News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Attack the weeds before they take root in the garden

Linn County Master Gardener

OSU Linn County Master Gardener.

A man from Scio visited the Community Garden recently and asked how we get rid of weeds. He must have thought I was hard of hearing when I was slow to respond. 

I was thinking “Weeds? We don’t allow weeds? Where are they?” Then I realized he asked the question because he didn’t see many. 

There are ways to minimize weeds in the yard and garden, saving time and energy for more enjoyable tasks. 

If we plan to avoid weeds from the beginning there will be fewer in the garden’s future. 

A weed is defined as a plant growing in the wrong place. Sometimes just accepting where they grow is their place of choice, making a feature of them or isolating them from spreading is the easiest course. Change those plants to desirables and enjoy their assets. 

Keeping weeds from blooming and setting seed will help to keep them under control. 

For example, instead of weeding the entire berry patch all the time, we took a cue from a commercial grower. Keeping green mowed strips between the hoed berry rows is less work than totally eradicating them from that area. 

It is aesthetically attractive with the green stripes, too. Mowed green strips around planted areas also define the landscape design and reduce slug traffic from bed to bed.

Killing the weeds, roots and all, before planting a new area will delay new weeds. 

Tilling a new planting area encourages dormant seeds to sprout when they are exposed to light, so no-till methods are less work. 

For no-till, cover the area with something that blocks the light necessary for plant growth. 

Layers of cardboard, light-blocking tarps (not blue), black plastic or even old lumber can cause whatever was growing under them to wither and become worm fodder after three or four weeks. 

Covering an area now, a month or more before garden planting time, will encourage the worms and their underground friends to prepare the soil for a productive season – without chemicals. 

Cardboard (tapes removed) or layers of newspaper, when covered with four to six inches of compost or mulch, eventually becomes worm fodder and soil amendment, also. A need for more cardboard is also a good excuse for making more online purchases. 

Plastics are not good to leave in the soil, so remember to remove them before they shred and shatter.

Inhibit weed seed sprouting by covering cardboard with a good layer of a well-aged or heated compost, soil mix or mulch that does not contain viable seeds in it. 

Plants placed in new clean soil will root down into the dirt and eat up the nutrients from the old smothered plants. 

Start clean and stay clean, then protect the area from wind-blown seeds with occasional cultivation. 

If little seedlings are disturbed when young, they never get old enough to spread. 

Mother nature fills a void in the soil, so we can beat her at the weed game by planting what we want, crowding out her surprise “gifts.” 

In the off-season, covering an empty planting area with light-blocking tarps (brown, green, or silver) will keep the soil dark and less soggy. When the tarps or cardboard are removed at planting time, it is ready for cultivation.

If weeds do appear, hand weeding has proven to be a harmless, productive outlet for aggressions or vendettas – think silently of each unwanted plant as an irritating individual or an uncooperative something as it is ripped from its home and disposed of. 

Satisfaction without guilt or punishment.

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