Weeding: 90% of Gardening

– Posted in: Garden chores, Plant info, What's up/blooming
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Last Saturday, I was pleasantly surprised to find Teman up in the garden, weeding. Volunteer help is always appreciated (though I don’t know how big the hints are allowed to get before you can’t call it “volunteer” work anymore. For the sake of my good name, let’s just call it volunteer). Then I was unpleasantly surprised that he had accidentally ripped out most of my parsley.

He was rather abashed; of course he knows what parsley looks like. But, due to a poor survival rate after planting, the plants were growing in a rather spotty sort of way. And the plants themselves looked, well, like weeds. They’re not mature–picture, say, a little kid or a moody teenager (boy, aren’t I one to talk, being a moody teenager myself?). They’re still convinced the world is unfair, and totally against them, and they’re not too worried about getting settled down to work. But, the ones more inclined to dig in and get on with life are still doing perfectly fine–they have not only survived the harshness of this life, but also the absent-minded weeding of an older brother (who says parsley isn’t tough?).

He apologized. I didn’t really care. I think it bothered Mom more than me. The difference was, she was thinking “Now I won’t have a freezer full of chopped parsley at my disposal.” I was thinking “Now I won’t have to chop a freezer full of parsley.” I told him that if he’d ripped out my basil, then I probably wouldn’t have been half so quick to forgive, but as it was, who really cares. Life goes on. (Plus, fresh parsley is sold year round. Fresh basil, if you can find it, is considerably more pricey. Besides, I can’t live without pesto.)

After settling the issue of parsley, we went on to weed together for a considerable amount of time. This was actually enjoyable. If you can weed in the cool of the day (if it’s the evening, spray a baseball cap quite heavily with bug spray) or with someone else, it’s really a rather pleasant thing to do. If you have to weed in the heat of the day, without shade or breeze, it seems like an unusual but effective form of torture. Weeding together, we make all sorts of conversation, from the more serious to simply ribbing each other (as hard as we can, in a sibling sort of way). In fact, I probably talk to Teman more when we are working together in the garden than any other time. He works full time, and all our other interests seem to be at totally different ends of the spectrum, so normally he goes his way, and I go mine. But I really enjoy working together–and the huge dent we made in the weeding. We weeded almost three more complete sections, which was very encouraging. Getting the garden weeded by August is looking less and less like a silly little dream, and more and more like a reality. (We forgot to put sunblock on, though. He got roasted like a marshmallow, I didn’t. Hehe. He has about 0 natural protection against the sun. I, on the other hand, get eaten alive by the mosquitoes, while he laughs at me and says I must taste better.)

There were a few more mishaps along the way. I think I pulled out some leeks (well, they look like grass! Especially when there’s grass growing all around them!). Teman complained that I had booby-trapped the whole garden with flowers. I told him that the potato patch didn’t have any in it, so he would be safe there. A few minutes later, he was accusing me of lying, and I suddenly remembered that there was a few feet extra at the end of the bed which I had packed full of nicotiana. Oops. Teman knows what nicotiana looks like; in fact Teman knows what a lot of plants look like, so he’s normally safe weeding.


I keep surprising myself this year. Plants that I didn’t plant are growing. Plants that I thought I planted, I thought didn’t come up, but then found later, after I had abandoned all hope. Plants are planted in places I had forgotten I had planted them. More flowers than I ever thought possible look just like weeds before they bloom. More than any other year, the garden is a mine field.

I threw down a lot of poppy seed this year. It looked as though none if it came up, so I gave up hope, even though I love poppies. (Poppies are the ideal weed. They look gorgeous, self-sow plentifully, don’t make too much shade, and are the easist thing in the whole world to rip out.) Now, I’m finding poppies all over the place, in various sizes, some blooming, some still small seedlings, some in places I swear I didn’t put any seed.

I also put in a lot of larskpur seed. They look like they’re a no-show, but how can I tell? They’re supposed to have really fine leaves, like dill or cosmos. So how the heck can you tell if it’s a larkspur seedling, or a Queen Anne’s lace? Either I have more larkspur than I ever imagined, or I am growing a bumper crop of Queen Anne’s lace. Whichever it is, it will shortly be very well weeded. I hope it enjoys it. (When cleaning out the refrigerator, the motto is “When in doubt, throw it out.” When cleaning out garden beds, the motto is “When in doubt, leave it in.”)

I have a baby’s breath plant. How on earth it got there, I have no idea. There has never even been baby’s breath anywhere near that garden. I did want to put some in–quite badly, but there wasn’t enough time or room. I guess God just decided it would all look better with baby’s breath in there, and he wasn’t going to let me get in the way of putting it there. It seems to be doing splendidly there, and I hope it self-sows with all it’s got in it.

