When I was a kid, I hated to weed. The weeds always broke off before I could get their roots. I remember being sent out to weed a 4′ x 4′ bed in the middle of the front yard, and it taking me hours. My allergies had my eyes itchy and running, I was sneezing, and tap-root after tap-root broke off before I could get it out.
Last year, when I volunteered in my neighborhood’s community garden, it was clear that no one was weeding. It was the first year for the community garden, and between the bad soil, the inadequate irrigation, and the many other obstacles we faced, it seemed to me that we couldn’t afford to let the weeds get a foothold. So I’d spend my couple of volunteer hours a week watering (until we got irrigation installed) and weeding.
There are a bunch of reasons I find it more pleasant now. I’ve figured out the relationship between watering (which happens first) and easily extracting the whole weed. I’m on a much more effective antihistamine. And I can listen to books or music on my phone while I do it.
But here’s the thing— it’s wildly satisfying. You can take an entirely overgrown garden patch and, with methodical effort, make a real difference quickly. Also, this afternoon, I was noticing that it’s a bit of a problem-solving exercise. It’s one thing when you’re weeding beds that you’ve planted and are cultivating. But I don’t have much land, and most of what I cultivate is in pots. So I’ve weeded beds planted by others. Some weeds, I recognize by sight, but in a bed I haven’t cultivated, there are plants I’m unsure about. I pull the weeds I recognize, I think about what else I’m seeing, and I start to see the rows of what was planted. I can eliminate plants by spacing or arrangement, or by exclusion. It’s engrossing and fulfilling.