Sometimes gardening can feel like one long war against the weeds.
And even though it can sap your morale, you can’t stop fighting.
If you let the weeds outflank you, they’ll steal nutrients from your soil, crowd out your plants.
Different weeds have different survival strategies.
• Summer annuals germinate in the spring and bloom in the summer. Examples include crabgrass and puncture vine.
• Winter annuals germinate in the late summer or fall and hunker down over the winter so they can come to life first thing in the spring.
• Perennials can be simple or creeping. Examples of simple perennials include dandelion and foxtail barley. Examples of creeping perennials include quack grass and Canada thistle.
• Biennials grow a rosette of leaves the first year and don’t bloom until their second year.
And you can exploit each of these survival strategies.
The first thing to do is identify what type of weed you’re dealing with.
Then you’ll know what strategies work best to fight it.
Understanding each weed’s growth cycle tells you when herbicides will be most effective, and when you can expect them to set seed.
Even the best practices won’t stop every single weed from finding its way into your garden, but by employing some or all of the following methods, you can stand your ground against their ceaseless incursion.
Some gardeners weed only once a week, and surprising though it may be, even that frequency gives the roots of weeds sufficient time to grow deep and strong. A superior strategy is to weed a little every day. That way, you ensure the problem never gets out of hand. Bring along a kneeler and a shovel, a weed knife, or even an old fork to help you get to the roots. Don’t neglect walking rows (footpaths between plantings); if weeds get a stronghold there, they can easily spread.
Another way of uprooting weeds is to hoe regularly. Gardeners favor this approach, as it allows them to avoid the backbreaking work of pulling each weed manually. Mulch benefits plants by keeping the soil cool and moist and depriving weeds of light. Organic mulches, in particular, can actually host crickets and carabid beetles, which seek out and devour thousands of weed seeds.
Some light passes through chunky mulches, and often you will discover—too late—that the mulch you used was laced with weed seeds. It’s important to replenish the mulch as needed to keep it about 2 inches deep (more than 3 inches deep can deprive the soil of oxygen). In any case, you can set weeds way back by covering the soil’s surface with a light-blocking sheet of cardboard, newspaper, or biodegradable fabric and then spreading prettier mulch over it.
Water the plants you want, not the weeds you’ve got.
Drip irrigation is the way to go for a quick way to water your plants and not your weeds. Watering by hand works, too, but it’s often tedious.
Put drought on your side by depriving weeds of water. Placing drip or soaker hoses beneath mulch efficiently irrigates plants while leaving nearby weeds thirsty. In most climates, depriving weeds of water reduces weed-seed germination by 50 to 70 percent. Watch out, though, for the appearance of deeply rooted perennial weeds, such as bindweed and nutsedge, in areas that are kept moist. They can take off in a flash when given the benefits of drip irrigation.
Well! It works! Trust us.