Anyone who’s started a new garden knows that weeds can be tough to conquer in the first two years. Come July, when the weather is hot, the humidity is high, and your patience is low- the weeds are taking over and you’ll wonder whether you’ll be sweating (and maybe swearing) away your Saturday afternoons pulling weeds. Here are a few tips to hopefully get you started in the right direction and make weeding less of a chore.
Weed while the soil is wet
The best time to pull weeds- if we are talking about a few weeds, maybe half an hour of work- is when your garden is damp. My favorite time is morning, after our sprinklers have gone off. I like to put on my rain boots, grab my garden gloves and a small bag, and tromp around one of the gardens. I stop when I’m tired, or when I have to be somewhere- but every little bit helps when it comes to weeding. Weeding when your ground is hot and hard is a lot more difficult, and weeding little by little, starting in spring when weeds aren’t a big problem- can actually help keep your weeds from becoming a big problem midsummer.
After your plants are up, or transplanted, but down a good layer of mulch, about 2 to 4 inches. Choose your mulch based on what factors are important to you. We were lucky and had a county parks and recreation service that gave away mulch for free. Some people choose mulch based on appearance and their landscape, others based on what is readily available in their area. You can also opt for a weed barrier under their mulch, such as a landscape barrier. Just keep in mind you should be mulching a weed-free area. Simply covering your weeds with mulch only makes them disappear until they grow through your mulch. There are also products you can put down under the mulch that prevents seeds- especially weed seeds- from germinating.
Weeds out of control? Don’t worry, that happens. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve blinked and suddenly it’s mid-July and I can barely see my tomatoes through the forest of
weeds. In those cases, you may want to turn to some sort of application to treat the weeds. One option Gurney’s offers is Weed Aside Weed Killer. This product is good for two reasons: 1, it is made up of naturally occurring fatty acids and 1, it will only kill what it comes in contact with so if it accidentally gets on the leaf of a prized pumpkin, it won’t kill the entire plant. Gurney’s also offers IronX selective weed killer for large areas, like lawns. Safe for pets and people once the spray dries, this helps combat dandelions and other common lawn pests. Herbicidal soaps and other lawn and garden treatments are again up to you, the gardener, and what you prefer to use in and around your home.
Water your plants, not your weeds
If you do suffer a mid-summer dry spell, consider adding drip irrigation. If you don’t water your weeds, and only water your plants, the weeds won’t grow. I wish I had tried this instead of heavily watering my plants- and weeds- with our sprinkler system. But it’s a very easy solution, and one that can save you time and money.
Off with their heads!
If you have too many weeds and not enough time, at least get out and cut the flower heads off before they go to seed and spread more weeds. Ideally the weeds won’t get to flower but the reality is, I certainly never have enough time come mid-summer to really keep up with the weeds and a few do flower. Cutting off the flowers quickly will prevent seed dispersal, germination, and adding to the weed population in your garden.
Watch for hitchhikers and space invaders
When you bring in new plants, check the soil for weeds that might be growing, even small ones, in the pot and don’t transplant the weeds. It seems simple enough, but I know how rushed I can be when transplanting, and I don’t always check. Also when planting, pay attention to spacing. Having mature plants growing close together means that there isn’t as much room for weeds to germinate and grow. Watch planting guidelines and plan to leave as little space as possible between mature plants, therefore giving the weeds less room to grow.
Have more weeding tips? Please share in the comments- goodness knows we all can use as many tips as possible in the constant battle against garden weeds! Or, have you simply given up and gone native? My grandma was one to always remind me that weeds are really flowers too!