Get Ahead

Weeds, cardboard and mulch – The perfect weed abatement

Spring is officially here. It came in with a bit of rain, a glimpse of sunshine and what seemed to be a whole lot of wind. In other words, the perfect combination for weed seeds blowing about, enough moisture to start germination, and the warmth of the sun to encourage unwanted weed growth.

Now is time to get ahead of the weeding issues that takes the joy out of gardening- at least for this gardener! Don’t get me wrong, an occasional random weed coming up in the midst of the garden gives me great satisfaction as it is plucked from the soil. However, last year’s late rains coupled with warm sunny days required a machete and a brave soul facing a gardeners nightmare. After all, holding a flat of flowers waiting to have their roots sink into the ground beats the need of holding onto a vibrating weedeater!.

Weeding can be nipped in the bud (no pun intended) by employing a few early strategies. First, take a walk around the garden. See if any signs of unwanted green grasses or sprouts have worked their way to the surface of the soil. Plan for eradication after identifying the target areas and type of weeds growing. If there are a lot of weeds in a given area that are just emerging, consider sheet mulching with layers of cardboard and cover the cardboard with wood chips. The lack of light and air will smother the new growth. If you want to plant in that area, cut holes into the cardboard and plant as desired.

If you find a few blades of green making their way up into the cracks and crevices of the walk ways, it might be wise to spray them with a solution of 1 gallon white vinegar, 2 tablespoons liquid detergent and 2 cups Epsom salts. This solution abates annual weed as it kills the top growth that feeds the root system below. Be careful not to spray the foliage of desired plants with this solution as it will burn the leaves.

Perennial weeds such as dandelions and white clover, are a different animal than annual weeds and more difficult to eliminate. Their roots live from year to year and, as the case with dandelions, their seed heads will blow for some distance taking root in another section of the garden if they are allowed to go to seed. Early removal for these weeds is critical. Gently pull each weed up when the soil is still wet and the plant is young. Dry soil requires more work. Begin by prying out the roots with a V shaped tool. If seed heads begin to form, remove all foliage to soil level to prevent the spread of further weed growth.

There are two other chores that help prevent weed growth: First: direct the irrigation to the roots of plants and avoid spraying open ground that would encourage weed germination and growth. Second: use three inches of organic mulch to suppress weed growth. The mulch will prevent any sunlight from getting to the weed seeds and will stifle germination.

If this is the first year of working in an ill-maintained garden, be persistent with the job of clearing weeds. Work in a small section of the garden. Once the area is clear, relish in a job well done. Treat yourself to a cold beverage before tackling the next section! Keep in mind, this years’ work will make garden weeding easier in future years.

Have a great weekend.

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