A step-on claw garden weeder is s wonderful invention. (Mary Lowther photo)

Mary Lowther column: Some weeds can help us out, others need to be shown the door

Most weeds’ extensive roots help break up the soil when they rot.

By Mary Lowther

Some weeds help out in the garden. When lamb’s quarters are planted around a vegetable infected with leaf miner, the weeds attract this pest away, allowing the vegetable to thrive. Between growing seasons, if you don’t have cover crop handy, many weeds make a decent enough ground cover, pulling up nutrients and storing them in their systems, adding to the soil when they get dug under before going to seed. Most weeds’ extensive roots help break up the soil when they rot. Most, not all.

During the growing season, however, most weeds should be eradicated because they choke out our crops and use up nutrients and water. Here are a few methods I’ve learned to control weeds in the garden.

1) Soaker hoses water only the areas you want so fewer weeds grow in the dry soil.

2) Hoe out the first bloom of weeds in early spring before they go to seed.

3) After spreading compost on the bed and hoeing this in, leave the bed for a couple of weeks to allow the weed seeds to sprout. Then hoe this under, plant your crops and lay down the soaker hoses.

4) Hoe the weeds between crops until dry summer starts, then mulch the beds with about six inches of straw or even weeds you’ve pulled out. Remember to rake all this off at the end of summer and toss it into the compost bin or you might foster hordes of slugs et al who find the mulch a cozy retreat in cold weather.

5) When a bed rests between vegetable crops sow a cover crop to choke out weeds and retain nutrients from the soil.

6) Don’t rototill because this brings up jillions of weed seeds that can plague you all summer. Hand digging brings up just a few seeds.

You may have invasive plants in other areas of the yard, such as the driveway or patio so you’ll need to use different approaches. Here are a few suggestions.

1) Mix one quart of vinegar with ¼ pound of salt and two teaspoons of dish soap. Fill a spray bottle with some of this elixir and spray the offending weed liberally. Or, cut down the weed and pour some of this quaff onto whatever is left of the plant. Do this during a dry spell and don’t water the area for a few days. You may have to repeat this process until they disappear.

2) Use boiling water using the same method. I’ve poured boiling water on a nest that red ants had the misfortune of building in my compost heap. After their screams subsided the survivors must have limped over to more hospitable surroundings because they never returned.

3) Sprinkle lime to kill moss.

4) Use a step-on weed-digger and pour a little vinegar into each hole afterward to slow down any root vestige. This tool is a marvellous invention.

Some invasive plants, like giant hogweed, contain a toxin so make sure to wear eye and skin protection if you suspect you have to deal with these plants. Check with the CVRD for their recommendations, or you might want to hire someone else to do it and let them take the risk. If you can’t afford to hire someone, then you’ll have to marry someone who responds appropriately to suggestion. David is taken.

Please contact mary_lowther@yahoo.ca with questions and suggestions since I need all the help I can get.

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