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Vermont Garden Journal: Strategies For Removing Weeds From Your Garden

David Prahl
The first step to removing weeds from your garden is to properly identify them. Your strategy should be based on whether the weeds are annuals or perennials.

With all the rain, it's been a good year for weeds. Weeds are smart and can give you clues as to what's happening in your soil. For example, plantain thrives on compacted soils, shepherd's purse on acidic soils, horsetail in poorly-drained soils and chickweed in high-nitrogen soils. Sometimes simply correcting the soil condition will help get rid of the weeds. Check out the book, "Weeds and What They Tell."

However, even with great soil conditions, you'll still get weeds. First, properly identify your weed. Perennial weeds, such as horsetail, gout weed, quack grass and creeping Charlie, take more effort to remove, but can be done if you're diligent. Remember, there are no silver bullets. Avoid tilling that cuts up and spreads the underground roots of these perennials. Instead, mow weeds to the ground and cover the garden area with black plastic for one season. The next year, remove the plastic and gently pull any emerging, weakened weeds, getting as much of the root system as possible. Keep watching for weeds years after you've planted this garden. If you're diligent, you can exhaust them. Also, place metal or plastic edging deep into the soil around the garden to prevent weeds from creeping back in.

For annual weeds, such as chickweed, lamb's quarters, and purslane, use a collinear or scuffle hoe to cut the weed seeds as they germinate. Start now and weed weekly even if you don't see many weeds. This will kill the germinating seeds giving your garden plants a jump on shading them out. Avoid tilling or turning your soil which brings up more weed seeds. On stone patios and walkways, spray an organic herbicide containing 20 percent acetic acid on annual weeds. But don't use this in the garden since it harms soil organisms.

Now for this week's tip: after weeding, mulch with straw, chopped leaves, untreated grass clippings, bark or stones to prevent weeds from germinating. But, check for weed seeds germinating on top of your mulch.

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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