Tuesday, 7 June 2016

How to weed {like a ninja}

The noble dandelion - www.modernherbal.com
When it comes to weeding everyone had their own magic way. Some gardeners might tell you their garden is weed free. That's as realistic as my house being devoid of spiders, dust bunnies and odd socks. That kind of reality does not exist, in or out of the garden, odd sock wearing spiders or not. On cue a spider danced across the desk, over my notes, legs to tiny to see the exact socks he was wearing.
Spider infested notes.
Before we go further lets just imagine that 97% of the seed base in your soil hasn't actually bothered to wake up and grow.  Weeds or otherwise. So, if they're not awake yet, you just know the minute you turn your back they will be. Persistent little monkeys that they are. Especially the perennial ones. Regarding the spider. The desk dog guard did nothing. Just like normal.
Haggis, not a great desk guard.
So is there a great way to weed? I'm a hand fork, get on my knees up close and personal kind of a girl. Stout gloves, (or dirty nails, if I forget), a bucket and a gaggle of hungry chickens later, me and my trusty hand fork are well acquainted with weeding. However, I am a bit ad hoc with this performance. Some beds look utterly awesome, some well, lets just say I'm hoping most of these knit together and I can claim a 'wild area good for nature' in the back of the fushia. It's all the rage don't you know, wild areas, good for nature. Actually you can go one step further and tell people its a nature reserve.
Lets call it a nature reserve and charge a fee to come look yes we really have beavers.
At work, well its a different case entirely we aren't allowed nature reserves or the time to use a hand fork unless its a perennial weed. We use a hoe 99% of the time. A dutch hoe to be precise. I've never been a fan of these. I'm about as anti Hoe as someone who hates Christmas* {explanation below}. However, they pay me money, so I hoe. Simples. 
Hoes, we use a 'b' other hoes are available.
Even if I think (or shall I say thought) that hoeing was essentially like some witness relocation programme for weeds. Weed Relocation Programme.  Moving them to a safer, darker, wetter place to enable them to grow more easily. Generally, of course just out of arms reach. Lets face it in a wet climate or a wet summer, that's all hoeing would really do. Surely?

Well, despite my reservations, it works. When you combine hoeing, [and there is an excellent video here one day if you're good I might do one too. Silent weeding of course.] with regular weeding (keep a rota) and a nice easterly wind, it works. The weeds loose their roots and shrivel. You don't even need to move them unless they're heavy with seed, they'll just rot into the soil.  And, let me tell you I hate myself for not telling you sooner. And, by regular weeding I don't mean my namby-pamby approach to life. An actual rota. At work we have a two-week policy for weeding.  Yes we have a policy, scary as that sounds. We also don't use chemicals, so we touch the beds we look after every two weeks. And, we date them. Sometimes we even get gold stars or extra biscuits.
Work weeding rota for my areas. Map of beds in true Narnia style on the wordrobe. Yes, we have a wardrobe full of pots too, don't you in your potting shed?
OK so this might sound a bit crazy, but think about it. Two weeks of weeding is not enough time for the weeds to grow back quickly if they are relocated, and not enough time for new or missed weeds to set seed. Thus helping the seed base of weeds in the garden to be diminished by about a million'th of a percent but its in the right direction. Weeding takes less time and the beds always look as if they've been cared for. Whilst this isn't the best plan on very tightly packed herbaceous perennials, if they're that tightly packed, I'm guessing the weeds are squeezed out. Any weed head that pokes out can be hand pulled. It will become DOA. You telling me you haven't got once a fortnight to look at your beds even for a few minutes? You haven't, send out a non-gardener and tell them no tea until the weeding is done. (No I wouldn't really do that, who feeds these people anyway?)

I think of this type of gardening now a bit like Fly lady a household guru who promotes cleaning like a ninja because you know, we all have actual lives to live. So she promotes a style of ninja type activity, in and out in 15 minutes, don't stress and we're not looking for perfection, just progress. Timers at the ready people, a decluttered house is easier to manage. 

