Pulling weeds has become one of the most exciting horticultural spaces for me in recent years. In many ways, to practice weed pulling takes one "off the grid" because you are, with your body's hands, eyes, and knees, working at an interface between "nature" and the human made world and landscape. At the end of the day, weeds, define them as you wish, are wild and rogue biological entities that show up in garden and landscape spaces we are trying to control and manage.
Caitlin that works with us took slight offense last season when a client of ours dropped the comment, "People don't need to go to college to pull weeds," which in many ways began my thinking on "weeding." And recently, with the work we have been doing at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, weed management and pulling is a major
component of thought everyday. And so I've been developing some organization to my thoughts on the matter which hopefully I can get out in the form of this blog spanning several posts (I have a lot of organized thoughts)
At its most basic level, to think of weed management, be it in the home Buffalo Garden or on large public and municipal grounds, we should identify what kind of garden we are managing. Most commonly (especially identified with beds of suburban home foundation plantings) we see one kind of weed management to consist of "clearing weeds" - ridding ourselves of all of them - because the purpose of the bed is to curate a collection of plant specimens. In this type of garden, the skill, work, and knowledge is to name each ornamental plant in the collection and then pull out everything that doesn't belong.
This is the simplest weeding work, to a point, but only simple at a small scale where manual weed removal is time and cost feasible.
Inverted to this is weed management based not on plant collections but on maintaining space - keeping beds from being overrun. This work is a different type of practice and intelligence because "weeding" decisions and management practices are based on identifying "the weeds" not the ornamentals. Aiming to control their spread we must understand how these rogue biological specimens present their threat. When you are trying to minimize cost and time input into your garden you will find that much time will be saved by not removing every last weed and being able to identify what and when something may go to seed, or what will start skipping across and under the soil and quickly take over large spaces - taking over the plants we want to be in the garden.
And also, this later perspective, will correspond to planting and design principles that recognize ornamentals as having the ability to "control space," spread, and out compete the weeds for the ecological niches that the soiled spaces our gardens are.
I have a number of things left to say on this. Hopefully I will find the time to be able to share more of them.
The point of all this thinking for me is that for all of time people have been looking to me for gardens that are "low maintenance," and so I am always pushing in directions to reduce the amount of work and cost in order to have a garden.
Landscape designer and Proprietor of Buffalo Horticulture