How to Grow: Spring Weeding

Listen to this podcast on how to identify and control spring weeds organically.

Work In The Garden, Garden, Digging, Plucking WeedsWith all the rain, it’s been a good year for weeds. Weeds are smart and can give you clues as to what’s happening in your soil. For example, plantain thrives on compacted soils, shepherd’s purse on acidic soils, horsetail in poorly drained soils and chickweed in high nitrogen soils. Sometimes simply correcting the soil condition will help get rid of the weeds. Check out the book, Weeds and What They Tell.

However, even with great soil conditions, you’ll still get weeds. So, first properly identify your weed. Perennial weeds, such as horsetail, gout weed, quack grass and creeping Charlie, take more effort to remove, but can be done if you’re diligent. Remember, there are no silver bullets. Avoid tilling that cuts up and spreads under ground roots of these perennials. Instead, mow weeds to the ground and cover the garden area with black plastic for one season. The next year, remove the plastic and gently pull any emerging, weakened weeds, getting as much of the root system as possible. Keep watching for weeds years after you’ve planted this garden. If you’re diligent, you can exhaust them. Also, place metal or plastic edging deep into the soil around the garden to prevent weeds from creeping back in.

For annuals weeds, such as chickweed, lamb’s quarters, and purslane, use a collinear or scuffle hoe to cut the weed seeds as they germinate. Start now and weed weekly even if you don’t see many weeds. This will kill the germinating seeds giving your garden plants a jump on shading them out. Avoid tilling or turning your soil which brings up more weed seeds. On stone patios and walkways, spray a organic herbicide containing 20% acetic acid on annual weeds. But don’t use this in the garden since it harms soil organisms.

Excerpted from the Vermont Garden Journal on Vermont Public Radio.

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