How To Weed By Hand

It seems like a ridiculous topic for a post, doesn’t it?  I mean, who doesn’t know how to hand weed, right?  Just grab a hand tool, put some muscle behind it, and start tilling away!  What could be easier?  Not much, yet  in this age of mono-cropping and big science, instead of turning to inexpensive tools of cultivation for weed control,  most people look, first, to chemicals  —  no matter how small the problem may be.

Take, for example, the well-known ad for Roundup weed killer.  You know the one I’m talking about?  A solitary dandelion weed, like a wanted outlaw,  has managed to make its way through a crack in the sidewalk.

In the background, as we hear the ominous whistling theme music from “Gunsmoke”,  the homeowner whips out his arsenal – a trusty bottle of roundup – aims, and shoots the dandelion dead.  Smugly, he returns home, satisfied he’s done his duty by removing another “thug” from his neighborhood.    It’s sort of laughable, when I think about it.    Does this grown man really think it wouldn’t be possible to control that tiny weed without his World War III chemical warfare technology?    I don’t know about you, but  I’m fairly certain I could extract that dandelion  in a matter of seconds armed with nothing more than a tiny hand weeder.    What’s more,  my method would provide me with quite a tasty reward for my hard work –  fresh greens for an afternoon smoothie or dinner salad!

Now, I’m no environmentalist, but I am an organic gardener by choice.  I weed nearly everything on our 2.8 acre property by hand.  Why?  Because I believe soils that have not been subjected to herbicide use are much healthier and, therefore,  yield more crops.

As a Christian, I also believe I have a great responsibility to care for God’s creation.  I don’t think using poisons, like Roundup, is the best way to do it.

Right now, I’m reading a book called, Weeds, Control Without Poisons .  According to the Author, Charles Walters, “Much of the toxic genetic chemistry spilled into agriculture over the past several decades is still out there [somewhere]”, but an Iowa scientist named Richard L. Penney,  “knows where some of it is”, says Walters.

Penney spent several years at the U.S. South Pole examining penguins.  Biopsy specimens revealed that DDT was in the penguins’ fatty tissue.

“Apparently”, continues Walters, “this toxin has established itself in the migratory food chain that travels to the South Pole and back.”

Wow!  I wouldn’t want to be responsible for that…

…and so I weed by hand.

“You’ve got to be kidding me!”  I’ve heard some people say.  “You’re crazy!” Others have remarked.  One person even told me he’d “pray for me”!

Well, I’ll take all of the prayers I can get, but it really isn’t as bad as it seems!

Like most other people, I’d really love to have a pristine-looking yard, right now.  However, I’m learning that tolerance, patience, and looking at the big picture is going to pay off, big time, in the future if I just keep plugging away.

So, I concentrate my efforts on a just few small areas at one time, turning a blind eye (as best as I can) to other areas of the yard that just don’t have time to deal with right now.  To keep some of those areas in check, I have my husband keep them mowed so that they never go to seed — if I can’t eliminate them right now, I’m at least going to stop them from multiplying!

I also make use of black plastic in certain areas of the yard when I want to create a new garden bed.  It may not look very pretty, but we don’t have to expend nearly as much energy, when we get around to making the beds, as we  would otherwise.

For the rest of the areas, where I do weed by hand, my arsenal of choice comes in the form of three simple weapons:

First, there’s my trusty hand weeder:

I pull this out when I need to attack weeds that have emerged in tight spaces, like in rock pathways, or along borders.  It makes easy work of small and deep rooted weeds.  It is my number one go to for pesky spurge, too!

Next, in my arsenal, is the dreaded Hula Hoe:

I use this tool, most of all, when I’m dealing with larger areas that have newer, smaller weeds whose roots have not yet become too established, or set seeds.  The push and pull action makes for easy maneuvering, and the weeds are cut off right at the root source, ensuring instant death.

But, don’t worry, the weeds’  death is not in vain!  I quickly scoop them up with a rake and haul them over to another area of the garden, where their nutrients can be returned back to the soil in the form of compost.

Here, I am laying them down in some newly constructed raised beds around my stone fruit trees.  They will have all winter to decompose, making healthy soil for strawberry plantings come spring!

And, last – but not least – my third tool of choice is a heavy-hitting shovel:

In areas I’ve neglected, or haven’t gotten to yet, where the weeds have multiplied, grown to adult size, and set seed, this is my weapon of choice.  I use it to quickly cut the weeds off at ground level, and it keeps me from disturbing too much of the soil below — that way there is less of a chance for all of the weed seeds below to find a way to germinate (or so the theory goes).

Yes, this takes a lot of time.  No, it’s not the easiest way to deal with all of our weeds.   But, it is the most responsible and healthy way to manage them, I think.

I’m glad I’ve learned how to weed by hand.  I know I’ll be using these tools for years to come.  I’m hoping, that in about ten years time, as I continue to cultivate the land, the weeding will become less of a nuisance, and more of a manageable chore.  May we never hear the Gunsmoke theme being whistled around our homestead!

So, what about you?  When is the last time you hand weeded?  What’s your arsenal of choice for dealing with weeds where you live?


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