Stephen and I had just arrived at my cousin Shannon’s farm to help her weed some garden beds. Stephen asked, “Which ones are weeds?” Shannon and I paused for a moment, both realizing the complexity of that question. Then we arrived at the same solution. We pointed to a tall, easy-to-identify plant that was also easy to pull out of the ground and said, “Pick this one.”
Stephen went to work. Occasionally, he would stop and ask, “Is this the one?” We would stop weeding, look up, say, “Yes, that’s it,” and then return our attention to the weeds before us. Stephen finished pulling “his weed” in one area, so Shannon gave him another bed to work on.
Shannon and I hadn’t planned Stephen’s part in the weeding task but it worked out well. Stephen felt connected, helpful, and learned to identify one “weed. As we worked Stephen asked Shannon, “What makes a plant a weed?” She explained, “A weed is a plant growing somewhere we don’t really want it.”
Merriam-Webster dictionary says: weed (noun) – a plant that is not valued where it is growing and is usually of vigorous growth; especially one that tends to overgrow or choke out more desirable plants
The Oxford dictionary says: weed (noun) – a wild plant growing where it is not wanted and in competition with cultivated plants.
After we had weeded two flower beds, we walked over to the vegetable garden to see what was growing. There were beans, eggplant, cucumbers, lots of varieties of tomatoes, squash, soybeans, and yes, Stephen’s weed. He spotted them immediately and asked if he could pull them out. In the vegetable garden, this weed had the same identifying features, but it was much taller—over 5 feet tall. Stephen felt strong and accomplished as he recognized his weed and removed it from the vegetable garden.
Next time you head out to the garden to remove pesky weeds, invite a child to join you. Introduce them to one weed you would like removed from the garden. Talk with them about the features that distinguish that “weed” from the other plants—tall and thin, oval leaves, spiky seedpods, etc. and then get to work.