Weeds. It’s time to slay them all. This is especially true at any address where the common sow thistle thrives, but the occupant does not. You with strong roots and even temperament may have no use for battle. We delicate flowers really do. This summer, you may have found the climate of “debate” inhospitable. Personally, I’m a wilting headcase and temporarily sworn off any news of anything but composting.

Thus, expect no critique from me of policy or private debt in coming weeks. I’m popping on my sunhat and living in a world of blood, bone and horticultural denial.

Truly, though. What is with the invasive nonsense in the public square? Complex problems of social organisation are described in the simplest possible terms by journalists and the next time I hear a rationale like “toxic masculinity” or “toxic politics” to address a complex of social conditions I will poison…well. There I go getting myself all heated for no purpose. When I next get hot, it will be to protect my cultivars.

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For those burnt by the false light of The Sun and other outlets, this is your therapeutic guide to herbicidal conflict. When good sense is choked by the lantana of unreason, we control the unwanted weeds we can. Death. Death to the fireweed, the bindii, the aggressive agapanthus. Long live the plants and the sanity of a garden.

Weeds are not simply an eyesore. Oh, no. Much like the unsightly work of journalism, they also deaden the earth. Turn your back for an instant, and a some monster will advance toward the strawberry patch and feast on your fertile soil.

The best strike against weeds is pre-emptive, and a lesson the great, and newly retired, Peter Cundall was wont to give: mulch.  So long as you don’t lay it on too thick and so close to the base of the plant that its roots are waterproofed, it’s a drought-withstanding, weed-abating blessing.

I would not suggest the use of non-degradable materials as mulch, and nor did Comrade Cundall in his long career.  There is some high-end bio-plastic gear for the consumer gardener, but most of us are rather more frugal. You can make your own mulch from garden waste, and I tend to when I am very angry indeed about the world. Otherwise, sugar cane or pea straw will do; the gold standard of lucerne when inclined to damn all costs. In general, use herbaceous stuff of this sort for herbaceous plants and surround big, woody plants with big woody mulches.

I tend to avoid use of chemical weed-killers in the garden due to (a) fear of detainment by the permaculture police and (b) being left with nothing to do but go back indoors and read the stupid news. However, there are those assaults on vegetation in which the use of glyphosate, AKA Roundup, may be justified. Concern about the molecule, in use since 1974, is widespread and some experiments do indicate that the effects of some commercially available preparations may be averse to animal health. So, you may wish to keep Puss indoors and you should certainly wear protective gloves when applying it in diluted form to small weeds, or directly applying it in undiluted form to very big plants. Check labelling, etc.

Pulling weeds by hand, trowel and rage-fuelled telekinesis is, as the kids say, my jam. If they’re in a spot that resists sheer force of will, such as between pavers, a kettle of boiling water can be very satisfying. When seeking death to driveway life-forms, you might wish to avoid residual poisons, those that promise “once-a-year” application. A mix of boiling water and salt is a less iffy soil sterilant and instant-kill combo, just keep salt away from areas of growth. Many gardeners bang on about vinegar as a benign agent of peaceful death: I don’t buy it. A solution strong enough to kill a plant at its root, such as the horticultural variety, may damage Puss’s little paddy paws. A weak solution will not kill much but the visible part of the weed which will kill your faith in vinegar when it re-emerges in a few days.

It has been just once in the last season on a particularly trying news day that I used a commercial poison for the lawn. The product promised to “weed and feed” and, regrettably, it delivered; I enjoyed a month or so free from dandelions, those hyper-fertile agents of garden devastation.

I do not recommend this. The pleasure is but fleeting. Bereft of garden enemies, I return to the source of disquiet that sent me out the back in the first place. There is no herbicide, residual or otherwise, that can detoxify the press and its absurd mania to identify whatever it fancies as “toxic”. Give me weeds or give me intellectual death.

What are your therapeutic practices for getting away from the “toxic”news? Write to boss@crikey.com.au and let us know. Use your full name to be considered for the comments section. 

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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