woods on my timber farm. If they seed the area, so be it, but if not, my trees get a little extra nourishment.
- Find your favorite tools. Tools can help you dig out the tap roots of stubborn weeds such as dandelions. I like a long, narrow bladed trowel for digging out dandeliions, but there's also my lovely Cobra Head weeding tool, which I love, and a digging fork, which is a useful gadget for prising up weeds. I use a long-handled hoe on some areas of the yard with a nice, sharp blade. I like a good wheelbarrow to collect my weedy goodies and a nice metal pail, an inheritence from my in-laws of an old laundry detergent pail (yes, powdered soap used to come in metal pails!) that works well in the garden as a weed catch-all. You've got to find your own method, which will come through trial and error as well as recommendations from experienced gardeners.
- See to your own comfort. You may wish to invest in a fancy, padded kneeler. I use a padded weight bench - just the bench - from an old weight lifting set of my husband's that has long since been discarded. It saves my knees from the rocky ground. A nice straw hat with a wide brim shades my eyes, and thick cotton gloves protect my hands. Jeans, t-shirts, and work boots are my comfortable go-to getup for weeding. Make sure that you are comfortable, and don't forget the water bottle. Weeding is thirsty work!
I don't believe in chemical weed control in planted areas. Walkways and driveways are another matter, and although I don't like chemical controls, sometimes they are necessary. For the rest of my garden, it's good old sweat equity. And boy, do those weeds make me sweat. They make me battle for every inch of ground I can take in the garden. Someday, I'll learn their secret. In the meantime, I use these tips and tricks to find another patch of ground in which I can sneak more iris, daylilies, columbine or petunias.