One of the most important things we can do as a gardener is to keep weeds out of our vegetable and flower beds. Too many weeds can crowd plants and force them to compete for water and nutrients. This competition means your plants have less energy to grow or bloom. Weeds can also provide hiding places for insects and cut down on air circulation, which is essential to minimize the risk of fungal diseases.
Remember, a weed is something growing where you don’t want it. A rose in your driveway is a weed. In my backyard, wild violets, dandelions, buttercups, and clover are NOT weeds. In my vegetable garden, however, they are.
Checklist for Keeping Weeds in Check
- Make sure your gardens are weed-free before planting. Spread a tarp over the area for a couple of weeks before planting. This will cut off sunlight to the weeds beneath and hasten them on their way to weed heaven.
- Mulch your garden after planting. There are a few things to think about though. Leaves are great but keep the soil cool so don’t apply until June, when the soil is warm. Newspapers work great as mulch, but you might want to top with an inch or two of regular mulch because it looks better. And, if you use grass clippings, remember how you treat your lawn. Do you use a lot of chemicals? Do you want those same chemicals in your garden?
- Pour boiling water over tough weeds. This works great but don’t apply too close to ornamentals. It will get them, too!
- You can Flame Weed them. My neighbor has a Flame Weeder. It’s really cool (or really HOT!) and very effective. You can only use it, carefully, in well-watered gardens, however, and you have to have a hose nearby.
- Or you can eat them! So many of what people consider weeds are edible, including dandelions, wood sorrel, wild violets, and many others. There are many books out there to help you identify edible wild plants. I have a friend who has an entire bed of nothing but dandelions—of course, she and her husband make dandelion wine.
- An ancient Chinese proverb says “The best fertilizer is the shadow of the gardener.” How true. Hand pulling, at least on occasion, gets you up close and personal with your garden. What better way to get close than to turn over a leaf to check for insect eggs or to catch that first glimpse of a baby squash ready to grow or appreciate the delicate beauty of that little green bean flower? Hint: Water your garden first, the weeds are way easier to pull.
Stop by the Great Big Greenhouse and talk with us about the best way to control weeds in your gardens. With so many ways to control weeds, let us help you choose the best method for your garden.