Saturday, June 13, 2009

Weeds and more weeds

The garden has me contemplating weeds and their lessons. I know - sometimes a weed is just a weed - but as I pluck bindweed from my yard over and over only to see it return with a vengeance I can't help but feel that maybe there is some lesson or opportunity here. All is holon, all is connected. I admit I am having a hard time with this one, though.

I was not acquainted with bindweed, Convolvulus arvensis, until I moved to Colorado and noticed the pretty white flowers of the vine growing alongside my beans. Ah, but now I know. "Field bindweed is more than a nuisance; it's a pernicious weed. Like many nonnative invasives, bindweed is a tough plant that threatens to take over once it gets a toehold. Its cosmopolitan presence in many temperate climates has earned it 84 names in 29 different languages — most of those names are not kind." Writes Sue Dockstader. (1)

My daughter (age three) had the solid suggestion that we should fill up two buckets of weeds a day, no more and no less. Unfortunately I have others things to do in life than pull up bindweed. And sadly my chickens don't eat the stuff. It grows through our weed cloth. I am tempted to buy weed killer - but then I read that herbicides actually don't work all that well. They say the best approaches to the noxious plant is solid weed cloth combined with steady pulling and the possible addition of bindweed gall mites. Lovely.

The thing is, I am not anti-weed. I pull dandelions and mallow if it gets too tenacious or thick in an area, but these plants are edible and return nutrients to the soil. They are not out to cover my entire yard and house. Bindweed is. And I don't feel safe putting it in the compost, where it will spread even more. So it's not even food for compost.

So... I am left trying to take a positive spin on the stuff. What has it to teach me? That life is full of weeds like credit card debt and leaking seals and dead branches? That we have to take a sense of humor and get a good pair of garden gloves? That life's bounty comes in unexpected places? I'm not sure. I'm reluctant to accept the suffering and hair shirt approach to growth, though I have yet to see the point of bindweed through any other lens.

I suppose weeds in the garden, especially noxious ones like bindweed, have something to offer about tenacity, as my daughter innocently decided. Maybe I need a bumper sticker that says Weeds Happen. Hmm.


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