Let's face it, weeds are a hassle. They seem to pop up everywhere, from sidewalks to gardens to lawns. What's more is that the battle seems to be a constant one when attempting to get rid of weeds. No matter how many times you make an assault on their evil forces, they always seem to come back.
They don't seem to get the message that they are unwanted. And they aren't harmless either; they can ruin the look of your lawn and make it look un-kept, and will attempt to completely take over your garden if you let them. So, how can you get rid of weeds in your garden? First, let's take a closer look at these pests.
Have you ever heard the phrase "one man's trash is another man's treasure"? Well, that concept applies pretty well to defining what weeds are. As Martin Cole from Gardening Step by Step explains: in simple terms, weeds are just plants that are unwanted or do not belong in a certain area.
Now, that may be due to different reasons. Those reasons can range anywhere from the desire for uniformity to the weed being harmful to a certain environment. Oftentimes weeds can become harmful to an environment when they are alien to that area and grow too much for the ecosystem to handle, thus posing a threat to the naturally growing plants in the region.
This usually happens if the alien plant has characteristics that will allow it to thrive in the new area, which often results in overgrowth.
Typically, weeds are fairly easy to spot. It’s also pretty logical: if you did not plant whatever is growing in your garden, it is most likely a weed. The same principle is true for your lawn. If you spot grass that is different from the majority and looks like it probably shouldn't be there, it’s most likely a weed.
There is a wide variety of different types of weeds, and to explain them all would be too long for the scope of this article. If you would like to know what some common weed strains look like to be able to keep an eye out on them, here is an article that shows some common weeds.
So, if weeds are just other plants, what's the point of getting rid of them? Live and let live, right? Well, not so fast. Martin sheds some light on the issue.
Weeds come with a whole host of problems that cause headaches for anyone trying to take care of a garden or lawn. One of the first problems is the competition they pose to other plants. This is more of a concern for gardeners or people with highly manicured landscaping. The typical weed has adapted to survive, almost above all else.
While your garden may have beautiful flowers that have been bred to look pretty, weeds have put almost all their eggs in one basket: survival. And they are ruthless in achieving that goal. They grow longer roots to suck up more water and nutrients, as well as germinate or grow earlier to get a head start on all the other plants
When faced with such a ruthless enemy, your garden plants, being as sheltered as they are, don't really stand a chance against the weeds in a fight for survival. On top of all of this, they can be a harbor for pests and insects, as well as disrupt harvesting of vegetables and plants that you would actually like to consume.
Last but not least, they are usually just plain ugly. Granted, there are some exceptions, but if you are trying to keep your lawn or garden uniform, a patch of weeds can be a real eye-sore.
Now that you have hopefully been convinced of the need to get rid of the weeds on your property, the question of whether to go the organic or chemical route may come up. This is an important question, as the results may have important consequences for the environment.
According to Beth Berry's article on the subject, she suggests, along with the EPA, that a good management program for your garden or crop is preferred over chemical pesticides. In essence, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of the cure. Historically speaking, chemical pesticides have helped in increasing crop production; however, they should generally be seen as something to avoid, as they host many environmental consequences, too.
Some of these include loss of biodiversity, contamination on several levels (water, soil and air), as well as possible health effects on humans. This is only part of the list; I could go on. In light of this, it is probably a good idea to stay away from the chemical pesticides.
Organic methods, on the other hand, are a much safer alternative to chemicals. Organic methods of weed control are usually about suppression, not total elimination. The idea is to keep the soil healthy, which helps the plants have a better chance at fighting the weeds, as well as using compost to suppress the weeds. There is also the timing of planting the crops to consider, as well as the spacing between the crops. These different factors can help in weed suppression and can help the good plants grow.
Now, I know, the above statement may seem confusing to you, given that I have spent most of this article giving you reasons to hate weeds, but it’s worth pointing out that there are some weeds that can be nutritionally beneficial.
Dandelions are just about everywhere. While they can be considered a pest at times, they happen to have quite a bit of uses. They have a variety of vitamins in them, like vitamin A and C, and beta-carotene. They can also be used as remedies for several ailments and can even be used in salads.
Plantain weed or Plantain is a diversely-useful plant, native to Europe and some parts of Asia. Similar to spinach, the leaves can be used as a nutritional boost in salads. It also features natural anti-inflammatory, antitoxic and antibacterial properties, making it great for snake and insect bites, rashes, cuts, and bruises. In the past, it was used by many indigenous cultures for medicinal beverages and ointments.
Even though these plants have evolved to hurt you if you touch them, they actually have a fair amount of benefits. Make sure to wear gloves when handling them, and make sure they do not touch any part of your skin, or they will cause pain. Once you gather them and boil them, however, the stinging bits fall off, and what is left is a nutritious plant with magnesium, potassium, and protein, to name a few nutrients.
While it is understandable that some people may not be so keen on the idea of eating weeds, there are some great reasons to do so, as explained by Margaret Boyles. One reason that Margaret mentions is that common weeds, when compared to our domesticated plants, are a lot more nutrient dense.
Another reason is that they are known to have medicinal properties, like being anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving. There is also the satisfying aspect of procuring your own food. That being said, eating weeds may be all well and good, as long as they are not overrunning your lawn or garden. So now we return to how to get rid of them.
