Confessions of a Compulsive Weeder

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By Bill Primavera

In spring, my thoughts turn to the joy of planting, along with the chore of the necessary weeding which accompanies it.

But it’s been five years since I’ve planted or pulled a weed because I’ve been living in a wonderful condominium, which doesn’t afford me a garden.

Do I miss weeding? Don’t think I’m crazy, but yes, I do. I actually enjoyed weeding.

It would never fail. I’ll be in a rush to meet a client, dashing to my garage across my parking area, covered with crushed bluestone and I’ll spy a tiny fleck of green peeking through the gravel. Another weed. I must stop to pull it out. 

When I bent over, I might drop my car keys, my glasses might fall out of my breast pocket and, if the weed is deep-routed, like a dandelion, my hands would get dirty, requiring that I return to the house to wash them after the deed was done.

Or I might be coming home very late, dead tired, and I would notice that, almost like spontaneous combustion, that nasty grout weed had all but consumed a clump of perennial geraniums. It would be getting dark but there I was, stooped over again, releasing those delicate flowers from the clutches of that hostile invader.

Worse yet, we might be entertaining guests on our patio and, in my peripheral vision, I would detect another unwelcome visitor in a nearby flower bed. Nonchalantly, I’d push myself out of my glider, perhaps in the middle of a sentence, and conduct an enemy attack without missing a beat. Annoyed, my wife would later tell me that I must not have been giving full attention to our guests.

Yes, I confess. I was a compulsive weeder.

When I first discovered the joys of gardening as a youngster, it was all about planting annuals and seeing quick results. But by the time I was in high school, perhaps in dealing with my impetuous nature, I found that I equally enjoyed pulling weeds to help ease those first bouts of post-adolescent anxiety.

My weeding addiction became full blown as an adult when I moved to Westchester from the city and my responsibilities were upgraded from a small square patch of earth in front of my house, where a sickly gingko tree sprang from the concrete sidewalk, to a verdant one-and-a-half acres of lawn and garden.

At the same time, I had started a new job and commuted a long distance every weekday to report to a boss who was the Mr. Hyde personality of all time. My weeding activity was especially intense during that period. Every time I yanked a weed, it was as though I was vicariously yanking his head bald, even though he was already bald.

Rather than considering weeding a chore or even therapy, it can be approached as an art, complete with its own techniques and disciplines, as I first learned many decades ago when I read a joyous book called “The No-Work Garden” by Ruth Stout, sister of the detective fiction writer Rex Stout.

Recently, I was reminded of the healing art of weeding when I discovered that the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series features an edition “For the Gardener’s Soul” by Marion Owen. In her blog at, Owen says that weeding can be a pleasant “zen-like” experience. I agree.

She also writes that regular weeding in the garden is like regular vacuuming in the home. We probably don’t like either chore, but it’s essential to a successful garden, as to a clean home.

Considering that a single weed can produce as many as 250,000 seeds, and that those seeds arrive through a multilevel attack from the air, rain runoff and bird droppings, weeding would seem to be a losing battle. But there are preventative measures that can help diminish the occasion of weeds sprouting.

Just keep up with the following:

1) Uproot the offenders and place them in the compost pile before they go to seed.

2) Mulch, mulch, mulch. A three- to four-inch layer of mulch applied between plants or garden rows can slow down or in many cases prevent the re-growth of weeds.

3) In the spring, after preparing the soil for planting, let it set for seven to 10 days. Then work the surface of the soil with a hoe. This will slice off the newly emerged weed seedlings. If you have time before planting, let the soil rest another week or so and hoe again.

4) Cover the soil for a short while with black plastic, but don’t leave it on for more than a couple of months, because the soil needs air and water to remain healthy.

5) Use those vertical barriers, such as wood, metal or heavy plastic edging to prevent grass and weeds from encroaching from lawn to garden.

And, be mindful of what William Shakespeare wrote: “Sweet flowers are slow and weeds make haste.”

Bill Primavera, while a writer and editor, is also a realtor associated with William Raveis Real Estate and founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. ( His real estate site is To engage the talents and services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.

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