Two very full days of gardening — more on that later — have convinced me of one thing: weeds are the Borg of the plant world. They are relentless in their quest to assimilate every tidy garden area and turn it into a snarled, disheveled, grotesque, tumbledown mess. And weeds, like the Borg, don’t care about you. They are oblivious to your aching back, your hamstrings that seem to be on fire, your muddy knees, or the knuckles that have been skinned on rocks. And while you may need sleep, the weeds never rest.
You can’t really get rid of weeds, either. Like the Borg, they will keep coming back. You might spend hours digging them out, carefully removing them from the footprints of the plants you want to keep, and tossing them into the compost area, but you know they will return. Spend hours turning a weedy area, above, into a neat, well-tended bed, below, and you may as well take a picture to remember it by, because when you return the weeds will have encroached again.
When I weed up here, I half expect to see a grim black cube hovering overhead. The weeds are ever on the march
Most of the TV shows and movies I write about get positive reviews. When I watch a show and like it, I enjoy working through exactly why I have that reaction and then writing about it. This has caused some faithful readers to wonder whether I’m so shallow and accepting of TV fare that I like all TV shows I watch.
I don’t. Take Weeds, the show that was broadcast for a number of years on Showtime. We read an on-line review that noted that the Weeds run on Netflix was coming to an end on March 31 and recommended the show as some bingeworthy viewing, so we gave it a chance. In fact, we gave it more than a chance — we watched all of season 1, and halfway through season 2, before we just gave up and decided life was too short to waste it watching Weeds.
Why did we say “Weeds begone”? Because there basically wasn’t a single character on the show that we liked, or frankly even found mildly interesting. In fact, the contrary was true: we thought Weeds featured some of the most cliched, poorly drawn, and intensely annoying characters we’d ever seen on television. From the wide-eyed, coquettish lead character and would-be dope lord Nancy Botwin, played by Mary-Louise Parker, to her weird and unlikeable kids, to her irritating loser brother-in-law, to the other brainless and self-absorbed characters populating the vapid town of Agrestic, California, we disliked pretty much everyone. Not surprisingly, it’s hard to like a TV show when you have no connection to the characters and hate seeing them on screen.
And there wasn’t much that was original in the show’s plotting or the writing. Although Weeds is described as a “comedy-drama,” we didn’t find much of either. I’m not sure I ever actually laughed out loud at anything that happened in the show, and I certainly didn’t find it very dramatic, either. Good comedy involves creativity and an element of surprise, both of which were sorely lacking in Weeds. And drama requires some characters you actually care about, which Weeds didn’t have, either. The only character who even came close to that standard was Isabelle, the poor daughter of Nancy’s appalling friend Celia Hodes, who we hoped could get away from her ridiculous, domineering, body-shaming mother. But our passing interest in that minor plot line couldn’t carry the day in the face of the onslaught of other irksome characters and groan-provoking plot devices.
It amazes us that Weeds ran for multiple seasons, which just shows you that one man’s trash can be another man’s treasure. In our view, though, there are a lot of good TV shows out there to watch–and Weeds isn’t one of them. We think Netflix did the right thing in pulling Weeds.
The battle is on, already. It’s an eternal, never-ending battle, like good versus evil or modern Americans versus encroaching obesity. Except this battle is for the highest stakes of all: a nice, grassy yard come summertime.
The enemy is the dandelion. Sure, there are other weeds in the yard — lots of them, to be honest — but the dandelion is the undisputed leader of the weed brigade. It sits there in the yard, flaunting its bright yellow flower, putting on an act of innocence. As a child, you might have have gathered a fistful of dandelion flowers and brought them home to Mom. You certainly picked and blew with delight on a dandelion puffball — blissfully unaware that, in so doing, you were scattering nefarious dandelion seeds to every corner of your yard and unconsciously aiding the ultimate lawn care enemy.
But with adulthood came the realization that dandelions had to be defeated — in fact, they had to be wiped from the face of the yard at all costs. You understood that dandelions, with their wicked sawtooth leaves and spreading roots, were killing off the grass and opening the way for other, prickly weeds to quickly turn your nice, soft, barefoot-friendly lawn into a ugly, painful, weed-infested disaster.
There were times, after a long weed-hunting day out in the yard, when contemplated your aching hamstrings and briefly wondered whether the constant battle against dandelions was worth it, because you seemed to be fighting a desperate rear-guard action against an implacable, inexorable inhuman foe. You wondered: Would it really be so bad to let the weeds win? But you quickly dismissed that thought as ridiculous and self-defeating. You grasped that it was your duty, as a good neighbor concerned about property values and the wrath of other homeowners on the block, to fight the good fight.
Well, it’s Memorial Day, dandelion fighters! That means it’s time to get out those tools and gloves, scan for the familiar dandelion signs, and get down on your knees and get back into the fray. Once more into the breach, dear friends!
