A philosophical approach to garden weeds

Pulling up weeds by hand is a peaceful activity that gives a gardener time to think.

Courtesy of Gene Bush
If the results of my recent garden weeding were an artistic print instead of a photo, we might call it Portrait of a Weed Pile; Limited (Hopefully) Edition. 2 0f 25 to 30 for this year.

Weeds receive almost as much press as the perennials and other desirable plants that they compete with in gardens. Your state's university extension office issues white papers after research on every aspect of weed identification, its effects upon agriculture and horticulture, and how to eradicate weeds.

Millions upon millions of dollars are spent and made each year on chemicals to combat their existence. And lots of time is expended crawling about in gardens with a favorite digging implement to remove weeds.

Attitudes about weeding

I always enjoy the attitudes expressed gardening magazines and books concerning weeds.

A few take the technical approach, very direct and informative, while most authors have a more philosophical viewpoint.

Sometimes lines of print get stuck in my head as I read. Such as "a weed is a plant without a publicity agent."

Another that I hear often is "a weed is a plant out of desired place."

My favorite is "the more perennials you have in the garden, the less room for weeds." That one has a ring of truth, but also a touch of nursery promotion.

A peaceful, philosophic take

Personally, I tend to wax a bit philosophical on weeds.

I am aware of all the chemical answers to my weed problems. However, my preference is to crawl about on hand and knees and physically remove unwanted plants.

I have my dovetail weeder and time -- time to myself in my garden with head down where I cannot see nor hear the rest of the world, as my cellphone is never with me in my place of peace.

Weeding is an active meditation. All the repetitive motions of removal, the devotional actions of kneeling, then standing to carry debris away, and then returning to kneeling. That is the physical aspect of weeding.

A spiritual side exists in removing weeds. I find a removal of thoughts, as well weeds, when I am in the garden. I also find a cleansing, a sense of renewal, the polishing of the space where perennials remain so they can look and be their best.

I may look a bit grubby leaving the garden after weeding, and these old bones are sore and tired, but that is only the outward and the physical. Behind my bellybutton I am a bit lighter and brighter from removing a few personal weeds.


Gene Bush, a nationally known garden writer, photographer, lecturer, and nursery owner, gardens on a shaded hillside in southern Indiana. His website is He also writes the Garden Clippin's Newsletter. To read more by Gene here at Diggin' It, click here.

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