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My Preoccupation With Weeding Had its Benefits

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By Bill Primavera

Readers may find me odd when I confess that what I miss most about no longer having a property to tend to is the opportunity to indulge in my most therapeutic outdoor chore, weeding.

Yes, I loved it, especially this time of year, when a pulled weed stayed pulled, rather than bouncing back with renewed vigor.

It would never fail. I’d be in a rush to meet a client, dashing to my garage across my parking area, covered with crushed bluestone and I’ll spot a tiny fleck of green peeking through the gravel. Another weed! No matter how late I might have been, I couldn’t help myself from stopping to pull it out.

When I would bend over, I might drop my car keys, or my glasses would fall out of my breast pocket and, if the weed was deep-rooted, 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 could be coming home very late, dead tired, and notice that almost like spontaneous combustion, that nasty grout weed has all but consumed a clump of perennial geraniums. It would be getting dark but there I’d be, stooped over again, releasing those delicate flowers from the clutches of that hostile invader.

Worse yet, we might have been entertaining guests on our patio and, in my peripheral vision, I would detect another unwelcome visitor in a nearby flowerbed. 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 might tell me that I must not have been giving full attention to our guests.

Yes, I confess. I was a compulsive over-weeder, and I miss the addiction.

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 and my responsibilities were taking care of a verdant acre-and-a-half 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.

Lest one think that I need intervention, I would say that there are good compulsive habits and this might be one of them. For instance, at a time when many parents are concerned about the violence in video games, I might suggest that, as an antidote, they require their children to weed in the garden for an equal amount of time that they would spend on their iPhones.

For adults, 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. I had read a joyous book called “The No-Work Garden” by Ruth Stout, sister of the detective fiction writer Rex Stout.

Later, I was reminded of the healing art of weeding when I discovered that the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series featured an edition “For the Gardener’s Soul” by Marion Owen. Owen says that weeding can be a pleasant “Zen-like” experience, and 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.

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

Bill Primavera is a realtor associated with William Raveis Real Estate and founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. (www.PrimaveraPR.com) To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076 or e-mail www.williamjprimavera@gmail.com.

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