2011-11-10 / Editorial

The Island Garden

The rules of being a weed

BY ROGER MARSHALL BY ROGER MARSHALL If you garden or read this column regularly you’ll know that gardens get weeds. Weeds can grow anywhere and over the years I have figured out that weeds know exactly where and when to grow. They know how to cause the keenest gardener to break into tears, plus weeds know precisely which part of the garden to grow in to cause a gardener most distress. Recently, I came across a book that explains the 10 principles of being a weed. They are:

1. Only grow where you can reduce a gardener to tears. That means that any new seedbed should be populated with weeds as soon as possible, preferably before any plants that the gardener intends to grow get any chance of life. Weeds that manage to grow in driveway cracks, roof eaves, and on decks get an extra bonus. Weeds growing in well-manicured and sprayed lawns get the “Dammit! Another weed!” medal (see below).

2. The weeds that are guaranteed to make a gardener cry grow in containers, in hanging baskets, in greenhouses, and in other supposedly weed-free areas. The highest elite weed seeds are the ones that are carried miles away into other “weed-free” gardens by friendly birds.

3. If weeds are sprayed with Roundup, the very best weeds go to seed quickly before Roundup has any effect. That way the seed progeny will spring up a week or two later to annoy the gardener. Know also that eventually weed progeny will become resistant to Roundup.

4. All weed seeds must go to seed quickly. That way seeds can spread around the yard and garden before the gardener has noticed their presence.

5. The best weeds grow where the gardener does not expect you to grow. Weeds growing in concrete driveways get extra points toward the “Dammit! Another weed!” medal.

6. To reduce a gardener to abject groveling, a weed should grow next to a prized plant. Most gardeners will not see a weed growing into their plant before the weed has grown to full size and sent millions of seeds around the yard. The very best weeds entwine themselves with the prize plant so that removal of the weed shreds the plant.

7. If the gardener pulls a weed from the ground, the first rule of weedom is to make sure that a large clump of dirt comes up with the weed. When the gardener shakes the clump to get rid of the dirt, weed seeds will fall off the other end.

8. Unknown to humans, there is a contract between weed and birds. Birds eat seeds to spread weeds everywhere. The best weeds develop hardened crusts so that they pass through the digestive system of any bird. This allows weeds to invade other yards and gardens. A similar contract also applies to domestic cats and dogs and children. Have you ever seen a cat or a dog eating grass? It plans on spreading the grass seeds far and wide. By the same token, if you have dandelion plants growing anywhere in your yard, children love to pick the puffball seed head and blow or wave them around to see how far the seeds will be carried on the wind. Children usually outgrow this doubtful pleasure by age 12.

9. The very best weeds look like cultivated plants until just before its time to spread new weed seeds. Then they bloom into ugly spaceconsuming plants that must be ripped out in the milliseconds before they send their seeds all over your yard.

10. The golden rule of weedom is, “Populate anywhere and spread everywhere.” There you have it, a secret contract to spread weeds as far and as wide as possible. We gardeners need to unite to ban weeds from our island. As such, we will hold an annual weed-ripping day each spring in March. On second thought, that might not be such a good idea. Nobody wants to look at vast areas of brown dirt for the three minutes it takes for weeds to grow back.

Note: The “Dammit! Another Weed!” medal is well known in the seed world. It stands for “Distinguished Award of Merit Medallion in Terrerestria.” It is awarded to anyone or anything that inadvertently spreads weed seeds as far and wide as possible.

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