Weeding—Just the mention of the chore makes even the most avid gardener cringe. It’s the most back-breaking, time-consuming, dissatisfying work a gardener will ever do. That is unless you become proactive.
Much like the voice in Field of Dreams says “If you build it, he will come.” When you create a garden, weeds will appear. I can guarantee it! But don’t let that fact deter you from creating your own garden getaway.
In my Ohio gardens, approximately 1500 square feet all totaled not including the raised beds where I planted vegetables; I quickly learned how to keep the weeds from taking over. And usually without the use of chemicals.
The key to keeping the weed population at bay is: Get them, before they get your garden.
Early each spring, just as my perennials were just starting to poke their heads through the soil, usually in early April for my zone (5), I planned for a thorough once over of my garden. I raked out the debris from last year, reviewed the notes in my gardening journal of the items I intended to divide, and I weeded. And weeded.
Actually any time in spring (even now), before the heat of summer dries the soil, is the best time to weed. The ground is wet and soft and weeds easily slip out of the soil, roots and all—which is extremely important. You have to remember . . . weeds are perennials too. They will come back, and often with a vengeance, so getting the whole plant, down to the roots is crucial.
After I weeded, divided and moved the plants around to where I wanted them, I mulched. I put down four to six inches of organic mulch. There are other types, which I’ll cover in another post, but I liked that when it decomposed, it added nutrients to the soil. By laying down a thick layer, I blocked out the potential for other seeds to germinate.
For the rest of the summer, I sat back and enjoyed my garden. No more heavy weeding days, no more long, hot afternoons spent on pulling out the undesirables. Did I get weeds? Yes, I did—although I could be quoted as saying, “No self-respecting weed would ever grow in my garden.” ;-) But yes, weeds did grow. And yes, I had to weed. But the number was so greatly reduced by heading them off in the spring I could, for the most part, walk my gardens in the evening and pull what few weeds existed.
The chemicals I mentioned? If one of my gardens was in a seed-prone area, like under a Maple tree loaded with whirly-gig seeds, I would sometimes sprinkle a pre-emergent over the garden to reduce the number of maple seedlings.
Like I said, the key is: Get them, before they get your garden.