Naming garden enemies

There are any number of questions I wish I could still ask my dad, who has been gone for four years already now. One thing I’d like to know more about is his World War II Navy experiences. What about growing up during the Great Depression in the deep south? What was it about farming that spoke to him?

While I was hoeing and pulling weeds in my garden recently another question came to mind: Just what are the names of these weeds? My dad knew about things like that. I can remember him naming the weeds, but of course I didn’t really pay attention. And here I am now, when I would like to be able to say something like, “Okay, you sour dock, you’re out of my life! Off with your head!” It just seems so much more effective somehow when you can label your enemy.

Like most farm kid baby boomers, I am more familiar than I probably want to be with the weeds that we found in the bean fields we walked. When cockleburs are so thick that they basically obliterate the rows of soybeans, it’s pretty easy to get acquainted. Especially when it takes hours to clear out the weeds so the rows of beans again look like rows. Then there were the button (or velvet) weeds and water weeds, milk weeds (sticky when pulled) and iron weeds (tall, ugly, and generally way too tough to pull). I don’t remember thistles in the bean fields.

And then there was the volunteer corn from the last growing season that sprouted up uninvited in the bean fields. So in this case the corn was now a weed and had to come out. That’s when a corn knife came in handy, but it also required some caution.

Or we used a corn hook to cut off the weeds and volunteer corn. It had a long handle with a sharp hook at the end. There was also the option, of course, of using a basic hoe, but they were heavier than a hook or a knife. I think mostly I preferred my bare hands or my gloved hands.

So now all that is a practice in our past, like threshing oats or laying by corn, and for my money that’s not all bad. Instead, there are lots of chemicals out there to take care of the weeds in the fields, in our gardens and yards. Their real names have names that often read like alphabet soup. It’s easy to just kill our weeds by spraying them with a chemical.

But it’s somehow more satisfying to hoe those weeds out with a forceful “Take that, you vutton weed!”