Now that you have some background knowledge on weeds and know why you should get rid of them, it’s time to focus on how to actually get rid of them. Below are 11 practical tips and suggestions on getting rid of weeds from your garden or lawn.
The idea with this is to block sunlight from getting to the weeds. Mulch also retains moisture well and halts growth underneath it, all good things for killing weeds. Mulch can be used either in the garden between beds or on different parts of your property with landscaping. This is an effective technique that kills weeds but not plants. Make sure to stack it thick as well, at least two inches.
A cover crop is essentially a crop that will grow easily and will take the place of the weeds. The exception with the cover crop is that they are actually useful, as opposed to most weeds. This is a great way to prevent weeds from growing. Some examples of cover crops could be wheat, clover or barely.
There are several articles on the Web that expand on the subject of cover crops. I even found a very useful online tool that can help you decide which cover crops to use depending on your particular situation.
This is important because it helps give your plants a fighting chance. By planting your crops right around when they should be planted for optimal growing, you give them the best chance to win the fight against weeds for nutrients and water in the soil. Particularly, vegetables will benefit from this method greatly.
Remember, weeds have evolved mostly for survival and are good at it. Any advantage you can give your plants is one they need.
Proper plant spacing reduces the space weeds grow in, thus limiting their chances of survival as the potential area for them to grow is already taken up by the plants you selected. The concept may seem simple, but it is quite effective. Survival in numbers, right? If you have a vegetable garden, you might want to check out a more practical guide on how far to space out your vegetables.
Yes, this entry may seem odd, but chickens can be rather effective at eating away your weeds. They are great for killing weeds in the garden before planting. This is probably the best way to remove weeds from large areas if you’re looking to do as little work as possible, as you yourself don't have to do much more than to let them roam around. This method, of course, requires that you understand how to raise chickens properly.
Yes, I know, this idea may seem a bit extreme. There is always a risk involved when dealing with fire, and this method is not an exception. It’s also worth noting that you should never use this method in a dry season or an area where the fire could spread easily. That said, using a blowtorch can be an effective method to help get rid of weeds in flower beds or in your garden.
While this is a bit more labor intensive than the other suggestions on this list, using a garden hoe may be one of the better solutions on this list. Garden hoes are great for getting out weeds, as they can cut through the dirt fairly easily. For more deeply rooted weeds, or even weed trees, you may need more specialized tools.
For regular weeds, however, a garden hoe should work well enough. Be sure to read up on ideas on what type of garden hoe to get for your property. The following video teaches you how to use a hoe adequately:
Sometimes, for deeper rooted weeds, a regular garden hoe just won't cut it. That's where the heavier tools step in. Sometimes certain weeds have unbelievably large a deep root systems. You also see this in afore-mentioned weed trees. For jobs like these, you need heavier tools to get the weeds out. Such tools could be a shovel or a even a corkscrew weeder.
For a bit less deep roots, you may want to consider using a garden fork. Check out the following video on how to use a corkscrew weeder:
This is, perhaps, the most labor-intensive way to clear weeds and brush, but it also may be the best way of killing weeds in the lawn or anywhere else on your property for that matter. Part of the reason for that is you are able to pick and choose between the good plants and the weeds more easily and are able to remove only the weeds.
Make sure to wear gloves when pulling by hand, however. You wouldn't want to run into any of those stinging nettles.
This is an excellent alternative to synthetic herbicides which slowly pollute the ecosystem at groundwater levels. For gardeners in the USA, there's a very good organic option called WeedKleen. Its biodegradable formula is composed of a mix of all-natural citric and acetic acids which allow it to effectively kill weeds without harming the environment.
If you decide to go for this method, be sure to only spray the weeds that you want to kill. Herbicides like WeedKleen are non-selective and will kill any plant you spray them on, so be very careful when using them! Also, if you're a dog owner, make sure to use a dog-friendly weed killer.
I put this last on the list because of the dangers that these chemicals pose to the environment and to our overall health. Should you pull weeds before spraying? Absolutely, as you reduce the threat to the environment by doing that; however, even using things such as borax for killing weeds is preferable to using store-bought chemical weed killers.
Nonetheless, perhaps due to time constraints or other reasons, the other methods may not be available for you to use. In that case, chemical weed management can be effective at killing weeds. Using something like the above-mentioned borax, a cleaning agent, mixed with water is definitely a preferable option.
If you still do not have the time to mix the borax with water and just want a more convenient option, there are always the store-bought chemical options. Remember, however, as shown before in this report, chemicals can have a serious negative effect on multiple levels. There are more environmentally friendly chemical options to consider before turning to the store-bought variety.
Well, dear reader, I hope you have enjoyed the list I have made on ways to keep your garden free of weeds. Most of the options in the list are ways that you can keep your garden free of weeds naturally, without having to use harsh chemicals that can damage the environment.
If there is one thing to remember from this list it is this: the best way to get rid of weeds permanently is prevention and active management. By laying out good preventative measures like mulch, you can stop weeds from even starting to overgrow your garden. By actively managing your garden and using the methods described in the list, you can make sure the weeds do not get out of hand if they do show up.
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