As the soil begins to warm up, it wakes up both the seeds in the garden that are sown intentionally and also the ones sown for you by nature. Controlling weeds can be a big job for any gardener. Here are some ideas and tools that can make weeding a more pleasurable and rewarding experience.
1. Learn to identify the weeds around your garden and learn about their reproductive or propagation strategies. Some weeds need the entire root system to be removed (such as grass or morning glory) to be controlled effectively. Others can be controlled with regular cultivation and simple hand tools.
2. Keep the weeds surrounding your garden from going to flower or seed. This is the first line of defense in protecting your garden from the ‘green carpet of death’ every spring. Even if you do not have time to remove all of the weeds from the edges of your garden by hand, make time to remove the flowers and seed heads. This can be done by keeping the area around the garden mowed or weed whipped regularly. If the weeds around the garden have already put on seed heads, rake up and remove the debris after mowing or whipping and add them to your garbage can or yard waste can. Do not compost weeds in your household compost. Most people do not keep their compost piles hot enough to kill seed heads or grass rhizomes.
3. Find hand tools that you enjoy using and hand weed or cultivate your garden beds regularly. A favorite tool for working around sensitive plants is a light weight cultivating knife or hoop hoe. The knife slips under the surface of the soil and kills weeds at the roots. Hoop hoes (or hula hoes) are a tool that can be used while standing and are another way to kill weeds at the roots, below the soil surface. These tools are most effective for weeds under 3 inches in height. Keep your hand tools sharp by filling the edges regularly and avoiding rust build up.
4. If possible, cultivate in the morning and do not water the area that has been cultivated for at least 24 hrs. If you water the area that has just been cultivated, those weeds that are lying on the soil surface have a chance to re-grow. Allow the weeds to wilt and dry out in the sun for the day or rake up the cultivated weeds and remove them from the garden entirely.
5. If mulching, use weed-free straw rather than hay. Hay is full of seeds that will happily make themselves at home in your garden.