This week’s insights from the master gardener program concerns a different type of pest than the insects I wrote about last week. This concerns the mostly green invaders of the territory we wish to keep pristine in a god-like attempt at creating Eden. In our quest it has become the received wisdom that any plant (or tree or shrub) growing anywhere that a human thinks is “out of place” is considered to be a weed. Even those flowers and shrubs we might otherwise prize if they had the decency to locate themselves among the proper border, flower bed, grove or water feature can be subject to the most brutal form of extraction for being in violation of a gardener’s landscaping plan.
There are other distinctive characteristics for those plants we generally agree are weeds, but the human perspective – once again – reigns supreme. And this week’s rambling, though it may seem out of place itself, keeps me on target for writing and posting a weekly message with the current theme being about my experiences as a student in a master gardeners program.
Weeds are sexy. That is they procreate with a rapidity even a rabbit would admire. They are nature’s equivalent of a champion speed eater, being highly competitive when it comes to consuming the soil’s nutrients and water. And they can willingly thumb their pointed little noses at any immigration laws, being very proficient at invading and soon dominating any neighborhood in which they wish to live. Lawns, gardens and more often those large open spaces we call state and national parks tremble at the arrival of any non-native vegetation and pray to the gods of the gardening world to intercede on their behalf.
Like the insects I wrote about last week, weeds can be managed though rarely ever totally eradicated. Their progeny can rest perfectly content several inches below the surface soil, patiently waiting for the day when some dufus farmer or gardener tills the grown, bringing them to the surface once again. There, in the warmth of the sun and the splendid buffet of food and water, they thrive in a world where lesser developed plant life lulls in complete oblivion of their vulnerability to a superior species. Weeds rule until they are curtailed by the most advanced invasive species of them all – humans.
Knowing the type of weed or weeds you are dealing with can determine the best method for their extermination. Weeds, like flowers, insects, and all other animals, including humans, have life cycles. Knowledge of the characteristics of each weed’s life cycle means power and power, as we all know, kills. Death can come by mowing, pulling or poisoning as determined by what we know of our adversary and our own need to derive a certain satisfaction from how we annihilate the enemy.
Then again for those of us whose personal life cycle is defined by a tendency towards laziness, we can adopt my father-in-law’s attitude towards weeds, which simply stated was “If it is green, leave it alone.” His approach was to keep his lawn mown short so that no passersby could see the telltale signs of what were weeds and what was grass. Following his philosophy meant, with all due respect to a certain celebrity frog, that it is indeed easy being green.