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Early Spring, Conquering Weeds

Forsythia and early spring daffodils are beginning to bloom in the front garden.Signs of spring are everywhere in the garden: spots of chartreuse green emerging along branches; emerald shoots pushing out of the earth; flower buds swelling till their lustrous, candy colored contents are released; birds singing and performing courtship dances in the air; children playing outside, their shouts and laughter carrying through the woods from an adjacent neighborhood. Rosa rugosa 'Alba', emerging from dormancy

Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles)

Daphne odora 'Marginata' (Variegated winter daphne)



Summer snowflakes (Leucojum aestivum). Despite the name, these bloom in early spring for me.

And weeds, lots and lots of weeds.

It was a particularly pleasant day, and I spent a good portion of it on my knees in the garden, or else sitting on my rump, happily pulling weeds. After several days of rain earlier in the week, the ground was soft and many of the weeds came out easily. 

There are three main ways I get rid of weeds:

Simply chopping the tops off at ground level is a temporary esthetic fix, but pulling them out by the roots is far more effective. I love my hoematic, a versatile tool that is indispensable for getting them out by the roots.My well used hoematic

Smothering weeds with a good layer of mulch is a quick way to beautify the garden. For areas with heavy weed cover I use newspaper, brown paper sacks, and even cardboard layered over the ground, then topped with an attractive mulch, such as  pine straw or pine nuggets.

I limit the use of herbicide, but I do use it for truly obnoxious weeds like poison oak.

I don't mind weeding. I let my thoughts drift as I mechanically attack the chore. I think about God, about relationships, about garden design. I ponder politics and compose blog posts. I wonder at the force that causes these unwanted plants to erupt by the thousands. They appeared almost overnight, and already many of them, even the babies, are producing flowers, determined to churn out another generation before I hack them to death.

Weeds grow year round in my climate. Even in winter, on milder days, it is a good idea to grab a few in passing. If I pull ten weeds, I am preventing hundreds of wanton offspring. On days dedicated to weeding, I am euphoric over the unnumbered multitudes that have been thwarted. I am not discouraged that I have removed a mere bucket from an ocean of weeds. I focus on what I have done, rather than on what I can never do.

I will not conquer all weeds. That's OK. I enjoy the battle, for it gets me into the garden, where I experience the earth and watch the good guys grow.Grape hyacinth


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Reader Comments (21)

Isn't it just wonderful to see all that fresh growth in the spring? And then there are the weeds too but minor inconvenience in the scheme of things.

Spring will be delayed here as we're forecast a March on the cold side but it'll get here eventually :)

February 28, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMark and Gaz

Hi Deb! It looks like we were doing the same things in the garden. Our mild winter allowed weeds to grow, and they are blooming now. I noticed that every year, there is one type of weeds that's prevailing. This year, it's a shotweed (Cardamine oligosperma) -it is everywhere, in my garden and everywhere else. Well, I've been told that it can be used on sandwiches instead of mustard! Maybe, it's true, but I don't want to try. I like your attitude toward weeds - we'll never be able to eradicate them, but we can keep them under control! Love the pictures of blooms in your garden! Have a great week!

February 28, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterTatyana

Your garden does look like Springtime arrived. We too have had weeds germinating, but luckily, snow keeps coming on and off. I can imagine what you face though. Some weeds can only be eliminated by herbicide unfortunately - those with deep tap roots or runners especially. We battle horsetail up here which does not even respond to RoundUp..

February 28, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDonna

How wonderful to see all your spring color! The weather in my Maine garden has been so unseasonably warm and the snow is melting so fast that it looks more like early April than the end of February. Today, I found myself yearning to begin spring clean-up.

February 28, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJean

You've got lots of early spring blooms, all of which are beautiful! I guess the upside of our remarkably low winter rainfall is that the weed volume has been relatively low. That does not mean we don't have any, of course. I spent a few hours earlier in the week tackling the latest intruders, the toughest of which are those that come up between the paving stones of my permeable driveway and paths. Clearing out the latter, however temporary the impact, always leaves me with a sense of achievement too.

