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Over the Garden Fence

Where gardeners come to find out what's happening out in the yard.

Garden Weed Control

Posted by Richard Hentschel -

Down the Garden Path

Richard Hentschel, Extension Educator

Garden weeds can be a challenge whether they are in the vegetable garden or flower beds. In the vegetable garden we think about hoeing or using your favorite garden cultivating tool to rid the soil of those newly emerging weeds. Those weeds come out so easily if we can get to them as just a seedling and no older. If the vegetable bed is free of weeds, mulch can be put down and be most helpful. Weed control is the objective, yet the mulch provides for soil temperature moderation, keep the upper surface from heating up during the day and retaining soil moisture near the surface. Given the variety of vegetables that can be planted in a vegetable garden the number of times we plant with successive plantings, using a weed control product is difficult, especially in a smaller vegetable garden. There can be good control in larger gardens where there is a large planting of the same vegetable and the number of vegetables is limited.

If a preventative product is in your future, be sure to read the label to be sure that product is safe for all the vegetables you are growing. This product may be labeled for your spring crop of vegetables, but not for those you intend to sow later in the summer.

Flower beds can be a bit more challenging and choices of weed control will vary if you have annual flowers or perennials in the bed. Mechanical removal is always an option. Annual flower beds can be treated as you would a vegetable bed, using mulch or a protective product. The key is having a weed free bed if you are going to use a chemical product. Most labels will have you wait several days after planting your annuals to be sure the soil has properly settled in and around the new transplants so any product applied will not end up in contact with roots. Most of these products inhibit either the root emerging out of the weed seed or preventing germination. This is the main reason the beds need to be weed free when applied. Any seed that already germinated or seedling that is up and out of the ground will not be controlled. The part about using preventative products is to leave the soil undisturbed. If you break up the protective layer, you will allow weed seeds to grow. Perennial flower beds may have too many different kinds of plants to effectively use a chemical product for total weed management. If the bed is designed so that the perennials canopy over sooner than later, the shade created will stop most weed seeds from germinating. Over time perennial beds will become weedy with perennial weeds. In those cases, a directed non-selective herbicide can be a good choice. If mechanical removal is preferred, digging up and dividing older perennials that have grassy weeds or weeds with a taproot in the crown can work pretty well. If digging or hoeing is in order, do not the weeds get very big before you dig or hoe. Once the beds are weed free, using organic mulch feeds the plants, prevents weed seed germination and like in the vegetable beds, conserves soil moisture and moderates soil temperatures. Good gardening and good luck.

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