Thursday, January 10, 2013

Weeding Can Be Easy if You Do it Naturally

It's amazing how easy it can be to weed if you concentrate on flowering weeds and let the bugs thin the weeds and volunteers until they stick their heads up to be pulled. The same annual grass that has a huge clump of roots before flowering has almost none when it has a flower head. The carrot-family burr-weed that is nearly invisible when young is obvious and pulls readily when it is flowering. You can clear an area of such weeds in minutes when they are ready to pull.
The easiest time to kill most plants is when they are in flower: they are easy to see and grasp; all of their energy is in their tops; and their stems are strong, with strong attachment to its roots. You can usually pull the entire plant out of the ground or pull the crown off the roots by pulling when it has a flower stalk.
          This applies to all annuals and many perennials, but not to perennial grasses and sedges, which store food in their roots before they flower and go dormant; they are better pulled early in the spring, when the soil is moist enough to pull the growing roots. Once a patch of perennial runner grass is well established, the best way to get rid of it is to dig out the roots or spray it with glyphosate herbicide and pull the survivors.
In the case of annual weeds, the most common and irritating garden weeds, you can often eliminate 90% or more of a particular plant in the next year by pulling when they are in flower but before they set seed, if their seeds do not persist in the soil for years. It is important to pull any weed before it sets seed and spreads it. Seedy weeds and deadheads should be sent to a professional composter, not put in a home compost pile or laid on the ground for mulch. Weeds that have not yet set seed can be left on the ground for mulch once the weather is warm enough to dry out the roots, but choose carefully; some weeds can ripen seeds as they dry out.
Weeding is the essence of gardening. One can garden by weeding alone. Everything else is optional, but if you don't weed, you aren't gardening. Gardening is controlling which plants grow in any particular place in your garden. 90% of gardening is killing plants that you don't want.
A weed is any plant that is growing where you don't want it to; some are large trees. Some weeds can become garden plants simply by being moved to better locations, and sometimes you might want to save a plant that is otherwise useful or beautiful. Most of the time, however, you are killing common plants that conflict with other plants or block your view of those plants, or are in a place where you want no plants.
You can't know whether you want a plant if you don't know what it is. So the first rule of weeding is that you don't pull a plant that you don't know is a weed, unless it's common. Flowering will show you what it is and what it does.

Published at, 6-28-2010

1 comment:

  1. One exception to the rule of picking annual grass weeds when they flower is crab grass. It is unlike any other annual grass, in that it will root from stem joints, and is harder to pull when flowering than earlier; the roots at that point are really strong and wiry. But it can be cut off under the crown with scissors when it doesn't pull easily.

    Another way in which crabgrass is weird is that most weeds are easier to pull from soft, moist soil than dry. But crabgrass that grows in moist soil roots deep and tough, while under-watering makes shallow roots that are easily pulled, even when it is blooming.

    It is best dealt with when young, preferably by smothering with mulch when thick, or pulled at about 3 inches when thin. But that doesn't mean that one should allow blooming plants to go to seed. Fortunately,the seeds are very small and are easily smothered as well.

    Crabgrass should not be sprayed with glyphosate (Roundup and similar herbicides). It is a powerful fertilizer of annual and broadleaf weeds, including crabgrass. It will kill the plants, but it will fertilize the next generation.

    Glyphosate should not be used in cold weather against annual weeds of any sort. They will stop growing and go directly to seed, no matter how small. It is hard to pull a lot of small weeds. If left to grow, they tend to thin each other out by competition and bugs eating them, and are much easier to pull.

    Gardening is easy, if you do it naturally.