Dirt on Gardening

If you garden, you grow weeds. In just a small amount of soil, dozens to thousands of viable weed seeds may exist.

Just like “good” plant seeds, weed seeds can remain viable for many years. Some weeds maintain an excellent germination rate. In fact, some common weed seeds maintain viability for 40 to 50 years.

Weeds seek the same things that their “wanted” flower and vegetable counterparts seek — water, light and nutrients. So, if weeds are growing in the same spot as some type of flower or vegetable that you want to grow, the weeds can diminish the production of your flower or vegetable, perhaps even overtaking it.

Like plants, there are two types of weeds — annual and perennial weeds. When combating weeds, it’s important to note that over time proper weed control will lead to a decreased number of weeds.

Annual weeds are dropped to the ground by the plant or they are brought to the surface by soil disturbance — usually caused by tilling or plowing. It’s easiest to handle annual weeds when they are in their seedling stage with a single hair root that can be easily pulled by hand or removed with the hoe.

Perennial weeds are a little harder to deal with because the entire plant has to be removed to effectively eradicate the weed. If only the part of the plant that is above ground is removed, it may stimulate the root to increase in size and to possibly send up additional stems. The entire root system must be removed. If it cannot be removed, consistently stay after the plant removing any new growth to reduce the plant’s energy stores.

Mulch is a very effective way to combat weeds. In an area where few or only very small weeds exist, hay or straw can be placed around plants. It will break down over time, adding nutrients back to the soil.

Black plastic or landscape mulch can also be very effective for eradicating weeds. The plastic or fabric needs to be placed on an area where weeds are not already present, pulled tight across the ground, allowing only small holes for plants to grow through and reach maturity.

Finally, in between planting periods, consider growing a cover crop over the planting area. The cover crop will fill in areas where weeds would usually grow. When it’s time to plant again, the cover crop can be tilled under, adding nutrients back to the soil.

Questions or comments related to gardening? Contact Joleen at missourigardener@hotmail.com

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