Get those weeds under control


All gardeners share some degree of frustration with weeds: those out-of-place, undesired plants that compete for nutrients, water and sunlight. Most experienced gardeners have developed a repertoire of strategies for weed control, but newer gardeners may welcome some ideas.

First, there is one ?don?t? to heed: don?t plan to use synthetic herbicides as your go-to solution for weed problems. There is almost always a safer alternative than putting toxins into the environment.

Now, here are some positive strategies:

Instead of broad feeding and watering, target desirable plants. Feed the plants, not the soil, in their general vicinity. Use drip irrigation or soaker hoses rather than sprinklers to get moisture as close as possible to desired plants.

Cover bare soil. One strategy is to use a thick mulch, which will smother the weeds. Another strategy is close planting. In a well-planned perennial garden, the foliage of desired plants will shade the soil so well that weeds struggle to develop.

Plan your cultivation strategies. Rototilling brings weed seeds to the upper one or two inches of soil, where most germination occurs and chops rhizomes and stolons into pieces that can generate new plants. You will need to pull the resulting weeds or use shallow cultivation such as hoeing to ?weed out? the bad actors.

Try out a range of tools as you tackle especially challenging weeds. Bindweed, for example, is notoriously fast-growing and hard to remove. You may find that a spading fork works best to remove that particular nasty weed.

Act sooner rather than later. Not only do weeds grow in size, but they set seed or expand their range through underground activity. Obviously it is not always possible to heed this admonition, but late still is better than never.

A common pop-up place for many little weeds is the seams of soil between pavers, bricks, or flagstones that are often used for walkways or patios. To get rid of them, try heating a kettle of plain tap water to a full boil and pouring it over the weeds.

Good luck to every gardener, new or old, as you nurture your desired plants and minimize those others.