Hello! I have been neglectful lately with too many things, as I see my last garden blog post was about one month ago! Wow – apparently the act of gardening has taken up so much of my “free time” that the act of blogging about gardening has fallen to second place. One would think that this would mean that my garden currently looks stellar and is a shining testament to the labor of love that has gone into it. Sadly, this is often not the case, and so I now bring you to this week’s topic: Weeds!
I really do not care for weeds. They can be awful, argumentative, back-breaking, repetitive, shocking in their resilience, and all-in-all, a detriment. Oh yes, and lest I fail to mention, they can also be very painful! Weeds such as stinging nettles – if you are not wearing gloves (or, as I have learned, even sometimes they sting through the gloves!) – they burn and attack right back at you – what a survival mechanism for a plant!
Weed prevention is a wonderful asset – best to begin this practice early on in the season, though it is not too late to put a system in place. Here is what has worked for me:
1. Black plastic – giant-sized pieces come from the farmers that live near us; commercial-strength and nothing will grow through it. Lay that down at the start of the season, in a section that houses the large-growing pumpkin, squash, cantaloupe, plants. Cut about an 8″-12″ diameter hole where the seeds or seedling will be planted, and plant. Black plastic not only eliminates weeds, but retains moisture underneath so the soil stays wet, and also it warms the soil. My pumpkins are usually ready far too early for Halloween; I believe the heated soil accelerates their growth.
2. Newspaper – organic, mulches into the soil at the end of the season, works like a charm! Just place a few layers in between row crops, and be sure to hold them down with rocks or other tamping device, otherwise you will have newspaper blowing everywhere.
3. I have heard that grass clippings can be helpful, however I do not employ this as I hesitate to introduce more grass seed or other weed seeds that would be counter-productive.
4. Regular raking / tilling of the soil – this is not total prevention, however if you have time, you can prevent some weeds from rooting by churning up the dirt often – this is also great because it aerates the soil, and can help get any aggression out after your long hard stressful day!
5. Landscape fabric – this is can be purchased at any lawn care or Home Depot style store. Hold it down with pins or other devices, and usually then cover with mulch or other decorative cover. Works fairly well, and the benefit over plastic is that it breathes and allows moisture to come through. The negative is that it does not last forever, and because it is a porous fabric, after a year or so you will see some weeds coming through. Also can be costly.
Now, what to do if all your prevention techniques still leave you “in the weeds”??
Solution: Hard Work. Yup, I am not going to sugar-coat it – just good old-fashioned elbow grease!
However, you and should do this physical work in a smart way, protecting your body from injury – please please follow this advice:
1. Warm up and stretch: Acknowledge that this is physical activity, and treat it as exercise. Even 3-5 minutes of brisk walking, then moving hands and arms around to limber up is a good start. Stretching out the legs and lower back will also help you!
2. Use the right tools for the task. Standing tools are easier than having to get down on your hands and knees, so for larger / open areas, use a hoe, or a three-pronged rake to work the soil.
3. Be mindful of your body mechanics! Lift and bend with your knees, not your back. Try to not strain shoulders, neck, hands too much. Use leverage and tools to increase your mechanical advantage and decrease your strain. For tasks that require kneeling, use knee pads or a stool – switch positions often.
4. Take breaks. Drink water. Stretch again. A shower at the end of this work will “feel” so incredible and well-deserved, trust me!
5. And lastly, totally bask in the glory of the work that you have done when it is over with! Take a moment to really gaze over the space, the growing beautiful flowers and vegetables, the birds and the butterflies. Pat yourself on the back and enjoy your accomplishment – you did that with your OWN two hands!!