Weeding the garden is a pleasurable and necessary chore
There’s one thing that has to happen in every garden whether it’s ornamental or edible, new or established, and that is weeding. Uggh you say? Can’t I just spray something? What about landscape fabric or plastic sheeting? Won’t those work? The short answer is ‘Yes, those will work short term, but you are creating more problems down the road.’
Landscape fabric is a tempting solution, but it has to be covered with mulch to hide it. The fabric itself keeps the decaying mulch from incorporating with the soil, and within a few years, weeds will find a stronghold in the upper layer of mulch, with the roots firmly embedded in the landscape fabric. You’ll end up pulling out the fabric and probably a few perennials right along with it.
Using rolls of plastic is just a bad idea for the home gardener. Water cannot permeate the plastic, and at the end of the season, there’s all that plastic to pull up and discard.
Herbicides are highly effective, but are not selective at all. These will kill or damage every plant they come in contact with, so it’s a bad choice for a closely-planted garden where you only want to kill only the weeds! Save the herbicide for the poison ivy and get down on your hands and knees to weed your garden.
In the spring, I find that weeding is the best way to see which plants have survived the winter. Crawling around a perennial border with the sun shining on my back is great therapy after minimal outside time for many months. I find a large container for the uprooted weeds – a pot or the wheelbarrow – and start wending my way around the garden. I can make notes about what needs to be replaced, and recall what did well the previous year. This year I discovered plenty of damage from some critters who had made convenient tunnels through the snow. When I was pulling out weeds, I discovered my Casablanca lilies took a huge hit for the first time in 5 or six years. I wouldn’t have noticed had I not been at arm’s length. Several will have to be replaced, and I’ve made a mental note to find some kind of rodent repellent for next winter. Getting right down there at ground level will give you a very different view of the garden.
It’s important to get the roots out of the ground when you are weeding. Just plucking off the green part above the ground won’t kill it. Those roots will continue to grow, and removing all traces will help keep it from coming back. You should also get out there before the weeds go to seed themselves! Pulling weeds that are shooting seeds all over the garden is counterproductive. Those seeds will sprout and cause more weed growth later on. More work earlier in the growing season will create less work later on.
Weeds compete with the plants you actually want to grow. They soak up water and absorb nutrients that your other plants need. They often harbor insect eggs that will hatch and feed on garden plants. So it’s not just a good idea to take care of weeds when they are young, it’s necessary to keep your other plants healthy. Get out there and weed!