Learn a few tips on tackling weeds in the summer garden. This includes weed identifications, proper tools and methods to keep your weeds to a minimum.
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It's Tuesdays in The Garden, and this week we are discussing planning for summer. I don't know about you, but weeds are a major issue for me in the summer. I do my best to block with mulch in the spring, but come mid-summer watch out. Maybe you have the same problem. This is why today I'm sharing a few tips I use for tackling weeds.
7 Tips for Tackling Weeds in Your Garden
1. Name That Weed
It's very helpful to know what you are dealing with, by identifying the weeds that are growing in your garden. How many times have you mistaken a plant for a weed, or worse, torn out a plant that you thought was a weed. Yikes! There are many resources on the web for weed identification, a few good ones are mentioned in this article from A Way to Garden. There are also free apps, such as ID Weeds, and several concerning different areas of the country. This lovely bright green weed shown in the photo above is petty spurge. It took me a while to figure it out. It's everywhere this year. I found out that it is an annual, with shallow root system, making it very easy to pull out or smother, depending on where it is located.
2. Tools of the Trade
Using the right garden tool is certainly a big help. I've listed three favorites above. A kneeling pad adds comfort and keeps your knees or pants somewhat clean. A tap root tool is perfect for dandelions and thistle weeds. This tool allows you to dig deep and pull out the whole root, so the plant does not grow back. Finally, somewhat new to gardening in my experience, is the Hori Hori knife. I love this one for it serrated edge which allows me to really scrape at all the little weeds that are emerging from the soil. I especially like to use this when planting smaller plants. It's great for digging a the hole, and then at the same time you can dig around, and clean up the weeds in the area. Carry around a nice Garden Bucket Toolbelt with you for all your tools, and a place to put the weeds.
3. Mulch, Mulch and More Mulch
There is mixed information on this subject, but my personal experience says to mulch every year. I always have premium tree mulch delivered by the yard, to my home and mulch around (not on top or too close) every plant. I do not mulch heavily, just about 2 inches. This smothers the weed growth, cools the soil, and the mulch eventually breaks down into nutritious material for the plants. If you don't like the idea of shredded tree mulch, try shredded leaves, pine straw or cocoa bean hulls.
4. Tackle One Area at Time
For some reason every one of my hosta in this one bed is covered in petty spurge and bidens. Both are easy to pull out, so hand weeding it the way to go. It can seem daunting, so I just tackle one area at a time. Once a day or once a week for even 30 minutes, if that is all you have time for, will get the job down.
5. Bring Out the Big Guns
Ok, don't hate me. I confess that I have used Roundup®. Using a paintbrush I often paint it on any unwanted weeds growing in the middle of a plant with a strong root system, like this wild rose growing in the middle of my geranium plant shown above. Not a fan of using non-organic? You can try vinegar or other insecticidal soap products that are said to be just as effective. Read more about organic weed control.
6. Nip Them in the Bud
When you walk by a plant and see a weed in bloom, or worse ready to set seed like this dandelion shown above, stop what you are doing, and take a second to remove that seed head. You may not have time to dig out the root, but you will have stopped it from spreading everywhere. By the way, the same is true for your herbs but for a different reason. You want to cut of blooms of herbs, so that the plant will continue to grow and produced more foliage.
7. Give Yourself A Break
Finally, give yourself a break. Weeds will come, and weeds will go, and sometimes you need to live with a little imperfection. Instead of focusing on tackling weeds all the time, focus on the beautiful flowers, like this pretty elderberry shrub in the image shown above.