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Right Weeding, Mindful Weeding

Even though flowers fall, don't regret it. Even though weeds grow, don't hate them. Don't arouse the passions of attraction and repulsion, hating and loving. If only we don't arouse the passions, the falling of flowers and the growing of weeds as they are is manifest absolute reality. --- Zen Master Hakuun Yasutani, 1885 - 1973; Flowers Fall, 1996, Translated by Paul Jaffe

Weeding Gatha

We pull weeds and make space for new life

In dying, life

In living death

All things in constant transformation

Prevention

The very most mindful way to weed is to prevent them by always maintaining a two to four inch layer of mulch on overlapped cardboard for non-native plants, and a 2-4 inch layer of native mulch without cardboard for natives. Mulch is like gold in dry climates.

What are weeds?

Weeds are plants growing in places we don’t want them, or where they harm other plants. They may be greedy eaters or drinkers, crowd out the more important plants, or poison the soil with salt or other chemicals

Weeding is a very mindful, meditative activity which should be done with respect and compassion for the current and new incarnation of the plant. Handle them in a way that uses them as a resource, instead of refuse. Many are edible, medicinal, and most can be composted to enrich the soil instead of depleting it, or used to make other things.

The mindfulness of gardening

People who spend a great deal of time in their gardens attest to the natural mindfulness that gardening requires.

What could be more naturally mindful than weeding? It requires a great deal of sustained attention.

Weeds need to be taken up with care: Pull too hard, and the weed breaks in your fingers, leaving the root to grow and spread.

Different weeds need different techniques and, sometimes, tools. When we weed our gardens, we have to pay attention to where and how we walk and bend. Move too far in one direction or another, and we'll squash growing things."

- Sura Lama Das, "Awakening to the Sacred"

The value of weeding

Weeding is one of the most important activities in the garden. Weeds disturb the soil life of many plants, use the nutrients and water meant for plants, and aggressively crowd and shade them out. Others add toxins to the soil. They also may detract from the beauty of an area. Most importantly, scientifically, they are also the number two cause of loss of habitat and biodiversity after unsustainable development. So in a sense we are removing negative seeds in order to water the positive ones.

When is the best time to weed?

Weeding is a seasonal activity and is done most easily when they are small and the soil is moist. That way you don’t have to deal with the possibility of seed heads. It should also be done before they have gone to seed so next years weeding will be easier, and less. There are usually two or three times a year when certain types of weeds, according to their individual habits, germinate. Knowing when the weeds season is helps you prevent them from overtaking your garden.

Why should you know about weeds?

It is good to learn to identify weeds because some are toxic, many are edible or medicinal, some are invasive, painful, and some can prevent other plants from growing near them, or even kill them. Some have to be removed root and all or they will grow back. Others can be cut below the crown to remove without them growing back. Some will need specific ways of removing

because of their aggressive, tenacious, and destructive manner. Many are easy to control and can be allowed to coexist in the garden.

How can you prevent weeds instead of removing?

Smother the weeds with sheet mulch. Mulch saves on weeding. The more you mulch, the less you need to weed. In addition it: conserves moisture, reduces compaction from pounding rain and people walking on it, prevents erosion, maintains a more even soil temperature protecting roots, encourages earth worms, and as it decomposes it improves the tilth and fertility of the soil. Sheet mulching can be done right on top of weeds and seeds. Natives must be mulched only with certain mulches and without cardboard.

Weeds- Disturbed land (tilling, grading, removing plants that shade) + no mulch, no plants=weeds

What is the most self sustaining way to dispose of weeds?

Disposing of weeds must be done carefully so as not to spread them and increase their populations. If they have not gone to seed they can be composted, in a pile or around plants that are not native. Natives will suffer from too much nitrogen if weeds near them, dead or alive. If visible, they can be covered with a layer of mulch to conceal them and aid in the decomposition process. I usually lay them in a circle behind a tree or plant, not touching the base of the plant (6-8” away from base) then cover them with a 2-4” layer of mulch.

This method avoids having to carry them away to another area, making less work, and actually using them as a resource instead of disposing of them. They can also be composted in your compost pile.

What about the seeds?

If the weeds have seed heads it is very important to prevent them from being spread and reproduced. Weeds increase exponentially. If you have 10 the first year, you may have 20 or more the next year and so on. Some seeds germinate in hundreds of thousands thousands. Carefully put the seed material into a plastic bag and remove them from the garden to a pile where they can be stacked deeply enough to prevent germination and decompose them. Some people have a huge weed pit dug for that reason, covering them with dirt when the pit becomes full. If it is a very aggressive weed I may bag

them and throw them in the trash. Some weed seed heads, legally, must be disposed of in this way, such as Fountain Grass.

The Pleasure of weeding

Many people don’t like to weed. It can be hard work, and requires diligence. I find it to be a very satisfying. One can learn so much about gardening by getting down on the ground and looking deeply into the beauty and nature of plants, even those that are considered weeds. Also there is a great deal of pleasure in knowing that you are helping the earth and it inhabitants, animals plants and minerals

Even though flowers fall, don't regret it. Even though weeds grow, don't hate them. Don't arouse the passions of attraction and repulsion, hating and loving. If only we don't arouse the passions, the falling of flowers and the growing of weeds as they are is manifest absolute reality.

Zen Master Hakuun Yasutani, 1885 - 1973;

Flowers Fall, 1996, Translated by Paul Jaffe

 

Weeding

We pull weeds and make space for new life

In dying, life

In living death

All things in constant transformation