It’s a beautiful day in Columbus today, and a lot of German Village residents were out doing yard work as we took our afternoon walk. I got a chuckle out of this generous sign seeking a hand from passers by.
The Ohio Lottery Commission has put up a new billboard on the path of my walk home from work. It features a line drawing of dandelions gone to seed and dandelion seeds wafting in the air, with the saying “Why see a weed when you could see a wish?” The billboard refers to inspiredoh.org and has the Ohio Lottery logo.
“Inspired Ohio” is a website sponsored by the Ohio Lottery. The home page of the website reads: “To many in the outside world we’re simply ‘Midwesterners.’ But we know better. We are selfless neighbors, and decorated servicemen. We are soup-kitchen-altruists and wheelchaired-iron-men. We are inspired Ohioans. And these are our stories.” The home page has links to videos of three Ohioans who apparently “tell their stories.” One of the links at present has the title “Always bet on yourself.”
The obvious message of the billboard is that it is all about perception. Why see something as a negative that you could see, instead, as a dreamy positive? But what is supposed to be the weed, exactly? Is it Ohio, and have the “inspired Ohioans” used their positive viewpoints to turn our state into a place where dreams come true? Or is the Ohio Lottery just trading on positive stories about Ohioans who are doing good to try to shift the perception of the Lottery itself? Do they hope that people who now view the Lottery as a merciless way of extracting money from people who will never beat the overwhelming odds and really can’t afford the lottery tickets they buy every week will see it instead as a harmless way for people to dream about how they might have a better future?
Either way, the billboard message doesn’t work for me. The fact that, for a brief period every summer, little children might blow the seeds off dandelion puffballs doesn’t make the dandelion any less an invasive, destructive, ugly weed. It’s interesting, and telling, that the Ohio Lottery has chosen to associate itself with a weed.
Today I spent an hour in the backyard, weeding. We’d gotten some rain, so the soil was moist, making it a prime weeding opportunity. As I bent over, trying to use my garden tool to find the roots of the weeds and pop them out of the ground — because you always want to get the root, of course — I cursed mightily at the humidity, and my aching back, and mostly at the unsightly weeds themselves.
And then I wondered — is there any living thing more reviled, more roundly cursed, more uniformly despised by one and all than a Midwestern weed?
Consider this awful dandelion that had taken root in our garden beds. It’s an exceptionally ugly plant, with its broad, sharp leaves that look like the blade of a rusty hacksaw. I first noticed it last weekend but didn’t get to it until today, and in the intervening week it spread like a fungus to cover more territory. It’s a tenacious plant, too, hugging the ground and stubbornly resisting all efforts to pull it out by the roots and kill it once and for all. After some careful searching I found the root and gently pulled it whole from the damp soil. I felt a glowing sense of accomplishment as I removed the unsightly blemish from the beds, dropped the weed and its roots into a lawn refuse bag, and then moved on to do battle with the thistles, chickweed, mallow, and other thorny, repulsive broadleaf invaders trying to ruin my garden and yard.
I paused for a moment, though, to straighten up my creaking back and ponder the poor weed. It doesn’t know it’s hated and unwanted, I realized — it’s just trying to survive as best it can, wherever it can. Perhaps, I thought, there is value in weeds? Perhaps they provide the sharp contrast that allows us to better appreciate the beauty of flowers and boxwoods and hostas? Perhaps their presence makes us more industrious, by incentivizing us to go out in the fresh air and do some productive work. Perhaps the weed, rather than being reflexively hated, should be pitied . . . and even admired?
Nah! It’s weeds we’re talking about, and I would happily do without them. So I moved on and thrust my garden tool into the ground at the base of the next offender, found the root, and pulled it out with relish.
Brick sidewalks can be charming . . . but you’ve got to take care of them. If you don’t, before you know it the sidewalk will start to look a little shaggy from the grass growing between the cracks between the bricks. And if you are ridiculously inattentive, and immune to the dirty looks of your neighbors, your can end up with a sidewalk that is a riotous collection of disgusting weeds — like this sidewalk on Columbus Street.
German Village is very sensitive to any changes to the outside appearance of houses; when we decided to replace our backyard fence with the exact same kind of fence, we nevertheless had to get approval from some governmental entity. Apparently sidewalk weeds don’t raise the same concerns, even though they look like crap and ultimately will destroy the bricks. Why aren’t sidewalk weeds more of a focus?
The area where I park for work has developed a healthy outcropping of weeds. No surprise there: in Ohio in the summer, the weeds just grow like . . . well, weeds. Most of the plants are of the broad-leafed, saw-toothed variety that sprout from every crack and crevice, sprawl everywhere, and look like they’d give you a rash if you touched them. Amongst the ugliness, however, are some plants that grow like weeds but still possess a certain delicate beauty — Daucus carota, more commonly known as Queen Anne’s Lace. They grow taller than the trashy plants and help to mask their unsightliness, making the summer weed season a little bit more bearable.
