Gardening Blunder #6

February 20, 2006

The preceding gardening blunder examined the importance of planting at the proper time, today we’ll take a look at mistakes that gardeners make which can lead to problems with excessive weed growth.

Gardening Blunder: Missing the Causes of Weed Woes

Many gardeners view weeds from the perspective that the only way to deal with them is through the ordeal and effort of physically removing them from the garden. But in fact there are much easier ways to prevent weeds from spoiling your vegetable gardening experience.

One thing that surprises visitors about my garden is the lack of weeds and people assume that I put a lot of effort into eliminating them.

Weed Free Gardening Secrets

Actually I don’t spend much time pulling weeds and I think the secret relates to healthy soil, shallow cultivation, early identification, not leaving the soil exposed, and preventing weeds from setting seeds or multiplying within the garden.

I go into these techniques in more detail in my gardening ebook but today I’ll focus on a few of the common gardening mistakes that allow weeds to quickly take over the garden.

The biggest mistake is to allow weeds to become established in the first place. I know that’s not much help if you’re currently struggling with a weed problem. The point is that I see many gardeners who relax in their efforts as the season progresses, and by the end of the summer allow anything and everything to grow unimpeded in their gardens.

Keeping It Covered to Reduce Weed Growth

If you don’t employ succession planting to continue gardening, or don’t plant a fall garden, then at least sow a cover crop to deny weeds the opportunity to grow and multiply freely in the vegetable plot.

Bare soil and empty growing beds invite and encourage weed growth, so if you must leave your beds vacant, lightly cultivate the soil with a weed weasel or rake to disrupt the weed seeds that are in the process of germinating.

Weeds are much easier to control if you attack them while they are young or before they even have a chance to emerge from the earth. If you wait until they’re mature and spreading, the weeds can be impossible to control. In addition, you’ve allowed them to consume moisture, nutrients, and sunlight that should be reserved for your cultivated plants.

Getting to the Roots of Weed Problems

Another major mistake is to allow weeds to flower and ripen their seeds around the garden area. Doing so is like planting weeds in the garden yourself, so don’t be surprised by the results.

Simply uprooting the undesirable plants isn’t good enough. Certain plants will go into survival mode after being uprooted and will hang on just long enough to produce a crop of seeds right under your noses. So once you’ve pulled the weeds, get rid of them.

Importing Weed Headaches

Be careful about tossing weeds into the compost pile. Leaves are okay but avoid placing flowers or seed stalks from weeds in your compost piles. The same applies to the roots of persistent grasses that spread by sending out runners. Don’t take a chance on spreading them through your compost.

Also keep an eye on your finished compost piles to make sure weeds don’t turn them into breeding ground. It’s best to keep the piles cultivated or covered. I’m even cautious of using compost, leaf mold, mushroom soil, or other soil amendments from sources that may have been exposed to contamination from weed seeds.

Weed seeds are always present in the garden, but fortunately they require specific combinations of temperature, depth, moisture, and even light in order to germinate. If they’re stuck deep within the garden they’re not likely to germinate, but guess what happens when you till the garden?

That’s right, you bring weed seeds to the surface where they find the conditions needed in order to germinate. In the final installment of this series we’ll take a look at other reasons why you should limit the use of the tiller in your garden.

Other Related Vegetable Gardening Posts:

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