Weeds. These tiny (and big) living things can cause any gardener grief. What is to be done? Can anything good come of weeds, and how do we get rid of them?
You may be surprised that weeds can be beneficial. Weeds can tell you much about your garden. The predominant type of weed in your garden tells you about your soil and your overall garden health. Check out this website to learn more about specific weed types (with pictures) and what they can tell you about your soil. Some weeds, like the dandelion or purslane, are even edible!
Even though weeds can teach us about our soil, that’s not to say we should let them stick around. Keeping the garden weed free is essential to your garden’s health. You may have heard the old gardening phrase: One year’s seeding means 7 years weeding. In other words, never let a weed go to seed. Here are a few tips to help you keep your weeds under control.
Preparing your garden before you plant is the first step to controlling weeds. Consider applying a pre-emergent to your soil to prevent weeds from even taking root. Another option to deter weeds from even starting is to till in a cover crop before you plant. Starve weeds of needed sunlight and water by mixing your weeds back into the soil if they haven’t yet reached the seed stage (otherwise you’ll simply be planting your weed seeds–we don’t want that!).
Simply pulling weeds out (make sure to get the roots) is also important and effective, especially before they go to seed. Because weeds seem to green up after winter before anything else, it’s easier to see and take care of them very early in the season. After removing existing weeds, put 2-3 inches of mulch around your plants (laying down several layers of newspaper first, under your mulch, makes it even more effective) to choke out any weeds that may try to grow underneath.
Taking advantage of this time early in the season to get your garden weed free will save you later on and will give your seedlings and plants their best possible chance for success.
During the Season
When your garden seeds are in their young and tender state, your seedlings especially need weedfree and loamy soil to grow strong roots, undisturbed. Weeds can crowd out seedlings from important nutrients. During the growing season, regularly check your garden for weeds. If you see them emerge, pull them up or dig them out, being careful not to disrupt the roots of your garden plants. Careful watering at the roots of your plants using a drip system can prevent weeds from getting the water they need to grow, thus inhibiting their growth. Or using a dark plastic weed barrier between rows can also be effective.
After your harvest, prepare your garden for winter. This includes getting rid of any weeds. You don’t want them to continue to grow and spread during the winter. Planting cover crops provides many benefits to your garden, including deterring weeds.
In sum, weeding is a part of gardening, but if you stay on top of it, weeds will become less and less of a distraction from the joy of gardening.