Weeding Tips from Shakespeare

Hosted by Marion Owen, Fearless Weeder for PlanTea, Inc. and
Co-author of Chicken Soup for the Gardener's Soul


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Shakespeare, weeding, weeding tips, organic fertilizer, organic gardeningn his play Richard II, Shakespeare uses a garden metaphor to explain the political problems of the day: England is wasting away as a result of the royal family's greediness. In one scene, the gardener instructs his helpers about weeding and pruning. The garden is England and the plant that needs weeding and pruning is the royal family.

By the same token, many plants and shrubs become thin and straggly, even choked out of existence, if left to grow without weeding from time to time. Weeds rob valuable nutrients from the soil and compete with your hard-earned herbs, flowers, shrubs and vegetables. Plus, they are often hosts to harmful insects and diseases, so it's important to eliminate weeds.

The job of weeding however, is not often embraced with joy and enthusiasm. Yet weeding, as I'll explain later can be one of your best teachers.

Weeding tips

So it goes with your health, prevention is the best cure. Keeping weeds from getting started is easier than getting rid of them. I know, you don't want to hear this, but one way to keep weeds from taking over your garden is to weed periodically. It's much more effective than a frantic, back-breaking session once a year. So get the weeds out before they go to seed. Post this saying on your refrigerator:

One year's seeds is seven year's weeds

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Speaking of seeds, here's a reason to leave your rototiller in the shed: Did you know a single weed can produce as many as 250,000 seeds? It's a good news/bad news thing. Some seeds are viable for only a year while other can lie dormant for decades, just waiting for their chance to sprout. Buried 6 to 12 several inches deep, the lack of light keeps them from germinating. But if you dig too deeply, they'll germinate right along with your flower, herb and vegetable seeds.

Thinking like a weed

Weeds may be annuals, biennials or perennials. Annual weeds are the easiest to control. They complete their life cycles in a year or less. Summer annuals, like lamb's quarters, sprout in the spring and go to seed in the fall. Winter annuals like chickweed sprout in the fall, over-winter and then go to seed by late spring or summer.

Biennial weeds form roots and a rosette of leaves the first year and set seed the second. Perennial weeds live for more than two years and are the most difficult to control since they can reproduce four different ways: By seed, roots, stems and/or by stolons.

Perennial weeds vary in their "politeness." Dandelions for example, may be the Evil One to most lawn enthusiasts, but here you're dealing with a single taproot, assuming you remove the flowers before they go to seed. Orange hawkweed, (the #1 invasive weed we deal with on Kodiak Island) on the other hand, is more persistent because it can spring back to life from an overlooked piece of stem or root.

Another way to beat weeds is to smother them with kindness. Spread compost and mulch to feed the soil and smother the weeds at the same time. And only pull weeds when the soil is moist. You'll get more of the roots that way.

Before you plant

garden newsletter, recipes, booksWhen preparing a bed or garden space for planting (cultivate the soil to fluff it up, add compost or whatever) let it set for 7 to 10 days. Then work the surface of the soil with a hoe. This will slice off the newly emerged weed seedlings. If you have time before planting, let the soil rest another week or so and hoe again.

Gardening between the lines

Use vertical barriers like wood, metal, stones or heavy-duty plastic edging between lawn and garden areas to prevent grass from sneaking in. Once certain grasses get a stronghold in your garden, it's difficult to get it out.

The scoop on poop

Last but not least, don't add fresh, seed-filled animal manure directly to the garden. Horse manure is the major culprit. Compost it first in a compost pile that reaches temperatures of at least 140 degrees F. Cow manure, on the other hand, is weed-free. After all, what self-respecting seed can survive the journey through four stomachs!

Getting to the root of the matter

This is what weeding is all about. When we have weeding to do, or any job that we dislike, our attention wanders and the job becomes boring. Ah...here lies the lesson: It's not in the nature of the job to be interesting or not; it's in the nature of the attention we give to it.

Richard II, Shakespeare, weeding tips, weeding, organic gardening, organic fertilizerAnything, when we really give it our full attention, automatically becomes more interesting. Thus, we should give our total attention to whatever we are doing. In this way, our days become more full, more enriched.

As for Richard the II, he was eventually unseated from the throne during the weeding and pruning of England's royal family in the late 1300s.

Thanks for visiting! You can also find more weeding tips and thought-provoking articles on my articles page.

Cheers to you!

Marion Owen, organic gardener



Thanks for visiting and please stop by again. I'll put the coffee on!

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