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Vermont Garden Journal: Organic Weed Control Methods

Duene Ellison
When thinking about organic weed control methods, the first defense is to prevent them.

Ben Franklin once said, “A man of words and not of deeds, is like a garden full of weeds.” Yes, with all the rain lately, weeds are having a hay day! Controlling them can be the bane of a gardener's existence and often the reason novice gardeners throw in the hoe and head for the beach come summer.

So let's talk about some organic weed control methods. The first defense against weeds is to prevent them. Last year we used burlap sacks to mulch our pathways and garden edges. You can just leave the bags to enjoy the colored pictures and writings, or cover them with straw or hay. Yes, hay will have more weed seeds than straw, but it's much cheaper and available. I find if I thickly apply the hay, weeds aren't an issue.

Another prevention method is to plant warm season veggies such as peppers, eggplant, and melons in plastic mulch. It keeps the weeds away and soil moist and warm. Save the organic mulches for cool season veggies and flowers such as snapdragons, broccoli and lettuce.

For those not mulch inclined, hand weeding is the next best option. The key is to weed frequently and shallowly. Use a small bladed hoe, such as a stirrup hoe, and gently cut the young weeds as they germinate at the soil line. Avoid deep hoeing or you'll bring up more weed seed from deeper in the soil. Hoeing and hand weeding often will keep the weeds away until your plants get big enough to shade them out. Control weeds on patios or along walkways with commercial products containing citrus and clove oil. They may have to be reapplied for tough weeds. Finally, eat your weeds. Lamb's quarters, pigweed, purslane, and dandelions are all edible, tasty and nutrition. I actually grow some of these intentionally as food.

And now for this week's tip, stake tall perennials, such as delphinium and hollyhocks, now before their flower stalks blow over and break during the next thunderstorm.

Next week on the Vermont Garden Journal, I'll be talking about mulberries. Until then, I'll be seeing you in the garden.


Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
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