February 28, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterKris P

Love that tool too! There are plenty of winter weeds in my garden, which need to be removed before they seed and become a bigger problem next year. Happy weeding!

February 29, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterKarin/Southern Meadows

Hm. As with a comment left above, I do notice the most prominent weeds changing from year to year and agree that Cardamine oligosperma (though I would never have known the Latin name before) seems to be one of the most prevalent this year. It actually seems like a charming little plant so I'm not as motivated to pull it as I am with some of the larger and (to my eyes) uglier weeds.

OMG. I am jealous of your beautiful quince blooms!! Every year I think I should plant a quince, but I always neglect the idea until it seems too late. With such an early spring bloomer, I guess it would be best to plant in autumn?

February 29, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAaron Dalton

Hello, everyone, and thank you for your comments! Aaron, you could still plant a quince now, though I would not wait much longer. Of course, fall is always the best as far south as I am. Best wishes, Deb

February 29, 2016 | Registered CommenterDeborah Elliott

We had a day last week when I was out in the garden all day and relishing it, the weekend and today however have been wet and windy and colder than of late. Never mind it may be better tomorrow! The quality of your images shine from my screen, it will be officially spring soon.

February 29, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterChristina

Ugh. Spring weeds. I love spring except for the weeds. So many of them!

Looks like you are ahead of us. Do you the name of the daff with the short orange cup? It's gorgeous!

February 29, 2016 | Unregistered Commentersweetbay

Sorry, Sweetbay, I do not have the name of that daffodil. It came in a naturalizing mix. Deb

February 29, 2016 | Registered CommenterDeborah Elliott

as my chosen plants fill in - so there are less weeds.

But I look with horror at the fruit of the Australian brush cherry cascading down from our neighbour's hedge. Those seedlings I pull as soon as I recognise them!

February 29, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDiana Studer

I nearly swooned to the beauty of your spring, always several weeks ahead of ours, of course. I can hardly wait to "catch up"!

February 29, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRobin

So so lovely to see all those beautiful signs of spring in your garden Deb. The quince, the grape hyacinth and those lovely hellebores - such pretty flowers. I like weeding too, and you are right, it is a chance to let thoughts wander and very satisfying when it is done (well - its never really done is it, but satisfying none the less!)
Thanks for sharing your beautiful garden!
- Kate

March 1, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterKate R

It's springtime in Alabama! Yay! I don't mind weeding either, especially since I get a break during the winter. Your blooms and your photos are so beautiful!

March 1, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBeth @ Plantpostings

Dear Deb, love your springish post! The drifts of daffodils in your front yard are so lovely! I envy you your Quince. When I was still living in Germany I got some branches each spring to put in a vase from the florist (I didn't have a garden then). It was always so special to have these branches on the dining table. Your Summer snowflakes are very pretty as well. I didn't get around to plant my Leucojum aestivum bulbs in autumn and only put them in the ground this February. So far no sign of life. Hopefully they will still push through the surface of the soil and are not a no show.
Enjoy the spring in your garden!
Warm regards,

March 2, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterchristina

Wow, spring already! It's so nice to see pictures of spring blooms! That is too bad the weeds are coming up so well with them as well, though. We've had a mild winter this year and there are quite a few weeds in the beds here too. At least I think they are weeds. Sometimes I have trouble telling the difference between weeds and seedlings, so my weeds get a little bit of time before I start on the attack!

March 2, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterIndie

I used to hate weeding, but now, like you, I really enjoy weeding, I find it almost meditative. Your spring garden is beautiful.,

March 2, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJanet/Plantaliscious

Very true that the war on weeds can never be completely won. Still, the price of gardening is eternal vigilance. I don't especially enjoy weeding but I do it almost as a reflex. Lovely photos, especially the Narcissi and Muscari.

March 3, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJason

Most impressed with your Hellebore photos.

March 5, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterLinda

Beautiful Deb...and that is one mighty weeding tool.....your spring garden is beautiful....starting a bit early here with blooms too.

March 12, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDonna@Gardens Eye View

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