Weeds – the bane of any weekend gardener’s existence. If you were to map out the amount of time in your gardening spent on dealing with the little buggers, you’d probably have a pretty average looking pie graph.
Thankfully, there are some relatively simple tricks that will allow you to minimise weeding and maximise the time spent on more pleasant backyard pursuits.
Mind the gap
Weeds fill gaps. If they see an unutilised patch of soil with good light, they’re going to be all over it. And who can blame them? That terrific piece of land is going to waste, and with real estate prices these days…
Minimise the open space between your plants. Most plants have spacing guidelines, but in reality you can usually go 25 percent closer than recommended. The only thing to keep in mind is whether your plants are prone to leaf-borne disease, as they may be able to transfer these nasties if you put them within touching distance.
Resist the urge to dig
Like little green landmines, it’s almost guaranteed that every cubic inch of your soil has some sort of dormant weed seed embedded in it. But only those seeds close enough to the surface to get enough light will actually germinate.
If you’re running around your garden throwing around your hoe like a madman, you’ll expose a whole heap of these dormant seeds that needn’t ever see the light of day. Be wise with the shovel, and only ever dig when and where is necessary.
Off with their heads
While not as good as total removal, doing a Henry the Eighth and beheading any usurpers is a great way to minimise the spread of your weed problem.
Particularly for annual weeds, cutting of their tops just as they are about to release their kiddies out into the world will not only stop the seed spread, but also put the actual plant backward in its development, forcing it to use its food reserves and exhaust its supply of root buds. It may even die on the spot.
Pull when wet
…and hoe when dry. That’s the old backyard gardener’s motto, and it’s a good one to go by. Getting stuck into the weeding after a thorough rain is going to make for the easiest work.
Throw down a kneeling mat, fetch a trowel and a solid pair of gloves, and get to work. An old fork can also be a handy tool, as nothing is better at getting at the roots of things like chickweed. If you find a monster root system that isn’t keen to budge, cutting it of below the soil line should be enough to get it to shrivel and die. Throwing compost over the top is also a wise move.
Only give treats to the good kids
And by treats, I mean water. Be careful with your watering aim, and only irrigate things that you actually want to grow. A wayward hose can mean a line of fresh weeds sprouting weeks later, thanks not only to a nice soak but also some freshly exposed soil.
Putting drip hoses beneath a good layer of mulch is a great way to avoid unintentionally watering weeds. While this works for ungerminated or shallow-rooted weeds, it may not work quite so well for deep-rooted or already established weeds, which you’ll have to deal with more manually as they come up.
Mulch is your friend
Speaking of depriving light, if some weeds have germinated, it may just be a case of whacking on a layer of mulch to stop them receiving that sweet, life-giving UV.
A 2-inch layer is more than enough to keep small weeds at bay (anything more can deprive the soil of oxygen), and if you choose a nice organic mulch you may invite some beetles and crickets in to help chomp on any unbudded weed seeds floating about.