No matter what you plant, all gardeners have one thing in common – trying to control the weeds in your garden! Instead of pulling your hair out, take a few minutes and design a plan to get rid of and control the weeds.
Technically, a weed is any plant growing where it is not wanted. This could include what we normally think of as weeds, or it could include self sowing perennials or annuals. Weeds can either grow from seeds or runners. Runners are roots or stems that originate from the parent plant and sprout new growth further along the runner. The biggest problem with runners is that even when you remove the parent plant, the runners will continue to sprout (and create their own runners!). Like any plant, weeds need the basic nutrients to grow: sunlight, water and nutrients. To control your weeds, you can remove any of these three things.
When starting a garden bed from scratch, controlling weeds will be easier in the future if you get rid of them now, before planting. First, remove all unwanted plants from your area. Then, dig up the soil and underlying roots. At this time, work the soil using a rototiller. Leave the garden bed alone for several days, you will notice new seedlings sprouting. Turn the soil again, exposing their roots to the sun. You may repeat this process if desired, to make sure as many weed seeds as possible are removed. Or, you could spray a non selective herbicide over the area, which will kill all vegetation.
In established beds, removing existing weeds takes more effort. You want to remove the weeds, but not harm the plants you want. You can either remove the weeds by hand, making sure you get all of the roots, or use a chemical herbicide. When removing weeds by hand, first water the soil if it is dry. Then wait about twenty minutes before pulling the weeds. The damp soil will allow the root system to come out of the ground more easily, with less chance of leaving some behind.
When using an herbicide, make sure that you are using one the is correct for your situation. There are pre-emergent and post-emergent herbicides. The pre-emergent keep weed seeds from germinating. The post-emergent kill growing weeds. For best results, contact a garden center to see which product is right for you. If using a non-selective herbicide, the easiest way to apply it is directly onto the plant with a foam paintbrush. That way you won’t accidentally spray plants you want to keep.
For new beds and established beds, a great way to control weeds is with mulch. Mulch will act as a barrier to light and suppress weed growth. Another benefit of organic mulch is that it can add nutrients to the soil for your desired plants. A good tip when mulching is to lay strips of newspaper down over exposed soil before mulching. While adding some nutrients, it will also help suppress weed growth even more than mulch alone. Stay away from plastic weed barriers. Not only will they trap heat under them, which can essentially ‘bake’ any beneficial microorganisms, but any organic mulch placed on top will decompose to top soil and weeds will sprout in it.
Once you have a good weed control program in place, only little maintenance will be required. There will be much less weeding and more time for you to enjoy your gardens!
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