Weeds are an inevitable part of every garden. Although
many weeds are not serious pests, three basic types can cause problems:
1. Annuals, such as pigweed and lambsquarters,
with millions of tiny seeds,
2. Those with spreading underground roots, such as bindweed
or wild morning glory,
3. Those with wind borne seeds such as thistle and milkweed.
Although some weeds stay short and do not shade out your garden
vegetables, all weeds compete for water and soil nutrients, and should
be controlled. After planting your seeds and seedlings, be prepared
to cultivate or till the soil to kill emerging weeds. Cultivate
at lest twice when the seedlings are tiny to allow your vegetables to
gain size and vigor. After cultivating, mulch can be applied to
slow weed growth. Although mulch rarely stops every weed, it does
hinder their growth substantially, keeps the soil moist, an provides
a great environment for earthworms near the surface of the soil.
Many types of materials can be used as mulch. Wheat straw
and hardwood leaves are very good. Hay should be used with caution
to avoid introducing more weed seeds. Sawdust can be contaminated
with glue depending on its source, and it can rob the soil of nitrogen
during its breakdown. Sawdust also has a low pH., and may adversely
affect the growth of your vegetables. Plastic newspapers and cardboard
present clean up problems and may leach chemicals into the soil. Good
quality wheat straw is usually the best choice because it has no negative
side effects on the plants or on the soil, is weed free, and is readily
available from farmers or garden supply stores. Unfortunately,
it can be costly.
Those weeds that do survive despite your best efforts will need
to be pulled out before they set seed. having a thick layer of
mulch will make pulling much easier. Weed scan be thrown into the
compost heap. They will break down much more quickly if you shred
them. Weeds also serve as feed for chickens and pigs. By
feeding weeds to animals or recycling them into compost, a waste becomes
a free, healthy feed for animals and plants.
Finally, many garden weeds are also edible wild plants.
Check with your library or bookstore for a field guide to edible wild
plants if you are interested in pursuing information about these garden