(Originally published in the July, 2012 edition of the Bayview Bylines Newsletter, edited by Mandy Skala)

You’ve planted seeds and waited through sun and rain (lots of rain!) for their little heads to poke up out of your flower border or vegetable garden. Finally your patience is rewarded, but your delight quickly turns to dismay when you realize that your little green visitors aren’t lettuce or marigolds but, rather, weeds!

One definition of a weed is simply a plant that is growing where it isn’t wanted. For example, my vegetable garden is fairly heavily infested with both Johnny-Jump-Ups and borage, but I love both plants enough to just weed out the ones that are growing where I don’t want them and let the rest bloom and go to seed. Quack grass, however, is a ruthless pest that I won’t tolerate anywhere near my garden, and I will go to any lengths to destroy it (short of a tactical nuclear air strike). Other weeds like annual bluegrass or lambs quarters are a nuisance, but they pull
up easily, and, if I get most of them before they bloom and go to seed, they aren’t too invasive.

Most of us don’t want to spend every weekend weeding in the garden. After all, it’s summer and we’ve got places to go and fun to have! On the other hand, a garden that is overtaken by weeds is an eyesore and not the joy we had hoped for when we turned over the soil and put seeds in the ground. So, what’s a gardener to do? Here are a few tips that may help you with what may seem like a never ending task:

o Pull up weeds before they go to seed and self-spread around the garden.

o Try to get the whole weed including the root.

o Weed after you’ve watered the garden or after it rains. Plants pull out of
damp soil a lot easier than if the ground is dry and hard.

o For tap rooted weeds like dandelions pull straight up with a little pressure on
either side of the stem using a tool with small V-shaped end. This little tool
is a gem! If you have a lot of dandelions look for a long handled version of
this tool that will help save your back.

Dandelion Weeder

o For weeds with shallow invasive root systems, try scraping below the
surface of the soil to drag out as much of the root system as possible.
I love my scuffle hoe for this purpose and recommend one to everyone!

Stirrup Hoe

Stirrup Hoe

o For weeds growing between cracks in pavement, decks, or under your grill,
try pouring boiling water over them to kill them. You may have to do this
several times, but I have found that, with persistence, this works.

o Use a scuffle hoe or 3-pronged cultivator at least once a week between rows
in the vegetable bed to remove young weeds as they spring up.

o Mulch between and around plants to help prevent weed seeds from
germinating. It’s also a good idea to mulch heavily under garden
furniture such as picnic tables in order to avoid weeds that might
entice bees. What to mulch with is a matter of what’s available
as well as what’s affordable. This year I am using a mulch of
chopped straw that local feed stores are selling as animal bedding.
A plastic wrapped bale (which doesn’t shed straw all over the back
of the car!) cost me $6.00 for a 3 cubic foot package that expands
to 10 cubic feet.

o RELAX! A few weeds aren’t a disaster. As your flowers and vegetables grow,
they’ll often shade out or at least cover up weeds so they won’t be so
obvious, and what you don’t see won’t bother you nearly as much.

I’d love to go on for another couple of pages, but, as it’s finally stopped raining, I hear my garden calling me. Chances are there are a few weeds that need pulling!