So why not a decluttered garden? We are not looking for perfectly weeded beds, just beds a little less cluttered with weeds. Which makes them easier to look after. And, if we 'just do it' rather than walking past the tattie beds (as I did last week, frequently) looking and shaking our heads at the weeds. Thinking I haven't got a minute. I think having got the hateful hoe out, and just doing it, we spent more time looking and worrying about them, than actually hoeing them. Just do it already. That's my advice. Whatever weeding method you prefer. But please, as lazy as we can get, lets not use chemicals. They cost a lot, they stink and they're only handy in certain situations in extreme moderation. Step away from the chemicals. By the time you've made a solution up, your hoe will be put away. No need for them unless you've persistent perennial weeds you can't get rid of any other way.

So hoeing like a ninja, its not my usual handfork ballerina perfection but its done. A potato might have had a slight garroting during this new found love of my hoe, but its done. And it will be OK for another few weeks. I am allowed to give myself a gold star for being so awesome. There will be nothing to see here for a week or so until a stray weed pokes its head up. Victorious for a while until it enters my weed/witness relocation programme.
Weed Relocation Programme, erm I mean weeding rota.
I had the ingenuous idea of drawing a list of the beds at home up. It could hardly be worse than work, could it? Well, I got overwhelmed and went to bed I have 23 beds, all teeny but 23. After a nap I decided this would be easier if I drew up Zones, like fly lady. So, I drew up a rough 'zone' area for my beds - once a fortnight I'll try and at least 'look' at them, sometimes even with the intention of doing something. Progress indeed, certainly not perfection. This is NOT a perfect garden plan. But its drawn and for now it will do. I started on zone 4 and accidentally did zone 3 as well by accident, like I said I'm not perfect. All in under 15 minutes. And there are only 5 zones, 15 minutes in each once a fortnight, that's not daunting.
No design awards, please no, you're too kind.
How do you weed yours? I'd love to know.  Would you try a rota? Or is it a step to far?

Unless like me of course, you have no weeds, no odd-sock wearing spiders..........

*Father Christmas favourite garden job - he likes to Hoe Hoe Hoe. {You did ask} 

And, I never did, but now I do.


  1. As you know I have lots of perennial weeds and don't like to use chemicals. So... this year I'm trying a major dig over in Spring (erm not me! Got someone else to do THAT), and then trying to keep it reasonably weeded. some weeds allowed if they aren't perennials. Not so easy at the moment but hey hoe. See what I did there! I'm not good at hoeing. I need to watch the video. But I found a cunning plan - remember the Red Campion exploision? Well I let millions of little seedlings grow cos they keep out the creeping buttercup! Then when they are getting Bigger I pull them up, meantime they've kept the creeping buttercup at bay and by then I might have learned to hoe!

    1. Hey Sian totally agree. And red campion utterly love it. Getting rid of creeping buttercup can be a nuisance, I have a patented 'howk it out with your thumb under the root' technique, but sounds like you're on the case. Its a good one to get out in winter as it still shows. Hoeing should help, if nothing else it will garrot the wee monkeys and stop them sprouting too far. Goodluck!

  2. Hmmm, I might need to actually try this, though I have more perennial weeds than annual. Creeping buttercup is a pain, bindweed we have discussed, red sorrel has become a new bane, and then there is the couch grass trying to reclaim areas I've turned into borders. On the other hand, I enjoy weeding, I get very Zen and it's nice to look back and see where I've been. And despite having three areas that could be nature reserves at present it is better than last year, and my favourite project, another the weeds with plants, is progressing nicely! Once a fortnight per zone huh. *Metaphorically rolls up sleeves*

    1. Not "another the weeds with plants", "smother the weeds with plants", obviously...

    2. I have a mixture of good old annuals and good old perennials. I was doubtful it would work very successfully for the latter, it does but its not as Zen as hand weeding. I think the main thing this does is allow you to tackle a wee burst of activity. It helps to stop the dreaded feeling of overwhelm and singing 'the lunatics (weeds) are taking over the assylum'......in true 80's retro style.

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