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Listen To Your Weeds! They Are Telling You Something About Your Lawn And Garden

Dandelions on green grass.
Annual weeds (hello dandelions!) can signal the health of your soil.

It's time to tackle those weeds before your lawn, garden plot or raised bed begin to look like that abandoned lot in every scary movie. There are safe ways to remove them beyond just hand-digging!

Perennial weeds
Weeds like burdock, quack grass, ground ivy, and dandelions might just be the bane of your lawn and garden's existence, but they might be trying to tell you something. And you should listen! If you have certain types of weeds in your yard, it is an indication of your soil's health. For instance, areas of your lawn that have sheep sorrel mean your soil is too acidic. Nut sedge means it is too wet.
Wait till after it rains and you'll have an easier time weeding these. Try to get as much of the root system out as you can and exhaust them by repeating this weeding practice often. You can also put a heavy layer of mulch, think 8-10 inches, of hay mulch over your garden (this is the Ruth Stout "Mulch Queen" method of gardening) to reduce the amount of weeds that sprout up. In addition, you can use landscape fabric.

Annual weeds

These weeds sprout up as pesky baby seedlings in your lawn or garden. You can remove them by taking a sharp-edge hoe and chopping the weeds at the soil line. Do that on a sunny day, and they will dry up and die and not come back.
However, don't dig down too deep ?— you'll end up bringing up weed seeds from under the soil and that will result in more weeds growing back! If you have pavers or walkways, where weeds tend to sprout up in the cracks, you can use organic herbicides with a higher percentage of acetic acid (20% works well) and spray that on them to gain some control. Also, you can try herbicide solutions with essential oils, like clove, as those tend to work well, too.

Q: I am curious about the merits of using a thin piece of wood as a protection from weeds growing. You could lay the wood on top of the ground, drill holes to plant and water just the plant. You can cover the wood with mulch. I have never read about this technique so I suppose it may not be a good idea. Curious on your thoughts. — Ken, in Summerside, PEI, Canada

As long as the wood isn't chemically-treated, you can use them to reduce weeds! You could lay thin pieces of wood, just as you would use wood mulch.

Q: I have a lot of ants in my vegetable garden. Should I get rid of them? — Ashton, in North Pomfret

Ants are not a problem in your garden! Ninety-nine percent of ants are just living the good life and won't harm your vegetable garden. If it looks like the ant mound is affecting your veggie plants, you can try sprinkling cinnamon or cayenne pepper or even diotomaceous earth. By doing this, you're creating an unwelcome environment for the critters.

You can also dig out the ant mound with a shovel and move it to another part of your lawn. Then go back to their previous home and spray a solution (mix a teaspoon each of soap and vegetable oil in a quart of water) and douse the area. Unless they are creating those really giant mounds that seem to be affecting your vegetable garden, you can just leave them be.

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All Things Gardening is powered by you, the listener! Send your gardening questions and conundrums and Charlie may answer them in upcoming episodes. You can also leave a voicemail with your gardening question by calling VPR at (802) 655-9451.

Hear All Things Gardening during Weekend Edition Sunday with VPR host Mary Engisch, Sunday mornings at 9:35.

Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.
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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