Garden weed control is THE most challenging part of gardening. After all, how good will your lovely flower garden look if their are more weeds than flowers? What if the weeds are taller than the flowers?
Just a few questions to put you in the right frame of mind about garden weed control. Controlling weeds in the garden is no easy feat, as any good gardener can tell you.
No matter what you do or what you use, it is a never ending battle. Time and time again you will watch weeds pop up out of nowhere, in places they’ve never been before.
Of course the best way to control weeds is to prevent them—don’t let them even start to grow—but that doesn’t always work! So what do you do? How do you deal with weeds in your garden?
First of all what is a weed? It is any unwanted or unattractive plant in your garden. Different weeds for different people.
There are some weeds that people like in their garden. For example, the butterfly weed is sometimes grown in gardens because of its bright orange flowers, and it’s ability to attracts butterflies.
Another weed-like invasive plant that can be found in gardens is spiderwort. It is often considered a weed because it is invasive, even though it has a lovely little purple flower. It spreads like wildfire!
So though there is a fine line between what is a weed and what isn’t, I want to focus on what we think of as weeds and what we want to do about it.
Most people know pesticides can be used to kill weeds, but we also know there are drawbacks to using pesticides. If you have small children or very inquisitive animals, it is not always a good idea to use pesticides potent enough to truly eradicate weeds.
Other types of weed killer may kill the flowers you are trying to show off. So, though I might use some weed killer, I prefer pulling and preventing.
Better Homes and Gardens identifies thirty-four common weeds on their website. I think I have thirty-three of them growing in my gardens!
I have no doubt many of you are familiar with dandelions (though some do use it to make dandelion tea), crab grass, clover, creeping charlie, plantain, nettle…just to name a few.
I also have an article on distinguishing weeds in your backyard.
Additionally, the most recommended weed control on the Better Homes and Gardens website is mulch. I concur completely. If you really want to know how to control weeds in your garden, yes that is it! There is nothing like mulch in your garden.
Mulch serves a multitude of purposes: it prevents weeds, it keeps plants moist longer, and it looks really nice when distributed in flower beds.
You can get wood mulch in different colors (red and black are the main ones) or you can get different types of organic mulch. If you don’t want to use ‘natural’ mulch and you have extra money to spend, you can get rubber mulch, but I’ve never dealt with it. I’ve seen in at shows but never in anyone’s yard.
When you first start your garden, whether its a new garden you’re planting for the first time, or your old garden beginning to bloom in the springtime, the best way to begin is by getting all of the weeds out of your garden.
Pulling works sometimes but most times leaves the root of the weed behind, giving it a head start on regrowing exactly where you don’t want it. When you first begin some weeds may be so tiny that you can easily miss them.
The best thing to do is sit yourself down with some gloves, a good sturdy garden trowel, some weed preventative granules like Preen or Miracle Gro, get comfortable and plan on spending some time working on your weeds. Begin in a small section and pull out what weeds you can see.
After you’ve finished pulling the weeds in a small section, take your trowel and turn the ground over being careful not to disturb the roots of your flowers or other plants. When you turn the ground over you, will see small white roots or sometimes red somewhat woody looking roots that don’t belong to your plants, and you can easily pull them out of the ground—well most of them you can.
Other weed roots you really need to dig out as they grow deep into the soil. Turn the ground once more to be sure you’ve gotten all the roots that don’t belong, then move on to the next section.
Continue until you have completed your garden bed or if you have a large bed or more than one bed, when you are finished for the day, sprinkle the weed preventative on the ground and water lightly. Personally, I use a lid to keep with me as I weed and put my weeds in it as I pull them out.
If you have your own compost pile, it is NOT a good idea to put your weeds on your compost pile. The weeds will take root and grow in your compost—certainly not good for your compost! Throw them out….take them to your nearest landfill or whatever other method you can use to dispose of “green waste.”
Your next step is to cover the weed-free area with mulch. Spread the mulch at least two inches thick. The thicker the better.
As years go by and you turn your soil each spring, the mulch will build up in the soil and enrich the soil. Before you know it, you’ll have really good soil and you’ll see your flowers getting bigger and better…of course this won’t completely deter your weeds.
They will still show up, but just as your soil is enriched year after year, your weeds will pull out easier and easier. I am fortunate to have a local company that makes it’s own black organic mulch.
It does contain some wood chips but it also contains lots of organic matter. I only started using it last year but the size of my flowers have increased. In addition, the black looked neat and natural around my plants. I have decided weeds really like the way I care for my garden and choose to live there.