Microweeding and Macroweeding

Fact: no one enjoys weeding.  

Actually, I don't know if that's true.  Some people probably enjoy it, and who am I to judge? So, let me me start over:  I do not enjoy weeding.  Sure, once I get into it, it can be somewhat therapeutic, and of course it's necessary for a healthy and successful garden.  But enjoy it?  Naw, man.

Over at our garden, we have a variety of knowledge levels working on a typical day: from Meredith, the garden owner, who knows a hell of a lot, to Katie, our resident gardening novice, and everyone else existing somewhere in between.  Anytime Katie and I are over at the garden, we end up playing some version of a game called "Weed or not weed?" (not to be confused with knotweed, which is a weed. Ha!).

Sometimes I can answer fairly easily, but sometimes she and I hold a mini summit to decide whether this mystery plant in our hugulcultur should be there or not.  And sometimes we decide to just leave it for the pros to look at later (aka Meredith).

Recently, however, I learned a great way to start honing in on your skills of observation and knowledge of plant types.  It's called "microweeding," and I experienced it for the first time while volunteering at a nearby park to rebuild some natural habitat.  A local organization had planted a bunch of native seeds, and the plants were starting to grow - along with a ton of weeds. The day started with a description of all the weeds that were likely in the beds, with our team leader pulling the weeds and laying them on a fence post for display and reference.

Reference weeds for our group.  Or, possibly, a warning to the other weeds that we are coming for them.

Reference weeds for our group.  Or, possibly, a warning to the other weeds that we are coming for them.

In order to focus us in on the plants, the group had created several square wooden frames.  The frame was laid down in the plant bed, and teams of two to three people would focus on just that area to pick the weeds and keep the natives.  Once that area was clear, the frame would be moved to the adjacent area, and the process would continue.  In this way, our volunteer group of about twenty people moved through the native flower beds and cleared it of almost all the unwanted plants.  It was magical, and turned a seemingly daunting task into small, bite-sized pieces of effort.  It also meant that we were less likely to miss an area of weeds.

Bite-sized effort.  Nice.

Bite-sized effort.  Nice.

Save the native flowers, like this camas!

Save the native flowers, like this camas!

If you have a small yard or flower bed and have children or novices you'd like to teach, this is a great tool to help them learn how to focus in on an area, teach them what plants are in your yard, and also allow them to start distinguishing between the good and bad plants.

If, however, you have an urban farm like we happen to have, things get a little out of hand sometimes.  One of the latest challenges for our garden was that the thistles were juuuuust about to bloom and seed-bomb our entire farm with more goddamn thistles. 

AUUUGGHHHH NOOOOOO!!!

AUUUGGHHHH NOOOOOO!!!

We could not allow this to happen.  As it was, the thistles were the largest thing in the wild flower area - some were easily five feet tall and threatened to ensnare me every time I got even close.  They had to go.

This thistle plant stole my shovel and chased me out of the garden at one point.

This thistle plant stole my shovel and chased me out of the garden at one point.

So I donned actual shoes (instead of my typical sandals) and began my systematic stalking and murder of all the thistles I could get my hands on.  In the end, the spoils of my personal war were laid out in a pile in the yard, awaiting compost pick-up day.  There are probably a few more lurking in the depths of the wildflowers, but my quest shall continue and they shall be vanquished!

Me, trying to imitate those photos of hunters and their fresh kills.  Didn't quite capture it.

Me, trying to imitate those photos of hunters and their fresh kills.  Didn't quite capture it.

Next time, though, I'm going to wear a full Tyvec suit...

Damn you, thistles!!!

Damn you, thistles!!!