It felt like I was surrounded by sand and mirages as I looked down my nose, past the bead of sweat reaching its tip.
My head and thick red-hair were stuffed into a straw hat, protecting me from the sun but making me hot, itchy and somewhat delusional.
I glared at the dandelion at my feet. The one of many that had protruded between my beans, corn, peas…anywhere they felt comfortable. Which must have been everywhere. I was surrounded. And this must be the year of all years for Canadian Thistle, I thought. Where do they all come from? One day out of the garden, meant a take over of weeds.
It didn’t seem fair. Some of these plants I had started in March, and after several months of tender care, they had taken over our front porch before they were officially planted in their final destination. But these weeds! They were determined that nothing else belonged in my garden but them.
But why? Why does my garden have weeds?
Why were these weeds taking over? There must be an answer! There is no way, with the size of my garden, that I could possibly keep it weed free with just my two hands and no foreseeable help from…somewhere.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, a man of great words, described a weed as a plant whose virtue has not yet been discovered. And it’s true, weeds are climbing the plant hierarchy.
Many weeds are edible and in fact, quite healthy for us! And they do serve a purpose. I know, I know! That’s hard to believe when they’ve quickly taken control of the world. Well, at least your garden world.
As the years march on, I’ve gleaned more knowledge about gardening, and in my quest to win over the weeds in my garden, I’ve implemented the no-till method of gardening. It has been my first step in winning this weed war.
There are a few more things to consider before spitefully hating those pesky weeds:
- Weeds have, in fact, saved us: they quickly establish in, protect, and restore soil that has been left exposed by natural and human-caused disturbances. And because they quickly do this vital job, they have saved our topsoil and kept us from starvation.
- Weeds are considered “native plants”. When the soil has been laid bare, for whatever reason, these native plants are the first to step in, restoring the land to the proper native vegetation.
- The roots of weeds are also beneficial to the soil. For instance: if you have a dandelion problem, then you have a compaction problem and the roots of these weeds will actually benefit your soil by breaking it up and adding organic matter.
- Weeds are a clue to the health of your soil. If your garden is overflowing with weeds, you now can view them as trying to help restore your soil. But you can do other things to speed up the process in restoration and thereby eliminate the weed problem you are experiencing. (See below)
But first let’s talk about how you should handle weeds in your garden. You will probably get them from time to time and how you handle them is just as important as eliminating them.
- First, understand why you are having a weed problem. When the soil is opened up by continual tilling, it elicits a natural response of nature: bring in the weeds to heal the soil. Bare soil is hungry and at risk.
- When you do find a weed, cut it off just below ground level (preferably before it goes to seed!). Remember, the root will add organic matter and help break up the soil.
- The leaves can be used as mulch, which is one way to add organic material to your soil.
If you garden, it’s probably inevitable that you will have a few weeds, but if your last gardening year felt a little overrun, you can do a few things that will make you and your garden feel like a million bucks.
How to reduce weeds in your garden:
- Start by implementing the no-till method immediately
- Restore biodiversity by implementing companion planting.
- And I found this utterly fascinating: One interesting and useful fact of weed ecology is the importance of light color or light quality for many small weed seeds. Whereas direct sunlight (or even direct moonlight!) stimulates germination, the green light under a dense plant canopy—a signal that the soil is already occupied by other vegetation—can often inhibit germination and induce dormancy (Egley, 1986). A closed crop canopy can thus shut off weed seed germination as well as retard growth of those weeds that do emerge. (Source)
What does this mean? Use the square inch gardening method and have all areas of your garden covered with the mulch of your choice and vegetation. If you would like to watch an inspiring 15 minutes and see the potential of a square foot garden, click on the next link and be inspired: Homegrown Revolution
- And when you do find a weed…eat it! Only if it’s edible of course! But you’d be surprised at how many are edible!
The summer months can be a busy time for anyone: taking care of all the animals, chasing kids, and doing all the summer projects can pretty much take over 105% of every day. So, getting your garden to a point where it isn’t taking over the other 50% of the day 😉 in maintenance will make all the difference.
And truly, your garden will thrive when you start understanding why you have weeds and how to eliminate them naturally while working with nature. Your garden will produce more food, with less time and effort. And now when you ask the question, “Why does my garden have weeds?”, you know the answer and you can fix it!
And you will be staring down your nose, past that bead of sweat because you are actually playing outside, enjoying the delicious heat instead of battling weeds.
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