Be Diligent with your Weeding Strategies
Here on the wet west coast, weeds don’t take much of a break for winter. We gardeners need some time saving weeding strategies to hold the weeds at bay. One of the best weed-control strategies is as simple as good timing. Get at them while they’re still small, and the job will be much easier. As well, your seedlings won’t be facing unnecessary competitions from those wild and wooly weeds.
A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows.Doug Larson
Gardeners know that ‘weed-free’ is a relative term. It may apply to much of the garden plot if you’re extra diligent, but rarely to the whole thing. Here are a few measures you can put into place that will decrease the number of weed seeds that will wander or blow into your garden beds.
- Adding barn manure from a farmer? Compost it to kill the inevitable weed seeds before adding it to the garden.
- Never use fresh hay or grass clippings for mulch. They’re likely full of weed seeds. Let it rot (or compost) for at least one season.
- Get busy and pull weeds before they go to seed. If you do that, you can even safely add them into the compost bin.
- Cut down, or better still, pull out any thistles in the area. Those devils will produce hundreds of seeds that blow into your garden.
- Adding new soil to your garden beds? Screen it to ensure it is free of quack grass roots and other invasive plants.
- Hoe those weeds while they’re still young.
- Build and use raised beds for vegetable gardens. Because they’re above ground level, they are easier to keep weed-free.
As well as these tips, here’s a handy spring schedule to follow, freeing up your gardening time later on:
- Gently till and rake over the soil 10 days before you start any planting. The inevitably present weed seeds will sprout, and you can easily rake or hoe them out before you plant.
- Lightly cultivate the soil between rows or plants 10 days after you plant, before any weeds look like they’re staking a claim to the space. They’re easy to uproot at this stage, without disturbing the roots of germinating plants.
- Repeat this cultivation in another 10 days.
You’ll find that this third round of cultivation may be the last you’ll need to do. It’s important to remove weeds while they’re small. If you wait until they’re large enough to yank up by hand, you’ll disturb the roots of your garden plants. As well, your plants won’t be competing for nutrients, water and sunlight. As your plants grow, consider using a mulch around the plants to deter weeds. Clean straw is one of the best for vegetable gardens, as it can be dug into the soil, adding necessary carbon and nutrients in following years.
Develop your own weeding strategies, since all gardens are different. Weed seeds are always present in amazing numbers in the soil. A single lambs-quarters plant can produce 70,000 seeds! Others can sprout years after they’ve been shed by the mother plant.
Chickweed will form a solid mat almost overnight, spreading by sending down rootlets and crowding out garden seedlings. Control it long before it flowers – each plant, if allowed to spread and flower, can spit out about 800 seeds.
So plot your weeding strategies, and you’ll be on the way to Weed-Free!