Why I Weed By Hand

(written in 1993)

Those warm days around the first of March nearly killed me! I raked leaves, mowed the lawn, dug a carrot bed, pruned figs, sprayed weed killer, spread fertilizer and planted raspberries – all in one weekend!

Those chores were work. They had to be done – but most of the effects of my labor will occur later, when the carrots, figs and raspberries are harvested. My favorite job was saved until last: weeding my perennial flower beds.

Weeding??!! Favorite job???! Do those words belong in the same sentence together?

In my grammatically incorrect garden they do! Weeding is one of the few garden jobs (besides mowing) where the results are immediate. I pull the clover and chickweed and henbit clumps out of the ground, give the roots a whack to shake the soil off and toss the plants on the weed pile. After an hour or so, the pile will be big enough to cart back to the compost bin to slowly rot.

Beside the pleasure of removing the weeds, there is also the pleasant surprise of finding the new sprouts of my flowers poking forth. The daylily leaves are 4″ tall now; I grub in the soil to find the markers I put nearby so I could tell which one is ‘Decatur Delightful’ and which one is ‘Decatur Cutie’. The hosta are showing light green leaf whorls now; it’s time to decide if they should be divided this spring or left to grow another season. I even found the thick fiddleheads of my Japanese sword fern uncurling under the pine straw that fell on the plant during the winter.

Weeding is a fast paced intellectual challenge. Is this sprout a weed or a flower? Is there anything growing mearby that resembles it? What is this Siberian iris seedling doing in my lemon balm? (The Siberian iris clump is eight feet away! Could the wind blow it this far? Did a bird do it? Hmmmmmm…)

My jean knees were muddy and my back felt a bit cranky in the lower regions – but my beds were finally weeded. I put a light cover of pine straw under the hollyhocks, which have remained green all winter and pushed a little next to the daylilies in case it gets cold again. Then I joined my young son picking daffodils – the first “boo-kay” for his Mom this spring.

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