Last time, we talked about some preventive measures you can take to protect your garden from unwelcome creepy crawlies and other four-legged pests. This week, we’re going to tackle another type of pest. By far, the worst pest that will run rampant in your garden isn’t one with legs at all. It doesn’t creep or crawl, it just simply grows. We are of course, talking about weeds.
Here’s the thing. Weeds aren’t really a bad thing. After all, they’re just another type of plant, trying to make their way in a cruel world. However, when you’re trying to grow a specific type of plant, especially one for food, something’s gotta give. And in this case, it’s the weeds.
There are several methods that we use for natural weed removal and they all work wonderfully. Which one you choose is entirely up to you. The best way is to prevent them from growing in the first place. This requires a little bit of planning on your part. If you have a permanent garden, lay down landscape fabric. This wonderful invention allows water and gases to pass through, but prevents weed growth by virtue of smothering them. Overlap any edges by at least two inches, and then cover with mulch. Cut holes for your seedlings and plant. You may get some weeds where your garden plants are growing, but those are easily pulled. If your garden isn’t permanent (you’ve got a community garden or you garden in pots), lay down newspaper over the areas where you aren’t going to grow anything. Cover that area with mulch or rocks. The newspaper will smother any weeds and help prevent the soil from drying out.
Pull them Out
If you aren’t into laying down fabric or newspaper, there’s the old fashioned way of natural weed removal; you can just pull them. The main problem with this is that you need to make sure you’re getting all of the root structure, or the weed is just going to come back in most cases. Having seen thistles regrow from a deeply buried root end is not only frustrating, it’s…well, it’s mainly frustrating. A way to make sure you get as much of the root as possible is to weed after you’ve watered or after a good rain. The soil will be soft and the roots won’t be able to cling as well. Use a hori-hori knife as well, or in a pinch, a narrow trowel or a wide screwdriver. Shoving the blade in next to the plant will loosen the roots and allow you to get most of it in one go.
Boiling Water, Vinegar and Salt
If you’re not averse to it, boiling water is a great way to weed. Few weeds will withstand more than one or two applications of scalding water poured over them. You just have to be careful not to splash the plants you want to keep. There are several other topical applications that work like this. Vinegar is a great weed killer as the acetic acid really does a number on plant cell walls, rapidly killing them. It’s why pickling is a great way to preserve fruits. Another method is applying a little rock salt to the base of the weed. Again, however, if you’re using methods like these, you have to be careful not to get the plant you’re trying to get your food from. It only takes one misstep and a pot of boiling vinegar all over your favorite squash plant to make you a very sad gardener.
Corn Gluten Meal
One method that we’ve heard about for organic weed removal is using corn gluten meal as an herbicide. It actually works by inhibiting seed germination, so it’s best used after you’ve cleared an area of weeds. This powder will prevent roots from growing. The best part is that it is organic and becomes a great fertilizer for the soil. Be careful, however. You want corn gluten meal, not corn meal. You can use horticultural grade corn meal to treat your garden and it works as a fungicide and a long-term fertilizer, but it isn’t going to kill weeds. Again, this doesn’t work on weeds that are already present, but it will keep new ones from forming.
Burn Them Out
In a pinch, you can always burn your weeds out. That doesn’t mean you should get a military-grade flamethrower and go wild. In fact, you should be very careful when using this method. A food torch is all you need. Use spot applications if you use this method. You’re not actually trying to set the weeds on fire, you’re using the flame to dry them out and kill them above ground that way. Again, and we can’t stress this enough, you aren’t trying to start a fire. You’re using the flame to dry out the stems, which will kill the weed. You should also pay attention to your local burn index. If the weather has been exceptionally dry or there’s a burn warning in your area, do not use this method.
The last method for dealing with weeds is to do what some of us here at Crucial do. Learn to live with them and love them. After all, as long as they aren’t interfering too much with your plants and preventing you from harvesting, they are kind of pretty. Some of them are also edible and can supplement your garden. We’ll talk about common edible weeds in a future post, however. It’s not exactly a way to get rid of your weeds, but there’s a sort of organic Zen to this method.
So there you have it. You know how to deal with pests that creep and pests that just grow. With this information, your garden should be coming along nicely and you should be getting your first set of harvests any day now. There’s nothing quite like that first tomato of the season; even after years of gardening, we still love that first fruit and hope that you learn to love gardening as much as we do.