Weeds in the Garden are the gardener’s enemy – make no mistake about it. Weeds germinate and grow faster than most garden plants. If left unchecked, weeds quickly become the “bullies on the block”, robbing smaller garden plants of water and food and shielding them from available light. That means smaller flowers and smaller vegetable yields. Weeds are also popular spots for insect pests and plant diseases. As if all that weren’t bad enough, weeds make a garden look unruly and messy. The bottom line? Weeding is necessary. When weeds win, the garden fails.
That’s not to say every weed must be pulled. Ohio State University scientists say there’s a point at which weeds start competing with your vegetables and flowers for space, water and food. Below that point, you may be wasting your time by weeding.
How can you tell? Ask yourself four questions:
- Are my weeds bigger than my garden plants? If “yes”, you know what to do.
- What’s the weed to garden plant ratio in a square foot? If it’s high, get weeding.
- Are the weeds going to seed? If you don’t get rid of weeds before they go to seed, your weed problems will be worse next year.
- What’s the weather like? In a drought year, any bit of competition from weeds can hurt garden plants.
Whether you weed frequently or infrequently, there are some standard practices to follow. Here are some tips:
- Don’t wait for a weed nuisance to become a weed nightmare. The best time to remove weeds is just as they appear on the soil surface – before they make seeds. (Left to grow undisturbed, the average weed may produce 25,000 seeds in its lifetime!). To remove small annual and biennial weeds, take a hoe and sweep it just below the soil surface. This will cut them down in their tracks. This task will be easier if the soil is slightly moist.
- Keep the hoe shallow. If you dig too deeply, you’ll disrupt shallow growing good plant roots and dredge up buried weed seeds. A week later, those seeds will be weeds and you’ll be back where you started.
- Digging weeds out is not always the best option. Perennial weeds often have large, tangled root systems. If you try to pull them up, you’ll probably leave a piece of root behind (which will sprout again next year). You may also accidentally pull up garden plants. If you have a perennial weed problem you may need to consider using an herbicide.
Weeding your garden is a necessary task and the reward becomes evident when your good plants have the proper room, nutrients and light to thrive.