5 Best Ways to Keep Evil Weeds at Bay

| 3/28/2016 10:12:00 AM

Tags: weeds, cover crops, edible weeds, mulching, no till, Ohio, Don Abbott,

People and weeds have been enemies since humans have domesticated our little green friends. You plant what you want and others have the audacity to grow instead. Ever wonder why this is the case? Are there techniques you can use to lower or even eliminate this issue? Of course there are - why else would I be writing this?

Let’s start by understanding what weeds are. In nature (and yes, your garden is in nature, despite what you try to do to make it not so), weeds are used to cover and repair disturbances - fires, landslides, tree uprootings, volcanoes, etc.  Bare soil is bad as the sun damages it and water washes it away.

Weed seeds are designed to sit in the soil for years and decades, just waiting for such an event. Then they spring to action, coming up fast and producing lots and lots of seeds.  After a year or two of this, bigger taller species come in to take over (brambles, bushes, small trees, and eventually a whole forest).

When we till the soil, we are causing a giant disturbance. It helps to cause this explosion of activity which our annual garden vegetables like, especially the cabbages (AKA brassicas - kale, mustard, turnips, collards, broccoli). Yes, I just called the vegetables we love to eat “weeds”.  The last time I tilled my entire garden space was also my worst season for weeds. Coincidence? I think not. So what can we smarter gardeners do about our weeds?

5 Weed Management Strategies

1.  Don’t Till Very Much

In your garden, tilling should be kept to a minimum. If you are converting lawn or have some really compacted soil, then till away if you feel it's necessary. I gave up my tiller a few years back and now use a broadfork instead. It’s still technically tilling but gentler (especially to the worms) and you can only do so much damage by hand.

To keep from compacting your soil in the first place, don’t step where you want to grow stuff. Plan out your garden so it flows naturally, and then create permanent beds (like these hugelkultur beds) and paths.

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