Garden weed control
Garden weed control will help to increase vegetable production with less labor and save money too. Focusing on weed prevention and eradication from the start will reduce the amount of time spent on weeds in the garden.
Significant weed encroachment not only robs water and nutrients from desirable plants, but can also harbor pests, increase the spread of disease, and interfere with harvest. On the other hand, weeds removed from the garden can be a valuable addition to the compost pile, so they do have some value.
Ideally the first concern should be prevention and there a couple of great, chemical-free methods to employ for this purpose.
Soil solarization is a way to address a heavily weed infested area or to prepare a new garden plot. In summer, till the area, rake out existing weeds (use them for compost), wet the area and cover with clear plastic, burying the edges, for six to eight weeks. This process should be followed up with immediate planting of either a vegetable or cover crop.
Mulching is another effective way to prevent weeds in vegetable gardens. There is a wide variety of mulch options, depending on application and availability. Cardboard and newspaper (shredded or layered) are good to use on pathways and can be covered with old leaves or grass clippings for a more natural look. Paper products will break down and can be tilled in later. Low growing cover crops like dwarf clover can be sown under established crops to form a “living mulch” that can add habitat for pollinators and build soil fertility. Heavy feeding crops will benefit from regular additions of compost which, combined with cultivation, will smother weeds as well.
Because weed prevention is never 100%, physical removal will always be necessary to some extent. Pull out strays whenever you see them. Find a style of garden hoe that you are comfortable with and use it often. There are lots to choose from and they all work a bit differently. My favorite is the Warren hoe because it is a multitasker. For a pure weeder, check out one of the scuffle hoes. I try to cycle through the whole garden on a weekly basis on weed patrol.
The down side of an effective weed control program is that you may find yourself gaining weight, increasing iced-tea or lemonade consumption, and daydreaming. Debbie and I have even found ourselves fighting over who gets to “weed” the garden (aka: get a break from the kids). I guess we’ll have to learn to cope.