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Wild and Weedy: Weeds in the Garden

Controlling Weeds in Your Garden

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Summertime at The New York Botanical Garden

Summertime at The New York Botanical Garden.

Courtesy of "Sonia's Garden" by Sonia Uyterhoeven and The New York Botanical Garden

Are weeds simply a plant in the wrong place? Well, not really. Some of them are real problems in our home gardens. Here are some tips for managing weeds in your garden:

  1. Keep your garden a reasonable size: Don’t be over ambitious. If you are having trouble keeping up with your garden, don’t design another perennial border. Be honest about how much time you intend to spend in your garden and how much work it will take.

  2. Keep a balance between low maintenance and high maintenance areas in your garden: Make sure you have some areas that require little work. Different areas of your garden may take up more time during different seasons. Try to stagger your work, so that you do not have to do everything at once.

  3. Weeding walkways: If rows in your vegetable garden are plagued by weeds, mulch with organic material (straw, bark mulch or wet newspaper). Crevices in stone walkways can be planted with low growing herbs, mosses and other step-able plants.

  4. Mark your rows: Until you are able to identify your most common weeds, sow your vegetables and annuals in rows. If you mark the rows, you will be able to discern the difference between your weeds and your seedlings. If you are planting annuals and do not want linear rows, plant them in a grid system—you will have your straight rows for weeding at the early stages and the plants will ultimately fill in to form a solid mass.

  5. Use transplants: Sowing seeds indoors and then planting them out when they are 4-10 weeks old is a great way of avoiding confusion between early season weeds and seedlings. Your plants will get a head start inside and be able to out-compete any thugs that pop up around it.

  6. Be liberal with your seeds and seedlings: It is more fun to thin out a row of vegetables than to pull out weeds. You can plant seeds or seedlings closely together and then thin them out to their proper spacing as they grow.

  7. Stagger your spring planting: Freshly cultivated soil is an invitation for weeds. If you plant your beds all at once, you will be weeding them at the same time. Stagger you planting over a few weeks.

  8. Low maintenance plants for the low maintenance gardener: If you don’t like weeding, choose plants that out-compete weeds. Try selecting plants with broad foliage, heavy branching, large, tall plants, or vigorous growers. If the plant is doing its job of filling up the space, there will not be enough room or light for the weeds to come in.

  9. Weed often: It’s important to weed often not only to keep weeds at bay, but also for your general health. If you try weeding your entire garden all at once, you will have sore muscles at the end of the day.

  10. Attack flowering weeds or weeds that are about to flower first: If you let your weeds go to seed, you will have an uphill battle. Prioritize by weeding flowering weeds first and then get to the rest. Remember that plants are most vulnerable just before they are about to flower—their energy stores have gone into flowering and are depleted. You’ll get them before they produce seeds, and they’ll be less likely to organize a come-back.

  11. Weed early in the season: In the beginning of the season, all plants are struggling to get established. Good weeding practices in the first six weeks of the spring and summer will give your plants a better chance of getting established. Tiny weeds are easier to pull than big weeds.

  12. Hoe when dry, hand when wet: If your soil is dry, it is an ideal time to run a hoe through your garden. Weeds exposed to hot sun without any water will shrivel up and die in no time. If you try using a hoe when your soil is wet, weeds will simply re-root. When your soil is wet, it is a great time to tackle deep-rooted weeds like dandelions—they will be much easier to pull.

How to Eradicate and Dispose of Weeds...

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