Keeping weeds at bay organically for a healthier garden

It is true that weeds and unwanted plants are present in almost every garden, but there are some ways to control weeds without them getting out of hand and taking over the garden. With some patience diligence and some early attack methods you’ll soon be keeping weeds at bay and enjoying the later part of the season a little more ‘weed free’.
I have listed some tips for easier and effective organic weed control. Remember, your best tools against weeds are early attack and diligence.
• ‘Weed and thin’ with a garden rake when your vegetable plants are 1 to 2 centimetres high (around 10 days). By stirring the soil in the bed early you disrupt the growth of the weeds around your desired plants. Do this every week or so while the crops or plants are growing. Make sure you do this in areas that weren’t planted as well. Don’t do this around peas, beans or onion sets, though.
• Pull grass and dandelions as soon as they emerge, making sure you pull as much of the root as you can. Quack grass has buds on their roots that allows a new shoot of grass to grow where it was broken off. Pulling out as much of the root as possible reduces the chance of resprouting and weakens the food reserve of the root system. This is extremely important – do not break it off at the soil surface or you’ll have an invasion that will be almost impossible to get rid of. Do not underestimate the strength of quack grass and its root system as I have seen it even penetrate the thickest of landscaping fabrics. With persistence and diligence of constant removal you will eventually weaken and eliminate the quack grass root system. Dandelions will regrow from their original root in the same way so you must remove the deep root. A good form of control is to never let dandelions go to seed in your garden or lawn.
• The best time to pull mature weeds from the ground is after a rain when the soil is still slightly damp. When pulling weeds by hand grasp the weed at the soil level and pull. You may have to loosen around the roots a bit with a hand trowel first. Using this method ensures that you get as much of the plant and root system as possible. Also remember, it much easier to pull weeds when they are young and have a shallow root system as opposed to when they are more mature and have a very deep and established root system.
• In your vegetable garden plant crops like beans and peas very densely. This chokes out the weeds underneath and then makes a great place for planting crops like carrots, lettuce and onions that are less resistant to weeds, next season. Plant other crops like beets, green onions and carrots as densely as possible and thin as you use them to help keep weeds from invading. You can plant annuals very close together in the flowerbed and achieve the same thing.
• Avoid using horse, cow or sheep manures unless you are sure they are completely rotted. Adding these when not fully composted to your garden is like sprinkling a can a wildflower seed over your garden. Manure that is packaged in bags that indicates it has been heat treated or irradiated is a better choice.
• Never put weeds that have seeds present on the plant in your composter. You cannot guarantee that the composting process will kill these seeds and when you spread your compost next year these seeds will germinate.
• Never let weeds go to seed in or near your garden. Keep the rest of the yard as free from possible weeds as well. Many weed seeds are dispersed by the wind and the average weed species each produces hundreds of seeds in each plant. Every time you let a plant like this go to seed in your garden it is adding hundreds more seeds to the soil. Isn’t it much easier to get rid of one plant than 100? Again it is very important to clean out the garden and remove weeds at the end of the season when they are producing their most seeds. Throw all plants good or bad that have gone to seed, at the end of the season in the garbage not the composter.
Although many gardeners do not like weeding, I actually find it therapeutic but of course you don’t want it to become a full time job. Follow these tips and weeding will be a much smaller and more enjoyable garden chore in the future.

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