What are your thoughts when you hack at a weed with a hoe? How about when you plunge a weeder into the soil and penetrate the tape root of a plant you don’t appreciate. Have you ever paused when you were about to grab a plant by the neck and yank it out of the soil it depends on for life? When you use a propane torch to cook and then scorch a solitary weed and hear the popping of the seeds that would otherwise provide future generations of that plant, how are you feeling? Have you ever stopped to think that these plants that you so fervently pursue and torture with Roundup are simply trying to survive—to survive and continue the lifeline of their existence?
I ask you, “Where’s the empathy?” . . . Not here . . . But sometimes . . . . . . .
Generally it is a pleasant experience being on a gardening team. I know Daisy would back me up on this concept. But there are times when disagreements can arise—specifically, what plants need to be eradicated, and which are left to survive—what’s a weed and what’s not. You have heard the saying that it is easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission. I have found that this axiom doesn’t work well when weeding in the garden. You see, once a plant is extracted, survival upon replacement is seldom successful. I have found that saying “You should have been watching what I was doing!” does not go over well. Or “It looked like a weed to me” doesn’t fare well either. I have found that frequent asking of permission has proven to the least painful option when weeding. I’m just sayin’.
Do you remember that day in high school biology when you dissected a night crawler? If you don’t, let me tell you that it is an earthworm about 7 inches long. You used your scalpel to carefully cut in incision in the dorsal surface at the anterior end. Then using a probe, you scratched at the tissue of the wall segments and pulled back and pinned the body walls to the wax of the dissection tray. Further scratching with the probe finally revealed the brain which consisted of two connected tiny white lumps lying on top of the esophagus. We called this process teasing, and I am reminded of my first dissection back in 1957 whenever I am fighting the oxalis growing in my lawn. I only have a few spots where oxalis insists on returning. Several years ago. I removed 8 square feet of lawn that was hopelessly infested with this weed. I thought I had eradicated it, but 2 or 3 areas continue to be a problem.
So weekly, after each mowing, I get down on my hands and knees and use a teasing technique to remove any oxalis before it has a chance to go to seed. The tool I use is a dinner plate knife because is it rigid, narrow, and had a dull rounded end. I grab the oxalis by the neck (not really the neck) and pull gently. At the same time, I tease (scratch) the soil where I figure the root is located. Generally. the root gives way and another plant bites the dust (so to speak).
I figure that I have a right to tell you about this experience because it does involve a tool, albeit a tool with very limited use. By the way, this is also the tool I use to spread peanut butter in the rat traps that I try to keep baited year-round.
I guess the one question remains—will I be able to completely tease the oxalis to death—or will it outlast me and tease me to death?
Stan, The Tool Man
P.S. My editor says the last line is a little grim.
Here is tool you may find useful. If you have a significant weed population that consists of a lot of isolated large weeds, this may be your baby. The way this tool works is that you stab the tines into the soil in front of the weed. You may push the tool deeper with your foot if necessary.
Then, by pressing the lever at the back of the tool, the tines will pivot upwards and lift the weed with its root out of the soil. The Weed Popper would not be useful if your weeds are growing among valued plants, nor would you use it to remove weeds in a lawn. But let’s say you have a large property that you have protected with a generous application of mulch. Isolated weeds eventually will appear and using this tool will keep you off your knees and perhaps be easier to use than a hoe. If you google “weed popper” you can watch a video showing its use.
Oh great! It’s at this point that I tell you where to buy and how much. Guess what? As of 6/22/20, this tool is unavailable.
All right—let me give you another option:
The Fiskars 4-Claw Weeder works in a different fashion. You stab the tool over the center of a weed and press it farther with your foot. When you pull back on the handle, the 4 claws close on the root of the weed and yank it out of the soil. I have had one of these weeders for well over a year and never used it. I got it free at a garage sale. I have no large weeds, so I went over to my next door neighbor and attacked the dandelions in his lawn. I found it was extremely effective. After the weed is extracted, you slide the orange handle down and the weed pops right off. The only problem is you must hit the center of the weed in order to grab the root. I have to admit that it was fun pulling out these weeds. It was difficult to stop, but when I saw a path of dandelion carcasses all over, I realized that I had a lot of evidence to clean up. The advantage this tool has over the one above is that the weed doesn’t have to be isolated.
If you also have fun weeding, I think this may be the ideal tool to increase your joys in the garden.
The Fiskars 4-Claw Weeder is available at Amazon Prime for $41.48 or at Walmart for a few dollars less.
