The bane of every gardener's existence
Weeding can seem like a never-ending chore. By definition, weeds are aggressive, undesirable plants. They grow vigorously, spread rapidly and take constant effort to control. Neglect them for just a short time, and they will take over your garden, spoiling all your plans and hard work.
Weeds are a nuisance primarily because they are coarse and unattractive. Even those that aren't unbearably ugly will still mar the design of your garden bed. Worse than their appearance, though, is the harm they can cause to garden plants.
Because weeds germinate quickly and grow easily, they can choke out more delicate desirable plants. Once established, weeds hog moisture and nutrients in the soil, growing still larger while your flowers starve. Large-growing broad-leafed weeds can also block the sun from reaching your plants. To add insult to injury, even after they're dead, weedy plants often harbor pests and diseases, which can then infest your garden.
Some weeds can produce up to 250,000 seeds from a single plant, and those seeds can lie dormant for decades before germinating. Any time the soil is disturbed, more weed seeds come to the surface, ready to sprout. In other words, you will never completely eliminate weeds from your garden.
The most common methods of controlling weeds include pulling, tilling and mulching. For a low-maintenance approach, nothing beats mulch. A thick layer of wood chips will prevent weeds from growing between your plants, keeping your garden tidy without the back-breaking work.
In addition to good old-fashioned garden tools and sweat, you may choose to use chemical herbicides. These should be used sparingly - only on localized patches of especially noxious weeds - so as not to damage your ornamental plants or your lawn. Be aware that most herbicides take several weeks to take effect, so you will need to tolerate the weeds for a while longer. Some chemicals are selective, targeting only certain types of plants. Read the label carefully or consult a garden expert to be sure that the one you choose will kill your weeds and leave your garden unharmed. Others kill all plants indiscriminately and are used on patios and driveway cracks, where you want absolutely nothing to survive.
- Think ahead: thinklandscape designwhen planning your garden, design beds with easy weeding in mind. Raised beds allow you to work without crouching or hunching over. Put in garden beds that are narrow enough that you can reach the middle from both sides so that no weed is out of reach.
- Weed after a rainfall. It is much easier to pull weed roots out of soft, moist soil. This is also a great time to work on your garden edging, as the soil will be easy to manipulate.
- Weed in spring, as soon as weed shoots are identifiable. Give your garden plants a chance to see the light.
- It is critical to remove weeds before they set seed. Once they reach maturity, you're already doomed for the next year.
- After you pull or dig weeds, fill in bare spots right away to prevent new weeds from taking hold. In the lawn, put down grass seed. In a flower bed, put in a spreading groundcover or mulch.
- In lawns, weeds can be a sign of poor soil, over fertilizing or mowing grass too short.