Have you got a handle on weed control in all your gardens?
There’s an old gardener’s saying, “One year’s weed, 7 years seeds.” If you allow weeds to go to seed, those seeds can be viable for 7 years or more!
Weeding can be a backbreaking chore for any gardener. When chickweed seems to double in size overnight, or the dandelions spread throughout the garden plot, quick and persistent action is necessary.
Some weeds, like lambs quarters and pigweed, contain hormones that can inhibit the growth of other plants. All weeds compete for the vital soil nutrients, sun and moisture. A weed crowded garden can interfere with air circulation and cause fungal growth to spread.
But even as we clear the weeds, we know that the next week, a new batch of weed seeds can germinate.
This calls for an over all strategy since most weeds will not only have a multitude of seeds, but many of those seeds can germinate even years after they were spread around. To keep the growth of weeds at bay, certain steps must be taken. There are several methods of weed control, but these three are the easiest and most effective without the use of dangerous chemicals and herbicides.
Control the Weeds Before Planting
The best time to remove weeds is when you can barely see them.
Two or three weeks before you plant, lightly till the soil. This will bring weed seeds to the surface where they will germinate. Rake out any weeds that sprout. Do this again just before you plant. Cultivate the soil again a week or two after you plant, so any newly emerging weed sprouts are uprooted. Just be careful not to disturb your new sprouts or the seed bed.
Once your garden is growing, remove any weeds while they are still small, before they have the chance to go to seed. Quick action prevents them from competing with your plantings for nutrients and moisture.
As well, get rid of plants like thistles, dandelions, and oxeye daisies on your property that may have seeds that will blow into your garden. Here’s a recipe for a natural weed killer:
1 gallon of white vinegar
1 cup salt
1 tablespoon liquid dish soap
Combine ingredients in a spray bottle and treat weeds at the sunniest time of day for best results. You will need to reapply it, as it does not kill the roots. Spray just the targeted weeds and avoid getting it on nearby plants, as it can kill any foliage it comes in contact with.
Mulch for Superior Weed Control
Mulching around your plants is a great way to suppress weeds. As well, it has the added benefit of retaining soil moisture.
Use organic mulches like bark chips, grass clippings, straw or shredded newspapers only after the soil is warm and your plants are growing well. Leave at least one inch between mulch and any tree trunks or plants so root systems have necessary space to circulate air and water.
Never use new hay for mulch, since it contains a lot of seeds. Hay that has composted for a season will be okay. Instead, buy a straw bale and use the straw for mulching around garden plants. This is a great way to keep weeds down. It slowly composts into the soil, adding texture and organic matter.
Black plastic and and landscape fabric are the most commonly used inorganic mulches. They keep out light that weed seeds need to germinate. Apply black plastic sheeting around plants only if there is sufficient moisture in the soil, as it is impermeable to rain or water. It is a very effective weed suppressor, and keeps the earth warm. However, it is difficult to remove, and does not allow the soil to breathe.
Other mulch choices for weed control include rocks, rubber chips and landscape fabric. None of these add nutrients to the soil. Use them in ornamental borders, where they add attractiveness as they help keep down weeds, retain moisture, and keep the soil warm.
Are Your Soil Amendments Weed-free?
Screen any purchased or new soil that you are adding to your garden to get rid of roots of invasive plants. I learned this the hard way, with a crop of quack grass taking over a flower bed. Some weeds spread very aggressively by runners or underground stolons. Even roots left in the soil can resprout! They steal the nutrients and water from your desirable plants, and will often crowd them out.
Do the same with your compost before adding it to your garden beds. If you’re able to get manure to add to your garden, ensure it is thoroughly composted for a year. It often contains seeds, and uncomposted manure can burn your plants and may contain pathogens.
Garden weeds can be hard to control once they get out of hand because they grow very rapidly and produce huge quantities of seeds. Although you may never have a completely weed free space, you can decrease the number you will have to pull.
By controlling these pesky plants, you will have a better chance at a plentiful harvest.