Simply Battling the War of the Weeds

(Photo Credit)

It’s the on-going, annual battle for every gardener- the war of the weeds!

It’s amazing how fast those weed seedlings can grow, and everyone agrees that allowing them to go unmanaged can stunt the growth and production of your veggies or flowers.

Since weeding is one of the most time consuming parts of gardening on my homestead, I’ve compiled a list of ways to make the job easier.

1. Weed often. This may be a no- , but it’s true! Last year I was only able to weed once per week, and the job quickly became overwhelming. This year, I have been trying to spend 30-45 minutes out in the garden each morning. The timing is perfect since it’s before the heat of the day, and my 15 month old daughter loves playing in the dirt alongside mommy.

2. Catch them while they are small. Although it can be tempting to only pull out the larger weeds (there is more to grab on to!), resist the temptation to ignore the “baby” ones. They will grow more quickly than you could ever imagine, plus the bigger they become, the more water and nutrients they steal.

3. Utilize your hoe. Hand weeding is often your best bet when working between plants. However, a hoe can come in handy between the rows. I’ve found my hoe to be most effective on the smaller, thinly rooted weeds. Take care to suffocate them with the soil, versus scraping their heads off. Merely chopping the top part of the plant won’t kill it, and it will come back with a vengeance.

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4. Try the Square Foot Gardening method. Although I have yet to try this method in my garden, I’ve heard many folks sing it’s praises. Square Foot Gardening works by placing plants close together to “crowd out” the weeds. If you are interested in this method, more info can be found here.

5. Watch your compost. This year, I made the massive mistake of placing manure on my garden that was not composted at a high enough temperature. While the manure was decomposed enough to provide wonderful nutrition to my vegetables, it never reached a temperature that could kill the weed seeds inside. As a result, I have thousands more weeds than last year! I’ve officially learned my lesson.

6. Don’t allow the weeds to go to seed. Have you ever heard the saying, “One year seeding, seven years weeding“? Once mature weeds go to seed, they can release hundreds, if not thousands, of seeds. Prevention is the key to combating this problem.

7. Mulch. Spreading a generous layer of mulch around your plants can go a long way in cutting down weeds. Mulch can be wood chips, straw, old hay, grass clippings, newspaper strips, bark, or sawdust. You can be creative with whatever you have around your yard or homestead. Also, an additional benefit to mulching is better water retention.

8. Moisten the soil before you plan to weed. No matter how proactive you are in weed prevention, you are still going to have to do some weeding by hand. The easiest way to get it done? Lightly moisten the soil before you head out to work, or wait to weed until after a gentle rain.

9. Dry them out. Right now, I water my vegetable garden with a sprinkler. While it is convenient since it’s hands-off, it waters everything- both good and bad. In the future, I might consider installing soaker hoses or watering more by hand. This can help dehydrate the weeds and weaken them.

(Photo Credit)

10. Eat them. This year, I have been pleasantly surprised to discover that some of the most prolific weeds at my house are edible! We have an abundance of purslane, dandelions, and lamb’s quarters. Now, I just need to figure out more ways to utilize them. With a little research, you might be surprised at how many of your “weeds” are actually useful after all! Of course, please use extreme caution before eating any random plants from your yard. Make sure you are 100% certain of what they are before consuming them.

Although it can be a chore at times, I’ve really learned to enjoy weeding this year. I love spending a little time each day getting to know my garden better. Plus, I have even started to find my morning weeding sessions to be relaxing. It’s a wonderful way to clear your mind.

And a little dirt under the fingernails never hurt anyone. :) Happy weeding!

Jill writes from the homestead she shares with her husband, baby daughter, and an ever-changing assortment of animals. When she’s not in the kitchen preparing traditional foods, you’ll find her outside riding her horses, growing vegetables, milking goats, and killing rattlesnakes. She shares homesteading tales and kitchen tips at her blog, The Prairie Homestead.

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8 comments to Simply Battling the War of the Weeds

  • Rachel

    I was thrilled to find out that the spring weed that covered my garden and drove me crazy, chickweed, was not only edible and full of minerals and vitamins but can also be used medicinally and is pretty tasty, too. Now I harvest lots of it and make vinegars to pull the minerals and throw it into salads or chop it into stews and casseroles with abandon. It can also be made into an oil and/or salve which is great for the skin and baby’s bottoms.

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  • I learned about pulling weeds when they’re tiny this year, too. I agree that hand weeding is a therapeutic, intimate pastime.

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  • Eat them! I love that. Seems like the ultimate revenge, too, doesn’t it?

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  • I love square foot gardening and have had some success with it in a harsh climate. Great article!

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  • gogardengirl

    Oh yes, the battle never seems to end–but my favorite weapon is the stirrup hoe or hula hoe. It will pull up and cut up weeds both pushing and pulling. It is worth it to spend a few minutes every couple days “doing the hula”. Enjoy the days of growing and harvest as winter will be with us before we know it!

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  • The 30 minutes or so that I spend watering and weeding my raised beds each morning are what I look forward to most in my summer routine. I started my raised beds as a square foot garden, but ultimately I prefer just regular old raised bed gardening (without the grid) myself. Here’s why, as you harvest in a square-foot garden, you are supposed to add a shovel-full of compost and replant the square. With different harvest times, sometimes second plantings would not get enough sun and sometimes harvesting would disrupt the root growth of nearby plantings.

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  • great post! my husband has the battle lines drawn between him and bind weed – i think he has nightmares about bindweed! i’m a strange breed and find weeding therapeutic. it’s not like i look forward to it, but i don’t mind it so much. :)

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  • Angie

    Where do you suggest one look when wanting to find out if the weeds in my garden are okay to eat?

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