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Weeds or wildflowers

Weeding must be the most time consuming task of all gardening activities. Why is it, that if the garden is left untouched for more than a week, a carefully sculpted garden is converted into a blur of unplanned greenery? Quite simply, weeds are opportunistic plants which follow human disturbance and colonize cultivated land. The very act of gardening promotes weed invasion.

In urban centres, weeds are Nature's way of re-vegetating the land or the first step back to reforestation. Weed seeds out number those of native plants by a huge margin so the passive hope that your garden will become a prairie meadow without your help is a slim hope at best. Over time, native plants would likely win the battle but we don't have that kind of time and our neighbours certainly won't have the patience.

Most weeds are non-native plants, introduced to our area many years ago either willingly as a forage crop, for example crabgrass, or simply escaped from cultivation. We now know that we cannot predict which plants we introduce today as desirable ornamentals will become tomorrow's purple loosestrife.

Weeds are rarely a problem in natural plant communities because invasive plants cannot get a foot hold in a stable ecosystem. To relieve ourselves from the burden of weeding, perhaps we can learn something from nature. This is not to say that we should abandon all weeding activity and leave it up to nature to sort it all out. It means that we need to learn how to make our gardens less inviting for invasive intruders so that the desirable plants can thrive.

Weeds and wildflowers share the ability to grow without human intervention. As gardeners, we find it difficult to accept the intrusion of anything which we ourselves did not introduce. Here lies the quandary in what do we consider a weed and what do we call a wildflower.

Whether something is a weed or wildflower is strictly a matter of taste. In many cases native wildflowers will introduce themselves into your garden along with the weeds. By accepting this fact, you can then be a little more open minded in your weeding decisions.

The first step in this approach is to become familiar with what the seedling stage of plants look like. Heaven knows we spend so much time yanking them out, we may as well learn a little bit about them! Many weeds and wildflowers have tremendous attributes if you give them a chance.

Violets in the lawn are difficult to get rid of, even when using herbicides. You can continue to battle with them or concede that part of the lawn to a patch of purple flowering, low growing plants. Clover can form an attractive green patch which will give a show of small white flowers which attracts bees and birds to your garden. On the other hand, if your garden style demands a uniform green lawn, these would both be classified as weeds.

As the gardener, you are the ultimate editor of what can live in your garden. A garden without weeds is easily (or not) achieved by hand weeding, mulching and with the assistance of herbicides. It is important to be aware though that we may be missing out on some interesting and attractive plant combinations which could be introduced in a less strict regime. By selectively allowing seeds to germinate in the flower beds some surprising things will happen.

Weeds will always be a part of gardening. With help from mother nature, perhaps we can reduce the pressure of undesirable and invasive invaders and increase the number of native wildflowers in our gardens. It is a new approach to gardening and a new natural style. Maybe it's time we lightened up and learned enough to make a salad out of our daily weeding.

Daisy Moore, 1998.

For more information about Naturalized Gardening, click here.



Other spring garden tips:

(click on the tip you want to read)


Designing Gardens

Fertilizing the Garden
Ready for Spring
Starting Seeds Indoors
Pruning Trees and Shrubs
Dormant Spraying
Planning the Vegetable Garden
Planting Early Vegetables
Early Season Care of Perennial Beds
Plants for an Early Spring Show
Cut Flowers for the Home Garden
Growing the Perfect Potato
Lawn Care in Early Spring.....GRUB DAMAGE!
Spring Lawn Care
The Garden in May
Gardening with Native Plants
Sources of Native Plants
Shade Gardening
Planting Gladiolus and Other Summer Flowering Bulbs
Weed Control
Thatch in Lawns
Weeds or Wildflowers
Improving Your Soil
Marvellous Mulch
Selecting and Planting Shrubs
Planting Trees and Shrubs
Window Box Gardening
Growing Tomatoes
Fertilizing the Vegetable Garden



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Daisy Moore 2005