July is for weeding (as well as these 3 other tasks)! The heat comes on, and the plants love it. All of them!
A weed can be a plant in the wrong place, especially if you like a reseeding garden. New plants sprout up, and they can be considered weeds needing to be removed. It’s your call on what to pull and what to leave. Be ruthless with no regrets.
Some weeds are simply opportunistic, plunking down wherever conditions suit them. A little rain, a little sun, and they are demanding 'feed me!' a la Seymour. Don’t let it get that bad!
Give your newly planted organic garden a fighting chance, and remove the weeds before they take over.
1. Do NOT Use Chemicals
Do the planet and your health a favor with organic and non-invasive methods.
2. Tackle Weeds When They Are Young
They use nutrients and water that your garden needs. Your plants will thrive when you release them from weedy competition.
3. Use the Right Tool
That old saying ‘Use the right tool for the right job’ carries a lot of weight and will make your life easier. Why hate weeding? Get the right tool!
Here’s a primer on weeding tools from New Mexico State University. As they mention, soil type and condition along with the size of weeds and where they are located will dictate the proper tool. My personal favorite is what they call a hula hoe. I call it a scuffle hoe. It is versatile, easy to use, and very effective with a scuffling back and forth movement.
Sometimes it’s easy to pull weeds out when you are doing a routine survey of the yard. Wear gloves, and carry a bucket. Most weeds can be composted, but if they are flowering or have gone to seed, they belong in the trash. The same especially goes for invasive weeds, such as bindweed. If you’re not sure what’s what, send it all to the landfill, or check this comprehensive resource for weed identification.
There are not enough hand tools for weeding, if you ask me.
- Cultivators will lightly rake up loose soil so you can pull small weeds out easily
- Cape Cod weeders will skim beneath the soil surface and cut weeds at the root without disturbing the soil
- Fishtail weeders will help pry out deep-rooted weeds with its two-pronged head (or tail!)
- Trowels, small hand-hoes and rakes are invaluable - don’t be afraid to use them in conjunction with each other
And use your hands! Sometimes you can get beneath the soil surface and easily pull weeds out by the roots. I frequently pull weeds with one hand and holding a tool in the other hand as an assistant. Again, it all depends on the soil condition and the size and tenacity of the weeds.
4. Survey the Soil Conditions
The best time to pull weeds is when the soil is moist, like the day after a good rain. Weeds come out easily with almost no effort on your part. If your schedule doesn’t sync with the weather, soak the garden with your regular watering method the night before.
On the flip side, the best time for hoeing is when the soil is dry. You want to drag the hoe just below the soil surface, cutting the root. Then the severed top of the plant will sit on the surface, die, and decompose.
5. Prevention is Key
Another old saying is ‘Prevention is the best medicine.’ Prevention is the best weeding strategy!
In very early spring, turn your soil and bring weed seeds to the surface. When they germinate, you can easily pluck them out of the soil. Do this again, and a third time if necessary. This will greatly cut down on weeds and weeding during the summer.
Planting densely will create an inhospitable environment for weed seed germination and growth.
A 4-6” layer of mulch on your gardens will smother most weeds before they get started. Drip irrigation beneath that mulch will deliver water only to the plants you want to flourish. Weeds love sprinklers!
6. Remember to Self Care
Weeding is hard work! Don’t try to tackle the whole yard in one day.
- Schedule some time each day, or do one section at a time
- Be sure to move and stretch now and then to protect muscles and joints
- Kneepads or a kneeling pad you place on the ground will spare your knees by giving them a soft surface
- Use portable stools for sitting and kneeling to lighten the load on your back
- Gloves, a hat, and water will keep you comfortable.
Weeding is essential in organic gardenig, so make the most of it. Listen to music or an audio book, or weed with a friend or family member. I’ve had some deep conversations with friends while weeding.
Embrace this task, and it will add to the enjoyment you get from your food and flowers.