The clarkia was a disappointment. Mom says that there are several kinds of clarkia, so I must have gotten a different kind. At any rate, I read so much of “graceful, rippling blossoms, like a full skirt” and “almost hollyhock-like blossoms” that I was quite disappointed to find. . .oh, how shall I describe it? Taking a bit of poetic license, they look sort of like tumble-weed with small leaves all over it, and blossoms in many bright colors (mostly shades of dark/bright pink and red) that look as though they’ve been buzzed in the food processor a few times. Not exactly a “rippling full skirt” look, to say the least. They look pretty good at a distance, but the closer you get, the worse they look. If you’re standing right next to them, they look pretty darn pathetic. Both Mom and Teman thought the blossoms were bug eaten at first, but the Clarkia is one thing the bugs seem to avoid.

One thing that I must congratulate myself on (and you can feel free to join in at any time you like), however, is where I planted my cosmos. It was seed I had gotten from AHS, and I noticed that its leaves were not at all dill-like. In fact, the leaves almost looked like marigold leaves. Taking a gamble that these were those mysterious orange cosmos I’d heard a few things about, I planted all the marigold-leaf cosmos in my hottest (hottest, colorwise. It has tomatos, salvia, zinnias, marrigolds and cosmos) bed. Ta-da! Bright orange and gold cosmos, which look perfect right where I put them. Nothing clashes. Everything looks great. Aren’t I clever?

My balsam is blooming, too. The plants are a little bit scruffier than I’d hoped, but I like the way the flowers look. Unfortunately, the color that all the balsam plants seems to think is in style is this unappealing (to me) pinky-orange color, which I suppose some people call coral. The ones that aren’t this color look beautiful; the ones that are this color look. . .uninspired? trend-following? Maybe just plain bleah. I wish they’d make up their minds and be either pink or orange, and stop being so wishy-washy.

I also have a wishy-washy hollyhock. It can’t be decide whether it’s pink or yellow. Well, at least it’s not salmon colored or melon colored or the silly little color they call “peach” which, when we were coloring as kids, we always just called “skin color” and is about as neutral and uninspiring as it can get. I can’t stand hollyhocks in those colors. I like flowers to be bright and vibrant. The rest of the hollyhocks seem to be yellow, which I like a lot, but I like them the most in combinations with other colors. The place I planted them, however, doesn’t really have any nearby flowers to help things out. Oh, well, I’m glad to see hollyhocks.

Everything needs to be dead-headed, or cut back, but I’m torn between doing that or weeding. I only have a limited time in the garden, and I’m constantly wondering “Should I dead-head and prolong the blooming season? Or should I weed, so I can actually see the blossoms? Choices, choices.”

As a last note (I know, I know, it’s plenty long as it is, but I don’t write often. Bear with me), I have added comfrey to my collection of plants that you ought to have on hand. Literally. I sliced my finger open while washing dishes (the cheap glass spontaneously broke while I wiped it). It was a very nice slice, in all meanings of the word. First, it was very clean. Second, it was decently deep, deep enough that I had trouble getting it to stop bleeding, and Mom declined to look. Rundy administered first-aid instead (as much as taking a gauze pad and electric-taping it to my finger can count as first-aid). Then next day, I walked down to a neighbor’s and borrowed some comfrey. I think it worked very well. However, to know for certain, I think I should have cut two fingers, and used comfrey on one and not on the other. Otherwise you can’t get a proper comparison. What I did was this: following my neighbor’s instructions, I chewed up a young leaf and put it on the wound. She used plastic wrap and masking tape to keep it on, but I soon switched to plain old band-aids–it seemed to work just as well, and it was less hassle. Then I changed it 2-3 times a day. After 3 days, Little Miss Impatience got sick of messing with comfrey and band-aids and left it off. Now, a week later, it’s almost completely healed. You can still see the slice line, but I don’t think it will even scar. So, along with aloe (which must be kept on hand for sunburns and other such burns), I have added comfrey to my list of plants to keep on hand for minor disasters. I’m told it’s invasive, though, so watch where you plant it. Also, it will stain your finger (or whatever) so don’t get get grossed out when it turns brown. It’s basically like a grass stain.

If anyone else wants to get themselves cut twice and record the results, please let me know how it goes!

About the Author

Talitha spent the last few years doing an absurd combination of work and school, and found it wasn’t very pleasant. Now she’s doing work, school and a garden, and life is a little better! She also enjoys photography and hand feeding her ducks. USDA Hardiness Zone: 4 AHS Heat Zone: 3 Location: rural; Southern Tier of NY Geographic type: foothills of Appalachian Mountains Soil Type: acid clay Experience level: advanced beginner Particular interests: herbs, vegetables, cutting garden, cottage gardening

What differentiates a bulb from a perennial plant is that the nourishment for the flower is stored within the bulb itself.…There is something miraculous about the way that a little grenade of dried up tissue can explode into a complete flower.

~Monty Don in The Complete Gardener pp. 142

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Kiril July 19, 2003, 3:02 am

Very interesting site you have here, folks.

My father was a gardener for a local college for 15 years. Gardening was his passion, and my Mom/s as well.

Her rose garden was magnificent, and it saddened me that i couldn’t keep the little darlin’s in the shape she used to do after after she died.

Ah well….

Anyway, I’m writing to say that one shouldn’t be so quick to judge a weed by its looks.

One persons pest could possibly be another persons DANDYFOSILTHISELWIG.

A fascinating plant, that one. 😉