Along the edge of a creek, beside the road, near the railroad tracks, and in our gardens, weeds are appearing. In nature, they seem to belong, even beautify, but an unwanted plant growing in a garden is usually very undesirable.
Gardeners agree that weeding is the least favorite gardening task. The easiest way to deal with this problem is to prevent it.
Weeds grow from seeds, some of which can live in the soil for years. When you till your garden, the seeds come to the surface, where the summer sun will quickly make them sprout. Hoeing at a shallow angle so that the hoe only grazes the soil will help reduce the seeds' surfacing. Close placement of plants reduces room and sunlight for the weeds to germinate. This is the best reason for crowding plants.
Mulching shades the soil, reducing weed germination. The mulch must be at least 2 inches deep to be effective. In spring, on the open areas of flower and vegetable gardens, spreading a pre-emergent herbicide helps as long as you don't disturb the mulch barrier. Corn gluten, an organic pre-emergent control, releases needed nitrogen into the soil as it breaks down. Although it stops seed germination it won't stop the spread of perennial runners or roots.
Pulling the weeds before they produce seeds is imperative, and weeding when the soil is moist is easier. One weed might produce thousands of seeds if left to mature. The sooner you pull weeds, the better.
Once a perennial weed such as dandelion, burdock, thistle, or mullein becomes established, cutting off the top or pulling at it might not remove the extensive root system. You must completely dig it out. It will vigorously grow right back in a few weeks if even the tiniest piece is left in the ground. If the weed has developed seeds, trash it rather than putting it on the compost pile. The compost heat may not be enough to destroy the seeds.
To control weeds, you can resort to herbicides. Selective herbicides are chemicals that single out a group of plants without harming surrounding plants. Nonselective herbicides kill every plant they touch. If you choose the latter, follow the directions carefully.
Along with spoiling the general garden appearance, an aggressive weed can crowd out your favorite plants and rob them of moisture and nutrients. In the weeks ahead, make weeding a daily task.
If you stay ahead of the problem, weeding becomes nearly effortless.
Mona Macksey is a free-lance writer for The Blade.