Monday, 17 June 2013

3 Natural Weed Control Methods For Your Gardens

Have you got a handle on weed control in all your gardens? There's an old gardener's saying, "One year's weed -- 7 years seeds." If you allow weeds to go to seed, those seeds can be viable for 7 years or more. Once the right conditions happen, they will germinate. Just bring them to the surface, give them a bit of light and water, and you will have a weed crop that robs nutrients and space from your chosen plants.

Garden weeds can be hard to control once they get out of hand because they grow very rapidly and produce huge quantities of seeds. Some spread very aggressively by runners or underground stolons. Even roots left in the soil can resprout! They steal the nutrients and water from your desirable plants, and can often crowd them out.

So how to you control garden weeds? There are several methods, but these three are the easiest and most effective, without the use of dangerous chemicals and herbicides. (Yes, there can be a need for those, but as a last resort in your vegetable and ornamental gardens.)

1. Cultivation. Several weeks before you plant your garden seeds or bedding plants, cultivate the soil. This will bring weed seeds to the surface where they will germinate and the weeds then can be removed. Weeds that are allowed to grow not only compete with your plants, but pulling larger weeds can also uproot nearby plants. Once the garden is growing, use a hoe to keep weeds under control between rows and plants. Remember not to dig deeply around your valuable vegetables, as you don't want to disturb their roots.

2. Mulching. There are two types of mulches - organic and inorganic - that can be used to control weeds. Organic mulches like bark chips, grass clippings, straw or shredded newspapers should only be used after the soil is warm, and your plants are growing well. Black plastic is the most commonly used inorganic mulch, since it keeps out light that weed seeds need to germinate. Apply this mulch around plants only if there is sufficient moisture in the soil, since it is impermeable to rain or water. It is a very effective weed suppressor, and has the added benefit of warming the soil. However, it is difficult to remove, and does not allow the soil to breathe.

3. Close spacing. By planting your vegetables in raised beds, closely together, rather in spaced rows, the soil will be shaded and weed seeds will be prevented from germinating. Another way is to plant a fall fast-growing cover crop. This will crowd out winter weeds such as chickweed, and will smother weeds that do germinate in the spring. In spring, till your cover crop right into your garden soil. The straw residue in the soil from some crops like rye or ryegrass inhibits weed seed germination.

Keeping your gardens free of weeds can be a battle, but if you have a plan and several methods of attack, then you can win the weed war.