The Art of Weeding: Part 1
By Marion Owen, Fearless Weeder
for PlanTea, Inc. and
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This is a common complaint of many gardeners, but it doesn't have to
be that way. I mean, have you ever heard someone say, "Oh, the living
room finally got so dusty that we just stopped using it"? Well, we don't
stop enjoying the living room because of dust. We simply vacuum or sweep
occasionally to keep the room clean. The same holds true for your garden:
Regularly cleaning is one of the keys to a successful garden, and weeding
plays a big role.
Weeds: Good news, bad news
Weeds rob valuable nutrients from the soil and compete with your hard-earned herbs, flowers, shrubs and vegetables. And because they can shelter harmful insects and diseases, it's important to eliminate weeds. Yet, not all weeds are bad, as you'll see.
Finally, it's not just about winning the Weed War. Weeding might be considered a nasty chore, but it's a great way to really get to know what's going on in your garden. Plus, when it's done in the right frame of mind, weeding can be a pleasant, Zen-like, experience.
Here are some helpful tips to make life with weeds a little easier. In this article, we'll discuss how weeds impact your garden and how to stop their advance. In Part Two, we'll cover actual weeding techniques and strategies, tools, and the good side of weeds. For now, let's begin with:
The life of a weed
Just like flowers, weeds may be annuals, biennials or perennials. Annual weeds are the easiest to control. They complete their life cycles in a year or less. Summer annuals, such as crabgrass and lamb's quarters, sprout in the spring and go to seed in the fall. Winter annuals like chickweed sprout in the fall, over-winter and go to seed by spring or summer.
Biennial weeds such as Queen-Anne's-lace, form roots and a rosette of leaves the first year and set seed the second. Perennial weeds live for more than 2 years. These are harder to control since they reproduce 4 ways: By seed, roots, stems and by stolons. Gardeners dread perennial weeds such as quackgrass and dandelions because they can spring back to life from an overlooked piece of stem or root. (For more about dandelions, see my article, Seven Ways to Get Rid of Dandelions--Without Chemicals).
A weedy population explosion
Did you know a single weed can produce as many as 250,000 seeds? It's a good news/bad news thing. Some seeds are viable for only a year while other can lie dormant for decades, just waiting for their chance to sprout. Buried more than several inches deep, the lack of light keeps them from germinating. But if you dig too deeply, as we'll discuss later, they'll germinate right along with your flower, herb and vegetable seeds.
Even if you're religious about hoeing and hand-pulling, more seeds arrive by air, by water runoff, and in bird droppings. You might accidentally introduce weeds by the Trojan Horse method: Tracking them in on your shoes, clothing, equipment or in the soil surrounding a plant purchased from a garden nursery.
Even lawn seed can be contaminated with weed seed. Buy only seed that is certified weed-free.
An ounce of prevention
Keeping weeds from getting started is easier than getting rid of them. Here's how:
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