Now that the dry season is here and the weeds and lawn are dormant, there isn’t a lot of work to do out there. Winter gardening is so easy, in fact, that I often sit back, relax, and take it all for granted – when I could be taking steps to make 2017’s gardening a lot easier. But instead I get bored and allow my mind to wander while the warm-season weeds plot to take over the garden. Gardening would be so much easier if the worst of my weeds were gone, but then what would be the point of gardening without a worthy adversary to fend off?
Torpedo grass and its kin are like the annoying bad guys in those Saturday morning cartoons that I used to watch as a kid. It was all so predictable: The villains would handily get defeated each episode, and then vow to return while hastily making their escape, right before the good guys make a terrible joke and laugh until the credits appear. Following that analogy, I am the virtuous GI Joe or Captain Planet who intentionally lets the bad guys get away instead of simply blasting their getaway vehicle to smithereens.

The radishes are blissfully unaware of the evil weeds beneath their taproots.

The weeds will swallow up these pea shoots if I turn my back for a moment.

You’d think that eliminating a common weed would be easier than defeating a supervillain, but that’s where you’d be sorely mistaken. You see, to destroy this unholy alliance of invasive exotic weeds, it’s going to take an impressive arsenal and a certain set of gardening skills. First, I have to dig deep and remove any thick, woody rhizomes from under the patio and sidewalk. Then I’ll send those stubborn roots to the landfill in a big, black trash bag. When all of the weed roots appear to be gone, I’ll smother the ground with cardboard. After that I’ll cover the cardboard with expensive, store-bought, composted manure. Why would I spend money when I could be using homemade compost, you ask? Because either I’m really bad at composting, or the weed roots and seeds are somehow able to survive as much as two years in the compost pile. It’s both of those things, actually.

These lettuce seedlings are safe from the evil Torpedo Grass… for now!

Growing herbs in a raised bed helps keeps the weeds away.

Once I’ve smothered any possible surviving weed pieces and topped it all with fresh (and overpriced) soil, I can finally plant some flowers or veggies and surround the seedlings with mulch to prevent any new villains from arriving to the scene. And like a true Saturday Morning hero, I’ll loudly proclaim that the day is saved! But here’s what will really happen: Unbeknownst to me, the evil torpedo grass had a son that sprouted in the neighbor’s lawn (Origin story: Episode 17!) and had seen the whole thing. While I relax and enjoy my weedless garden, this winter, Son of Torpedo Grass will be lurking underfoot, spreading his rhizomes and roots of evil throughout my vegetable garden, thirsting for water… and vengeance! It’s a good thing, too, because I’m starting to get bored with small-fry crooks like plantain weed and dandelions. Where’s the challenge? I used to wonder why the heroes of Saturday morning cartoons always let the bad guys off the hook so easily, but now I understand their reason. While the shows were arguably awful, the promise of an antagonist each Saturday morning was the motivation we needed to tune in. Weeds are the villains that I love to hate; as long as they continue to return every week, I have a reason to go outside and garden. Yay for weeds!

Bromeliads are another good reason to go outside and garden.

Dwarf mondograss and mulch are two superpowers I use against weeds.