Learn to love your weeds, then yank them out

If you ask most gardeners which plants grow the fastest and spread the most in their gardens, the vast majority would reply “Weeds!”

This is the month (June) when the weeds can easily overtake the little transplanted seedlings or the just-emerging vegetables that were seeded a few weeks ago. If allowed to get away with it, these “garden thugs” can seem overwhelming to the gardener, but just relax, take a deep breath and realize that with a determined attitude you can win the battle.

Don’t try to see it as a onetime job – “to weed the garden”. The best method is to see it as a regular ritual and in manageable doses. Set up a realistic schedule of one hour a session, or one bucket of weeds per day or one row per evening and the job will not seem so daunting. I find when I set out to do one row, I usually end up doing two or three and then feel like I have accomplished more than expected and leave the garden with a real sense of accomplishment.

One of my pet gripes is when friends “help” by pulling off the top of the weeds and leave the roots intact. The weeds come back with a vengeance in a few days as if to say, “Thanks for the bit of pruning, now I will grow much faster!” I really think the only way to weed is to be certain to get all the roots the first time.

My favourite method is to get down at ground level on my hands and knees and use a small three-pronged hand cultivator to gently loosen the soil around the plants without turning the weeds under. Then I grab a handful of weeds with the complete root-ball still attached and shake all that good compost and soil off the weeds and throw the weeds into the pail I push along beside me. As far as I can see, it is a complete waste of valuable time to put the weeds in little piles and then have to go back again and gather up the piles.

Being on your hands and knees also gives you a better chance to see what is going on with the plants, the soil moisture and to see if any little pests are hanging around your plants.

If I see I am too far behind and that the weeds in a section of the garden are starting to produce flowers, I don’t hesitate to take my shuffle-hoe (Dutch hoe) or even my little tiller and run through the paths to make quick work of them before they go to seed. Remember the old gardeners saying of “one year’s seeding means seven years weeding!”

Once the first good weeding has been completed, many plants will thrive and your job will be made much easier if you add a thick layer of mulch around the plants leaving a small area around the stem of each plant without mulch.

If you are having trouble with weeds in the cracks of your concrete walks or paving stones, you can use a linoleum knife to dig out the weeds or as one friend advised, pour boiling water over the weeds every few weeks. If the pavers are not near your flowers or vegetable garden, you can even use salt at the rate of 1kg to 8 litres of hot water and water it into the cracks. Don’t use this near your vegetables or flowers, as it will kill them too!

There is no magic bullet to get rid of weeds (even chemical herbicides only get rid of them for a short time). The best bet is to make it a regular part of your garden chores and look upon it as your private time for “meditation” away from the noise and bustle of our busy world. If the weeds are not going to seed, remember to compost them!

By: Pete Amyoony