Linda from Indiana asks...I know that I did not "put my garden to bed" before winter very well, and I have so many weeds coming up!
Should I try to pick every weed? Can I use any covering to kill the weeds? I need to get this done, but I want to do it as efficiently and completely as I can.
Please let me know what you think, and thanks.
Well Linda, let me assure you that you are not alone. This is partially why so many people love their weedkillers! We for one, though, are not these people and have some options for you that will help to get rid of these pesky "successful" plants in a environmentally friendly way.
1) You suggestion of picking every one is definitely one way that will ensure that you are able to get rid of as many of your weeds as possible. This can be a very thorough job but can also be time consuming if you are itching to get to planting! Keep in mind that your weeds propagate in three major ways, by spreading seeds efficiently, spreading under the ground by roots, corms, tubers or bulbs, and trailing tendrils that where they touch the ground take root. For those that grow by dispersion of seed and have shallow root systems pulling the weed before it goes to seed can be effective. Others may have a very large or tough root to kill like dandelions, wild dock, wild onions and wild garlic. Interestingly enough the four aforementioned common weeds are also edible. To get rid of these though you have to completely dig up the root or expect that it will pop out again and you will have to just "kill" it again.
2) Covering the garden beds with a impermeable covering IE black plastic or weed guard, for instance, can be effective in killing the foliage therefore starving the weed from nutrition. In effect, this is accomplishing the very same effect, of killing the foliage, as most weedkillers. Another advantage is that this can also warm the soil for a little earlier planting. Pin or stake the covering down well and leave for a week or two. This works especially well if killing out lawn for a first time planted garden. A possible side effect though for covering a previously broken up piece of ground is that by warming up the soil it may allow more dormant weed seeds to sprout that just needed those few extra degrees and moisture to give them a boost.
3) You can opt to burn off the weeds and left over leaves and dead plants from last season. This will help to sterilize the soil, perhaps killing some of the seeds closest to the top of the ground, and killing some diseases resting in the soil waiting to attack you garden lovelies this season. Keep in mind that for the most part this is only recommended every three to four years, not every year.
4) You can also combine killing these weeds with prepping the soil all in one shot. By thoroughly breaking up the soil, (by hand tools, tiller, cultivator, tractor plow and disc, tractor rototiller, etc.) you can kill these early emerging weeds and break up the soil for planting all at the same time. Keep in mind, very deep roots will not be eliminated, dormant seeds will still be there, and breaking up the soil may "awaken" other weeds. The dead weed plants will need to be removed from the garden.
5) You can spray the weeds with an organic, Eco-friendly weed killer. There are many home recipes out there made with simple household ingredients. Just be cautious as to what you are putting on your garden. It is one thing to put a mixture of salt, bleach and dish soap on your driveway weeds but quite another to put on your garden beds.We have used combinations of all of the above over the years. We hope this has helped. Hopefully those pesky weeds won't survive in suburbia this garden season!