“One Year’s Seed Gives Seven Years Weed”
We’re getting into the heat of the summer and weeds seem to grow best in the heat. Many people perceive weeding as the chore of gardening–it’s dreaded work, never seems to go away, and can be exhaustive. By doing a little weeding at a time instead of taking on the whole caboodle, the task won’t seem quite as exhaustive and extensive.
Just like your flowers, weeds are plants–native plants–that adapt to the environment. They lie dormant until either the soil is cultivated or the sun warms up their roots. When you rototill your soil, weed seeds are brought to the surface to germinate. If not removed, weeds will constantly compete with your garden plants for water and nutrients and eventually choke out your delicate plants because of their aggressive nature.
Just like your garden plants, weeds have life cycles: There are annual (chickweed, henbit), biennial (thistles, hemlock), and perennial weeds (clover, dandelions, morning glory). Annual weeds germinate and grow in one season and die off leaving a supply of seeds to germinate. Biennials take two growing seasons to reach maturity, then die away. Perennials live for many seasons storing away their roots or stems.
The real trick to weeding? Pull-pull-pull. I know this doesn’t sound fun, but it’s a necessity. I find weeding the easiest to do after a heavy rain fall or watering. The weeds seem to come up by the roots more easily.
By getting to know what types of weeds are growing in your garden, it will help you know how to eliminate them, but I will focus on a few weeds that most people in my neck of the woods seem to battle.
Dandelions. Dandelions are a perennial weed with their roots and stems reaching far into the ground. Simply pulling off the top of the dandelion will not get rid of them. And if you let them go to seed, they will blow and germinate in other parts of your yard. So think twice before picking a dandelion and “blowing” the seeds into the air for fun; unless you want a dandelion fest. Dandelions need to be killed by the root. a hand fork, full-length fork, or Japanese weeding knife usually does the trick. You can also spray dandelions with a broad spectrum herbicide containing glyphosate (like Roun
Morning Glory (Bindweed). Morning glory is a perennial and is one tough buggar. It has an extensive root system. With most weeds, a little herbicide does the trick, but not with Morning Glory. It will need to be applied again and again. Cutting or rototilling Morning Glory also seems to make it multiply. I’m not sure if Morning Glory can be killed, but I think you can slow it down and manage it. One thought to keep in mind is Morning Glory hates crowds. Crowding it out by filling in bare areas with ground covers and mulch, will help control it, but not eliminate it. I usually don’t like to use herbicides, but this weed is one exception. I go out in the early spring and “paint” the very early shoots with RoundUp and it will carry it to the roots; but I also apply it again at the end of the season to do more damage. If any of you have had great success in eliminating your Morning Glory, I’d love to hear it!undsel. This is an early-season annual weed with maximum seed production. They prefer damp, moist soil and can infiltrate your flowering beds. In former days, Groundsel was a popular herbal remedy and used for chapped hands, gout, emetic, etc. It is best controlled by eliminating it before it seeds. Shallow tilling or hoeing of young plants effectively controls it. Mulches are also very effective in controlling it as seedlings cannot push through deep layers of mulch. Herbicides are also effective
Going Green. One old time remedy is using boiling water to kill the weeds. However, it may take 3 or more applications to get rid of the weeds. I use this method to kill the weeds that grow in the cracks of our driveway. I do this every day until they die. It is a cheap method, but safe for kids and animals.
Use a shalt shaker! Cover the crown of the weed only with ordinary table salt. Check and repeat after a few days. If you don’t want to plant anything in the garden area for a long time, you can use rock salt or a salt water solution (1 part salt to 2 parts water) and load the whole area with it. But again, keep in mind that you will not be able to plant anything in that area for a very long time!
Mixing vinegar and dish soap is another method (1 cup vinegar and 1/2 cup dish soap). Apply liberally, but locally, to the weeds. The vinegar helps adhere to the weed leaves.
Mulching. If you weed regularly and apply a thick layer of mulch, you should be able to defeat the weeds and have minimal weeding to do. Applying a thick layer of mulch of either grass, clippings, saw dust, etc., of approximately 2″ will help “smother” the weeds and keep the ground cool enough so that the light and heat does not activate their root systems. Mulching will also help prevent wind-blown seeds from reaching the soil and germinating.
Using landscape fabrics is also another alternative. There are many different types with different levels of porousness, but all work the same. Lay the fabric over the earth to protect your plants and soil from weed infiltration, then add a couple inches of mulch.
But alas, just like ironing, the pile doesn’t completely disappear–but the good news is, the “pile” won’t be as overwhelming. There will always be a few weeds that will return, so make sure you pluck the ones that get away before it becomes overwhelming.
- DGS Gardening
- The Dollar Stretcher