You may have problems with pests through the gardening season, but weeds are always there. It is usually the weeds that dishearten the new gardener and make a long time gardener cuss. Since we are getting into the growing season I thought it would be a good time to talk about weeds and how to get rid of those pesky devils.
I am going to list these 6 easy steps pretty much in order of effectiveness. Some need to be started earlier in the season than others, but most can be used at anytime you are growing a garden.
1. Grow a cover crop to smother the weeds.
This is a practice you can begin the fall before you garden, or you can do it in the summer when you have a row or corner of the garden that you are not using.
A cover crop can actually be most any type of plant that will suppress weed growth. I will typically use rye in the fall, because it will grow all winter and can be turned under in the spring, and will help add nutrients to the garden.
During the growing season I will plant buckwheat. It grows fast and sends down a deep root pulling up minerals from deeper in the soil. Just till it in, or turn it under, before it goes to seed.
2. Send the weeds to the sauna.
Wet the soil first and then put down a piece of black plastic over the area you want to rid of weeds. This works best with the soil moist and the temperature hot. The moisture and the heat will “cook” the weeds.
3. Till to kill the weeds.
I know you are already tilling the soil so you can plant, whether by hand or with a machine. But, we are going to do this a little different this time. Till like you normally would, but this time wait to plant for a few days.
Let the weeds start to poke their heads up out of the ground and do a shallow tilling to just nip the new sprouts off just below the surface. This will stop weed growth and give your new plants a head start.
4. Our old friend mulch.
Mulch is great for many reasons. This time we are using our old friend, mulch, to suppress weed growth in our garden rows. I like to get my plants up and growing and cultivate a couple of times before I put down the mulch.
Sometimes it is hard to much around a tiny plant and they can get damaged. Plus, I will often add a little compost just before I mulch to give the growing plant plenty of nutrients for the growing season. If a weed sticks it head through the mulch it is easy to pull it up, because it is moist under the mulch.
5. Cultivate during a hot, dry spell.
This does not mean you have to be out in the hot sun to till the soil. I recommend that you do the tilling in the early morning or late evening when the weather is hot, and protect your body with a wide brim hat and long sleeves when out in the sun. We want you around to enjoy your garden for many seasons.
It is best to till weeds when they are small and do not have a lot of root to support them. When they get bigger it is hard to get that root out of the ground.
The reason for tilling when it is hot and dry is the plant will not have the reserves to keep growing if its roots are still in contact with the soil. I have seen weeds continue to grow, during a wet spell, even after being up rooted by the hoe, just by laying on the soil surface. A weed is a determined plant.
6. Pull ‘um when it is wet.
If you have a few bigger weeds, that you will have to pull by hand, either wait until after a rain, or wet the garden and then pull the weeds. This loosens the weeds grip on the soil and can, more easily, be pulled.
During the warmth of the summer I will sometimes go out in a gentle rain and pull weeds. It is refreshing and fulfilling. Not to mention quiet, because not one else will be out there to bother you.
Hope these 6 tips help you deal with that ever present weed problem.
Steve Wisley has been gardening organically for over a quarter of a century. Gardening is a great way to, not only grow great tasting, healthy, chemical free food that is good for your family, but gardening is reconnecting with your soul. It is getting your hands in the stuff that life is based upon, and it can heal some of hurt you feel inside.
Steve started this blog to guide others in starting and improving their organic garden to produce healthy, nutritious, great tasting food for their family. Pick up your copy of the booklet “6 Easy Common Sense Tips To Ban Bugs From Your Garden Without Chemicals”.