Sunday, April 19, 2009

Strike early, strike often.

What did you do yesterday? Wasn't it so lovely, full with sunshine and warm air? I absolutely love a sunny spring day with a clear blue sky. Dan and I couldn't help ourselves but to stay in the back yard all day. The first thing that I noticed was cheerful bright yellow spots that popped all over the yard. All the rain and then sunshine made plants happy and that included our unwanted volunteer plants (aka weeds) and the dandelions were having a great time like I was. It was a perfect day for weeding - the soil was soft and loosened up from the rain, but not wet enough to stick to your shoes and tools. The sun made all the flowers open, so I didn't have to look to hard for where the dandelions were. I started with the weeder (that looks like this) but it was not grabbing much of the deep roots that dandelions are famous for. After pulling about a dozen of them with the tool, I decided to weed the old fashion way - with my hand trowel and on my knees.

As far as weeding goes, the best course of action is prevention.  Having bare soil is to invite the weed plants to come and thrive. Cover up the bare area with the plants you want or mulch, so that you keep weeds out of the way (I like organic mulch which breaks down to add nutrients to soil).  The next best action is to weed early and often when they are still young and small. However what do you do with the weeds that start growing in the cracks of your sidewalk? Dan and I tried prying them out with a tool (like an old screw driver) and then salting. It sort of worked but was not very efficient. This year we decided to try vinegar, and bought two gallons of white vinegar (5% concentration) at a retail warehouse. Again, yesterday was a perfect day for weeding - weeds don't like being sprayed with vinegar on a sunny hot day. Dan walked around with a spray bottle filled with vinegar. He sprayed the whole plants - leaves and root area. After only a few hours, the weeds were yellow and brown. Sorry thistle, but we can't have you grow in the middle of our sidewalk.

I think choosing a battle is important when you weed. Some of the volunteers are very pretty and I welcome them in my yard such as clovers and violets (they are not weeds in my yard).  
 Some of the weeds are easy to remove and thus I prefer them to fill the space where I am not actively gardening. I find indian strawberries, veronica, speedwell, and deadnettles are acceptable filler weeds (of course they need to go once I claim that space for growing flowers or veggies).  I always engage in combat with dandelions and thistles,  which have very deep root systems with amazing reproduction rates.  I have mixed feelings about lamb's quarters and wild garlics. When young, lamb's quarters are very easy to pull. I hear some people eat the plants - I shall try very soon along with dandelion leaves. Wild garlics spread quite fast and they look ugly in the middle of lawn.  Since I love onion family vegetables - onions, scallions, leeks, shallots, garlics, and even garlic scapes, their distinctive garlic smell makes me wonder if I am missing out something. Maybe I should try eating these some day.
Here is the summary of my thoughts on weeds in home gardens.
  • Prevention is the key - do not leave soil bare if possible. Grow plants  or put down mulch.
  • Strike early and strike often. Don't let the weeds grow big and strong. Don't ever let them go to seed!
  • Try vinegar solution for the weeds in the cracks of  sidewalk.
  • Choose your battles. Tackle the most annoying, persistent, invasive ones first.
Hope this helps. Enjoy another beautiful spring day.

1 comment:

smoo said...

You can roast the dandelion roots in the oven until they are dry and brown. Then grind them in a spice mill. Tastes like coffee. Do before the plant flowers.