It is hard enough keeping up with the invasion of weeds in your garden without having plants conspiring against you. I am currently trying to eradicate both spurge and moss from the garden. Since both of these terrorists are tiny and prone in development, they have found an ally in baby tears. 45 years ago we bought a 4 inch pot of baby tears. Do I need to tell you more? For decades it has been a challenge keeping baby tears confined. Now to confound my frustration, they have buddied up with not only the moss, 2 species of spurge, but even the Johnny Jump-Ups have joined the conspiracy. My response to these chums is “Burn baby, burn”! You would think that the word would get out and the baby tears would stop there conniving behavior. But, no—the battle ensues on a daily basis–and will until I run out of gas.
Oh, by the way, would you like a clump of baby tears?
For some reason this year my garden has been under an intense attack of moss plants. I suppose the most likely cause is the drought we’ve experienced. Perhaps moss plants sense a coming doom and have sent out a flood of spores. Normally I blame unusual weed seed dispersal on my leaf blower, but moss plants are appearing where that cause is unlikely. What I’ve decided is the most likely hypothesis is the fact that moss plants are growing on the roof—particularly in the shade of our huge hackberry tree—and the spores are being spread throughout the garden by the wind.
I googled moss on roofs and learned that not only will moss plants tend to lift asphalt shingles, but also causes them to deteriorate. More research revealed solutions. There is a product called “Moss Out” that is designed to kill moss on roofs. I thought $20 for a bottle was a little much, but I bit the bullet. Before I applied a diluted solution, I spent two days scraping as much moss off the shingles that I could. The most effective tool for this task was my trusty 2 x 5 trowel that I keep urging you to buy. Then, using a hose, I washed the debris off the roof and collected the runoff in a rain barrel. This seemed to be far more logical than using my leaf blower. The moss plants are supposed to be first wet anyway. I then applied the solution.
I checked the roof several days later, and frankly, was not impressed with the results. Perhaps the moss was deader than it looks. It’s not as though it’s going to wilt or something. Not to be deterred, I moved on to the next idea: Apparently the metal zinc is toxic to moss plants. I have ordered a 50-foot roll of zinc metal sheeting. When it arrives, I will install it along the ridgeline so the when it rains, the dissolved zinc will flow over the moss plants and kill them. This is supposed to be a slow process and results may not appear for several months during the rainy season, but I am patient as well as persistent.
If you have experienced a similar attack of moss in your garden, you might simply need to look above you to find the source of the invasion.
Stan, The Moss Man
P.S. My wife insists on a disclaimer that I am not encouraging you to get up on your roof. You might instead hire a professional moss scraper instead.
Well, this tool is not for everyone. It is the propane torch. If the height of your weeds rivals that of your cultivated plants, this is not a tool for you. If your favorite weeding tool is a scythe, this is not a tool for you. No, this is a tool limited to the OCD. The propane torch is also generally best suited for urbanites. Do you have small weeds growing in the joints of your side walk? Perhaps weeds have found the cracks in the driveway. Are pavers a part of your landscape? Do the weeds love your gravel paths?
I can you hear you saying, “Ever hear of Round-Up?” Well, does Round-Up kill weed seeds? No. There is a particular thrill in hearing the popping of weed seeds as you apply the flame of your torch. I also don’t like to wait days to enjoy the sight of a defeated foe. This tool meets the high standards of an immediate reward society.
So what is a propane torch? It is simply a nozzle that screws onto a tank of propane. You can buy a nozzle for less than $15. But I want you to spend more. The extra cost will allow you to turn the flame on and off with the mere push and release of a button. This is an important safety feature in that the flame is not burning when you are not using it. You are able to move all over your garden (or neighborhood) and use a flame only when needed. This lets you use very little gas to eliminate thousands of weeds. I have been using the same tank of gas for 10 years. I finally stopped buying propane tanks at garage sales—the count stands at 9 tanks. Home Depot has the Benzomatic Sure Fire Torch Head for $34.97. Ace Hardware has its own Instant On-off Propane Torch Head for $37.99.
Now there are limitations to weeding with a propane torch. You cannot burn weeds growing near flammable material such as dead leaves, bark, fences, and spreader boards in concrete slabs. You cannot burn a weed growing next to a drip tube or soaker hose.
