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Weeds!?! That's Right, Weeds!!

"What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have never been discovered." - -  Ralph Waldo Emerson

We talk about everything else in the gardening world, so we are devoting a page to the topic of Garden Weeds. Why? Because the subject of is an important one. Granted, this article is of more value to the new gardener. But, even an experienced gardener picks up a new trick or two on occasion.

Let's begin with a definition........

Definition of a Weed: A weed is any plant that is not in a place where you want it to be. Even edible, medicinal, herbal plants, and even flowers, are considered weeds to those who don't want them where they pop up.

Of all the gardening tasks, weeding is the task we like the least. It is also the most labor intensive and at times, a seemingly never ending task. But when we are done, our garden looks much better and will thank you for it with higher production, healthier plants, and a victory garden you can be proud to show off to friends and family, or just enjoy a quite moment by yourself.

How to Weed

When to Weed

The Value of Mulch

Weed killers and Herbicides

Tip: Make weeding simple, use a weed barrier. Make gardening easier still... lay down a drip irrigation hose underneath a weed barrier.

Did You Know? Even weeds get their day! See Weed Appreciation Day.

Edible Weeds:

There are a number plants that most home gardeners consider as "weeds" in the garden, that are actually edible. Most notably:

Dandelions - It's definitely weed in the lawn, and to many, it is a weed in the home garden. To others, they consider it a salad green. Others, still, make Dandelion wine.

Purslane - This very common weed, has edible leaves, stems and seeds. It is highly nutritious, and tastes like spinach or watercress. In addition, it has many medicinal qualities.  

Noxious and Invasive Weeds

Giant Hogweed - Toxic, invasive plant

Ground Ivy - It's among the toughest weeds to eradicate from your lawn and garden. This perennial vining plant, is among the toughest weeds and is resistant to most lawn weed killers.

How to Weed:

There are a lot of ways to weed your garden. The best way remains getting down on your hands and knees, and pulling them by hand, or with the assistance of a small hand tool. Getting close to your plants allows you to pull and remove weeds with minimal disruption to your plants. While you are there, it provides a closer look at your plants. If your plant has pest or disease problems, this closer view allows early detection, and attention to the problems.

One final advantage is the joy and pleasure of getting soil under your fingernails. This is a feeling only a gardener (or a kid) can fully appreciate or explain.

Pull even the tiniest weeds. It's better to get 'em while they are small. Those tiny little ones, are the monsters of the patch a week or two from now. The weeds that are in between your plants and close to them, are robbing your plant of moisture and nutrients. More often than not, the weed wins the battle. While some weeds can be eliminated by snipping them at the base, most will require pulling out all of the root system. When working close to the plant, be careful not to disturb the plants root system. Some weeds can be pulled out easily, while others break off when you give them a tug. This is a defensive device of the plant, allowing it to survive and grow new stems and leaves. Make sure to get it all.

Use gardening tools to eliminate weeds along the rows and away from the plants. Be cautious to avoid getting too close to the roots of your plants. Tools that scrap the soil just below the surface are good for the middle of the rows.

Tip: Dry, sunbaked soil is often hard, making a difficult job even more difficult. Water your garden a few hours before you weed. The soil will be looser, making the job easier.

When to Weed:

Experienced gardeners know the answer to this is every day, and all the time. There is always a new weed popping up, and ruining the perfect look of your victory garden. If you are not a perfectionist, that's okay. Most of us have more than a few weeds, as we don't have enough time for this dreaded task.

Weeding should be done early and often. Don't let the task get ahead of you. Those little weeds that "can wait until next week", are monsters next week.

Weeding is better done early in the day. It is cooler for you ,and a little easier on your plants, as the roots are often disturbed. Any weeds left on top of the soil will more easily dry out and die in the hotter midday sun.

Don't Toss 'em..... Compost  'em - Most weeds make great compost. That way , you are returning natural nutrients to your soil. Throw them into your composter or compost heap. Avoid weeds with lots of seeds on them, and any diseased weeds.

The Value of Mulch:

Mulch is priceless, when it comes to keeping weeds down and saving you time. Weeds that succeed in poking through a thick layer of mulch is a barrier to the emergence of weeds. The ones that do get through, are easier to pull out. Mulch also provides a "well kept" look.

Whether you use organic mulch or plastic, it is a very effective barrier. Organic mulch needs to be put down thickly to keep the weeds down. It needs to be re-applied regularly.

Plastic mulch keeps all weeds out, and for a long time. But it is not environmentally friendly, and returns no nutrients into your soil.

Did you know? You can use paper as a mulch? Spread it around in a few layers. You also can use leaf recycling bags. If you pick up leaf bags in the fall from other yards, keep the bags in your shed until spring. Add a light layer of mulch on top of the bags to cover them. If you don't have mulch, use soil or other materials to keep the paper from blowing around.

Read more on mulches.

Weed killers and Herbicides:

Weed killers and herbicides are in common use on lawns, in flower gardens and in vegetable gardens. For some applications they are the fastest and most efficient, if not least expensive method of eliminating weeds.

Weed killers and herbicides are not without their disadvantages. They are harmful chemicals. While they may be approved by the U.S. government for use, these chemical are not without some risk. They can be harmful to your plants, the environment, and you. This is especially true, if used incorrectly.

We neither recommend use nor abstinence from weed killers and herbicides. We encourage common sense and caution. If you are inclined to use them, make sure to follow the precautions on the label and apply it correctly.

Most home gardeners do not use weed killers and herbicide on their vegetable gardens. Following the principle "you are what you eat", why risk harm when a little extra effort you get the same effect. Overwhelmingly, home gardeners state one reason they grow fruits and vegetables is to control the quality of the food they eat.

Related Information:

National Dandelion Day

Weed Appreciation Day



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