The school garden is bounded by tall chain link fencing, but is large enough that you can get lost in there and forget about the boundaries. The rumble of traffic and call of voices as city-walkers travel down the sidewalk toward stores are softened and recede from my attention the longer I am there. Instead I turn my head at a quiet near-by rustle and catch a glimpse of baby rabbit, or robin ready to pounce on any worms I might unearth.

This garden has well-tended beds with tomatoes climbing up strings and rows of green beans hiding under their heart-shaped leaves. It also has wild places with wiregrass winning out and mystery plants grown taller than the original plantings. Some places I can’t even remember or find what is supposed to be there. My biggest job in the garden is to be the decider- do I pull a plant or let it stay. Those towering sunflowers; volunteers from last year’s seeds dropped by satiated birds and squirrels. Are they weeds or no? I let them be, they are so gorgeous.

I go and work in the sun or the shade, pulling, pulling weeds- the nasty thistle with it’s tiny spines that go through my gloves, the super-survivor wiregrass so adhered to the soil I fall over backwards pulling on it’s horizontal runners, and a host of other weeds whose names I do not know. I pull weeds to keep them from stealing all the light and nutrients and choking out the more vulnerable vegetables and flowers I am nurturing in the garden.

Some weeds are easy- their roots come out of the moist soil whole as I pinch their base with a steady pull. For others I thrust my sharp tool deeply and tilt the blade, to loosen the system holding them to their spot. For the most established I get out the big shovel and I dig and then double dig, pulling out great tangled nexuses of white roots; deep, living underground carpets ever-ready to send up new shoots to emerge at another spot.

I smell their different smells; the best is when I am working where the mint encroaches. Mint’s heavenly smell suddenly wafts all over me and lingers awhile. Its aroma rewards me even as I work to thwart its spread.

I put the soft, limp new weeds, and the brittle hollow-stemmed dry weeds into the big square compost bin. Others I save out for the trash- the almost indestructible wiregrass, the small trees that have sprouted with their tough stems. And the thistles, already flowered and gone to seed. I have failed to find them in time and their soft puffs of feathered seeds float off in the breeze as I pull them. I resign myself to finding them everywhere again, come next spring.

Sometimes I soften all the soil in a bed, break all the lumps, cut it all to even grain, to plant new seeds. Then I spray the almost invisible furrows with water and think good thoughts for the baby lettuces or carrots or beans to push out from their sun-warmed and water-softened seed cases and sprout.

But mostly in the garden I am the decider, a plant puller, a weeder.

5 thoughts on “Weeding

  1. You’ve made me remember that I need to weed in the front today, to get the weeds in the compost bin. I forget when I spend the bulk of my time enjoying the tiny backyard that’s blooming with those peas and strawberries—not nearly enough of them—and plentiful herbs. It’s so wonderful that the school has a garden and you as its tender. (The verb “encroaches” absolutely captures the pushy nature of mint, too!)


  2. It’s lovely that you are putting all this work into the school garden! We had construction at our school all last summer and fall so our front flower gardens are a mess. I spent some time one day pulling weeds out of one but haven’t really remembered that I should go over and do the other. Once the weeds are established it’s so much harder to get them out. You’ve done a great job explaining how some things seem like weeds but need to stay because they are so beautiful!


  3. Your attention to detail and sensory images make for such satisfying reading. I love the part where you told about falling over backwards wrestling with a weed. I’ve done that too! I wish weeding clutter were as satisfying as weeding gardens. Stay hydrated!


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