During the cold, dank, seemingly endless winter, forces of evil apparently attacked my yard. Under cover of darkness and blanket of snow, terrible lawn creatures invaded and ruthlessly displaced our attractive carpet of velvety grass.
Spring has brought the unwelcome realization that our front yard appears to have a serious case of lawn mange. Where tender shoots of pleasant green once grew we now find bare spots, crab grass, spreading sawtoothed dandelion leaves, and other unsightly, weedy characters. The yard has a distinctly clumpy, uneven look to it. And in the center of one of our lawn sections there is an angry-looking, purple-topped plant that appears to be the youthful version of the man-devouring miscreant from Little Shop of Horrors.
Having an ugly spring lawn is embarrassing, but it can have its advantages. Dogs find our yard so appalling that they refuse to even answer the call of nature there. Rabbits treat our property like a death zone. And the lawn undoubtedly will increase our interaction with our neighbors, because if things don’t take a turn for the better we can expect a friendly visit from the Civic Association.
It’s time to call the lawn service and encourage them to move immediately to the nuclear option.
Yesterday, I just couldn’t take it anymore. Ouchy back and all, I got down on my hands and knees to weed the front yard.
I don’t know if it was caused by our warmer than normal winter, or if our grass is just getting wearing out, or if our lawn care service changed the spraying schedule and deferred the weed killer application, but this spring we have been beset by a grotesque plague of weeds. Dandelions, clover, and other ugly looking plants had sprung up everywhere, ruining the uniform, velvety green carpet all homeowners aspire to and making our yard look like a patchwork quilt of unsightliness. It was offensive to look at, and I didn’t want the neighbors to think that we were letting our yard go to seed.
So I went out on weed patrol, with my paper bag and my weed control tools. I know spraying is effective, but I think it’s best to get down close to the spot, get some dirt under your fingernails, and dig the weeds out roots and all. I use some spoon-sized shovels to get under the weeds and work them out of the ground; dandelions, for example, come out with a satisfying pop. And, because I’m using small shovel, the yard doesn’t end up looking like I’ve got a gopher problem.
I worked on the front and side yards for a few hours yesterday and left them looking moderately presentable. Neighborhood pride is a powerful motivator.
I used to weed our beds with joyful, reckless abandon, pulling out the offending plants by the handful. Then, about 10 years ago, during one of the high summer months, I got a bad poison ivy rash for the first time, and my gardening life changed forever.
My hands touched the poison ivy as I was kneeling and weeding the beds on the side of the house, seating heavily as I worked in the summer sun. This turned out to be most unfortunate for me. When I mopped my sodden brow the diabolical irritants on my hands were able to get into the open pores on my face and were splashed onto my arms and chest and legs. By that evening, it was clear that I was in trouble, and by the next morning my rash — technically a case of contact dermititis — was comically bad. My face was bright red and so swollen that my eyes were slits. I also was dealing with multiple patches of misshapen red bumps on every limb that cried out for a vigorous itching. When I went to a dermatologist and took off the sunglasses I was wearing to cover my alien-looking face, the he burst into laughter and said it was the worst case of poison ivy he’d ever seen. The boys found my appearance equally amusing.
Eventually the patches went away, after days of trying to avoid the overwhelming impulse to scratch like a dog with fleas, but ever since I have been especially sensitive to any poison ivy exposure. Apparently this is common. So now, when I weed, I keep my eye out for anything that looks suspicious and treat it with utmost care. On the Poison Ivy Patrol, our motto is “Leaves of three, let it be.”
Our house has two brick walkways and a brick patio. I prefer the look of brick to the look of cement. I like the darker appearance and the more old-fashioned feel that you get from brick.
These positive attributes come at a cost, of course. When spring rolls around, you just have to reconcile yourself to the reality that, at several points during the spring and summer months, you will have to weed the cracks between the bricks — because those tiny slivers of earth seem to be the most fertile ground imaginable. Is there some magical property of brick that encourages the growth of grass and unwanted plants? And, in deference to Penny, we can’t really apply powerful herbicides.
All weeding sucks, of course, but weeding the cracks between bricks is like weeding, squared. It is a precise operation where you have to grasp the weed at its base next to the brick and then gently pull straight up to try to get the roots, too. Gardening gloves don’t really work because they are too bulky. This delicate bare-handed process always results in fingertips and palms scraped against the roughness of the brick, as well as an aching back and sore hamstrings from being hunched over during the endless series of careful extractions.
When you have finally finished, the walkways and patio look great, but you know it is just a matter of time before you are going to have to do it again. Such are the burdens of the brick walkway owner.