Confessions of a Compulsive Over-Weeder

By Bill Primavera

The Home Guru

It never fails. I’ll be in a rush to meet a client, dashing to my garage across my parking area, covered with crushed bluestone, and I’ll spy a tiny fleck of green peeking through the gravel. Another weed.  I must stop to pull it out. 

When I bend over, I drop my car keys, my glasses fall out of my breast pocket and, if the weed is deep-routed, like a dandelion, my hands get dirty, requiring that I return to the house to wash them after the deed is done.

Or, I’m coming home very late, dead tired, and I notice that, almost like spontaneous combustion, that nasty grout weed has all but consumed a clump of perennial geraniums.  It’s getting dark but there I am, stooped over again, releasing those delicate flowers from the clutches of that hostile invader.

Worse yet, we might be entertaining guests on our patio and, in my peripheral vision, I detect another unwelcome visitor in a nearby flower bed. Nonchalantly, I’ll push myself out of my glider, perhaps in the middle of a sentence, and conduct an enemy attack without missing a beat. Annoyed, my wife later tells me that I must not have been giving full attention to our guests.

Yes, I confess. I’m a compulsive over-weeder.

When I first discovered the joys of gardening as a youngster, it was all about planting annuals and seeing quick results. But by the time I was in high school, perhaps in dealing with my impetuous nature, I found that I equally enjoyed pulling weeds to help ease those first bouts of post-adolescent anxiety.

My weeding addiction became full blown as an adult when I moved to Westchester from the city and my responsibilities were upgraded from a small square patch of earth in front of my house, where a sickly gingko tree sprang from the concrete sidewalk, to a verdant acre and a half of lawn and garden.

At the same time, I had started a new job and commuted a long distance every weekday to report to a boss who was the “Mr. Hyde” personality of all time. My weeding activity was especially intense during that period. Every time I yanked a weed, it was as though I was vicariously yanking his head bald, even though he was already bald.

Lest one think that I need intervention, I would say that there are good compulsive habits and this might be one of them. For instance, at a time when many parents are concerned about the violence allowed in video games, I might suggest that, as an antidote, they require their children to weed in the garden for an equal amount of time that they would spend on their iPads and wiis playing those games of virtual destruction.  Put the quest for the elimination of villains to practical use, I say.

For adults, rather than considering weeding a chore or even therapy, it can be approached as an art, complete with its own techniques and disciplines, as I first learned many decades ago when I read a joyous book called “The No-Work Garden” by Ruth Stout, sister of the detective fiction writer Rex Stout. And recently, I was reminded of the healing art of weeding when I discovered that the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series now features an edition “For the Gardener’s Soul” by Marion Owen. In her blog at, Owen says that weeding can be a pleasant “zen-like” experience, and I agree.

She also writes that regular weeding in the garden is like regular vacuuming in the home. We probably don’t like either chore, but it’s essential to a successful garden, as to a clean home.

Considering that a single weed can produce as many as 250,000 seeds, and that those seeds arrive through a multi-level attack from the air, rain runoff and bird droppings, weeding would seem to be a losing battle. But, there are preventative measures that can help diminish the occasion of weeds sprouting.

Just keep up with the following:

     * Uproot the offenders and place them in the compost pile before they go to seed.

     * Mulch, mulch, mulch. A three to four-inch layer of mulch applied between plants or garden rows can slow down or in many cases prevent the re-growth of weeds.

     * In the spring, after preparing the soil for planting, let it set for seven to 10 days. Then work the surface of the soil with a hoe. This will slice off the newly emerged weed seedlings. If you have time before planting, let the soil rest another week or so and hoe again.

     * Cover the soil for a short while with black plastic, but don’t leave it on for more than a couple of months, because the soil needs air and water to remain healthy

     * Use those vertical barriers, such as wood, metal or heavy plastic edging to prevent grass and weeds from encroaching from lawn to garden.

     And, be mindful of what William Shakespeare wrote: “Sweet flowers are slow and weeds make haste.”


Bill Primavera is a licensed Realtor® (, affiliated with Coldwell Banker, and a marketing practitioner ( For questions or comments about the housing market, or selling or buying a home, he can be reached directly at 914-522-2076.