What is a weed? While certain plant species are generally classified as "weeds," such as dandelions and creeping Charlie, weeds are simply defined as any plant that isn't desired in a given location. Even a rose would still be a weed if it popped up in the middle of a vegetable garden! To keep your garden in tip-top shape, here's how to weed your garden and how often.
Most plants need three basic factors to grow: sunlight, water and soil. Weeds take advantage of open soil, access to sunlight and ample amounts of water in our landscapes to grow and thrive if left unchecked. Weeding is the process of removing these undesirable plants from the garden or lawn.
While there's no easy way to get rid of weeds in a fully planted garden, you can use techniques to inhibit weed growth or remove them from the garden.
How Often to Weed Your Garden
All gardens will have weeds from time to time. The question of how often to weed your garden is largely dependent on the climate, your planting style and the amount of time you can devote to weeding. Locations that receive more precipitation and have warmer growing seasons tend to see more weed growth, while gardens in drier, cooler climates tend to have fewer weeds.
Likewise, sparsely planted yards will see stronger weed growth due to ample access to open soil, while gardens with a heavier concentration of plants and less space between plants inhibit weed growth. The time you spend weeding in the garden will vary depending on all these factors, but keep in mind that it's not necessary to eliminate every small weed from the garden. Some weedy species, like common purslane, are completely harmless and actually edible! However, checking your garden weekly (or even daily as you stroll through your garden) for weed growth can help you keep unwanted plants at bay.
How to Weed Your Garden
When weeding your garden, you'll first need to decide what tools are right for the job. While many herbicides are available on the market, hand tools such as a stainless steel weeder or garden hoe can help you weed without the need for noxious chemicals. When using implements, be sure to remove the weeds in their entirety, including their often long, sturdy tap roots. Many weeds have the remarkable ability to regenerate from even small pieces of root left in the soil, so removing the whole plant is important.
You might also prefer to use a weed control film in your yard. Often made of fabric, these products allow for water and airflow while physically inhibiting weed growth. Weed barriers are especially effective in locations around large annual plants, such as pumpkins, tomatoes and squash, where the barrier can be seasonally removed and refitted or replaced.
Another effective weed control method is the naturalistic planting approach where you grow many plants close together, crowding out would-be weed seedlings and avoiding the problem altogether. This technique requires one to two years for plants to fully mature but creates a more natural feel and habitat for microorganisms, insects and birds.
When all else fails, call your local County Extension Office for further assistance.
Weeding the garden can be a tedious task, but with the right tools and know-how, you can have a healthy, flourishing garden nearly free of weeds in no time!
For more information on how to get started weeding, check out how to weed an overgrown garden.