My Thoughts on Weed Removal

Weeds are a really challenging problem. I spend considerable time pulling them, digging, them, and sorting them.

Generally speaking, the broadest definition of a weed is something that’s growing someplace where you don’t want it.

You can recognize this type of plant after you pull it because it often either won’t come out without major work, or it breaks off easily and leaves its roots intact.

If you pull something that you think might be a weed and it comes out easily, roots and all, you probably spent a small fortune on it. This always seems to be the case for me, at least! Based on over thirty years as a weed puller, I know.

My career as a weed puller started off very poorly. My mother sent me out to weed the onions. I had no idea what onions looked like, so I pulled everything that I thought was pigweed.


That meant all the onions had to be replanted.

She was not so happy with me, and I think probably not so happy with herself for failing to make sure I knew what I was supposed to leave in the ground, and what was to be pulled. Lesson learned.

Occasionally, I have to ask my friend who is in her nineties to come over and play that fun game with me – “Is It a Weed, or Is It a Flower?”

I doubt that I’m the only person who has two pictures on their computer, one labeled “Goldenrod not serrated leaves” and one labeled “Not Goldenrod serrated leaves.” The daisies and goldenrod look similar.

Imagine my horror when I looked at the plant that I had been unsure of for weeks, and found it clear full of goldenrod blossoms. No wonder my eyes ached from allergies.

Usually when I am unsure, I ask my husband what he thinks. If we are both unsure, we wait. This year that worked out well, since I was really sure that the Liatrus was a weed, but I waited and eventually the green turned to purple. Liatrus will move around in your flower garden, popping up where you least expect it. And it pays to wait to identify it will full certainty before you pull.

My husband is always sure that the coneflower is a weed, and I have to hold him back until he sees the blossoms. I have another flower that I need to be sure to photograph for my mixed-up identities file, since I was hesitant about it and it is definitely a flower.

I know I pulled a couple of plants early in the year and wish that I hadn’t.

Return offenders that actually are weeds are also a problem. We have certain weeds that we pull every year and they come back all the time, no matter how often I pull them.

Our raspberry bushes, which work as a hedge across our backyard, have always had morning glories growing in them. They are not as bad as they used to be, but these vines can be really invasive in some areas.

I have a friend who buys morning glory seeds every year. She plants them by a trellis and they don’t come back for her via self-seeding. But nothing I do seems to totally eliminate them from my raspberries.

Worse yet, they have migrated into the elderberries and into the rose of Sharon as well. They climb up my elderberries and pull them down to the ground so they don’t grow as well.

Bamboo can become invasive. A tall, thick stand of it is pictured here.
If you are thinking about introducing bamboo to your yard, I’d recommend against it.

The worst invasive plant that we have is bamboo. I call it the Weed from Hell. My neighbor got rid of it by using Bush Be Gone, but everything else went away too.

There are about three places that it grows and we dig it out, and each time it grows again. There are massive infestations of bamboo near the new houses in the neighborhood where the ground was turned up. It is very invasive.

I have tried putting herbicide down the center of the stalk to try to kill the roots, but nonetheless, each year it has three places that it tries to come up without fail. If I didn’t want raspberries, elderberries or anything next to my bedroom window, I could get rid of it.

Finally, one of the invasive species almost totally eliminated when my son was young, about twenty years ago, has returned with a vengeance. Thistles are everywhere. Well, not exactly everywhere. They grow underneath any place that birds can sit.

We owe a special thank you to the people who buy bird seed in our neighborhood for those small birds. They need thistle seeds and we all know what goes in must come out. So now we have thistles in places we never had them before.

As I pull the thistles, I bless the people who feed birds.

We have also planted two things ourselves that turned out to be determined to take over. We finally have almost eliminated the fennel that I thought would be good to use in cooking.

The chives are still growing in some places where we will leave them, and I use them in dips and in breads. When we planted horseradish, which is supposed to be very invasive, we put it in a barrel sunk into the ground.

I pull out dill from lots of places, but don’t worry much about it. I use the seeds in baking and in pickles. Unlike the onion sets, I know what dill looks like.

I used to put the weeds that I pulled onto our compost pile. I quit that when I realized that we were getting volunteer tomato plants in places where we put our compost.

It seems to me that if the tomato seeds aren’t killed by composting, the weeds won’t be either. I have enough to pull without planting them! So as I pull the plants, I put them into plastic grocery bags and put them in the garbage.

I seriously believe that when they get to the garbage dump, they will take it over. It will be covered with lovely crops of green weeds. There really doesn’t seem to be anything that will kill them.

The only other thing I know about weeds is that it is easier to pull them out completely if it has rained recently.

If the ground is really dry, you can use a soaker hose for about an hour to get the moisture deep enough that the roots will come out, but you will need to wait at least a half hour to attack the weeds to avoid working in the mud.

It isn’t so much that I am an organic gardener and don’t want to use herbicides, as it is that I have found that most herbicides do in the plants that I want to keep, and sometimes don’t have any effect on these invasive species.

Sometimes I think they even grow stronger after a dose of Round Up.

Tall grass grows to the sides of a paved pathway, with more blades of grass emerging from the cracks in the path.

I have found as I have been weeding, which is a solitary activity, that I have written this article a dozen times. I have to get up early because I need to avoid the sun, and this provides quiet time, all to myself.

Or, it would be quiet. People say that they “find God working in the garden.” But not me. I curse the thistles and the pigweed. I would so rather be inside with clean hands and clean clothes. I would prefer not to be crawling around in a damp yard.

I look hard for the humor in weeding, but I just can’t find it. I really envy people without yard work.

The only thing that I hate more than weeding is seeing the weeds sticking their tongues out at me from my flower beds.

What do you think? Pull out every weed as soon as it sprouts, or take a more relaxed approach? Share your opinions in the comments below!

Photo credit: Shutterstock.

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