An alphabet for beginners: W

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W is for Weeds. You need to know what they look like, especially in their seedling or underground forms. A friend, tackling her first garden in winter, unearthed a warren of bindweed roots. After digging over the ground she replanted them tenderly in finely sifted earth. Their gratitude was boundless.

On the other hand, if you think a plant is pretty, keep it, even if know-all friends tell you it is a weed. Corydalis, the wall weed with ferny leaves and yellow flowers, is a case in point. Daisies are enchanting. So is speedwell. Call it by its proper name, Veronica, if it makes you feel better about it.

The worst weeds are perennial ones: bindweed, marestail, ground elder. They are all supported by deeply entrenched subterranean networks. Digging and pulling weakens them - eventually. Glyphosate (as in Monsanto's Roundup) is surer.

Docks and dandelions are well anchored with long taproots, but once dug up they are done for. They will re-sprout if you merely snap them off. There is immense satisfaction in drawing a large dock from the ground with all its root intact.

The hoe is the best way of dealing with annual weeds in the vegetable garden. Sowing seed in rows makes this job easier. Among flowers, I prefer to weed by hand, as there may be interesting self- sown flower seedlings which you want to keep. Verbena bonariensis, for instance, can easily be lost to an over-enthusiastic hoe.

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