Cheatgrass: Garden Cheat



Gardening in the high, dry steppes of the Rocky Mountains, 7,000 feet above sea level, is challenging.  A short growing season, low rainfall and alkali soils test even the most devoted gardener.  Add non-natives, like Cheatgrass, and your work is cut out for you.

It is believed Cheatgrass, an invasive plant native to Asia, arrived in America in the 1800’s via contaminated grain seeds and soil used as ship ballast.  Cheatgrass seeds germinate in the fall. Seedlings grow through the winter developing elongated roots which create a stronghold and dominate pastures and rangelands.

Cheatgrass forage quality declines rapidly as it matures. It dies at the onset of summer and dries by mid-summer.  Highly flammable, Cheatgrass is easily ignitable and can act as a ladder igniting larger and more volatile vegetation.  Basically, Cheatgrass promises one thing but delivers another.


As I started my spring yard work - pulling Cheatgrass and other weeds - I was reminded of another cheater who wants to invade my garden.  This cheater is also a foreigner, a non-native, and not part of the family of God.  Pretending to be a provider of good yields, this swindler uses attractive flowers (false flattery), promises of blessings (“use this product and you’ll be rich/sexy/ irresistible/powerful!”) and hoodwinking deception (“this won’t cost you anything!”) to gain access.  Once in and established, this deceiver chokes spiritual growth replacing it with a non-nutritious harvest of earthly, flesh-borne fruits.

This trickster’s crop is also flammable and easily ignitable, burning up dreams, relationships, families and people. The flowers produce a tongue quick to speak words of discouragement, dissension, and death. It yields fruits of immaturity, self-righteousness, anger and blame. Proverbs 18:21 reminds me that I will eat the fruit of my tongue.

I notice little seed burs attach themselves to my socks and pants. Weed seeds can arrive by people too. It may be a person who hears, but ignores the words of God and wants me to disregard God’s truths. It may be a person who wants to share gossip.  It may be a frightened person who wants to infect me with their fears.  Like weed seed hangers-on, they try to infiltrate suspicions and doubts about God’s goodness in my garden.  I am reminded of southern kudzu which cover the landscape preventing good plants from receiving Son-light.


Out of sight and out of mind, I don’t usually pay much attention to underground roots. Plant roots are essential for a grass, shrub or tree to grow and bear fruits, berries, nuts and other foodstuffs. In Colossians, I am encouraged to sink my roots into God and grow up in Him.

The garden fraudster wants to create bitter roots in my garden, strongholds to undermine and hamper the growth of my stems, leaves and fruit.  The writer of Hebrew states in the twelfth chapter, that I must make sure no bitter root comes into my life to trouble and defile me.  One explanation of this “bitter root” term refers to a type of plant used for dyeing cloth.  A bitter root can stain every aspect of my life, coloring my relationships, tinting my belief in Jesus Christ, and defiling me through an unhappy, false perspective on God.


So what am I to do?  

  1. First, dedicate my garden to the Ultimate Gardener. Jesus tells me in John 15:1 that He is the true grapevine and God is the true gardener.

  2. Decide what fruit I want to grow.  Here’s the list of the Holy Spirit’s fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness. Now, that’s a worthwhile harvest.

  3. Educate myself on unwanted plants. The Bible tells me not to cultivate: being haughty, having a lying tongue, possessing a wicked heart, bearing a false witness, shedding innocent blood, being eager to gossip and stirring up strife against others.  I must decide I don’t want these in my garden and do my best to keep them out.

  4. Use my plant identification book, i.e. the Bible, to identify weeds growing in my garden.

  5. Take action against existing weeds, pull them out by the roots, pluck off and destroy seed heads, throw the weeds out and don’t add them to my compost pile. 

  6. Starve weed seeds, don’t water with attention, cover or protect with mulch or help these flourish in any way.

  7. Hoe my garden using prayer, Bible study and help from other Christians.  Some weeds will be too thick, too deep, too entrenched for me to eradicate by myself.  I can’t let my pride or shame at having weeds stop me from asking for help.

  8. Be on continual alert.  Just like Cheatgrass seedlings, bitter roots grow out of sight and are continually searching for opportunities to take over my garden.  The best gardening is done every day, looking for unwanted shoots and taking immediate action.

  9. Teach gardening to my children through my example. They see me in my garden.  I need to explain what I am doing and why it matters to God.

  10. Learn from more experienced gardeners.  A good tree bears good fruit. I will look at a person’s fruit carefully.  If I see they produce good fruit, I will ask for advice on planting good seeds.


We all have a garden.  It may be a container plant on a balcony or a multi-acre estate.  Over time, our gardens can change size from a bustling family to a smaller one of widow or divorce singlehood. No matter the number of plants or variety of vegetation, our garden is a gift from God.  I want my garden to be a place He enjoys visiting! 

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