Gardening with Laurie: Much anticipated rains bring unwanted weeds
We gardeners are very happy to have rain. Rain brings new life to our gardens. Rain also brings unwanted weeds. It is unbelievable how quickly weeds can pop up after a good rain.
What exactly is a weed? Weeds are usually described as any plant that's growing in the wrong place. This means weeds can be many different sizes and types of plants.
Weeds can be annuals, biennials or perennials. Annual weed plants live for only one year. Biennial weed plants complete their life cycle in two years. Perennial weeds can live for three or more years.
Weeds are also described as broad-leaf, grasslike, sedges or lilies. These terms are often used when choosing synthetic herbicides. An herbicide is any product that kills weeds.
Weeds are unwanted in our gardens because they compete with our desirable plants for water, sunlight and nutrients and can end up stunting the growth of other plants. Most plants, whether desirable or considered a weed, have shallow feeder root systems.
Usually located in the top couple of feet of our soils, these roots are the primary source for water and all nutrients that make for healthy plants. Of course, gardeners want all the nutrients and water to go to our desired plantings and not to be shared with weeds.
There are various methods to eliminate weeds. The most practical method is to physically pull each one out by hand. This is really the best way to clear weeds out of beds that have plantings in close proximity to each other. It is time-consuming and backbreaking.
When using a tiller, hoe or other hand tool to clear out weeds, do not dig deeper than a couple of inches into the soil. This shallow digging should not disturb the important roots of desirable plants.
Mulching all planting areas benefits in several ways. Several inches of an organic mulch will help to delay growth of weeds, keep the soil cooler, hold in moisture and slowly add organic matter back to the soil.
Plastic sheeting can help to prevent weeds but can hinder water and air flow into the soil. Weed fabrics help delay weeds and are porous enough to allow for better air and water movement into the soil.
Both plastic and fabric barriers need to be covered with some form of a mulch especially during summer months. If exposed to the summer sun, both fabric and plastic coverings will heat the soil, which could be detrimental to sensitive root systems and dry out the soil.
Natural gardeners, that choose not to use dangerous synthetic chemicals, use strong vinegars to get rid of weeds and corn gluten meal to stop weed seeds from germinating. Both these natural herbicides are safe for humans and our pets. Plus, they are good for our soils.
Until next time, let's try to garden with nature, not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.
Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.