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Weeding with Christopher Lloyd

By March 2, 2024 No Comments

What a treat

Christopher Lloyd was a famous English gardener and I love his book “The well-tempered garden“. It’s by my bed and I’m constantly running out of highlighters and pencils because there is so much to underline.

When I reached the section on weeding I was super happy because here was a famous gardener telling me how he weeds.

A nightmare from years ago

Picture a large planted bed with big open spots where weeds thrive. There was maybe seven of us weeding what were essentially mats of weeds. Not big trophies or the occasional clump of weeds: I’m talking about a mat of green weeds.

Now, the foreman in charge expected us to hand weed with our fingers. No tools. I was stunned: where do I begin? Does this all end with my fingers bleeding? It was insane. I laughed but I wanted to cry. I always use tools like a cultivator or a small tomahawk. Fingers only? What the ….?

Lloyd settles it!

First, he sets the tone by saying that complaints about weeding are exaggerated. Weeding isn’t that bad.

Now, I quote “Efficient hand-weeding requires that you should get down to the task on your knees: as comfortably as possible, with a soft rubber mat and a good sharp-pointed, sharp-edged, stainless steel trowel.”

Many municipalities hand out small weeding mats but I prefer cheap knee pads because they’re attached to my knees and therefore harder to misplace. I like to use a two-sided tomahawk instead of a trowel but it’s still a hand tool.

What about the foreman we mentioned earlier with her finger weeding? Lloyd rips her up, I quote:

“You will observe that professional gardeners do all hand-weeding from a standing stooping position. They pull the weeds out (or break them off) by the hair and do not use a trowel. Their standards of weeding are mediocre….“.

And that’s proper English fit for print. Privately I could tell you exactly what their standards are. Because they break off the weeds, many of them come back quickly.

Previously hand-weeded without hand-tools.

Extra notes on weeding

Use gloves if you like. It doesn’t matter because gloves don’t slow you down. I wear gloves on rainy days.

Here’s on more quote: ” I never like to weed out anything that I can’t identify. Not all seedlings are weeds.” One example from my work is Acanthus. As a baby plant without its signature flower spike, it looks like a weed because its leaf edges are spiky. When we didn’t know, we left it and later identified it. Whew. That was close.

Finally I’m happy

Now I can finally relax and laugh at the landscapers who insist that I hand-weed with my fingers. Their standards of weeding are mediocre. Amen.

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