On any given morning when the temperature edges above 50 degrees, were you to wander into my backyard you’d likely find me in my PJ’s, cup of coffee in hand, happily weeding my garden serenaded by song sparrows, chirping cardinals and other birds** busily gathering materials for their nests.
It starts innocently enough.
I spy a young weed hiding amidst the just-emerging leaves of the pseudacorus irises and go after it. It’s one I’ve named Nasty Grass. (A friend says its Razor Grass but it may be Quackgrass.) It has long strings of roots that run under rocks and pathways, braid themselves into the roots and rhizomes of flowers, and dive deeper anywhere their travels are blocked.
Still, the main event in April is trying to dig out the Lesser Celandine before it flowers, removing it carefully so none of the little root nodules are left behind. A fellow garden pal assures me it’s a losing battle but I disagree. I have a method.
I work one patch at a time, removing it as thoroughly as possible, and then move on to a contiguous patch. The following year there are fewer, and by year three there are only a few residual new babies to dig up (plus those gifts brought in by birds.)
I like dandelions. Bees like dandelions. I deadhead them before they turn to puffballs in case my neighbors don’t appreciate them in their lawns and I eat the young leaves sautéed lightly in garlic and olive oil and tossed with pasta. I dig out some of the big ones each year so they won’t take over and make a tincture with the roots. It may be a spring tonic among other things.
It is never my intention to be weeding at 6 a.m. I merely wander out to survey what’s popped up or leafed out or started to bloom since the day before.
It just happens.
Next thing you know I’ve got dirt under my fingernails and am tracing roots, leaving little heaps of debris in my wake to gather up later. I lose all track of time, forget what day it is and what’s on the To Do list. The air smells delicious and a puffed up cherry tree nearby sends pink snow on a cool breeze. A squirrel overhead nibbles on the emerging Dogwood flowers and leaves. Two salamanders scramble away when I overturn a rock to follow root trails.
Many of the weeds in my garden meander under the fence from my neighbor’s yard. (See what I mean about spiritual discipline?) This neighbor couldn’t do better if they actively cultivated them. Each fall a weed tree on their property blows over many seeds that become tiny trees I discover all spring and summer. It keeps me busy.
Nasty Grass and Clematis paniculata – the one with the abundant and fragrant white fragrant that some call Sweet Summer Love - are currently at the top of the scourge list. The Clematis sinks its roots a foot or two deep, and tangles itself in the hedges. (Some garden stores actually sell this one! Shame on them.)
Détente is not so easy with most of the others. Take for example the self-seeding Barberry Bush that attacked me from its hiding place in the hedge as I was exploring the raspberry patch, another gift from – you guessed – my generous neighbor. As you can tell by now, in the spiritual development department I am many years from enlightenment and may have a few lifetimes of penance before I get anywhere near it. Don't get me started about the bamboo.
Here’s the thing about weeding according to an assessment scale developed by a dear friend: it makes my tail wag. And that may be all that matters.
** This is a great bird identification app, "Merlin", developed by Cornell University's world famous Ornithology Lab.