I do have to warn you of a potential danger. When you come to enjoy using this tool to the extent that your yard is devoid of weeds, you may find yourself searching for weeds in the sidewalks and driveways of your neighbors. If you suddenly look up and realize you’re lost, fear not. Like the proverbial trail of bread crumbs, simply follow the path of blackened annual rye and spurge back to your house.
In summary: What makes this garden tool so special? The propane torch eliminates weeds and viable weed seeds in seconds, particularly when the substrate cannot be penetrated by a conventional weeder. It is an environmentally friendly treatment. You are able to cover a lot of garden area without getting on your hands and knees. It’s strange that someone hasn’t developed a specialized rack for displaying this efficient weed killing weapon for the rear windows of gardeners’ pickups.
I hope you are not limited to thinking that only garden tools can be used in the garden. This 2 x 5 inch rectangular hand trowel that is generally used for working with mortar, thin set, and other pasty construction substances is a must for your garden tool collection. This inexpensive tool has many uses in the potting shed and garden. Having straight edges makes it useful for any scraping chore—for instance cleaning emptied terracotta pots, clearing a work surface, or removing unwanted accumulations from the bottom of your garden clogs. Black widow spiders and their nests are easily squished. In the garden this trowel can be used as a weeder. It will scrape the soil harboring small weeds that are right next to a threatened plant. It easily slips under a drip line or soaker hose. It slices easily through soil since its blade is so thin. Flat spreading weeds such as spurge and invasive baby tears can be lifted up with a small amount of soil while minute seeds are removed at the same time. Sharpening the edges of this tool makes it even more effective and I can do this for you. Sandpaper quickly removes excess rust for those of you who prefer to store tools scattered around the garden.
For less than $10 you can buy a 2”x 5” Margin Trowel for yourself and one for all of your family members and friends. They are available in both Home Depot and Lowes, and of course, Amazon.
You know well the saying, “Do as I say–not as I do”. Well, guess who was burning weeds with his torch when there was no breeze. I was getting rid of the last moss plants in the garden. Smoke billowed up and surrounded my face burning my eyes. I moved side to side to no avail. I don’t think another saying applies—“Smoke follows beauty.” applies here. (Does that bring back memories of sitting around the camp fire?) So I smelled like burned weeds the rest of the day—big deal. But the next day my wife was alarmed at my sight. (Not an uncommon occurrence.) Sure enough, my right eye was bloodshot. Actually bloodshot is hardly sufficient to describe the sight of this valuable little orb. So I e-mailed my Doc. and the response was to apply eye drops and notify her if my eyeball falls out (a slight exaggeration). Sure enough after a couple days, it disappeared . . the blood, that is. So once again, if you use a torch to burn weeds, do so when there is a slight breeze so that smoke doesn’t rise directly up and turn you into a smelly, scary creature.
It’s not very often that I follow my own advice. I recently purchased the Sunjoe model SPX3000 power washer and it seems to work perfectly. Yesterday I burned out (literally) my leaf blower. If you place a plugged in leaf blower on a flat surface, lubricate the power switch with silicone, and let it sit while you do some weeding, chances are that the machine will turn on by itself when the switch short circuits. Since no air can be sucked in from below, the motor cannot be cooled, and it will catch fire. I was really attached to that tool, too. So today I went down to the Davis Ace and purchased a new Toro 51618 model. Its first test was to “detail” the back end of the Yukon. You know, whenever you transport a potted plant that has to be placed on its side, there is going to be a mess no matter how carefully you drive. So the new leaf blower passed with flying colors . . or flying debris. Oh yes, I did follow my own advice and actually handled the tool in the store before making my selection. I tried the gas powered models, but they were too heavy for me to use in a vertical position, which I often have to do.
Oh no! Flowers! This was my thought when I spotted a patch of oxalis in the lawn. So I lay on the lawn for 45 minutes teasing the oxalis from among the grass blades. Did you ever do a biology dissection where you teased the different tissues apart? I still remember finding the tiny brain of an earthworm and the five pairs of aortic arches. Anyway . . . I find that I have to weed almost every day. One would think if I torch every weed I find so that the plant and its seeds are destroyed, that there would be no more weeds. I have this rule in the garden: No weeds allowed. Mother Nature apparently didn’t get the word because the battle wages on daily. I have a suggestion: Weed at different times of the day. I think the angle of the sun may be one of the reasons that some weeds go undetected one day only to easily appear on the next. One thing I forgot to tell you about weeding with a torch– If there is no breeze, smoke will rise from the conflagration and engulf you. Yesterday I smelled of both burned weeds and burned plastic (leaf blower cremation).