Armchair Gardener

Encouraged by the lovely fall afternoon weather, I wandered outside to inspect the flowerbed alongside the driveway. The first thing I saw was a small, innocent looking vine pushing up through the new layer of mulch. “Ack” I yelled into my silent, empty yard, and scolded, “You stupid, stupid weed! Don’t you know mulch is supposed to smother you?”

My body posture was tense as I leaned over to yank the little sucker out of the ground, root and all. A second later, I triumphantly held the weed up over my head. It had a five-inch white root and a twelve-inch vine. I loudly announced, “Ah-ha, that takes care of you!”

I had recently watched New Zealand’s All Blacks Rugby team do a goose-bump inducing Maori war cry, called haka before one of their games. Their yelling and intimidating posturing was impressive. In my mind, I was doing an American version of the haka to intimidate the nasty, unwelcome, but irrepressible bindweeds. Leaning over the flowerbed, I spotted dozens of other bindweeds that needed to be pulled up.

Bindweeds look cute when they’re small, but if they are not pulled up by the roots, they will take over the flowerbed. They wrap themselves around, through and over the top of any neighboring plants, strangling them with an abundance of triangular leaves and white flowers resembling small morning glory blossoms.

Leaning over, I began to pull the all the weeds within reach. I mumbled to myself, “One blessing is that they pull out easily because of the mulch.”

Seeing more bindweeds to pull further along in the flowerbed, I straightened up and moved closer to them. My back and legs hurt from the unnatural posture. I pictured myself as a bottom feeding duck with head under water and tailfeathers high in the air as I weeded.

Kneeling on the ground to weed was out of the question.

Spotting one of my white plastic lawn chairs next to the house, I pulled it over to the flowerbed and sat down. Leaning down to weed was much more comfortable while sitting.

Standing and pulling the chair from place to place along the flowerbed was a pain, but the pauses between pulling weeds allowed me to sit quietly to enjoy the twittering birds in the white birch. A snort from the brush along the river bank made me aware of a doe who was likely warning her fawn that danger was nearby. Chipmunks chattered in an oak tree, probably fighting over their harvest of acorns.

When I had weeded as much as I could, I walked across the lawn to inspect my hoop garden. Closing the door behind me, I took a deep breath. The air smelled earthy and rich. Some of the plants were damaged by the two frosty nights last week, but the heartier ones showed no damaged leaves.

My daughter had told me last week that she had all the tomatoes she needed for the year, but I felt reluctant to cut those plants down, because most of them were still green and healthy. If we didn’t have another frost soon, there could be more tomatoes ripening. Who could I give them to?

Clumps of crabgrass dotted the plastic mulch where I’d cut holes for cucumber, squash and beets to grow. All must be dug out when I put the garden to bed for the winter. My back ached thinking about that job.

Remembering how I had used a lawn chair to weed the flowerbed, I pulled another chair up alongside a clump of crabgrass and sat down. Grabbing a short-handled spade, I pushed it into the soil next to one of the invasive weeds and pushed against the handle. Up came the nasty clump, dry garden dust spilling over my feet. Grasping the widely-spread green top like the head of an enemy, I triumphantly pulled it free of the soil. All of its twenty thousand roots dangled uselessly in the air.

I mused with satisfaction, “For an armchair gardener, I’m getting a lot of actual work done.”


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