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James E Garratt - WEEDS - Humber Portage

Each spring and through the summer they return again: the weeds. These uninvited plants pop-up as if by magic on our carefully manicured lawns, parks and golf courses. They seem somewhat akin to the coyote clan, mocking urban society with their persistence and, well, their patience.

Despite more than forty years of documented dangers associated with the frivolous use of herbicides (I would label any aesthetic reason for herbicide application as frivolous) and a supposedly more environmentally-aware populace, our annual war with weeds continues unabated. The smell of freshly applied 2,4D is a characteristic component of the suburban air. We're told, of course, that these chemicals are harmless... but why all the little signs warning against touching the treated lawn for forty-eight hours after an application?

Our war with weeds is, I believe, a collective psychosis, driven by a virtual candy-shop of technological props: leaf-blowers, weedeaters, lawnmowers, chemicals... and pandering to technological society's general insecurity and control imperative. This psychosis is institutionalized to the extent that a couple of years ago a resident of the Toronto Beaches district was arrested for refusing to cut the weeds which grew on her postage-stamp front lawn. I still receive an official notice every year commanding me to destroy the "noxious weeds" on my property (maybe Agent Orange would work).

Some advances (regressions?) have been made in recent years. Efforts are underway to "renaturalize" the acres of green desert which presently form the bulk of our urban parklands. But even as these reforms are contemplated, the green-grass/turf-management contingent beats the weedy invaders back to the fringes of our open spaces.

Here is a suggestion. Remove a six-foot square patch of sod from your backyard and cultivate the soil. Then do nothing. A variety of weeds will grow there. Leave them standing through the winter, and you'll be entertained by all the birds which visit throughout the cold months. Your weedy patch will become a natural birdfeeder.

I am presently beginning to compile an illustrated chart which identifies weeds and lists their uses and life histories. I expect this will be an almost endless task.

Relinquish some control. Let the weeds grow!

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